Working with a Digital Technician

 

Getting Started in Professional Food Photography

 

Lesson Info

Working with a Digital Technician

And we're gonna move on to my digital tech, and he is the guy that makes this whole thing go. Without him, I would have no pictures coming out of that camera. This is Jack Hunter, my digital tech, and he is local to Seattle and we worked together on pretty much every major project. This is a luxury you can have when you start to move into full-time professional. You really need to understand the camera and how the programs work, how PhotoShop works, before you kinda make the jump to hiring a digital tech on a regular basis. What he handles-- Oh, we're not going into gear yet, no way, that's a lot. I'm staying away from that for right now. But what he handles is, he is a certified Capture One-- Is it certified Phase One or-- Capture One certified-- Capture One certified, so he understands-- Capture One is kinda like the Lightroom, I dunno if you're familiar with it, but it's a program that really has sort of a commercial appeal. It has a lot of things, color corrections and things t...

hat you don't find in Lightroom as readily. It's also really stable in regards to tethering. It knows your camera, it doesn't have any issues, typically. But I'm gonna go to you for a few tips here. But when we do a set-up, he's there. I mean, Melina's in charge of talking to the client, doing the food styling, handling everything related to what goes in front of the camera, generally speaking, and Jack, his expertise lies in making sure files don't get lost, which is a big deal. And we're gonna talk about how you can do this on your own, without having a digital tech, or when you're ready, why you would want one. So I'll kind of go to you. For this shoot, we have my Nikon camera tethered. Tethered shooting for food is crucial because you have to see everything up close. When you're running and gunning, and you're doing sports, you kinda know when you get the shot, you can lock focus down, you get the action shot, you're good to go, and you have it backed up on your two cards in the camera. Here, we go to straight into camera, into Capture One, and we'll have a live feed from our computer when we start shooting, so you can see our workflow. But he handles the backing up of the files in real-time, so what do we use for that? So we use a piece of software called Bvckup, B-V-C-K-U-P, it's a Windows software. Steve and I tend to work on Windows machines because it's what we have history in. Doesn't really matter whether you use an Apple machine a Windows machine, Linux machine; it all works. I don't know what you'd use for Linux, but I'm sure you can. But, so we use this piece of software called Bvckup, and if you pull the computer feed onto the TV, you guys can take a look at it. I don't know if we can do that right now, but, yeah. So it's this software right here, and so what it lets us do is, it's actually a live copy from our shoot folder, where all of the files are coming off the camera onto this external drive here. So, within about two seconds of taking a new photo, it will copy it onto that drive and then we can, you know, if the computer catches on fire, we've got all our back-ups, and we have about 3-4 minutes of pulling out a spare computer and getting going again, but we don't lose any of the work we've done so far that day. So, that's one of the two pieces of software we use the most. The other, as Steve was saying, is Capture One, which is, in my experience, the most stable software for connecting your computer to your camera. It transfers files fastest, and gives you a ton of ability to make the adjustments you need to make in computer as you go really quickly. Yeah, and if you're doing this at home, you can have a back-up drive, and I use, you know, the LaCie drives but you can use an SSD drive, which are really fast. In my desktop-- We tether to the main desktop station when we're shooting professionally, and I have back-ups to back-ups to back-ups, and we have SSD drives, I think four of 'em in that computer, and we back up to two different places. We'll have a primary drive and then we'll have two back-ups so that if one catches on fire, or someone throws it out the window, it's totally fine. You do not want to lose files for clients, that is a huge no-no. They do not like that, and they do not want to have to re-shoot, because some of these projects have tons of lead time and times of post-production. You don't have time to re-schedule a shoot, they do not have time for that at all. So losing files is not an option. I'll bring a drive home, typically after a major shoot. Yeah, that's what I was gonna mention is it's really good to always, no matter how many drives you've got internal to your computer, be backing up to an external hard drive, because you want to take it with you off set, every night. If you've got a three-day shoot, you bring that back-up drive home with you every night, or you just have it somewhere disconnected from your main system so that if anything were to happen to that main computer, or to that location, you've got your files backed up. And this location, I think that this building survived the first earthquake it went through. I mean this building has been through a lot, so I don't know when the next one comes how it will react, and that prop wall is going down for sure. I don't know about this floor, not to make you nervous but, yeah, we're ready for a big one here in Seattle. So I don't know how this'll-- So to prevent, you know-- Something can happen, everything in hear is insured. There's a lot of security measures that we take here, but there's also the unknown, you don't know what's gonna happen, so when you do a shoot, you always take a drive home just to have it off set. It's just a real 'peace of mind' thing. You can sleep a lot better, mid-shoot, if you know that your files are tucked away and safe. What else do you handle? Oh, on smaller shoots, I'll have him do Grubhub, sometimes we'll do-- So I order food, you know, I'm sitting at the computer and we always want to take care of our clients, make sure we've got some great food for them to eat at lunch, but Steve, for all his immense ability to cook, doesn't have time to cook lunch for the client. So, we'll go with typically Grubhub or Uber Eats, or any of the other many food delivery services, and so I'll work with the client and say, "Hey, what do you guys wanna eat for lunch today?" And we'll get that ordered. In this building, I actually got unsolicited food. Somebody just came up, I was in the middle of building the studio, and someone just walked in the door and said, "Hey, do you want a sub sandwich?" "They're from my local company." And he just threw food at me, you know. That is really convenient. I didn't even call and they were there, that's how good it is here in Seattle. And shooting in a big city is helpful, because you do have a lot of resources, not just food-related, but in this industrial district, there's a massive antique shop, not cheap, but big. There's just a lot of, there's plastic fabrication, so I can get new acrylic if I need it, there's a rental company nearby. Being in this area of town is really helpful. So, question? Yeah, just to taking a little step back, how did you know-- People starting off might not have access to a digital technician, might not just be able to be at that stage, when did you know that it was time for you to start working with Jack, and how long have you been working with him, and how did you find him? I know that's a lot of questions-- We were working a couple of years-- I found Jack, you were Studio Manager at the first studio I was at in Seattle, which was a fantastic shared space, and that I do really recommend. It's called, can I mention it by name? It's The House Studios on Queen Anne, and it's awesome. You get your own office, and you have shared studio space, and it's reasonable per month to be in there, and I really gravitated towards that coming here, because I knew there'd be a transition period. You don't just move to a new city, even though I'm from here, I was moving back, and you don't just say, "Hey, I'm here!" "Just come work with me," and everyone's like, "Oh my god, I can't wait." So you know, it takes some time. So that was a really good way to kind of just be able to shoot and have a really good space. So I met him, Jack, there, and we started working together and really hit it off, and it was a great experience. But, you don't have to have-- I need a digital tech on a shoot when there's high stakes. When there's high stakes for a shoot, and there's tens of thousands of dollars flowing around, and you do not want to lose files, and you could have him say-- The most crucial thing is, "Hey, photographer, learn how to focus." You know, 'cause he'll be off by just a little bit, and he'll say, "Just tweak it." And I'm like, "Well, which way?" (laughs) He'll be in charge of critical focus, so I'm not-- You know, I'll be up on a ladder on a camera, and I can be like-- So there's a back and forth. It's very necessary to have someone. Like, just because I know how to do it, doesn't mean I should be. There's a lot of photography, I know PhotoShop, I know Capture One, but he knows it extremely well. Having a second person is helpful when the budget allows. Or, if you just want to test together, we test together all the time, it's a really crucial part of our business to kind of push things forward, like we're gonna discuss, and to find new ways of photographing things, different angles, different-- But having him frees me to just say, "Photography". So I have a food sales, a digital tech. Now, when you're all of them at the same time, it just takes longer. If you're at home, it's just gonna take longer, it's fine. You just have to make sure you can jump to one side and say, "I'm a digital tech now, let's focus on the--" You know, 'cause I can't tell you when I was doing this on my own, how many times I was in the moment, and I'm like, "This food looks awesome, "the lighting looks awesome," and then I get it to a 100% and there was camera shake, on all the images, and I just, like, freaked out and I said some terrible words and then I learned my lesson. I didn't do it again. But you can mistakes on set, there's a lot to think about, but it just takes longer. There's no absolute need right now for you to work with a digital tech. It's one of those things, like food styling, or studio space: you'll know when you need it. You'll just know, and if you don't know, then you're not-- Just like a camera body, you'll know when you outgrow it. It'll start to limit you.

Class Description


With the advent of social media foodie culture, food photography is everywhere. The market is saturated with top-down smartphone images of cappuccinos, barley salads, and elaborate toast. This represents a real opportunity for photographers looking to expand their businesses. Professional photographers are in a position to provide high-quality, captivating images of delicious food for clients eager for an alternative to stock photography and social media images.

Join veteran photographer Steve Hansen for this comprehensive basics course, and you’ll learn:

  • How to shoot a beverage, main course, and dessert.
  • How to light and style your shots to get the most compelling images.
  • How to build out your basic studio gear to get the most out of your food styling and photography.

Steve will walk you through the basics of becoming a food photographer by drawing on his own experience as a chef, certified food stylist, and photographer. You’ll learn about the equipment you’ll need; how to interact with food and prop stylists, and direct them during a shoot; how to work with digital technicians and editors; and you’ll learn Steve’s tips for marketing food photography.