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Professional Food Photography

Lesson 1 of 5

Defining Food Photography

Penny De Los Santos

Professional Food Photography

Penny De Los Santos

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Lesson Info

1. Defining Food Photography
Find out what makes food photography unique and compelling.


  Class Trailer
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1 Defining Food Photography Duration:11:40
3 Shoot: Apples and Pears Duration:32:47
4 Shoot: Roasted Squash Duration:31:50
5 Shoot: Tomatoes and Bread Duration:34:06

Lesson Info

Defining Food Photography

My name is Ken Klosterman, and I am your host for professional food photography with Penny Daily Santos Penny is an accomplished photographer who's based out of New York. She shoots for both major commercial clients, doing ad campaigns as well as product photography, in addition to her editorial clients, where she has traveled all over the world bringing amazing food stories to magazines. Please help me. Welcome back to Creativelive Penny Daily Santo's Penny over to you Oh, my God, I just got choked up. This is a special place. The last time I was here, it was pretty life changing. And I remember I challenged all my students. So, like, Hey, if you're not doing what you love or if you're not doing what you've always wanted to dio, why not? And then you know I creativelive ended. I went home and then I realized, Oh, my God, I'm not I'm not doing that. So I changed my life and I moved to New York City. Um, and I wanted to shoot more commercial photography. I wanted to I wanted to be a bet...

ter photographer. I wanted to be. I just wanted to grow, and so this place is powerful in that way because all of you that are here in this audience and then also the people that are not here in the audience I mean, you're all here because I think we're all looking for something. I needed to come back to creative life. I needed that kicking the but I needed to remember what it waas I wanted to reach for two. So I just want to say Thanks for being here. Thanks for watching and thanks for bringing me back because it's an honor and it's it's amazing. What you guys do is so okay. I'm going to start with something that happen to me A few years ago that did really kind of influence my life. And in a way, maybe it changed it. It absolutely did. The phone rang, and I get a call from an editor and he says, Hey, I have this assignment in Beirut and we need to leave immediately. It's this incredible story, so I like immediately check my passport. I had already been to, um, Israel, so I had to get, like, a second passport to enter that country. Thanks, tone. Um, so I got a new passport. I bought a plane ticket. I talked to the writer who is based in Beirut, and I was, like, within I don't know, 48 hours, 72 hours. I was on a plane before I left for a guy on the plane. My editor said, Oh, by the way, just it's was a food story. Okay, By the way, it's Ramadan, which is, you know, this entire two week spans where they fast it's two weeks a month. I can't remember a month. Yeah, so they fast. So there's one meal. There's an early early before sunrise meal. And then there's like an after sunset meal, right? So basically, I have one meal to photograph. I'm shooting a story about food. So I was like, Wow, that is was kind of like my It was just a nightmare in this, in the sense that I wasn't given a lot toe work with some on the plane I land. So these guys, the story was these eight Iraqi refugees who have all fled their home country and they're living in the bowels of Beirut, you know, there, third class citizens, they don't have any security. Nothing's guaranteed for them. and more importantly, they don't have any family. They fled their communities, their lives, their partners, their Children, everything. And they're all men. And there was a group of eight of them, and they would come together and cook to remember home. And I I get chills. When I think about that, that's that's a powerful story. And then I thought, I have to make this amazing picture because that's such a powerful story. These guys and change their change, their lives and they're trying to find home and they're doing it together. And I was just like I got. I really wanted I really want this to be special. So I land and my fixer picks me up and he's like, You can't speak English in the cab. You have to cover your hair. You can't walk in public with the men and realizes like me. Being associated with them puts their status in that country in jeopardy. So we walked into markets, I had to be way behind. I never could photograph them in public when I got to their house. Um, you know how to just be really careful, So I spent the whole day with them we've got in their apartment. I was finally able to start making pictures and they prepared all day for this. This this the breaking of the fast meal. So they were slicing and cutting, and I was just photographing everything like it was the Super Bowl. You know, it was just like overkill, because I really didn't know what I was gonna get. But I knew my shot was this final meal, you know, when they sat down. So that was kind of moment I was waiting for, and I'd already kind of thought about it in my head. And I've been preparing and planning. So the day progressed, we finally heard the call to prayer. It was throughout the neighborhood, you know? And I was like, Okay, it's happening. It's happening. And the men started, like taking these thes plastic bags and cutting them and laying him on the floor like a tapestry. It was beautiful, and they're slowly start to bring out the food. And they laid everything on the floor and I had a stool and I got up on the stool and I was ready. I was totally ready to get this photograph. Um, some up there the men started to gather. They all started to sit down. I'm upon the stool. I'm kind of overhead. I've already kind of metered. I'm set. I'm ready to go. And the minute I start to photograph, the entire room goes black. And I was like, What just happened? I mean, everything dark and my fixer yells at me and he said, Penny, it's OK. The electricity has gone out. It's gone out in the whole region are in the whole neighborhood. Sounds like this is it like I have a shot of maybe a guy cutting some tomatoes, someone else starting a pot. I mean, that's it already had started to write the email to my editor thinking this is over, um and then so I couldn't use stroke. And here's why. Because if they see if if I bought you bolts of flash are coming from these windows there. My fixer informed me that there is there watchman on rooftops in any kind of suspicious activity. Within minutes we would be and my mother writer I was working with totally confirmed it. I mean, we would all be detained, they would be deported, and it just it wasn't an option. So I had to just like that was it, you know, shoots over. But then in the corner of these men started like candles, and they slowly started to line this table, and it was one by one. They just put him out on this table and they sat back down and I just was like it. It was more intimate than anything I could have ever planned. And it was more powerful then anything I could have visualized And that that was the moment that waas that was my moment. That was That was the moment, and sitting at that table with them after I made this picture was really special. I realized that there are such amazing stories in food, and that's what made me fall in love with food photography. I got into this, my backgrounds mawr in, You know, the 1st 10 years of my career I was trained by National Geographic. They would send me these horrible assignments. They were great. No offense, they were great. But they were hard in the sense that you just get dropped in and you'd have a certain amount of days to make something out of little, very little, but it taught me to just be really resourceful. Plan and work my butt off. Um, and this was a perfect example of that. So when I came into food, it was just like I was telling these cultural stories, but around Foodways and they were more profound and more powerful. And I found a purpose, and I found a story that no one else was celebrating. Not from a photographic perspective. People write about food. People critique food. People celebrate. Food you see shows all about food. But it's not very often that you see someone photographing the culture of food in a way that's really and raw, and it doesn't always look pretty. Um, but it's it's a moment and it's powerful, and that's what I do. I'm a food photographer. I photographed food stories that's at the heart of who I am. That's what I do. That's my dream assignment. The other thing I do is I photographed food in a studio. Remember when I said and I kind of got choked up? Um, I said I moved to New York City because I wanted to grow as a photographer. I wanted to be like I wanted to do more advertising. I wanted to do more packaging. I wanted to do more Commercial work in New York City was really the epicenter of that for me. And so as a result, when you moved to New York City, you know, the sun sets and you have no light. There's like sun. And then there's buildings, and then it's all black. So I had to start lighting food. That was a huge thing for me to learn. Um, before I get ahead of myself, Here's what I'm gonna promise you during this This talk and I have my notes on my phone. So please forgive me. Um, you're gonna have This is what I'm gonna give you by the end of this course. Okay? Not only not gonna give you, like, hopefully I give you some kind of passion about what you're doing with your your own personal vision. Whatever. Kind of tired of you dio I mean, I was think it sounds so cheesy. Ash shoot food, but it's so much more than that. And so I hope that I give you a little bit of passionate, a little bit of hope, a little bit of fire under your under your feet to get moving on your own on your own path. You know, that's what I promise I'm gonna give you. And I also I'm gonna give you a greater understanding of how to produce a photo shoot at At this level where you're hiring people, you're hiring assistance. You're you know, you're producing. You're figuring out the food, your figured out, the props, your figured out, the styling, the color, the color of the mood, all that for your for your shoot. Um, I'm also going to give you a better understanding of lighting, of composition, of propping and styling, and the finally I am going Teoh. I'm just gonna help you figure out what the next step is for you, whether it's doing what I dio or whatever it is you dio. The bottom line is it's photography. It's it's a language and I speak it. We all speak it. Um, it doesn't matter if you're shooting portrait's or photographer. Our food yesterday was watching. I was just having a thought. I was watching another instructor a few days ago and and she heard lighting was exactly my lighting. I mean sort of, and the subject was totally different was portrait's And I just was like It translates, you know, and photographers, no matter what your specialty is, we live by the moment. It's all about the moment, and I believe food tells a story. And I believe even in this environment, food has a moment. So that's what I promise you. Yes, I just want to give you some feedback. Penny already from the chat rooms and the people watching at home Amara photos said Ramadan is the most special month to do food photography. I'm happy that you got to experience that Thank you for bringing back special memories from my Arabian expat life. So really cool that even just seeing that photo now after so many years, can touch people all over. So I just want to pass that Thank you

Class Description

Get ready for an exciting entrée into what is takes to produce and shoot food photography at the professional level.

In Professional Food Photography with Penny De Los Santos you’ll learn about the creative process and logistical wrangling of creating food-driven ad campaigns for top clients in the US. Penny will share insights from her experiences shooting for commercial clients and she’ll share tips for charting your own course to success.

This amazing course is part of the series of professional food photography tips


Sara Zancotti

Thank you Penny and Aran for inspiring me to start shooting food. It was wonderful to see them working together and creating beautiful images with delicious food.


This class was wonderful. Penny and Aran (food stylist) demonstrate how the relationship of two creative people can generate great results in food photography. This class is very inspiring. Thanks you for sharing this experience with us!


I watched all the demo class of hers, I think she needs to organise what she needs to say in the class better, then I will pay her classes. I think she needs to think about what viewer want to learn, rather than what she wants to share. As a viewer and learner, I would like to hear more about knowledge and wish she could use time better when she talks.