Making a Living in Food Photography Part 2
Lot of people ask us and a lot of people asking emails are I want to start shooting cookbooks I want to short start shooting cookbooks how can I get involved with uh an art director in a publishing house or an editor? How don't let them see my work wow that's really a big question and it's a real great ambitious question to want to eventually shoot a fully published um hardbound book first of all look at your work and see who you want approach again a lot of these public shanghai publishing houses have a lot of the information on there because I was an art director on there or some type of content director on there you can reach out again show your portfolio but one way to start is to maybe work on your own cookbook you know a lot of people feel like you know they don't feel um like they're a riel photographer unless they get a full hardbound book but not everybody gets that final job everybody starts from somewhere and I think starting a small e book is always a great way to be publis...
hed photographing and starting an e book of some sort starting from there or using that as a port forward you're not someone who cooks you take photographs but you're not you don't cook partnering with someone who does the absence so you partner with someone to create that of a book maybe there the one creating the dishes and you're the one photographing it for them, so it becomes the same thing and just two people doing it. So, you know, there's a lot of different ways to do that and, you know, public editors are all online. Teo I see him because they're talking. They're always read, trying to find new potential authors and things like that there's a great way to reach out to them. I know so many cookbook editors at different publishing houses who are online right now who are super engaging, where super response of always talking to people that's, a great way to reach out and that's how a lot of people who want to write cookbooks reach out to these editors. They have those conversations. I see him on instagram and twitter, and then you've already put yourself in front of that at her, and then they get to see your work as a writer. So in the same thing with with, with, um doing cookbooks well, I know a lot of people who started by doing really great. A single subject, simple e books, and they started photographing and practicing there, and then they had two or three under their belt, and then they use that to approach a publishing house art director, you know, to show their work, to say they do have experience, they know all the different fastest that you would need in terms of publishing a book or shooting a good book. Some things to keep in mind, like, um when you do get the opportunity to shoot, a cookbook print is going to come is gonna I have a different effect than when you're shooting for a screen when you're seeing forjust online. So if you are used to shooting something, shoot super shallow depth of field that gets emphasized even more when it becomes on paper that you know, the screens, we have such great clean resolutions where you will see the detail through things, but when it's printed on the paper, some of that detailed becomes a little bit fuzzy. So if you have this great shallow image and you throw it on paper, sometimes it looks like this great as image, right? And so you, usually when we're shooting for directly for print, more shooting a little bit more wide opened up the field, we're not shooting quite a shallow, so not so blurry in the back unless the editor wanted it unless they make that request, usually when you shoot, a cook book editor will hire you for your style, and they'll give you a whole list of things that they're looking for, and a lot of time they'll choose existing images that you have that they like, or they ll build a storyboard. We've had cookbook editors and our art directors that publishing houses who have sent mood boards to say this is the feel in the story that we want, but definitely if you used to just shooting for your bog or just for online, get somebody and they just printed out, see how they're feeling different. So you know how you need to make adjustments if you need to when you're making something directly from print and yes, so before we move out of cookbooks questions oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, that's, good that's. Good spot. So could we talk just for a minute about about this? Tell me a little bit about that the initial inspiration, and then where you went from there to make this happen to make that happen, while for us now, actually, being an author is the whole story, you know, probably about four and a half years ago, almost five years ago, few editors started reaching out to us and say, to say you guys are really interesting I mean you're interested in writing a cookbook I think we'd like tio take on your your book or whatever it is that you want to dio and was really good because back then we realized that we didn't want to write a cookbook because although we originally started wanting to share a cookbook after about a year and a half our block and we realize that that wasn't a right time for us to do that yet so when editor started reaching out to us, we declined we've actually been photographing other people's books we didn't mind being the photographer for a cookbook, but to do our own was different in denver and never yes, all these editors say, hey, you just finished photographing this coupon, how about you want to work on one with me like, no, we're gonna wait and the reason why we wait is because we weren't excited about a topic yet it wasn't you know it's not about langley thought what are we going to write about? You know we don't want to write about something and trying to sell it if we don't really love it because it will sound so force that it sounds so sils e and it just went on for a while and finally about two years ago we sent a garden one day looked at our dog play and then we're eating and just looking at our fruit trees and all the things we need to weed and cut realize oh, this could be a book you know everything that we love about the garden and then it made sense. So that's, the inspiration from the book is like all these years of being in food and especially all the years previously and wanting to write write a cookbook it never happened until we really told herself let's not write anything right about anything unless you love love and that is the cookbook. So it's everything's all the recipes are from the garden and then it happened really fast and the photographer that happened pretty fast but it was just us two and then we have hired a recipe developers but we washed pretty much every single dish protesters recipe testers, sir, we developed everything but the recipe sisters were there toe test everything make sure we do. Yeah e watched every single dish and every single night oh my god, we had loads and loads of dishes and never ended and advertising in commercial these are jobs that are really awesome there for us at least there their mortgage payers with home super high paying on his name you nicely these are the big jobs, these air, the big jobs that we just have been very lucky enough to get over the last four, five years um three three years, three and half years, especially on a day like for almost four I don't want to give a number but yeah it's just been really great and they keep coming back for more but these are jobs that are a little harder to get actually much harder to get because these these air the job that sometimes you have to bid for we've had a bid for a few to win the job and even actually when talking about how it's hard to get for us, we've actually never gone out and actively seek to get a job on these these air still even we're bidding for them it's still them coming to us so fighting us from the block or website all online so they're coming to us and they'll say it's like we have this particular campaign or whatever the potential job is sometimes it's they're going to put you in a bidding process against others sometimes they're just looking for you to photograph so you know these jobs how would you do get these jobs if you're aspiring for these jobs? I probably think the best way is to make sure your work is polished and your work is directed toward this style of photography advertising in commercial usually includes packaging anything that is mohr towards like marketing maybe for restaurants or brands and things like that so making sure your work is reflective of that, and I'm probably reaching out to an agency or maybe even and a lot of people do, this is higher on agency to represent you, you know, that's next question, a lot of people ask, are you represented and we say, no, you know, we don't want any middlemen because we want the client to know us we want or the agency to know s so it's basically having, like, an agent representing you to find your jobs, we just always want people to know us and get direct indirect contact with us. So that's, one way I know one other photographer friend has done is they've they've actually found an agent to represent them. And in that representation the agent has big network of people that they know within national brands in advertising a commercial that are looking for photographers or have different workout. So your agent might be a great way to be ableto to get you in contact with those people with your work again. For us, it was all online, all through the blogged all through the website. They just found us. They found the work. They saw samples up there that they think they could use but I think what helped was we never had any advertising or commercial type of work up there but they saw the breath of our work they saw the divers that he ever work and think that's when they decided that I think thes to conduce this job because that was I think helpful for us to have the diversity and all the different albums that we do have on our portfolio because we never went out to shoot advertising our commercial stuff and we're really good we did because they're just wonderful jobs absolutely great jobs I think you have to have that um perception from them that they know your professional that's it's no longer enough just to be someone taking great pictures yeah, they want to hire a professional because at this point it's not just about taking good pictures and that's what we're actually a lot of these ones times when you're now starting to do this for a living it's no longer just about being taken pictures we have to be able to take great pictures every time it can't be a lucky shot it has to be an intentional side that I could get you a great image and time I'm stepping up with my camera now you have to say yourself up for that success with the jobs even you know going back to when we first started talking about business was it yesterday yeah, we're all those questions that you're asking the client before you've even bid for the job and all the questions that you're asking me to client after you bid for the job, setting yourself up for success, making sure the questions were answered, making sure the expectations for the client or met but you still have to be able to deliver that moment part of that's going to come from the confidence of a lot of that's going to come from practicing, practicing, practicing so you know that you can get what they asked for any point in time. X is, um, blogging recipe development and going back to the block, I think and again in every situation we've been lucky is that all our work has been shared and shone through online nothing's ever been passed in print other than maybe a physical contract to seal a deal. But our balog has been incredible to us in so many ways. There are people who find us through the portfolio, a lot of national, especially national brand clients that will come to the studio. We'll shoot, and then you'll like it and come back for multiple projects and campaigns and so many times will come and say, hey, I talked to a friend who said telling them I was going to shoot. To a shoot and it was like with dying too and todd porter and my friend said yeah they're white on rice so they'll come into the studio and say you guys are white on rice they have no idea that we even have a blogger you know they have no idea that we even blogger so that's always a funny conversation for them to say do you guys have a second life what is the white on rice you know all the time but that's always like what how but again it's all online they found it to the poor for leo portfolio they don't know is that the block and there's a lot of other clients that have directly found us through the block it's been kind of wide because of white on rice couple that dot com that somebody sent them to the blogger became like a living portfolio you know and like todd's always called it the living portfolio everything we put up there we put up the food we love but I always try to make sure that's some of the best work that we can too to be represented I mean it becomes your your daily voice a lot time jail when you're creating your portfolio itself it's like your hand picking some of your best work from it could be over a period of years and you know it's like when you see that's like they know but that's your best work but the blogging becomes that daily voice the things are happening in your life all the time and it's not even just your daily voice in terms of photographed sometimes it's literally your voice we've had one great amazing client they hired us because we loved our dogs we share them on the block and they love dogs yes it's a big job teo and yes and you know what's the point remember what ethan said just with the restaurant said he works with the guy that he does it was a great photographer but there's a million great photographers why's ethan work with him because he likes the guy he likes working with the guy it's not enough to be a great photographer you can be a great photographer and not be that nice of a person and you're not going to get that many jobs you have to be great and you have to develop those people skills and finding clients or begins a lot of them understand that they know they're looking for someone that they're going to want to work with and so what does that block do? It helps you get your personality out there it has find people that you mess with it helps clients see if they mess with you it almost becomes like that pre interview process is like I see what type of person this is a release saying start to get a feel for them I like them hopefully you know and then and that is that first step of that human interaction and that's what the block has been able to give for us is having people know us and who we are you'd be surprised how many jobs we've gotten because we were up against maybe a bunch of other great photographers too and I know that there was one call we got for a really big national brand about two years ago and then when the art director called is basically an interview and then I asked her I said because I knew that she had a bunch of other performers of front and I know that these guys must be great and I asked her what can I ask you why you guys are hiring us because we're one of the first latinos that we shoot their northern company and all the photographers are all north and she said it's because we all read your blogging and we want to work with you we think your work is great but we feel like we know you we want to work with you and that's when we knew is like the blogger is really a big asset because it doesn't sell our work what we you do like the portfolio because the portfolio sells what we dio but the blog's cells who we are and that is our key selling point and we've gone traveling all around the country and even old school photographers that people have been in the industry twenty five, thirty years have often asked us to dinner wanted to talk to us because they've heard about us, they wanted to know and they know our rates are not were not undercutting anybody, and I we always make that clear when we get that invite, we know there's these old school guys, they probably think we're much cheaper and they want to know how we're getting that work are still in their job or whatever, but we have a good talk and it's always like they know that it's the block and they want to learn how to block they want to learn how to get into it in the social media, part of it, because we're very honest to tell people so much of the work we get teo comes from people knowing the belonging, knowing who we are and then when they hire us for who we are because they liked hot and diane, we want to make sure that they get the work, so are other goal is always making sure it's backed up with work because they can like us and they can might might shoot us for the with us for the first time, but if they don't like the work, they're never coming back. So we want to make sure that you like us not just for us we want to make sure you like the work too if that's if that's what you were attracted to first was the work then we want to make sure that you if you know it was us that you were attracted to first we want to make sure that you love the work justus much yes so it sounds like you're a blogger is not linked directly from your website and there is a little link up there yes, but you said sometimes people go to your portfolio and they don't know that not look so it's not obvious so what is the reason that you don't make it? You know, a lot of people just a tab right on their portfolio so I'm just curious sounds like they're a little bit um well, the blog's link is there. I think a lot of people when they come to the website like people, they don't see that little link it's not very obvious it's up there, you know, it's out there for anybody to find, but but there's a lot of people that you know, the clients that don't know I think a lot of times when they're visiting sites they just have something specific there looking forward and they don't get a lot of times like the time is a factor and so, like when these people that's like we see how hard they work, they got a lot to deal finding their photographer is just one tiny thing that they have to do today so they're just like scrolling through stuff they're not analyzing everything that's on the page and finding it's like, oh do they have a bog? What? So what? Time's air finding it just through there finding, you know, maybe the portfolio through sdo they see los angeles food photographer that's how they found it that there's a link for the blood on there but they're not even gonna know sit there just looking for nellie, but we definitely there's that identity on there for the block and we want like them know for sure that we do have a block some people don't like it but it's really important that we do keep that separation at least with a really polished portfolio that's always updated with work that we want to show that we want to dio because if what if we did four block post about dogs in a row? You know I don't want one would not want people coming there thinking that this is a professional site where they're trying to sell the work and they see dogs you know? They think, oh, there are the pet photographer but the block is a variable very valuable asset in terms of letting people know who we are and then recipe development is another way to get into food photography. That's what we do, a lot of two is recipe development. A lot of people will know that well, you have a blogged, maybe you can develop recipes, and a lot of clients have hired us just for recipe development to start like national magazines. They've used us for that because they have their house photographer's already, and they're super wonderful and talented, so they started working with us just to develop recipes and slowly after that, you know, sometimes somebody who's looking for a recipe developer doesn't know about our photography skills, yet the higher is for the recipes, and eventually, you know, maybe we'll let them know where they'll eventually find out that, oh, you can photograph too that's actually an asset, because it wouldn't be great for the person who actually shot the recipe with the person who actually developed the recipe, because that helps cut another middleman for them. A lot of these editors and clients are looking for people who are multifaceted now multitalented. Sometimes they'll reach out to photographer. What they do is they find the team and they hire all these people to fulfill that role and to finish the campaign, but what happens is is the more people that you hire on the bigger the budget and a lot of time. Some of these clients don't have those huge budgets anymore, like they had when you know back twenty, twenty five years ago. So if you can somehow diversify and if there is somebody who isn't needing photography. But you could provide that part of recipe development that's huge to s o much, but well, at times it becomes a lot more economical for them to have someone who can shoot it and about the recipe. So it's like you be, you start to be on. Offer them that two for one package, which is super great. It's like one less person they have to communicate with, even if you're getting the same amount of money. Which is awesome if you this sent the same amount of money for the photographer and the rest of the developer. But now they just group that money and just send it to one person. That's. Less time that they had to communicate and gather things from two different people. So it's a great, great asset to be ableto start putting together those different tools in order to skills, and it brings up a good point, there's a lot of jobs, you've got it's just because the timing like for a national magazine or something. If they say, you know, I need a recipe, but they just couldn't fit in, they're scheduled to have a shoot. Can you guys to shoot it too? You know, and that that's a really great opportunity to to be able to have that arsenal and the same thing with food styling because they know that not only can we shoot weaken food style it so it's not like they have to hire someone to write, develop a recipe, then they have to test it, then they have to, you know, form it out to somebody else to shoot it. But then that shooter's gotta find a stylist, and then they've got to find a prop stylist. It takes so much time within those layers. That's why we feel so good about being able to offer these services, um, for our clients, because it helps expedient the process, and it really allows them to be able t get a quicker turnaround. Because for a lot of these clowns should be surprised they call and I can get something forty eight hours. You know, like today we have this, you know, we're here we tell everybody were gone for two weeks, you know? But but there are people who just need stuff immediately, and we want to be able to offer that because you know what that's like too. I think, you know, like, for us it's like, well, we talked about we don't like to do it's. Not that we don't like to do just one thing, but we enjoyed having a diversity. We get bored, we like to be able to go out on location and shoot things. We still enjoy doing table talk photography, but that's not something I want we either of us really want to do all the time. So for us, because of all these different things that we love to dio, we try to find a way that we can make it into business one way or another. And I think it also gives us a little bit of a safety net to its like having that diversity if one area is a little dry for a while, a lot of times you picked up by a secondary area, so finding all those different ways that you can just utilize the assets that you're starting to create and like I said this isn't the only way that you can do it too this is just how we're doing it you could even you know for us it's like we make a little bit money off the block to see beyond being r daily voice for clients to do it you can start to monetize off your bugs a little bit we don't get a lot it's only just a small portion of the income but it's like it doesn't hurt you know those and then we also know people where that is their focus they use their blood to become to help pay the mortgage and so for for them it's like that's where a lot of their focus goes into so each of these can have a different emphasis within you individually for us we don't really want to bank on anyone we like being relative spread your fingers because you know I've gone through the whole recession arrow back in two thousand seven two thousand eight of the business got a big hit to sow knowing that the term you know diversifying is really ingrained in our head and it not only diversifying but keep doing more of the things you love because we love so many things so what can't you just focus on doing so many things that you love really well and by looking at the list of things that we photograph some of those you know, different niches some seasons are lower some seasons or higher and that's where food photography is like it's very seasonal so you'll get your your your slow time and then all of a sudden right before the holidays hit everybody has this big rush of recipes they need holiday seasonal things they need and then you have your period of slow times but times were what's really slow something else come was up so that's where I think it and in our industry too there's a lot of low up and down but we're very lucky that we're able to fill each of those niches and where each of those natures go it's just practice practice practice and practice I mean as you can see there's like so many opportunities out there I think that's one thing it's like we are excited to see something photographers becoming better and better and better like to see such talent just emerging one that keeps us on our toes that makes us always want to keep getting better and better and better so we don't get overran but the opportunities out there are virtually endless you know there's there's room pretty much for almost all of us to make something out there. Yes, thirty questions over there in twitter questions one of things I really love about your block is the fact that your blood posts often are really not food related or they're about your life there about the pop star about could you talk about a little bit to that and where you get your inspiration for that and what your advice would be to newer, younger bloggers who are looking to get into into doing that? Because it's just not a to do list of how to make a recipe, which I really like. Yeah, I think, you know, and again, I think that's partly that's been super helpful, at least for us and people hiring us because they know who we are and it's really important because it's, we are white on rice couple, you know that that we share about share a lot about who we are, and it just started that way, and we're comfortable with not talking about ourselves, but when people ask and being able to share and share snippets of our life, and the great thing about the blogger is if you don't want to read it, you don't have to go there, so we know that sometimes will write about the pups so right about travel on something like that. If people who are there for the recipes aren't interested, they don't have to read it, and I'm glad you brought that up because that started, um again something when we were in japan like in like a couple of years ago we were always prior to that for like a year and a half were always writing recipes and I think our readers always got used to that and we went to japan on vacation for like ten days and we had four block post in a row we wrote about travel you know, japan life in japan and while we're in japan we had so many people unsubscribed to us you know unsubscribed to us tow where we didn't know we didn't know until they actually emailed us and asked us don't describe them because they couldn't figure out how and that was the biggest like shock like oh my gosh you really want to not read us because we're not writing about food and then it kind of upset me at first I thought wow you really just like I don't like travel which is fine I know that but you really don't like enough to wear three block post in a robot travel pissed you off enough to where you don't want to read it I thought that's fine so no problem so we were three more block post about japan you know but I think it that's when we realized that what you write about is what you train your readers to be and what you what you train your readers tow want so we realize that our life and has to be in there because we are not just all about recipes and I think at that point kind of leading into it's like we began to think ok the block is a source of one source of potential revenue for us so you know, we start looking like what do we need to do to make this happen? And we started looking at how can we you know, what's the successful way to make a food blogger and so it's recipes recipes we have start putting out recipes so we've started just focusing on we're just going to put in recipes putting in recipes way started to lose track of where we initially started and why we initially started to love too blood and we also found that we want enjoying it quite as much either and so then it's like that you know and we had been then started starting to feel that and talking amongst ourselves of I'm not you know no I'm not quite enjoying blogging quite as much as what it was when we first began and then that japan cipto became like that thing where it was that's it they were you know we're not going down the right path we need to make changes we need to go back to what we love and I think every time we keep going back to what we love it's pulls down a good path it's fast out we've luckily bin successful and it's on enough lectures or maybe fortunately been successful because it's not like a lot of hard work that goes into it at the same time there's a little bit fortunate goes along thankfully maybe because those readers that wanted up subscribe it pushed us more to write about our life and our dogs and our free trees so it's not all about recipes so it's fun yes really, really great advice I love that maybe one more question before we go onto our next segment and looking for a little bit of words of wisdom on this one ocean girl says I sometimes think that the food photography that food photography is getting over saturated and it's difficult to make money with it like if you weren't ready to go five years ago that there's not a chance to get popular enough teo get demand for your work what would you say the ocean I see you've given up way too fast you're giving up way too fast I could come up with case studies not gonna name specific people but I can come up with people right now who probably thought that even just a year ago or even like nine months ago who um are new to the industry but then they really started to rethink how they shot, how they marketed themselves and how they branded themselves and they really focused on specializing on a certain skill or doing more of whatever it is they felt that they need to do, and they're truly successful. Now, when you start thinking like like everybody else and thinking, you have to go down this path and do what everybody else does, yes, it does feel saturated, but when you start to get creative and you start to rebrand everything, get a spark of inspiration, the possibilities are endless, it's just like anything else, every time there's a new product that comes out, it comes from the idea of something that happened years before they had been been redone, but somebody just thought of a new way to approach it if they have a new way to make it, like even a recipe. There's recipes that have been around for years but somebody read decides to reinvent that, and I feel like in red in for photography it can never be saturated cause food photography has been around for years, it's, how you reinvented as how you and reinvent your work, how you find a different voice and how you ma get yourself in a different way, because although we say that we've been really actively in it, maybe two thousand ten, two thousand eleven for a lot of older people, they'd say that's still new. Yeah, I think it may be kind of old. I'm only doing it for five years, but I know somebody who's only been doing it for maybe nine months, and they're doing amazing because they're so talented and they're doing everything right from the very beginning. So it blows me away when sometimes I think it might be overdone. It isn't just like a lemon. You think a lemon can only be shot a certain way? I could come up with a way to shoot it differently than I wanted it. Nobody else has come up once. One example is chef joe, just when there they have their wall without the words on it. He said that wall has been photographed a million different times. There was one what? Everyone goes in shit. And they said it's like no one shot it that I have seen the way you guys did, you know? And it was just it's not like we're trying too different from anyone else. We just approach that which we just happen to have a different perspective on it. That what someone else did that's, your own unique individual voice. You look it today. It's, like food, has never been never been more popular. Chefs are rock stars now, ten years ago, they were not rock stars. Right I mean look att when ethan came in there's that gas you know you know, ten years ago maybe maybe fifteen years ago they wouldn't have even been known no one would care who actually owns the restaurant they scared the restaurant's putting out good food and even that sometimes it wasn't even as important I remember the area that I grew up in the food was nothing it really even though it was an area of farming area that produced food it wasn't like highly important it's like wine glass of wine was not drink with the meal these air just hard working blue collar guys that just you know the drink a beer though harvest the hay and then they send it off that was that was their life but now even in these like rural communities there enjoying wine there preaching in the culture of food is changing tremendously particularly in the united states and I think even across the world we see it happening in australia where we were just there last year you know it's it's so exciting to be part of this food community and with this online world because visual is so important to be to combine those two were visual becomes extremely important what do you think say yesterday it's like what's the first thing that you what happens when you into a restaurant you see it what happens with first thing with this? You see it we're visual that's that first impression that we give, and so to be able to give a great impression becomes even more and more. They rely on that visual element. So you have a genre that becomes extremely popular and I think will only increase in popularity for quite a while. Who knows where the limit is if there is even is a limit to it combined with the need to able to spread this across the world, it's like I think it's so exciting to be into teo to think that there isn't enough work out there. I just don't see you. Thank you, thank you guys so much for that answer. Food's not going away thing honestly, I think of anything now is an exciting time because there is more need for food photography. Everybody's changing over all these old brands were needing to switch over. I'm in just talking all across the war with all of our food photographer friends there is a bigger demand for food of photography now than there was years ago, so it's just a matter of capturing that and getting your name out there, absolutely larger companies that that weren't using it before, we thought we talked about first day are coming back to that exactly, and even if they were using it. Styles have changed. Yes, really changed. Photography was dated, so that's. One thing, I think you. Sometimes you have these old school photographers who were saying, though, there's, no more work out there. Well, your work hasn't updated. Yeah, there's. No more need for your work anymore, because you're not shooting the new cool stuff anymore. You gotta stand top of the game if you want to be in the game. And so you always have to understand what's going on with trans.