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Q&A with Ethan Stowell

Lesson 29 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Q&A with Ethan Stowell

Lesson 29 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

29. Q&A with Ethan Stowell


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Q&A with Ethan Stowell

I have one that is from charity be. We have a lot of different levels of people in our in our global audience, whether they are new or their established food photographers. So the big question is, since we have you here, how do you recommend that somebody approaches a restaurant or a chef if they want Teoh photograph for them? I think I think I think it really depends on the restaurant. I think I think what's what's what's a great thing to do is to get involved with a restaurant When their early on and started relationship eso is both people can kind of grow together. Um, um, I think, uh, chefs are so busy when they open over, open their own restaurant or become a chef. Oh, place that. I think some of that that that has to come from the photographer to can say, you know, which wrestles died like and then go approach him, you know, I mean, I think it's really easy to do it. Um, early on, when they're starting off the first couple of years of their of their over there, I guess ownership ...

of or chef position. So So there, There more approachable. They want to have those and what they want to build that relationship and the other madness is not necessary thinking about it in our relationship with Jeff. This happened just because we hired him into our website and like and he was like I could do photographer to and they're like, OK, whatever man may know something like tha this guy was actually telling the truth on Do you know? I think it's I think it's really about that relationship. I think getting on, you know, getting getting together in building relations. The earlier the better is good. So let's get get down to like the tactics for Dr Walks in the door to have a meal at the restaurant and says, Hey, it like to talk to you brings a portfolio. I think anything from the photographer perspective. They should enjoy the restaurant. They it should be like like hey, what new wrestlers have gone to like, Hey, I really like this restaurant, you know? I mean, I would love to photograph this food, you know, and I think that's it. I mean, I think it's you know it is explaining to them, um um, you know, You know, finding out where they were beforehand is a really good one, because you have, You know, we have guys that have worked for us, that they were going out and doing their own thing. Now that you approach them and you know, it's very easy to say, You know, Hey, I'd like toe a little relationship. I know Ethan has one with with Jeff Smith and and, um, I would like to work with you in that regard, you know, if we get along, would be great. That's, you know, it's a very simple conversation that Mrs ask him and either happens Or does it? What's the worst that can happen? They say no Worse things happen, you know. But it's like dating, you know, cast a line out, can't be afraid of rejection. And to maybe to add on to that, you know, for us a lot of agencies will hire s to shoot, and they're trying to build a relationship with us and the client. So a lot of time they will say for us. So let's have a meeting to make sure the chef likes you, and it's so true because we can go in, and we can be not compatible with the chef. So when you have a middleman like love like that, with an agency or somebody else who's representing, it'd be really tough. But be, yeah, I think that's really the most organic way, you know. And that's the most organic way for you to build a really lifelong relationship. Because if you're going through an agency to represent you in some way, sometimes that the agency leaves you kind of lost that relationship to. So I mean, you said just right, go eat their food. That's what we do is we eat the food we like. If we get a new opportunity to shoot a chef, we'll go and eat their food first before we shoot to know what the food is because we're going in cold. It is. It's like First State, you know what I mean? It's like you want to make the best impression. You get your research read. So even again from the Internet, you guys are still thinking raise your hands if you want to jump in from peekaboo shots, would like to know what kind of styling in the photos do you like? Moody or light and airy that there's gonna best represent your food. Or does it vary from restaurant to restaurant? No, I think. I think for us we really, really it doesn't very from from Russian to Russian, I think the food itself in the ingredients and and the person cooking it will do the variations that's needed to make it subtle, but also have impact. Um, I think it's It's It's light, crisp, clean, very clear. Fresh is the is the best word to use that, you know, to use to describe what we like out of a photograph. Great, thank you. And folks have been checking out on your store. The book, The New Italian Kitchen on Give a Shadow to your photographer says that. What's his name? Jeff Smith. Jeff Smith, CEO. FF great. And he's great. He's looking allowed dot com, All right? Yes, we have a question here. First on, forgive my pronunciation, but, um, the caccia we pet they at Rio. Knee 13 was one of my favorite dishes in the whole city. Oh, and just an odd question. I went to high school with a Leslie Miller who's in the publishing and cooking and I wonder if it's her girlfriend of production? Yes, she was great to work with. We had that we had an awesome time. He's creative. She's fantastic. Great. If she's she's kind of like my like me a little bit quirky, like Seven likes being high energy and likes having fun, likes Negroni's. So we're good other industry events that you would suggest, like I just happened upon a coffee conference recently. Admit all these coffee, you know, owners and things like that are the events that you would suggest to just connect with chefs and restaurant owners. Sure, sure. I mean, you know, there's there's a lot of events out there that that chefs do because it's something very easy for us to connect to the community by doing some sort of a charity event. Um, yeah, there's a lot out there. I mean, we're doing one at the end of the month. I think I was gonna plug this in some way. We're actually getting ready to ask you about because it was so interesting reading about you. We learned that in another universe you are actually a professional baseball player in the small universe on, and it's and it's not a good university, but it's great. On June 15th you're gonna be playing at the 21st at Safeco Field for charity Softball game for United Way for help, uh, homeless youth. So that's a good thing that you jackets up down Safeco Field. Tickets are $10 and it's a fun day at the ballpark. You know, there's a lot of, ah, a lot of local, ah, philanthropists and celebrities like Gary Payton is gonna be there. Shawn Kemps playing. You know, some of these guys, you know. And then some business leaders sit down there. So it's It's for United Way. That's a charity softball game on Saturday, September up in June, 21st at Safeco Field in your small world. What position did you play? Well, I did this my second. You're playing last year? Well, you kind of have you this coming. You play everywhere, you know. Ah, and and, uh, But I last year was third base on. I believe it was left field. So you know it. I gotta say it was it was definitely scary. When you're playing third base is them is the hot corner in baseball and um, like Edgar Martinez is up the bat. You're like, this'll could come at me at about 120 miles an hour, and you're like, this'll is not good s. So there's that one, but that's that's definitely a charity event. But, you know, food charity events are out. There were doing the run Hope, which is, which is our personal, uh, charity. When we put on this year, it's, Ah, June 29th Sunday at Magnuson Park, and that's Ah, you know, that's a that's a five K eat running or walk while eating and then running or walking, uh, event at at Magnusson, where you know it's the best chefs in Seattle. I mean, in my personal opinion, is the best food event in the city because they had the best you know, the best chefs in Seattle doing it, and it's a really good on positive and friendly and high energy event where everybody super nice. You know, I call upon the chefs myself and invite them, and, uh, I don't I don't call up. Chefs that are approachable are who aren't nice people. So So, Ethan, you probably don't know this about the creativelive community But there's a little thing we have for bacon, and bacon is quite a big deal here. Creativelive online. I see there's gonna be some bacon activity going on a run. Hope about that thing. This is our third year at doing here in Hope. This year's It used to be a Seward Parker's. Here's that Magnuson Park. Ah, and each year we get the chefs around town, which I will admit or not the best athletes way. Do a bacon relay. So we make bacon batons and do and dio dio a race for just the chefs on. And I say I ran it one year and I was like, the fourth leg after people running and they handed me this thing and I was like, I don't know about this man. This thing is frankly cooked already, but so the bacon really happens every year. It was actually, it was actually Maria Heinz Ah idea. The first year we did. So she's that till Ethan, we want to thank you. Thank you so much from everyone here. Creative live from all the folks out there on the Internet and from everybody in the room is just very, very special toe have you and your just down to earth expertise here in our classroom. So hopefully maybe we'll come back some day. I would love to thank. Thank you.

Class Materials

bonus materials with purchase

Gear Guide
Places to shop for Food Styling Props

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

First, thank you to Diane, Todd and the CreativeLIVE team for a wonderful exploration of "shooting" food with artistry. This course offers the beginner and professional photographer many incites into the world of natural food photography. With some business and lifestyle tips the majority of this course showcases an effective natural shoot style that allows anyone to deliver wonderful images. The strongest point I found useful is to “find a voice” for the story, your images or your client. While I understand “finding the voice” when writing copy it is the realisation that any activity can have its own voice. Your voice can be the style of image you like, the shoes you wear, the books you read, etc. it is not limited to how loud you (or anyone else) shouts. Using general principles and building good habits through practise will allow you (and me) to achieve, not just find, success. The “lighting clock” is a useful shorthand helping communication with clients, producers and peers. The strong emphasis on practise, speed and taking advantage of any appropriate situation both improves productivity and reduces the impact on a client. Last but not the only other gem in this course is the bald (not a joke Todd) fact that any photography business was, is and will always be based on the relationship between the photographer and the client. Building a relationship is the best marketing device any photographer, food stylist, entrepreneur or creative mind can develop. Other courses offered by CreativeLIVE also stress the relationship aspect of good businesses as their best marketing asset. I highly recommend this particular course for lovers of (in no preferred order) food, photography and life. Thank you for reading and I hope you find your voice in all things. FJH...


Diane and Todd are amazing! They've held nothing back when giving the rest of us an honest, detailed look into what it means to be a food photographer. I've seen many seminars on the topic from different companies and photographers and this one is my favourite. I love their no fuss approach to food photography. It leaves me feeling like food photography is manageable without having to fuss with cameras and lighting gear that are outside of my budget. I love that Diane often mentions how there's more to food photography than the plated dish. And Todd is just adorable and has the cutest laugh! They're a fantastic team that are engaging and make it easy to learn from them. Highly recommend purchasing this course!

MAlisa NIcolau

I loved this class and how Todd and Diane taught it. It was very personal and inspiring, with lots of insight and tips. This is not a camera technical class, but more an artistic, motivational and visual food photography learning environment. Their examples on how to set up scenes and stories behind the food and people involved are very enlightening. They gave me a lot of great ideas and hope that I, one day, will become as good of a photographer as they both are. Great team!!!!

Student Work