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Styling Workflow Between Photographer and Stylist

Lesson 19 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Styling Workflow Between Photographer and Stylist

Lesson 19 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

19. Styling Workflow Between Photographer and Stylist


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Styling Workflow Between Photographer and Stylist

I hope to sell made sense in terms of really building a frame. And that's why when we started, we started with a simple cherry because that's how we learned. We taught ourselves, and it's always helpful to be able to have someone to give feedback to. And, you know, people say, How do was it you able to build this career so quickly? How we did it is just through practice, practice, practice. I mean, you guys, we practice so much to get to this point. And not only do we practice, we've made so many mistakes. I can tell you about mistakes and shooting right today. When we had a big job where the first big job was in film shooting an event in film, I got paid right off the bat for one evening, and that was huge for me. I got paid 800 bucks to shoot this one evening event. So excited was my one of my very first event gigs, and to me, that was a huge amount of money in 2001 for 2002 something like that, but that $800 was just like I would. There was never There was never an opportunity that ...

I would ever be able to make $ in like, three hours and I figured two hours of processing. So five hours so went in. I had everything worked out. Everything was was perfect. I thought It's just like and he was with me. We It was an event we plant. We had assistance. We just like there's nothing that could have gone wrong. What happened was in the event, because we have a couple different cameras and it's on film. So back then we didn't have the luxury of having digital on the back. So how we meters, we use a light beard and we set our meter first and they would make sure would lock it in with a piece of tape so that no matter what, that because it was shooting people behind a background, that piece of tape would always lock in the dial's so nothing got bumped. So when we would go developed the film, everything was consistent. So this one with that way prima solved all the issues we could think it would come up with is like, you know, it's like shooting Okay, we get locked in. So when that business of the day, it's like what happens when the dials get bumps like you're not going to see it until you get back to the studio? Developed the film. It's all right, cool. We got tape down. It's like we should be good. We had our We thought we had everything down. There's nothing that could we just like we're so proud of ourselves. Shot of the event. The three are event with Awesome. Everybody loved how we pose, and it's just like such great feedback. Get to the studio. Throw the film in the film processor. Back then, we had a film processor because we had a studio where we did full print production and the dial got bumped because the tape came off somehow and every single frame was over exposed, and back then we didn't have a digital back on our print cause we printed in Chemical. I was all C 41. Anybody who goes back to old typewriting, we did see 41 printing in a big threat. So printer it was all done and I'm gonna get emotional. But it wasn't the money that upset me. It was because it was a junior high dance and there were, like, 36 couples, and they came all dressed up, so, so cute. It was there, one Sadie Hawkins dance, and I screwed it. I was so upset. I told Colin Todd and I was like, crying so hard, you don't promotion. Okay, so I had to go back the teacher, and it tells them that I screwed up. So what was hard was not that the teacher had, except that he had a go tell all those 72 kids that paid money for me to capture their Sadie Hawkins dance. I screwed up. So after that, I told Todd Practice. So we spent, like, two weeks of practice. I need to do this now. We need to figure out Sweet sat down is like Can It was so hard to get back the money, which was no big deal. But the fact that was there one Sadie Hawkins dance, you know? So the wings, I don't shoot people. You can't screw food up anyway. Focus. We sat down and he said I got a frickin practice. This is wrong. So how we did it? We not only tape it. We taped at four freaking times, Like every event that we did. We taped it down so much toe where every single one of our team members who shot literally every five minutes it was like, isn't taped, is it tape? Ever since then, we probably we shot 10 years drink. We probably shot 150 events, thousands of kids that we've never had that problem again. But because we practice right after it takes one big screw up. And I screwed up so bad that we just sat. We taped Larry, taped everything. So every single thing that we did up to then was always used as a practice. So every time we shot one event or every opportunity we had to shoot, it was for practice. It was to be better. It was so that I didn't screw up. So it was that moment back in 2000 and two that it was like, Oh, my God, I need to quit my job. I need to go back to med school. I need to get a real job gives. It sucks. So that is a learning experience now. But we didn't and she actually still continue to shoot people For a long time we saw you actually bars as part of food photography, but just that portrait business She still continue to have a great business for 10 years doing that. But it was just It was one of those things we very early on lesson for us. With in this industry, there's never a perfect there's always gonna be things that go wrong and how you deal with them whether you continue go forward or whether you let him bury you. Yeah, and with practice, you guys, we practice so much you don't even don't up to this thing about we practice because it's all a part of learning. And, you know, mistakes are always gonna happen, But you can't have them own you and have you quit. So practice, practice, practice, collaborating with somebody, you know, it really helps to share in your knowledge. So what helped moving forward was really collaborating more with Todd because back then he was working in a restaurant still, and he would help me at night shoot the events so it wasn't. Until then, I really was more. Let's Can you help me? Let's work this together And that's when things started working because I only stole. Think honestly, don't think I could have done it by myself because I would have been so frustrated after that night, I would have been like, Oh my God, I just need to, like, quit this because I just not only screwed up, but I made so many people unhappy. So again, practice, practice. We collaborated with each other more. We practiced at night. We'd work to 11. Come home, sometimes at midnight in practice. So you guys don't even know. Even at this point where we are shooting, all this seems easy. It seems like they got it, but it took so many mistakes to get to this point, and we never feel like we're done. Yeah, it's like we've never reached anything. It's always that elusive, seeking of perfection. But knowing that perfection is never really there, you know, I think the time that we stop learning is when we start dying. That's when we're gonna fade away. Um, you know, it's like I'm always looking and trying to understand how to capture light. Better how things were changing. Sometimes it's just the industry's aesthetic is changing in understanding. Keeping up with that, Um, there's never a time wins. I think we have anything dead down. We still have a ton to learn, and I think it's I mean, it's probably that's exciting, too, because I don't want to stop learning. I don't want to feel like I have it. It's I want to always just continue to get better because I see some of the other amazing people, and that's like such a great thing that is going on right now. This is probably the most exciting time ever to be a photographer. I mean, just look who saw you work like 10 20 years ago, maybe the 100 people at most that you show them physically your work. Who gets to see it now? Everybody, in an instant, you can share to someone across. We'll look at how many people we had that been international on our chat rooms. Tons. This is just such like an amazing, amazing time, and we give it inspired by each other and we get a share with each other and it helps on the global scale, and then when you're working closely with someone die and I working together, it makes both of us better units. I get it. Um, she makes me better as if stung for because, you know, as a guy we tend to be more technically focused and that so there's some guys that are not, and there's some girls that are same thing. Some girls are super technical and not that much on the emotional end of it, but the two of us working together. It's like we help each other across those boundaries. She gets the, you know, a little bit more of the technical from from from me and the way we explain things and understand things together. I've become much better through what she injects into me, and vice versa. So in a lot of people say, like we're part successful, Do they say Well, because it's easy because you guys were married, you're already partner ready, so you can easily work together. And that's not always true. Sometimes the relationship as husband and wife doesn't always pan out, like as Styler and photographer, we will butt heads. That's the honest truth. But t to tell you that we get along all the time it's it's would be lying, but to tell you that you know we fight often would be lying to because we don't fight often. Part of our success is the relationship between food stylist and photographer. So for those of you who are wanting to build your business to be the photographer or be the food stylist, that's where the collaboration works. So how you gonna find that balance to help your work become better and how you do your work? A scene? It's finding that food stylist or that food photographer to work with you to collaborate with you. How long is it going to take? I have no idea, You know, it happened naturally toe for us because we had to make it happen because we've always wanted to work together. So let's say I didn't have him and I was a food stylist and I was starting out, and I really needed to get my work out there. I would build a relationship with the photographer and work with them to see if we have that workflow. It's not just workflow within the table within the set, making sure things line up its workflow emotionally and so much of this work when you're on set guys and these guys can all about. When you're together for 12 hours a day, 14 16 hours a day, you can get on each other's nerves. So because of that, you've got to find that person to to to understand your workflow. So our workflow when we talk about workflow, it's not workflow here. It's workflow, step by step emotionally, too, because we have to be emotionally in line, because if we can make the dish look great but workflow wise, I'm not tune into him. He's not Tune into me. He's not encouraging me in between the set. If I'm not encouraging him, it can go. I'll go downhill. So that's what we talk about the relationship with with a food photographer food stylist. I think it's truly crucial to success because that's why some photographers only use and work with certain stylists because they've been able to build that network of people they trust the people that they can flow with. You know, you want to work with somebody, you could flow within that you like and see there with wife vice versa. Some stylists really only worked with certain photographers. So again, step by step workflow is super crucial. I can't even tell you, um, how important it is. So it's not just the technical. It's like, emotional and the creative, too. So with that, um, next thing is we want talk about is is believing yourself, you know, find your tribe. And that's what kind of I talked about before. A lot of times for food bloggers. When you're a busy mom and you're by yourself, I totally know where you're going through. It's good hard, you know, because you want to succeed in your food photography and styling. But you feel like you've hit so many roadblocks, like achieving this would be really hard for you, which is okay, we understand. But you've got to believe in yourself and find the people. They're gonna encourage you because, like even right now, although you guys were giving me critique, I know you're encouraging me, and I appreciate that, cause I didn't see it as critique or being picky. I saw it as allowing me to see something different, and I really think that's the state of mind. You need to put yourself in when you're in this business on when you're working, because as a food stylist. It can be really frustrating if you have 14 people on set telling you what to dio, right? Everybody going in different directions. You could just want to break down sometimes. So, um, to do this, it's really good. Teoh focus and find someone to anchor you, because when he knows I'm about to get frustrated, he'll call me down and vice versa. When he's struggling with light and he can't capture and he can't anchor it right, you could tell he starts to get frustrated and I can see. So here's that workflow, I tell me, wondering water, How you doing? You know, like you know, can I help you with anything? You know? You want a cookie and you know, and you know, it was like just just that talk helps alleviate that, and that's that's part of it to their as easy as it may seem like it is to capture it. There are days where I still will be frustrated shooting. It's like I'm just not feeling It's like, yeah, the shots, Okay, but it's not quite a yet. It's just normal there. Some days, ones like you'll struggle a bit, and that's where is great back to that collaboration that tried with having someone you can bounce things off of seeing someone that can maybe help give you a different perspective. Um, sometimes you just have to work through it yourself, going back to the moving and finding the different angle and just changing things up. You're not shooting the same thing where you're stuck again and again and again. But now I'm moving yourself and getting yourself out of that red, maybe shooting a totally different style that you didn't expect that you would like. Um, but it's, you know, shooting. You know, not every day is not all. Just like Cakewalk Album. Got it, Got it. Boom! Got there Today is one. It's like, Oh, I suck today, You know, for us, one part of learning the next up in learning we're not done yet. We're really trying to practice, practice, practice, and you think, What is it? You guys need a practice you don't even know. Next thing we're practicing is surface making. I mean, we've always done that, but we practice that so much every day, and that's why we're able to be able to create a lot of the textures that you see here. So, like, what is it that you practice is a photography? No. We practice things outside with practice cooking and then in our field, its texture making. So that's our honor bucket list to study for the next three years to make textures. And so I'm always on YouTube. I'm always studying crafters and what they do for four walls. That's the most amazing place to learn. So I try to once. So once a month, if not twice a month, will spend a Saturday in the backyard, and we'll just practice making props. So we've talked about that will set a practice day. We always do. No matter how much money you make or how busy or how many clients you have, you never stopped practicing. And so that's another thing we do is just practice making surfaces and then giving yourself like a homework assignment. You know, next week when you go home, what do you gonna practice because you think you're good at something, you can always practice a little bit. That's like that's a great time just to get a group of friends together. You know, it would be that doing stuff. Yeah, that a lot of times when we're doing services, we actually. So when we teach our workshops back in our studio, we'll have part of the works up will be creating services. You see how important it is to what we dio so that we were able to incorporate that into the curriculum. And we're always given new inspiration, new ideas by the people that we just share a little bit, that while we know and see where they run with it, So going back to like finding your tribe, it's like those people around you. It's like it's always that continue a source of inspiration to find people. They get a work with those, like make it a fun, fun weekend days. I get the girls together to get the guys together just, you know, paint, drink, have fun. Yeah, you know, sometimes you don't feel like you know, and that's a great thing. Is like you get together and eat, you know, instead of going out, get together to photograph. I think that's a really good idea. And we used to tell people that if particularly if you have a food blogging community, another photography shouldn't work with. Set a day aside and make a photography day rather than girls night out. You know, happy hour just photographed together, and that's like you have to really intentionally set that.

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