This is quite a difficult field to get into and possibly one of the most challenging and demanding areas of commercial photography. It is quite similar to fashion photography where you have a team of people involved in the shoot, from the chef to a food stylist and an art director. So the pressure is on to deliver. Here's how to start.
You need to be able to get along with people and take direction. The client is the one who will give you the brief and expect you to create an image that is only in their mind. The ability to keep cool is essential and the ability to bite your tongue a great asset. Here's how to shoot great food images.
1. Know the trends and styles
This is where you need to do your research and keep up to date using the latest books and magazines. Many mags have a food section and this will give you a good idea of what the trends are. Get to know the lighting set ups so that you can duplicate this.
2. Detail is king
When photographing food you are trying to get a good representation of how the food looks and in the case of restaurants, what will be delivered to the person's table. Because you are shooting so close to the subject and often using close-up lenses you will see all the imperfections such as dust, hairs and fingerprints. So you need to make sure that everything is clean and free of any imperfections. With digital it is essential to review your images in high resolution while on set to check all the details.
3. Create a portfolio
Every food photographer has a portfolio of their work but what do you do if you don't? Create one. It's as simple as that. By studying magazines and books you will know the trends so setup dishes in you own kitchen of if you have a friend crazy about cooking do it in theirs. Copying the lighting, back grounds and techniques of top food photographers will give you practise and help create a portfolio of what you can deliver.
4. Do a workshop
We have a local photography school that offers a weekend workshop in food photography. This is the perfect way to hone your skills and refine your techniques. Most times they are offered by experienced food photographers from the industry and you will learn helpful tips and ways to get a foothold in the industry.
5. Market yourself
It's very difficult to market yourself if you don't have a track record so start small and approach local restaurants and non-chain fast food outlets and offer your services. Often they don't have big budgets and are looking for people to photograph their products. Offer your services to local cookery or chef schools where students are looking to create their own portfolios.
As I said, this is a demanding industry and you need to stay focused and work hard while looking for opportunities. Perseverance is key and the ability to endure rejection is essential. If you can stick it out and overcome the pitfalls you'll find your niche and achieve great success. Happy shooting!
About the author: Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography.
Written by: Wayne Turner
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