Chicken on the grill food photo shoot. It’s always challenging to shoot real fire. It’s much easier with digital photography because you can merge several images together.
It’s been a LONG LONG time since I’ve shot for Pittsburgh Magazine, and I’m glad to be back at it… Here’s a food photo for a future magazine, and hopefully I’m not breaking any rules by posting this. But here it is.
I’ve really been happy with all this artsy – fartsy food photography lately, and I love getting good portfolio pieces and this is a pretty good one. It feels good to be experimenting with different lighting techniques and lenses, that I normally wouldn’t use for my food photography. The horizons, they are expanding… )
Sometimes it’s just fun to play around with food photography. I work for some pretty prestigious food photography clients, but I still find that to really play, creatively, I sometimes have to go it alone and shoot some editorial type food photography. Most food photo clients come to me with a layout in mind and some pretty tight parameters as far as backgrounds and recipes go, so to give myself a little creative freedom, I will occasionally play on my own, hoping to attract new, like-minded clients. Don’t get me wrong in any way, I am still very happy shooting on white backgrounds and to specific layouts, but from time to time, and maybe a little more often in the future, I’d be willing to try some new things, even for fewer dollars, necessary… but not too few, mind you… )
There are different styles of lighting in food photography, of course, and I’m experimenting with styles that are are now to me. I’ve always gravitated to a particular lighting setup that has been successful for me in the past, but recently, I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons a bit by experimenting and mastering other techniques. The think about my previous lighting, is that I had unlimited control of how much light every single part of the photo received, and with this new lighting, there is much less control, bot it’s faster and maybe a little more romantic. In the near future, after I become more familiar with this new technique, I think I’ll try to combine the old lighting techniques with the new and see what happens!
Here’s another image from yesterday’s food photo test shoot. Like I said, it sure is fun to just make pretty pictures, and what better thing to photograph than food? Think about it… Some photographers shoot scantily clad women, but I think that might make my wife a little upset, but food on the other hand… Plus, I get to take it home after the shoot and it’s tax-deductible! I simply love being a food photographer here in Pittsburgh and to tell you the truth, it sure beats working for a living… )
I had a cancelation today so I thought I’d play around, do a little testing and maybe do a little “food photography art”. I’m working on a monochromatic color pallet and maximum texture with this shot. As my career evolves, my different interests in food photography chance. What I like one day might seem old and dated the next. Hopefully, that will keep me out future “ruts” in my career…
Also, I like to playing with napkin folds in my food photography. I think that it’s such a large part of food photography and its importance is very much under-appreciated.
If you’d like to see more of my work or learn more about shooting food, you can see my portfolio at http://www.foodportfolio.com and you can see my food photography how-to site at http://www.foodportfolio/blog.
Food photography is on of those things where you hopefully get better and better every shoot, but in reality, there some photos you look back at and think “this is a favorite. This is one of those pictures. I shot this a few years back fro a local grocery store chain, for one of their “high end” direct mail pieces, and to this day, it’s one of my favorite food photo of all time.
I guess what I like best about the photos is the simple lighting and the “blown out” look in the background. It’s a good example of environmental food photography, that is set is some magical place between studio and environment.
This food photography assignment was basically for the client’s food photography library, with the primary purpose being a promotional calendar. All our shots were horizontal, which is my favorite way to shoot food, and we got to shoot everything “nice and tight”, with shallow depth of field… This kind of food photography usually leads to portfolio pieces, and this shoot was no exception. We got some really great stuff!
Shooting in Pittsburgh
The client for this project is located in Buffalo NY, and they come to my Pittsburgh studio to shoot most of the time. There was a time when I have traveled to Buffalo to shoot, but it makes sense for us to shoot here in Pittsburgh because of the cost of transporting the crew and props up to New York. And since the studio here in Pittsburgh is equipped as a full service restaurant kitchen anyway, it usually makes sense for the client to come to us…
The Food Photography Crew
On this project, I worked with a Pittsburgh Food Stylist by the name of Ana Kelly. Ana is one of the three talented food stylists that Pittsburgh has been blessed with, and is a lot of fun to work with too. There are times when I do work with other food stylists, besides these three. Sometime I shoot out of the city and there are times when all of these three are booked with other jobs and the client needs to shoot on a specific day. In this case, there are other stylists that I can call to come into town for the shoot, but when possible, I prefer to work with the local talent, since it is as good as it gets anyways…
Since this was a two-day shoot, I ended up working with two very talented photo assistants, Eddie and Mike. Both of these guys are very good photographers by themselves, but offer to help me out once in a while… And I’m happy to have them.
Seriously… Every day, I thank God for this career in food photography. My clients are amazing and the crews that I work with are great people too. I can’t imagine a more fun career!
We had a crazy week at work. First, we had a shoot in Cincinnati for a LaRosa’s Restaurant and it went later than expected, so we ended up getting into Pittsburgh much later than planned. We got in so late, in fact, that I spent the night on the photo studio couch before another client’s food shoot, the next day. There’s no sense in spending the travel time to and from home when you can be sleeping instead… )
The food photography we did for LaRosa’s was all “outlined shots”, and while I thought the shots came out really well, I sort of like all the behind the scenes shots we came away with.
LaRosa’s has a brand new test kitchen and a room that they use almost exclusively for their food photography and video shoots. Heck, it’s a food photographer’s dreams, and Mark LaRosa said that I might be able to work out a deal where we do some sort of trade and I can use the room for other Cincinnati shoots. I’m not really sure how that would work out, but I really like the possibilities… )
One interesting new development in the business of food photography is the advent of remote viewing. This allows us to let other people attend the shoot from other cities, countries, or even the next room. It’s pretty cool and amazingly useful.
All in all, We had a great shoot, produced some really nice photos, and had a good time to boot! It doesn’t get much better than that!
I have a fun week of food photography happening this week. First, I’ll be traveling to Cincinnati for a shoot with some GREAT clients (LaRosa’s) and then it’s back to Pittsburgh for a two day shoot with another Great Client! (Rich’s) It just doesn’t get much better than this! I’ll be posting some sample shots from both the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh studio shoots. Stay tuned!!!!
Taking my food photography equipment on location is no easy task, but lately I’ve made great strides to make things much more portable, so I’m looking forward to this trip to “shake things out” so to speak… I’ll let you know how it goes!
I’m excited. I just got permission that I could share you with you a few food photography samples of a recent six day packaging shoot I did with some really great clients, Ian’s. The shoot went really well and we got some really great stuff. It’s funny, so much of food photography is shooting really simple photos, but the simplicity is REALLY deceiving… With food photography, simple is not as easy as it looks and with packaging, it’s all about simplicity. You need to light the food so that it JUMPS off the package, and it can’t be too moody or too anything, except too beautiful!
In a previous post about food photography, I talked about the kinds of photography that an editorial food photographer could and couldn’t do well. Packaging food photography a great example of the kind of photography that an editorial food photographer would fall flat on his face, shooting… Probably… ) Would you want to risk it?
Really… I have to have the very best job, not only in Pittsburgh, but the whole wide world! They pay me to take pictures of food for a living! It is probably on of the best jobs imaginable, and I thank God every day for the good fortune of doing what I truly love.
Here’s a sample of one of my favorite shots and one of the reasons I like being a food photographer. I think I like it mostly for the color pallet, the selective focus and the dream-like feel of the shot. This is definitely a good example of editorial food photography and maybe that’s why I like it so much, I’m just not sure…
Before I go, I just wanted to thank all my clients, current, past and future, for helping me fulfill my dreams. It’s been a great run so far and I hope I’ve given back as much as I received. Thank you, thank you, thank you… )
If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my food photography, but you may not know me, and you might be interested in learning more about me.
My name is Michael Ray, and I’m a Pittsburgh based food photographer. I’ve been shooting food for many years and have a client list containing some very prestigious food manufacturers, restaurants, and various food related publications locally and around the country.
I do most of my food photography in my 4500 square foot studio located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, USA. For a food photography studio, it’s just about perfect! I have a fully equipped kitchen with plenty of room to shoot multiple setups, if necessary, and plenty of comfortable room for clients to work and multi-task during our shooting session.
Over the years, I’d say that 90% of my food photography work has been done in the studio and the other 10% is on location. That number seems to be changing a little and I tend to be shooting more and more on location. The reason I’ve always preferred the studio is because in the studio, I have EVERYTHING I need, and on location, you have to make due with what you’ve brought. Still, there are times when shooting on location is a good idea, especially when working into the shot, an environment or location. And then there are times when the client’s needs outweigh my needs, and that’s fine to. In fact, I’ve been pressing to do more location food photography. I’m sort of getting the hang of it and I’m actually looking for more of those types of projects. I think I’d like to do a little more traveling. )
While I do not maintain a staff, I work with a team of freelancers that bring specific talents to each and every project, as needed. Pittsburgh is the home of many fine, food stylists and freelance assistants, and I assemble the specific team based on the particular needs of each individual project. That way, I’m able to mix and match depending on the unique need of each client. Why should a client have to pay for staff members that are not needed for their project? By doing things this way, I’m able to match a stylist with the style of the project. Everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses, and individual styles. Assembling teams to match projects has proven to be a great asset over the years and if it ain’t broke, why fix it… )
On a personal side, besides food photography, I enjoy family, motorcycles and the outdoors. I’m a gadget person and like my toys, both professional ones and personal ones. If you’d like to read more about me and my work, you can check out an article written a couple years ago. And if you have any other questions, please visit my food photographer’s portfolio web site or feel free to email or give me a call. I’d be glad to share with you anything I can…
If you’re trying to distinguish if a Pittsburgh food photographer shoots more advertising work or more editorial food photography, just look his (or her) web page and count how many raw ingredient photos he has displayed… Editorial food photographers tend to shoot a lot of raw fruit and vegetable shots and advertising food photographers tend to shoot more prepared food shots. Of course, this is a broad generality and doesn’t always hold true, but more times than not, lots of a ingredient shots means that the photographer’s main market is of an editorial bent, meaning magazines.
So you might ask yourself, what does this matter? Well, if you own a restaurant here in Pittsburgh and you’re thinking about hiring a food photographer for a menu shoot, you might want to see if that photographer shoots the kind of photos you need. Are you just looking for photos of raw ingredients, or do you want appetizing photos of YOUR prepared menu items…? There is a huge difference between shooting raw Brussels sprouts in a bowl, and shooting your homemade lasagna on your restaurant’s plate.
If you are looking to have a Pittsburgh food photographer to shoot your menu, make sure that he has similar shots in his portfolio, so there’s no surprise the day of the shoot. Don’t get me wrong. Every food photographer ends up taking pretty vegetable shots sooner of later, but if most of his portfolio is made up of that kind of food photography, you might want to keep looking for a photographer that has in his portfolio or web page, the kind of photos that you actually need. Don’t assume, that if he can take a picture of a tomato or whole raw fish, that he can shoot prepared food. That’s a very different type of food photography.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have a huge market for editorial food photography, but there are a few outlets. Table Magazine, Pittsburgh Magazine, Whirl Magazine, The local news papers, and a few others are pretty much all of local markets that I can think of, and many of those buyers, I honestly don’t know a whole lot about. I’d like to, but at the moment, I’m rather clueless… The one local magazine that I have worked for in the past, shooting editorial food and people photography, is Pittsburgh Magazine. The shots below are were used as cover and inside photos for the magazine and are pretty good examples of editorial food photography.
The files you’re looking at are the images before they were cropped for reproduction. All three of these images have a similar theme, the blown out backgrounds. This is a technique that I use to make my editorial food photos look more attractive. This way I can make the images look as though they’re in an environment, that might actually be the restaurant (for two of the shots) or in an actual kitchen (for the waffle shot).
These images are old, but some of my favorites, but as I look at these photos, I’m noticing that the camera angle tends to be from a similar angle, and for editorial photos, that’s not a good thing or even a common thing… I’ll have to keep that in mind as I build my portfolio in the future. I guess the reason that I keep coming back to the same camera angle, is because the angle “works”. The angle I usually shoot from is the one that I found displays the food to its best advantage, showing the thickness and texture, better than other possible camera angles. In advertising, that’s a good idea, but in editorial food photography, where there’s usually a larger quantity of photos to show, shooting everything from the same angle gets to appear a little boring after a few shots… With advertising food photography, we usually just shoot a shot or two and with so few pictures, repetition usually isn’t an issue.
I’ll be back with more samples and discussion on Pittsburgh editorial food photography shortly. There are more issues I’d like to discuss and photos to show you…
I’ve been showing you a lot of samples of Advertising Food Photography and new I wanted to show you samples of editorial food photography so you can understand the difference. While I’d admit that I shoot mostly for advertising purposes, many time my Pittsburgh and national clients want a little “different” look and that’s when I get to go a little more in the direction of editorial food photography. In fact, I love shooting this kind of project, because it’s more about making pretty pictures and entertaining the viewers, which is a nice change for me. I wish I got to do a little more of this and in the future, I think I may point my business in this direction.
Basically, if I had to describe the differences in lighting between advertising and editorial food photography, I’d say it’s in the lighting. Sure there are other differences to, like composition, but the lighting is the main thing. Editorial Food Photography tends to be lit more softly. Soft food photography lighting tends to be “prettier” and more appealing, especially for “wider” food photos. What I mean by “softer” lighting is that the shadows are less crisp. Check out the photos I have posted down below. They tend to have softer light and this, in my opinion, helps makes them a little more “editorial” in feel. The soup photo may be the exception to this, but I guess you can be the judge of that. And if you’re a reader from a city other than Pittsburgh, the same ideas apply.
Note that when you’re looking at food photography how editorial food photography tends to have softer light. There are other things that make these photos less commercial and more editorial, but lighting is one if the main things that tilts the scale toward editorial. We’ll explore the other things in future posts…