As well as being an incredibly creative photography genre, the commercial side of this niche should not be ignored. From the appetising imagery on the front of ready meal packaging, to glossy full-page images within our favourite cook books, the messages conveyed through commercial food photography can make or break a brand.
Speaking to Rick Foulsham about his career in commercial photography, we discovered a variety of different areas where food photography is used to sell a product or enhance a brand.
Speaking to Rick in detail, we have discovered more about this lucrative industry and discovered the tips and tricks he would give to those looking to break into the industry.
Why did you choose to become a photographer?
I started out in advertising but wanted to be closer to the coalface of the creative process.
What drew you to focus on food photography as your niche?
First and foremost I love food and I know how to cook. I know what makes a dish taste good and I understand how different ingredients can work well together. I also like the detail and the subtlety of food photography. How a misplaced crumb can either make or break a shot. How the tones and textures of the props and backgrounds you use can either kill the food or make it sing.
What equipment do you typically take with you on a shoot?
Canon 5DSR; Manfrotto studio tripod; Manfrotto horizontal tripod arm; reflector, textured backgrounds, crockery and cutlery.
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What are the key components of any food photography shoot?
The background you use; the dish or plate you put the food on; the supplementary props you have in the shot (knives, glasses etc); and the additional ingredients you use to dress the deck.
What words of wisdom would you give to budding photographers looking to focus on food photography?
Tell a story, lead the eye and never forget the power of red.
Why should budding photographers choose a career in food photography?
For the technical challenges (lighting, DOF, composition & focal point), the styling challenges (stuff melting, dripping, drying out, flopping and sinking), the variety of subject matter (raw food, cooked food, restaurant interiors, chef portraits, kitchen gardens) and the shear pleasure of ending the day eating what you’ve just shot.
Can you explain the process you go through with each food photography shoot?
Visualising each shot before the shoot is very important. Planning what you need in terms of props, backgrounds and ingredients requires logistical skill and budgeting. You also need to have a rough idea of how you’re going to compose each shot and how that might have a knock-on effect in terms of lighting, props etc.
Sometimes I work with a development chef or stylist who will prepare the food, models who are there to help prop the shot and art directors who have a vision of what they want to achieve. Being able to direct the team as well as collaborating with others is vital.
Generally I shoot with daylight so choosing my spot in a room is important. Anticipating how the light will move during the day will keep the first shot consistent with the last. I usually start with food on a plate and once I have a composition I’m happy with, I’ll concentrate on the lighting, what I want in focus, the textures, the colours and the details of the shot that tell the story.
What finishing touches do you tend to make to your shots?
Mostly highlighting with oil and water and either adding or subtracting crumbs, seeds, droplets etc. Small paint brushes, tweezers, blue tac, a spray bottle and pipettes are all useful.
How do you see the style of food photography changing in the future?
3D printed food, genetically modified ingredients, processed insect protein and a demand for visual perfection will probably mean that we see more weird and wonderful stuff presented to us which is edible.
A great insight into the world of commercial food photography, I am sure you will agree! If you have a passion for food and want to learn more about this photography genre, then take a look at our photography hub, where we have included all sorts of photography, from fashion through to photojournalism.