Style: Food Photographer, Food Photography – Shaws Fine Meats Lauder.
An amazing two days of fine meats – over 90 products in all and a free lesson in butchery – we’re beginning to understand the cuts now. The challenge with this food photography commission was twofold really – watching the shine on the meat surface (it’s a moist product) – it should be minimal and the fact that all this was done on site. Yes, the entire shoot at Shaws in Lauder. They gave us the space to work and a brilliant assistant for the day – Douglas Hogg – who to be honest made this shoot – he was so well organised, fast – yes keeping up with the shoot flow and an encyclopaedia of information that let us style the meat products correctly. Many thanks Douglas!
As usual, lighting was a issue but on this occasion mainly because of the weather. We always try to use daylight in food work, but on this day we had the four seasons and the light was changing by the minute – curtains one minute drawn because of stunning white sunlight, the next open with heavy rain. We also had to balance the lights with new low light continuous lighting units and watch how the accent lights changed colour with the overall lighting scheme – yes as the room light became more dark or dull, the accent light turned from yellow to orange…! Douglas kept bringing the product through careful dressed and discussed each cut with us so we new how best to show it, watching for folds, butchers dressing knots and the presentation of fat and marbling. A great two days with what has to be said was a stunning range of product.
But is shooting food product onsite the best way? To be honest it comes down to cost really – the cost of stock that needs to be written off due to the process of transit to and from the studio. If the client can do that, studio is always the best – we pick it up, manage its condition whilst in storage and still have the flexibility of the prop store to let ideas evolve. But sorry the product is spoiled at the end of the process due to time, prodding with studio staff paws etc. Food photography on site, yes, it is a growing trend for food product photography and a norm for menu work anyway. But it does require a load of preparation by the client (we were lucky on this occasion we had Douglas!). We need lots of room space for the sets and the storage of gear, windows for lighting and then the permanent access of staff to bring the product to photographed into the workflow and shoot plan (yes on one occasion it took us two days to shoot 12 products because the client kept disappearing with their own workload).
The studio on client site, it sounds easy but it is a challenge as so few clients really do not understand what goes on studio side – we sort of hide that, so when we turn up with a van full of lighting, backgrounds, boxes and boxes of props, remnants and the ingredients props, you always see the same expression on their face…. oh dear! Food product is not like menu work we build the set and style and shoot – that in itself is a process. For menu work a lot of the styling setting etc is set by the restaurant, their tables, their flatware etc and chef is the stylist. But for food product, we have to bring everything to the client that creates the stylised image we have in mind and yes, there’s always something we forget, no matter how long the preparation list – which is why onsite can seem great but at times it can be a pain as a new idea evolves during the shoot and we can’t try it out as the stuff’s back in either of the food studios! On the other side of the issue, being on site does mean that if the product is not right – we can ask the client for another. It’s a matter of balance of costs and needs for the client and creative compromise to the studio – both parties working as hard as they can to limit any issues or impacts.
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