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Product Photography

Food Photography with the Intern Army

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

– Posted by Mark

Last Monday the Intern Army and I photographed some food in the studio.

Now you’ve probably noticed – we don’t photograph products or food around here that often – so it’s definitely not one of our ‘specialties’. However – this has been a very interesting and educational process – and I’m not even talking about the taking pictures part. That’s actually the easy stuff. The interesting part has been everything we’ve done to really understand what the client wanted as far as the content of the photos, but more importantly, the overall look, feel, and impression left by the photos – along with how to achieve those impressions that we wanted the viewer to have after seeing each photo.

For example – one of the 20 products we shot is a line of different granola. Instead of just showing good, clear, glossy photos of the granola – you want to show people how they might actually EAT the granola. How it might be used and consumed – instead of just taking beautiful photos of a product, you’re taking beautiful photos of the product in a way that’s familiar to the end user. While at the same time, in line with the style of the brand in its current state, or even helping to redefine the brand in a new way. So different from say, being an arrogant wedding photographer/artist that shoots with THEIR VISION and ONLY their vision – you need to really understand and deliver what your client wants and balance that with whatever artistic ego you feel like holding on to.

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

And there were a lot of different individual pieces and products – so I brought in the Intern Army and we set up three stations in our Studio.

1. Packaging
2. Raw Ingredients
3. Styled (even though they were all technically ‘styled’)

Oh – and this time I was smart enough to hire our Stylist, LoriGami to work on the shoot with us. While my ego might argue that taking/making these photos is hard work – the truth is that the real reason these photos are successful is because Lori did a great job making everything look amazing. When we needed different options, different setups, or new ideas – Lori handled everything. Props, setups, food wrangling, and more.

All we did as photographers was manage the light, and take the photos. Well – of course light is kind of a big deal – especially if you’ve ever tried taking product photos without proper lighting.

See? – we were like a product-photo-factory that day and we definitely knocked out an amazing number of shots in those 7 hours.

And yes – by the end, we had probably eaten more granola that day than we have all year.

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

Atlanta Commercial Food | Product Photography | LeahAndMark.com

 

Product

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This is Dean and Amy of Garlic Clove Foods. Leah first met Dean at a farmer’s market down the road from us – she bought one of their pilaf mixes,brought it home, and it was so good that I actually asked about what I was eating. This stuff is REALLY good. So we bought more. Eventually after buying more and more of their products we were talking to our friend Jenn (of Indigo Bath and Body – she sells her goods at the same farmer’s markets) and she mentioned to Dean that Leah and I are photographers and eventually they hired us for a photo shoot.

They’re actually the reason I bought my IKEA light box and started practicing shooting products. I wanted to be able to give Dean and Amy photos that looked expensive and not like the stuff you normally see from small businesses that sell their products at farmers markets. Plus, they had just gotten new packaging a few weeks ago so along with the packaging, I wanted their photos to be upgraded.

Other than the general improvement in the design/layout of the package – these bags not only show the grains, but they make it so the layered grains are managed better and seen more clearly than the previous packaging. You can focus on the quinoa, the bulgar, and the other ingredients – and I wanted to make sure that it was all lit properly. I’m still overcoming some issues with the reflection off the bags but I think I made some progress in that area for the most part.

Old Product Shot.

New Product Shot.

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But what about actual ‘food’ photos? Those are for the next shoot coming up this weekend.

I had always intended on getting a shot of the two of them along with their products – but then the opportunity arose for them to be featured in a local business journal, so we scheduled a mini-shoot last Sunday (yes, it was our third shoot that day after the family portrait and the AIDS Quilt.)

This took place at Return to Eden – an independent natural foods grocery. If you know anything about us we’re all about light in our photos and we’re always trying to make sure that it’s not boring. Even though this was possibly going to be used in a print newspaper where they flatten all the colors and remove all contrast in the photos, I still wanted the photo to be better than what I often see being printed in business journals (while being ‘safe’ enough since this was yet another first ‘type’ of shoot for me.) I didn’t want a flat composition where they’re up against a wall, or simply beside a table of their products. (and don’t worry – the photo should still look great even after the newspaper treatment – of course we took several shots and we’ll just have to wait and see which one gets used)

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So we had them throw their new packages up on the shelf (we pushed back what was already there and used two shelves) and then I put them right in the middle of the angles, making sure that all of the lines – from the shelves to the lighting – direct you to focus on them. I was also pleased with how we got two zones of light with the brighter light up front and then the dimmer light in the back from the dairy section. Your focus is where it should be, on the products (two rows and they’re the most brightly lit) and then on Dean and Amy.

(of course if I was even smarter, I would’ve remembered to pull out my new polarizing filter to take care of the glare off the packages)

Leah is a few feet to the right off camera holding a bare flash at Dean’s face – but I didn’t notice that it wasn’t going off until afterwards when I looked at the photos. I can imagine how it would’ve brought another level of the photo – but it may have also been too much. I’m going to believe that things worked out just right.

Catch

It’s hard to see in the small versions of the photos – but there are some pretty good catch-lights in their eyes giving them an extra sparkle for the newspaper.

This shoot took about 15 minutes. Since Leah’s flash apparently didn’t go off at all, the setup was a single umbrella’d light to the left and then just slowing down the shutter long enough to pull in the ambient light in the back. A nice quick photo shoot.