Anatomy of an advertising shoot from a professional food photographer..

Being a professional commercial food photographer differs from being a hobbyist in many ways.
Not only do you have to take great photographs but you are also required to execute a photograph in a specific manner.

Photography is hard enough but when you introduce a team of art directors, clients and other players your role becomes somewhat of a hired gun. Yes, you are hired for your style but when you shoot commercially I find it’s best to check your ego at the door. You become part of an overall objective that must at all times satisfy a client who is paying the ticket.

This does not mean you should compromise your creativity but you have to temper it. The best way to illustrate this is by walking you through a recent shoot I did for Partanna Olives. An assignment usually begins with a brief from either an ad agency or in-house creatives. The brief details the objectives of the shoot and a shot list. It also usually contains swipes (examples of a photographic style).

The objective for this shoot was to create a clean and exciting photographic look for Partanna olives. Their new branding message is that Partanna is the preferred martini olive and is setting the standard. In order to achieve the look I first had to make decision about how to shoot the ad based on the elements required. The ingredients for this shot were the can of olives , a bowl of beautiful olives and a martini splash. The client also requested that everything was in focus. Secondly the can of olives had to be prominent. These factors led me to my first decision which was to shoot the elements separately and composite the images in post production.

I started with my camera angle for the can. Once established the rest of the pieces needed to be shot in the same plane in order for them to match photographically. I chose to use white plexiglass instead of white seamless because I was going to be executing a drink shot with a splash later. The seamless would have buckled once wet and plexiglass wipes down quickly.

I started shooting the can but it presented challenges. I used 2 strobes hitting the sheet piece of plexiglass from behind. This gives a nice backlight and even tone when the background goes even white. Next I took two white cards and placed them parallel to each other on both sides of the can. I then took two strobes on soft boxes and bounced them into the cards from above each light hitting the opposite card. I also placed two strips of black card behind the can to cut the light on the back edges and prevent them from being overexposed. The can is metal and round. There were two hot spots on the can that i could not eliminate so I grabbed a can of dulling spray. Dulling spray works on metal and is basically a wax that eliminates reflections. I applied an even coating to the can and took a shot. Problem solved. Beautiful can shot. 1 part down, two to go.

The olives were the easiest shot of the three. After establishing that a glass bowl would allow the olives to look more abundant, we picked a non traditional shape for interest. Props play an important part and we had many choices for the art director to choose from. The olives were styled and keeping the same camera angle I moved the camera closer. Finally the olives were moistened with a spray bottle at the last minute and shot 2 was done.

Lastly the fun part, the splash. This part was tricky. Vodka was chilled and placed in the martini glass.
Water does not produce the same effect and we chose to use the real thing. Next 2 olives were placed in the glass. My stylist and I set about dropping olives into the glass from different heights. It takes a bit of time to get the timing right. we used 2 olives, three olives at a time to get different effects. After about 50 shots we got enough captures to choose from. During the falling shots we managed to capture some olives in mid air as well. The result of the splash is real image capture and the splash is not photoshopped. The falling olives were added later in post.

Once I had all the elements, we wrapped photography and proceeded to post production. The last challenge was placing all the pieces together with copy and enough room for bleed (area outside where type can go for safety usually 1/4 inch around all sides).

I always to a take on an ad for myself while I have the stylist on set and also I can sell it to my stock agency.

It’s always a good idea to do alternate ideas for clients once you give them what they want. It shows your creative and are thinking about their product.

This is a basic overview of an advertising shoot. The result was the client was very pleased.

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist Laurie Knoop