Although food photographers don’t get recognized in the industry as superstars the way people or fashion photographers do, there are a lot of us quietly earning a good living shooting food. Walk into any Walmart, stroll past any deli and chances are you have seen my work. The Ad in Rachel Ray for Saga Cheese, Ads for Ronzoni Pasta, Travel and Leisure magazine, Sonu Beverages, Malibu Rum, Americas Choice, Sara Lee to name a few. I did that.
At one point a I had a phone kiosk campaign, billboards and the reuters sign in Times Square running concurrently. As I walked down the street trucks with my images roll past with giant graphics of fresh fish and produce. Not to mention all the work I sell from stock agencies that I never even get a chance to see. The point I am trying to illustrate is that either myself or photographers just like me shooting the work you are inundated with on a daily basis. We are food pornographers, hired guns selling ourselves to the highest bidder.
One day I am shooting a major campaign for a known brand the next I am helping a new restaurant with their PR. Wether it be for print or web it makes no difference, the phone rings and I go and shoot. With 20 years of experience shooting professionally and 11 shooting food under my belt I have learned a few things along the way. There are so many factors that go into getting hired for an assignment. As the stakes increase, the budget increases, level of clients increase. I really have to keep it in perspective at the end of the day I am not curing cancer, I am shooting pretty photos of food. I do love it so.
My job is fun. I really love what I do. First off I am a foodie, I love food; sometimes a little too much. I love shooting drinks, I love solving problems, I love photography and I love earning a living doing what I love. I have to constantly remind myself that I get paid to do what I love. So what is my special sauce for success. It’s really a combination of things.
First, I am persistent. When I left corporate America 20 years ago, to pursue a career as a photographer, my colleagues told me I was crazy. I had a good job, the economy was bad, you aren’t good enough the be a photographer blah, blah blah. That only made me want to do it more. In the beginning they were right about my abilities as a photographer, but I did not care. Back then I hated my job so much I wanted to scream when I woke up in the morning. I took a lot photos, some bad and some really good. I learned my craft and perfected it. Whenever I did not do a great job I analyzed what went wrong and what I should have done. In the beginning, I used photoshop as a crutch to make up for work that wasn’t as good. I never made the same mistake twice. I honed my skills to the point where I can go toe to toe with just about any food shooter out there. If you want to be successful as a photographer the first lesson is not to care what other people say about your work. If you produce subpar work figure out how to make it better and learn from your mistakes.
Second I have a good combination of left and right brain skills. I am creative but I am also analytical. I love the beauty in things but I also love solving problems. I enjoy selling and I enjoy creating. That makes me valuable to clients. I get what they need. They are hiring me for my style but they want me to deliver their vision. My attitude is that if you the client are paying me I need to deliver, always. I guarantee it. That’s what you hire me for. My ego is not involved because I am not shooting my own work. Of course if someone tried to art direct me on a personal assignment then I might have an issue. Being a team player is key, executing the objectives and delivering the assets.
Third, I surround myself with great support. I work with some very talented people from food stylists to producers to prop people. The key is that if you surround yourself with talent then your job becomes that much easier. I did a shoot the other day for a major campaign. The prop stylist got me 28 glasses to choose from in order to do my job. The fact that all I had to do was look at a table and match the right shaped glass made all the difference.
Fourth, I have fun. Yes there is a lot of pressure and money involved and one could certainly approach a job from an ultra serious position. You walk onto a different photographers set and nobody is smiling, everyone is uptight. Contrast that with my set which is light, fun and full of energy. If I wanted to be miserable at work I would have stayed in corporate America. The work is serious, peoples jobs are at stake if we fail so we don’t fail, it’s not an option.
Finally, evolve. I like to stretch myself out of my comfort zone, it keeps me on my toes. Create different lighting. I was playing around a few weeks ago and came up with an entirely new way to light a set. Rent different lenses, move the camera below the horizon. In other words mix it up. Have fun and enjoy it.
So all you advertising people out there that have not worked with me yet, if you want to get the job done right and have some fun in the process give me a call. I am the best kept secret in town. Chances are you have seen my work.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm