Food Product Photograpy How’d They Do That


Food Product Photograpy How’d They Do That

Food product photography, Food and Product Photographer, Rick Gayle: Howd They Do That? music Announcer: Aroma TV presents, “How They Do That?” Where we explore the world of professional photographers and share their techniques with you. Here’s your host Mark Wallace. Mark Wallace: Welcome to another episode of, “How They Do That?” I’m Mark Wallace. Well, this week we catch up with Rick Gayle. Rick is a food and product photographer. And he allowed us to come into his studio and read as he shot some food photos. And he walks us through all the equipment and how he does it. So, here’s Rick Gayle.

Food & Product Photography - Moonloop Photography Portfolio

Well, thanks, Rick, so much for letting us… Rick Gayle: You’re welcome. Mark: …hang out in your studio. First of all, let’s talk about this studio. How long have you been here? Rick: I’ve been in this space for three years. Prior to that I was in another studio for 22 years. And then we and then we could keep going back in time. Mark: Back and back. And you’ve been shooting for 35 years together? Rick: Yeah, 35 years. Mark: That’s awesome. And, so, what kind of work are you doing these days? So, in a normal month or so, what kind of photography are you doing in the studio? Rick: Well, I specialize in still life, product, and food photography. I love things that don’t talk back. laughter And I’ve been doing that my whole career, primarily. You know, some people work, but mostly people look at me and read what I do, and they hire me for still life, food, and product.

Mark: This funny how you usually tell people that if this one talk to me, I don’t want to shoot it. You’re the opposite. laughs Rick: I’m the opposite. We’ll get along great. Mark: Exactly, that’s awesome. Well, in a minute… We have behind us, you set up this nice still life set up. We’re going to walk through sort of how you do, the tools you use, all of those kinds of things. But, before we get, I really was amazed of this studio that you have, because our staff, we were looking around at the studio and saying, this is so much clean and more organized.

It looks just so spectacular. Tell us a little bit about that, because you were mentioning that there’s a reason for that. Rick: Well, as a still life shooter, you have so many small little tools and so many little gidgets and gadgets and props that if you’re not organized and you want to look for that pair of tweezers or a little dental tool, and it’s not put in the right place, I mean you’re pulling your hair out, you can’t find something. Mark: I’ve done that. Yeah. laughs Exactly. So, what’s the method to all this organization? Is it something that you just sort of fell into, or is it something you’ve learned from somebody? Give us some tips for non-organized people like myself. Rick: Really, I’m not that organized of a person. I think what it helps is just that you have good assistants that you work with that have readn wonderful systems in other studios. And I’m pretty open and free with my assistants. If they think something works better than what I’m doing, I’m all for it. So, this kind of open shelving set up was inspired by one of my assistants and it works great, because you can read everything.

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You don’t have drawers. You don’t have boxes or cubbyholes. You can simply find stuff. Mark: And look at everything. Rick: And we just put it out in the open. Yeah. Mark: That’s awesome. OK, well, we’ve got some… product demo stuff that you’re going to do for us, so, you’re actually going to show us how you do some still life photography. You’re going to talk about your gear and things like that. So, let’s not waste any time. Let’s dive right into that. Rick: OK. I’m ready.

Mark: OK, Rick. Well, here’s the set up. So, walk us through, show us how you have everything set. Looks like you’re shooting some brownies, nuts, and some eggs. Very delicious food. So, walk us through what you’re doing. Rick: OK. Well, first of all, I shoot with Cannon’s 1DS Mark 3. I’m using a pocket wizard. I’m tethered to my computer. And Dynalight is my light equipment of choice. I used to use Norman quite a bit, and I found these things amazing because they’re so light to haul around. Working with some grids. Working with medium soft box. A scrim. This is tough Ross stretched onto frame, suspended by a C stand. And I shoot tethered and my files open up in Bridge. So, my client and I can just jump on over, take a look at it and make changes. Mark: And are you using Live View when you look? And, so, is that instant or is it a delay in your camera? Rick: No. I don’t use Live View, because the challenge with that is that I can’t look through the camera.

So, that’s basically my equipment and my set up. We are photographing some brownies. And for the purpose of this demo, I’m just recreating a shot that I did for a client of mine that we work for. It looks messy, but everything in here has a purpose. For me, lighting still life and food, you’re obligated to try to tell a story. Not only are you selling a product, but you obligated to tell a story, a mood, and that happens with lighting. Lighting is not only pouring light on something, but it’s taking light off of stuff.

I’ve got a variety of cards in here. In the front, I have some silver cards which are placed to kick in some ambient light from the strobes to highlight edges. This black card, I’m using that to take some light off of the eggs and the butter. Everything about food photography specifically is about texture, color, highlights and shadows. You really want to get that food just to look like it does in your mind’s eye. Very simple tools. A clamps from Home Depot to hold up my cards, lead weights wrapped in white tape to keep my A clamps from shifting around. One thing I think is kind of fun, I have a little container of crumbs that the food stylist made for me, that I will place into the shot here. Everything has a purpose in the still life shot or food shot. Everything is meticulously placed in there. I’ve got a tray here where I keep a lot of my tools. Exacto knives, dental tools, dental mirror for putting in little highlights, brushes, tweezers, these are all tools that you need to create a shot that looks ultimately like you walked into someone’s kitchen or into a bakery, and you saw it set up like that.

Mark: Awesome. Well, can you take a shot and show us the results really quickly? Rick: Yeah, I can do that. Every time I shoot, I’m usually making some kind of tweaks and changes. This is rough end. So, let me just go ahead and focus a bit, shoot one. The things that I look at are certainly composition, my depth of field. Currently, one of the styles that I really enjoy is using the selective focus to bring foreground really tight and sharp and let the background fall off.

I would probably adjust the walnuts down here. Maybe roll the edge of this paper up a little bit more. Certainly, put in my… Mark: Spend some time getting it all locked in. Rick: Yeah, getting it all locked in, exactly. Mark: And let’s talk about this tripod because it’s a nice base. So is something that you would, you know have you started with a traditional tripod and then moved to this ’cause obviously this has a lot finer control to it or? Rick: The beauty of a monopod and certainly I come from the film years where we would be shooting something like this on eight by ten film. Mark: Right. Rick Gayle: So the eight by ten camera makes sense on here, Mark Wallace: You’re right. Rick Gayle: But a little 35 doesn’t, but the beauty of this is that I can raise and lower the camera instead of tripod legs, this is on wheels that are lockable so I can move the camera anywhere I want. Mark: Right. Rick: With a tripod I’d be going crazy, I’d be. Mark: This is a Gitzo head, it looks like. It’s a ball head and then you’re using a 24 to 105 macro lens, which is really, really nice.

Rick: Exactly. Mark: Let’s talk one more thing before we go, food styling. So we know that you have a food stylist that comes in and does a lot of things and you have a table set up so let’s look at that really quickly before we’re done. Rick: OK, sure. Mark: OK, well now we’re here and we’re here with Kim, say your last name because I don’t know how. Kim Krejca: Krejca. Mark: Krejca. I tried it so many times and I messed it up so thank you for joining us. And you are a food stylist.

Kim: Correct. Mark: Alright now we have a bunch of little tools here, actually some are big, some are small, you’ve got your pan, you’ve got Dust Off, so what are some of these, because this one right here actually this is a dental. Rick: Dental. Kim: Dental tools, which I rely on heavily. Mark: Tell us about the dental tool, what’s that for. Kim: Well, for someone like Fairy Tale Brownies, which is one of our accounts, because they are manufactured, they’d like them to look like they’re hand cut.

So I usually just go in and I rough up the sides and make them look a little more natural, maybe pull some chocolate chips out or whatever it takes and this is like the perfect tool, who knew dentistry, to do some of the finessing on some of the food items. Mark: And WD-40, what’s that about? Kim: That I use, not all stylists use that, I like the way that the oil applies itself, it doesn’t separate or bead up and it readms as food sometimes has condensation, it just keeps a really even layer of sheen. Mark: So what kind of food will you spray that on? I mean, granola bars or eggs or? Kim: No, any kind of protein. I do it on some baked goods. Mark: Bacon? Kim: Bacon has usually got enough grease on it. Mark: Got a nice sheen on it. Kim: So we don’t have to enhance that in any way, shape or form. Mark: You can tell I really know nothing about food.

Rick: This kind of stuff really helps in what we were talking about earlier about texture and color helps really describe the food and give it appetite appeal, so this helps in generating highlights. Kim: I was just going to say that. Mark: Ah. So specular highlights come from those types of things? Rick: Yes. Mark: What about these three bottles right here? I can’t really read. Kim: We have glycerin in one, we have water in one and then we have Freshinol, which is just a food stabilizer. It helps with things like lettuce not wilting on set. Mark: Oh, got yeah. Kim: And a lot of that has to do with just, there’s no exact science to it, depending on how warm a room might be, what the photographer’s needs are to just kind of mix and match and make some of this stuff work. Rick: So the glycerin, water, typically for shooting a drink, a cold drink, depending on what we want the condensation to look like, we might spray the glass with Scotch Guard and then hit the glass with a combination of water and glycerin.

The Scotch guard helps the water bead up so it stays there for awhile and then you’ve got this drink that looks really refreshing with the water on it. Mark: So help me out here because I have not done food photography, but it sounds to me like a couple of things. First of all, you went to school to learn how to do this, correct? Kim: Actually, my background is in art direction and then I went to culinary school and kind of blended the two talents, the science behind food and then the art direction. Mark: So it’s not something you just wake up one day, walk out and go, “I’m going to become a food stylist.” You have to do some things to get there. And then the second thing, so when I’m working shooting beauty or fashion, I wouldn’t dream of doing that without a professional make-up artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist, you know a team of people that can come in and do that for me.

Is that the same thing with food, you’re not just going to walk in and shoot without Kim or somebody? Rick: Oh definitely because first, just in terms of how to make something look good for the camera, that’s what it’s really all about. You wouldn’t be served something that looked like what we did. And in essence we’re, you know, we’re like little liars. Mark: Right. Rick: But people need to read that food photographed as they read it in their mind’s eye otherwise they will not really want to order it or buy it or whatever. Mark: Like the secret of portrait photography, don’t make me look the way I am, make me look better than I am. Rick: Exactly so. Mark: Right. Rick: Kim’s the food stylist of choice, when she’s available we work with her and then if you really want to get specific in larger markets, where they have products, lots of dairy products or ice creams or chocolates, there are stylists that specialize in just ice cream, just chocolate. Mark: Wow. Rick: It’s incredible some of the stuff they come up with to solve challenges, to make something look the way we want to read it in the mind’s eye.

Mark: And all of these bowls, mixing bowls, this is not for baking it’s for styling? Kim: No, it’s propping. Mark: Oh, got yeah. Kim: Rick was trying to execute, you know like a kitchen idea with this Fairy Tale Brownie shoot and so it’s just, you know tools of the trade if you were in your own home kitchen. Rick: And clients like to read a variety of styles. If they want three or four bowls in a shot you want to present them choices because lo and behold if you don’t show one thing, it’ll be the one thing that they’re asking for. Mark: Right. Rick: So you’ll go out and have to, you know shop it. Mark: Right, and get it again. Got yeah. OK, well thank you so much. Unfortunately, we could go on for hours I think with all of this stuff because I mean look at these gadgets that they have here, that’s a whisker. Rick: That’s what she hits me with. Mark: Get it done, get it done. Kim: Right. Mark: We’re out of time but thank you so much Kim, Rick, for joining us.

Kim: Thank you. Mark: And we have so much to go through but that’s all we have time for. And you know we’re going to do a behind the scenes bonus feature actually because there’s so much we wanted to show you today, we didn’t have time for that. So tune in Adorama TV’s channel so that you can read more of Kim and some of the stuff that’s going on. And again, thank you so much for joining us. Kim: Thank you. Rick: Thank you. Mark: Well that was Rick Gayle. That was a lot of fun. I certainly learned a lot. I hope you did, too. Remember you can read a list of all of Rick’s equipment and even more articles on product and food photography at the Adorama learning center. And remember if you like what you read, we have shows every single week, so please come back. Well, I’m Mark Wallace. Thanks for joining us and I will read you next week.

Announcer: This episode is brought to you by Adorama TV. Visit the Adorama learning center where you’ll find photography tips and techniques, links to the gear used in this episode and related reads. For all the latest photography read and computer gear, visit And the next time you’re in New York City, visit our store located on Eighteenth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Transcription by CastingWords.

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