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an NYC Food Photographer demonstrating his techniques

How to be a NYC Food Photographer

I work as a professional food photographer in NYC. I've been a photographer for about 20+ years, worked professionally for the past 10+ years and in the past 5+ years I've just been a food photographer. When I got my first camera way back when film was still king and photography was the realm of nerdy kids who hung out in darkrooms processing prints with stinky chemicals. These days the internet has made photography very popular, which to me is weird to suddenly be the center of attention, but I'm happy to share what I've learned in the past 20 years.

I don't have a resume. And I'm sure somebody has something nice to say about me but I don't have any references either. But I’m drowning in experience. My work has taken me to roughly 1,000 restaurants and I'm really fortunate to get to work with a lot of very talented charming people.
a closeup photograph of a bowl of delicious pasta
The secret to being a professional food photographer is very simple. Practice taking lots of beautiful photographs, show them to people, repeat. Ok there’s a little more to it but that is the basic formula. The second secret is that you have to repeat many many many times. And there will come many times when you will want to give up because it is like climbing a mountain that never ends. Even in those dark moments of doubt you still have to stick to the formula.

Make Beautiful Photographs + Get them in front of People + Repeat

There’s a famous quote about needing to practice something for 10,000 hours to master it. And while I don’t take that idea literally I think there’s some truth to it. When shooting portraits of chefs working in the kitchen one of my favorite things to ask them is how many times they’ve made that dish. I once got to ask that question to Dominic Ansel who is a master pastry chef and possibly the best in the world. He didn't have an answer to how many pastries he's made in his lifetime and nobody has ever had an answer to that question. In order to be a master chef you have to make a Lot of food. And being a photographer is no different. There's no real short cuts. It's just practice and if you want to be the boss you've got to pay the cost. But being a food photographer is fun and enjoy the ride.

Paid the cost to be the Boss.

I got my first camera, a Pentax k 1000 when I was 14 years old. It’s a basic no frills 35mm film camera with fully manual functions. Nothing automatic and as bare bones of a camera as you can get without being a disposable point and shoot. It was a revelation for me that changed my life and I’ve never done anything else since. But to try to comprehend the number of photographs that I’ve shot since then is just not possible. It’s just practice. If you want to master an art form you need to put in the hours, days, weeks and years.
a Pentax K 1000 film camera
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a food photographer in a restaurant How to be a Food Photographer. - Practice. Show your work to people. Repeat.
hands food styling burgers You're only as good of a Food Photographer - as the people that you work with.
behind the scenes of food being photographed How to do lighting in Restaurants - Lighting is most restaurants is awful for food photography.
pizza chef Pics Vs. Photographs - I don't take Pics but I don't mind when other people do.
food on fire How to Shoot Fire Baby! - How to capture fire in a food photograph.
a busy street in New York City Getting to the Job. - Some days this is the hardest part.
a busy street in New York City How to shoot with a Ring Light - My not so secret, secret weapon.
Cannoli in the coffee Passport to the World - Cannoli in the coffee.
Test photoshoot with a belly dancer Test Photoshoots - Try it you might like it.
Cry myself to sleep tonight If you Hate my Photograph - I will cry myself to sleep tonight.
Cry myself to sleep tonight Batteries - A Food Photographer's best friend.
Cry myself to sleep tonight Camera Kits - Everything you'll ever need.
Cry myself to sleep tonight Focus Food Photographer - Focus.
Cry myself to sleep tonight Food Photographer's Ego - Leave your g$d d%$#ed ego at home.
Cry myself to sleep tonight Spilled Food - S*!t Happens. Sorry for all the swearing.
Cry myself to sleep tonight A One Day Photo Shoot - is NOT a 1 day shoot.
You own your Work You own your Work. Copyrights.

This is an ongoing project with more coming soon.

Have a question? Feel free to ask and I would be happy to help.
a portrait of will engelmann behind the camera
Will Engelmann is a New York City Food Photographer. He has no other talents and has never done anything else in his life. If for some reason people stop needing high qaulity food photography he's so screwed. But at least for now he thinks he's safe.

Check out his Food Photography Website
Thirsty? Cocktail Photography Website