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Spilled Food

S*!t Happens. Sorry for all the swearing.

You might think this is funny but this is a serious subject that we need to talk about. If you are a professional food photographer you will drop the food. It happens to the best of us eventually. I pride myself on being like a cat on the job. Having a very high level of spacial awareness is very important to photographers especially when your head is always behind a camera. It’s important to be aware of everything that’s going on around you and anticipate what will happen even when you can’t actually see it. Camera equipment will get dropped too. Camera equipment is expensive and so is lighting equipment but what’s even more important than that is the safety of everybody around you. There’s always another camera at the store but there’s not another person at the store. I can go buy another lens but I can’t buy another person and if anything happens on set as the Food Photographer I’m the one responsible. But don’t let that freak you out or make you paranoid, just keep it in mind that safety is of the utmost importance while shooting.
Food Photography in New York city for Editorial, Restaurants, cookbooks, and more.
When I first started out as a nervous young photo assistant working for photo studios in Chicago everything in the studio was “set” and woe was the young kid who tripped over a senior photographer’s light. What “set” meant was that once a light or camera or any other object in the photo studio was placed for a photograph and it was not to be touched or moved in any way until the shot was approved by the client. Sometimes the clients wouldn’t approve the shots for a week and in that time we all had to dance around any object in the studio that was “set.” My first day on the job was to replace another photo assistant who had accidentally knocked over the walls for a room scene onto a shot that was set destroying everything in the process and they never hired him ever again.
fries spilled all over the table of a restaurant.
That’s an extreme case but small little accidents happen all the time. When I’m shooting in Restaurants in New York I need to be mindful of the customers and the waiters. Cables are the biggest concern that somebody would trip over them. I shoot tethered to my computer on the job as much as possible but that does mean running a cable from my camera to my laptop. Keep in mind that customers aren’t paying attention and that the wait staff is always in a hurry. I also like to photograph food with a ring light but that also means another cable running from my camera to my power pack to worry about. Wireless options can be great. I use pocket wizards to trigger my strobe lights. That cuts down on the need for at least one cable. And I’ve looked into using a wireless wifi card to transmit the photographs through the air from my camera to computer but when I tried it the technology wasn’t consistent enough for practical day to day photography use. It was still cool though and maybe there's a new solution that I don't know about yet.
A tower of burgers falling over as a hand reaches out to save it. Spoiler Alert: It fell. A culinary pastry treat covered in delicious sugar confectionaries
One trick that I like to use when shooting on location is to hang my power pack off of my light stand. I do this because the power pack is naturally heavy, acts as a perfect sandbag and then I don’t need to bring a sandbag. To do this I use a combination J-hook and super clamp. These are standard widely available grip items that can be bought at any reputable camera store. It’s relatively self explanatory how that works but it limits the dangers of my lighting equipment getting knocked over. Not only are the flash tubes expensive there is a lot of voltage running through the head and the cables that could electrocute your client or their representative. I’ve never electrocuted a client but I would imagine they wouldn’t hire me ever again if I did. Also make sure that if you’re hiring a photo assistant that they have some knowledge of the equipment that you’re working with and the potential risks. It goes without saying don’t put a cup of coffee on top of a 4800ws power pack but also with some equipment it’s possible to electrocute yourself if not used properly. I still turn off my speedotron packs when unplugging heads even though the newer models have a safety feature. It’s just ingrained into my head from years of working as a photo assistant in Chicago.
A dallop of fruit spilled onto a splater on the table
So there are the obvious things. Don’t trip an elderly woman on her way to the bathroom. Don’t drop a light on your client and electrocute them. Lift with your knees… etc… but is your data safe? Are you practicing good file management and data safety? You can take the most beautiful food photograph in the world but if you lose the file nobody will ever see it. Even worse it could cause you lots of problems. I once had a hard drive die on me. It was relatively new and the repairs were still covered by the manufacturer but I lost 5 photoshoots for 3 different clients. Blip. Gone. I did everything that I could to try to recover the files on my own. And when that didn’t work I took my computer to an professional service to no avail. I estimated the value of the food that I photographed to be somewhere in the range of 3,000$ to 4,000$ not to mention everybody’s time and effort. It’s one thing when you’re photographing hot dogs and it’s another when it’s high end food at fancy Manhattan restaurants. I thought I was being safe. I had external hard drives and I had a backup system in place to protect my photographs and I thought that I was safe. I offered to pay for the food from the photoshoots that I lost and did my best to try and make it up to those clients. I was lucky that there were only minor issues and for the most part everything worked out ok. But since then I’ve gotten really careful about file management. It’s no joke. And I developed a system and made a workflow chart to try to reassure my clients that it wouldn’t happen again. This is the system that I use and the very same flowchart that I sent them.
Italian Gelato waiting to be devoured by hungry people
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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
Did you just stumble on this page but you're actually looking for a Food Photographer in New York? Click the links below for Will's website.

Check out his Food Photography Website
Thirsty? Cocktail Photography Website