It’s just about every day that we get bombarded with thousands of food images, whether we see them in a restaurant menu or on Pinterest looking up recipes. This means the need to have a food image that stands out above the rest is pivotal, today more than ever before with the rise of social media and smartphone camera technology. In order to help aspiring food photographers out there, we sat down with professional food photographer Giles Christopher to see what we can garner from his wisdom.
1. First and foremost, tell us about yourself. How long have you been in photography and what inspired you to become a photographer?
“From a young child, I’ve always been interested in cameras and photography. I just couldn’t imagine not being involved in making images and telling stories.
I have always felt photography was my calling. I began my journey as a photography assistant for 4 professional photographers. I worked on exciting movie jobs like Superman IV and A Fish Called Wanda. I was even working with some eighties’ bands like Genesis, Rolling Stones, Spandau Ballet, and actors like Roger Moore, Michael Caine, John Cleese, Peter O’Toole, at times in their own homes. My job was to help the photographers by setting up the lighting, developing their film clip tests while being in a darkroom for hours, and overall to help keep the talent happy. I then went in to the movie camera dept and learned that constant lighting has the ability to shape/shade and give that cinematic feel far more that flash and have taken this knowledge with me to this day. I learned so much discipline and tips from my experiences with these professional photographers/cameramen, specifically how important attention to detail can be, and patience to get the shot ‘that’s in your head’ into the camera. Knowing your equipment inside and out and how it works really helps as the ideas and shots need to be fluid and you cannot get slowed down by fumbling with tech you don’t really know!”
2. How do you prep for a food photo shoot? Do you have a signature lighting setup?
“I don’t have a signature lighting set up as each client is different, depending on their requirements and style, and what season I’m shooting for. Food shoot prep usually involves discussing the dishes to shoot, style & look required and what season I am shooting for. Then further discussions with our stylist regarding surfaces, colours & textures to make the food look good.
If I am using available light I use the F&V lights to balance / fill in the shadows or create a soft back light. If no natural daylight is available, I would put a Z800S Soft UltraColor Light left or right initially to see how the shadows fall and see how the light fits. Then I use reflectors or smaller light sources to set the mood, either spot lighting or back lighting.
Always find the angle that show the food off correctly and light to the brief! Summer? Autumn? Winter? High key? Low key? The brief will already be set before shooting so I will light a basic setup before shooting and tweak as necessary. Generally, I prefer heavy side light to show off textures or a nice over exposed backlight to give that fresh daylight feel!
I’ve found that it’s always good to keep learning, keep looking for new styles, and always be ready to use and embrace new equipment if needed and helps get that shot!”
3. What do you wish people knew about food photography?
“How long it takes! Food photography relies so much on working as a team to get every detail right. We try to achieve as much in camera as possible to cut down on post production time. This means, the food has to be looking as fresh & delicious as possible. Knowing in advance what format we are shooting for saves so much time.”
4. What are 3 tips you’d give to someone who’s just getting started in food photography?
1. “Talk to the Chef / Cook – they can really help you work out timings and making the food look perfect to camera”
2. “You will need a tripod”
3. “Really think about your lighting & angles!”
5. What do you like specifically about F&V lights? Why choose them over other brands?
“The balance of quality and budget is perfect. They are well built and have never let me down. The colour rendition is really good as well. I like the fact that they have such a vast range – a light for all occasions. The nearest competition is so expensive and more suited to high end feature films. The Z800S Soft UltraColor Bi-Color lights are perfect for both studio and location work.”
6. What is the secret to your success?
“I do my best to keep my work original and the client happy. Too often people copy the work of others instead of coming up with new ideas. I’ve found getting to know our clients the way I do helps a lot as well. As our relationship increases I can give new ideas and they are more willing to experiment as well. I’d say the best advice I can offer is not to get overzealous about the “latest and greatest” when it comes to new equipment. A good subject posed and lit well can’t go wrong. I also believe it’s extremely important to examine your work and be willing to take whatever criticism comes your way.”
You can learn more about Giles Christopher at https://www.mediawisdom.co.uk