Today I'd like to share a bit about starting a food photography portfolio. It's great to start with your food blog photos, or photographing the classy dishes you make at home. But I knew the only way I could begin to charge clients was to build a solid portfolio with reputable individuals or establishments. I began to look up popular restaurants in my area and discovered Honshu Lounge, a popular Japanese restaurant in downtown Jersey City. I emailed the manager and set up this shoot on a sunny Monday afternoon.
- Do they have a website?
- Do they have food photos on their site?
- What kind of cuisine do they serve?
- How big is the location?
- When are their hours?
- Do they have good natural lighting?
- How long have they been around?
These are important questions to ask yourself so that you know you're not wasting your time. When is the best time to approach them, if you'd be able to shoot with natural lighting or have to haul in some artificial lights, and would they even want your photos to begin with? Chances are, takeout and fast food locations aren't interested in your food photography.
Make sure to shoot on a Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday is pushing it, but these tend to be the slowest days, you won't be disturbing their usual customer flow too much.
For this shoot, I simply used my Canon 7D with the 28-135mm telephoto zoom lens and a 46" reflector that my assistant (Tim, the love of my life) held opposite from the window to bounce the natural light onto the darker side. When I photographed the interior and the sushi chefs at work, I used my 50mm 1.4 wide angle lens, to capture a wider shot and allow more light in. I also used my external flash, the Canon 430EX for additional light, equipped with a diffuser.
This will really amp up your portfolio, bring some exposure your way, and give you the confidence to start booking your own food shoots.
If you don't have a TFP contract (another topic I will be discussing in the near future), then not only is a handshake going to have to suffice, but saving your emails is highly recommended. Have proof of what you both agreed on in writing so there aren't any surprises or broken promises.