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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Food Photography Talk 
Thread started 01 Jan 2016 (Friday) 13:38
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Jan 11, 2016 16:12 |  #16

fotopaul wrote in post #17853962 (external link)
If i take a snap of my food while I'm at a restaurant it's the same as when i come to the restaurant in a professional capacity hired to create images for an ad just because it's "all food" ? Of course not, it's snapshots vs creating images for a client.

So to clarify i was talking about the craft of food photography as in creating images, not simply bring out a point and shoot while eating.

We need a third category, then, because you've described two extremes. If lunch is served and I think "This dish could make a good image" and move it toward the light and try different ways of framing it, is the result a snapshot just because I'm not getting paid and I had the wrong kind of camera?

I favor judging an image by how it looks rather than by the equipment used, emphasis on what you do with what you've got.


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Jan 11, 2016 16:25 |  #17

OhLook wrote in post #17854215 (external link)
We need a third category, then, because you've described two extremes. If lunch is served and I think "This dish could make a good image" and move it toward the light and try different ways of framing it, is the result a snapshot just because I'm not getting paid and I had the wrong kind of camera?

I favor judging an image by how it looks rather than by the equipment used, emphasis on what you do with what you've got.

Seriously... if you can't discern the difference between commercial photography and private snaps it's because you don't want to.

It's a snapshot, did i say it was bad ? No i didn't (you are the only one making that assumption) still doesn't detract from the fact it's a snapshot.


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Jan 11, 2016 19:32 |  #18

fotopaul wrote in post #17854228 (external link)
Seriously... if you can't discern the difference between commercial photography and private snaps it's because you don't want to.

By my understanding of those words, not wanting to wouldn't be a reason for being unable to discern a difference. Not wanting to would more likely be a reason for pretending that one was unable to discern a difference.

"Commercial" means that the work is paid for. It's used in commerce; it's bought and sold (or licensed). To label as snapshots all photos not taken for commercial use is to deprecate many excellent images, along with an even larger number of poor ones. Even professional photographers' portraits of their family members will then fall into the snapshot category. But perhaps you understand the meaning of "snapshot" differently.


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Jan 11, 2016 20:10 |  #19

OhLook wrote in post #17854429 (external link)
By my understanding of those words, not wanting to wouldn't be a reason for being unable to discern a difference. Not wanting to would more likely be a reason for pretending that one was unable to discern a difference.

"Commercial" means that the work is paid for. It's used in commerce; it's bought and sold (or licensed). To label as snapshots all photos not taken for commercial use is to deprecate many excellent images, along with an even larger number of poor ones. Even professional photographers' portraits of their family members will then fall into the snapshot category. But perhaps you understand the meaning of "snapshot" differently.

Commercial photography is photography made specifically for use in advertising or some other means of promoting and marketing a business. It is definitely not simply photography that is created with the intent of currency being exchanged. Portraiture for individuals is not considered commercial photography.

I understand what you are trying to say, but "commercial photography" is specific industry jargon.


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Jan 11, 2016 20:51 |  #20

Left Handed Brisket wrote in post #17854488 (external link)
Commercial photography is photography made specifically for use in advertising or some other means of promoting and marketing a business. . . .

I understand what you are trying to say, but "commercial photography" is specific industry jargon.

In that case, "commercial photography" isn't parallel to "commercial art." Okay. In the industry's jargon, then, are there only two categories, commercial and snapshot?


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Jan 11, 2016 21:12 |  #21

At the risk of taking the discussion even further afield from the OP, maybe some distinction could be drawn between taking a photograph, and making a photograph? And I not suggesting that they're mutually exclusive (there's probably a lot of overlap) but at the extremes of the comparison, I think they're different methods of photography.

I agree, there's lots of different ways to approach food photography, but speaking for the kind of work that I do: I take lots of preview photos with the camera locked down in the course of making a single final image. I've never bothered to count but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I do dozens of 'previews' along the way until the final image is reached. At each stage, details are looked at and considered, changes made to components (food/camera placement/lighting/com​position/props, etc.), and another preview done to re-evaluate. When we've reached what we consider the final image (based on a wide variety of factors), the photograph is done. I can't recall ever simply pointing a camera at a food item, firing the shutter and considering it 'done' without having gone through some variation of this process...but that's me and the type of work that I do.

This way of working is why I agreed with the recommendation for using a tripod-- with the camera locked down, it's not one of the variables in the process, making it easier to move forward in a progressive way and to maintain control over the final image.

I typically start with figuring out where the camera goes, using a stand-in food. Then comes rough lighting, working on props and other elements, tightening up the light, tweaking, etc.etc., all of which are largely dependent on what the specific camera view is. If I change the camera position, I start the process again, tweaking the elements to accommodate the new view.


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Jan 11, 2016 23:34 |  #22

OhLook wrote in post #17854542 (external link)
In that case, "commercial photography" isn't parallel to "commercial art." Okay. In the industry's jargon, then, are there only two categories, commercial and snapshot?

No, I think commercial art is parallel, maybe even exactly parallel with commercial photography. I have worked in and around both professions for 25 years, and studied both in college. And no, of course it isn't commercial OR snapshot. I believe that the term snapshot is for some reason seen as pejorative. It seems in this case, and how I use it too, is a photo that is not planned, staged, or manipulated prior to releasing the shutter. That doesn't mean that by nature it is somehow a lesser creation.

A portrait photographer who works for families and individuals is not a commercial photographer, neither is a wedding photographer, neither is a landscape photographer selling prints for people's walls. Obviously many of these folks are not taking snapshots.

One part of this discussion that might be missing is the distinction between an orchestrated, art directed shot and something more open to to interpretation by the photographer. Those of us who invoice for our work have certainly worked on both type shoots. Sometimes the "vision" is created in a meeting and sketched out by an art director then beat up by the client before a photographer even hears about the job. This type of work comes from an ad agency and almost certainly involves use of a tripod. On the flip side, restaraunteurs or possibly some web development guy, often don't have any interest or need to go through the process of detailing even the position of the image on the page, much less the position of the fork, steak, or glass of wine in the photograph. Just because the latter is not as planned or manipulated does not make it non-commercial. But it is still planned and at least partly manipulated, and thus, not a snapshot.


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Jan 12, 2016 00:40 |  #23

Foodguy wrote in post #17854565 (external link)
I agree, there's lots of different ways to approach food photography, but speaking for the kind of work that I do: I take lots of preview photos with the camera locked down in the course of making a single final image. I've never bothered to count but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I do dozens of 'previews' along the way until the final image is reached. . . .

This way of working is why I agreed with the recommendation for using a tripod-- with the camera locked down, it's not one of the variables in the process, making it easier to move forward in a progressive way and to maintain control over the final image.

A tripod certainly makes sense for the way you proceed. I couldn't possibly disagree with that. But I read some earlier comments as saying that anyone who goes tripodless is doing it wrong. I don't agree, at least for nonprofessional shooters who aren't on assignment and who have only ourselves to please.

Another category of shooters exists, which might be called intermediate. My local alternative weekly newspaper always contains a restaurant review. Typically, perhaps always, there's one photo of a dish as served. The photo credit usually names someone other than the reviewer. These photos are good, they reveal some planning to pose the food at a suitable angle, they have appropriate exposure and so forth, but they're artistically no better than many similar food shots posted by amateurs/hobbyists at POTN. The POV is that of a customer seated at the table. The images really don't look as if a tripod was used or required. Yet, they're published, and someone presumably got paid for making them.

Left Handed Brisket wrote in post #17854747 (external link)
No, I think commercial art is parallel, maybe even exactly parallel with commercial photography. I have worked in and around both professions for 25 years, and studied both in college. And no, of course it isn't commercial OR snapshot. I believe that the term snapshot is for some reason seen as pejorative. It seems in this case, and how I use it too, is a photo that is not planned, staged, or manipulated prior to releasing the shutter. That doesn't mean that by nature it is somehow a lesser creation.

The term "snapshot" is certainly pejorative at this venue. It suggests the absence of thought.

I understand "commercial art" to include drawing charts, graphs, maps, and pictorial illustrations for books and magazines; laying out newsletters; designing paper plates and cups; designing menus; creating artwork and specifying type for greeting cards; and many other activities that don't exactly advertise or promote anything. Commercial art, as distinct from fine art. This is obviously broader than your version. If I've had an eccentric idea of what constitutes commercial art all these years, I had no idea.


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Jan 12, 2016 04:58 |  #24

OhLook wrote in post #17854429 (external link)
By my understanding of those words, not wanting to wouldn't be a reason for being unable to discern a difference. Not wanting to would more likely be a reason for pretending that one was unable to discern a difference.

Correct i gave you the benefit of the doubt, since don't believe you'r stupid. But it's clear you got offended by the terms snapshot and got all defensive to the point you simply argue for the sake of it.

OhLook wrote in post #17854429 (external link)
"Commercial" means that the work is paid for. It's used in commerce; it's bought and sold (or licensed). To label as snapshots all photos not taken for commercial use is to deprecate many excellent images, along with an even larger number of poor ones. Even professional photographers' portraits of their family members will then fall into the snapshot category. But perhaps you understand the meaning of "snapshot" differently.

My use of the word commercial was meant to describe the difference between making (in my words create) instead of taking a photograph of something pretty and hope to get a good shot.

Foodguy put it in better words then me.

But you are correct the snaps of my toddler taking his first steps is snapshots, regardless if i use a 2k camera on a tripod or not. I naturally don't compare that to a catalog shoot where someone photograph children to advertise a brand of clothes.

OhLook wrote in post #17854818 (external link)
But I read some earlier comments as saying that anyone who goes tripodless is doing it wrong.

Where did you read that exactly ?

OhLook wrote in post #17854818 (external link)
The term "snapshot" is certainly pejorative at this venue. It suggests the absence of thought.

In comparison to the process some of us have tried to explain to you, it certainly is. You can of course disagree with that as well , which I'm sure you will.


Still doesn't change the fact that there is a huge difference in eating at a restaurant and taking photos of something that is served to you and that you think might look nice . Opposed to making images for the restaurant that will convey their kitchen, their style and you elaborate with chef's giving them pointers how to plate the food, arranging tables etc.


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Jan 12, 2016 06:44 |  #25

OhLook wrote in post #17854818 (external link)
The term "snapshot" is certainly pejorative at this venue. It suggests the absence of thought.

fine, but the absence of thought does not necessarily determine the worth of the resulting photograph. There are certainly some great snapshots out there.

On the other hand, I would say that "snapshot" on this forum is more than just the absence of thought, it is really that the result suggests the absence of thought. The photographer might have put in a lot of thought and even manipulated (posed, tried to take full advantage of available light, or even set up strobes) the shot, but failed. The process of thinking ahead doesn't mean the result shows the input of a trained, competent, photographer.

I understand "commercial art" to include drawing charts, graphs, maps, and pictorial illustrations for books and magazines; laying out newsletters; designing paper plates and cups; designing menus; creating artwork and specifying type for greeting cards; and many other activities that don't exactly advertise or promote anything. Commercial art, as distinct from fine art. This is obviously broader than your version. If I've had an eccentric idea of what constitutes commercial art all these years, I had no idea.

this line of discussion continues to drift away from the OP, not that I don't enjoy healthy debate. "Drawing charts, graphs, maps, and pictorial illustrations for books and magazines, production of newsletters, designing paper plates and cups, designing menus, creating artwork and specifying type for greeting cards and many other activities" ALL fall under the definition of marketing if the item is offered up for sale, and/or if the piece is intended to promote a business, not-for-profit, etc.


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Jan 12, 2016 11:14 |  #26

fotopaul wrote in post #17854936 (external link)
But it's clear you got offended by the terms snapshot and got all defensive to the point you simply argue for the sake of it. . . .

In comparison to the process some of us have tried to explain to you, it certainly is. You can of course disagree with that as well , which I'm sure you will.

For the sake of keeping this thread civil, would you please confine your comments to the topic at hand and avoid speculating on my motivations as you did in those two quoted passages?

Left Handed Brisket wrote in post #17854988 (external link)
fine, but the absence of thought does not necessarily determine the worth of the resulting photograph. There are certainly some great snapshots out there.

On the other hand, I would say that "snapshot" on this forum is more than just the absence of thought, it is really that the result suggests the absence of thought.

The great snapshots--yes, street photographers have taken some when they saw a moment and acted quickly, but those shots benefited from the years of experience that preceded the button push, not to mention the talent of seeing. On this forum, "snapshot" is generally an insult. To say "Your images are snapshots" or ". . . snapshotty" means approximately that you're turning out mundane work that anyone can do, that you have no standards.

"Drawing charts, graphs, maps, and pictorial illustrations for books and magazines, production of newsletters, designing paper plates and cups, designing menus, creating artwork and specifying type for greeting cards and many other activities" ALL fall under the definition of marketing if the item is offered up for sale, and/or if the piece is intended to promote a business, not-for-profit, etc.

I don't know, maybe usage differs between the two coasts. My work history is in the publishing industry. When I drew maps and other illustrations for books, for example, I never would have said I was working in marketing. A whole book would be offered up for sale; I provided part of its content.


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Jan 12, 2016 19:28 |  #27

Getting back on track a little-

I've said before that I could count on one hand the times that I've shot by available/natural light. Well, I'm in the middle of one of those few projects where it was appropriate for a few reasons noted below.

These images are for an on-line ordering system of a restaurant chain that I've worked with for 20+ years. Typically when we shoot the advertising and menu work in studio, the shot count is substantially less than what this project requires; 4-5 shots per day in my studio. This project is 10 shots per day. To save the client the effort of transporting their food to my studio, we agreed to shoot at their test kitchen. I brought strobes just in case, but opted to shoot by window light to minimize the time spent on lighting. We also take considerably less time fussing with the food than we normally do, as we're under a pretty quick shooting schedule- 8 hour day divided by 10 shots = 45 minutes to cook, set up and shoot each item. The client is fine with not a lot of nit-picking as these items change often on their website and they're budget conscious for this particular project.

I call these types of projects ''Run and gun"

As the OP demonstrated, window light with a fill card. Also should note that we are doing on-site, real time post production (my digital tech is set up in the other corner of the room) and the client gets the final edited images at the end of each day.

The environment- (seems I can only upload 2 images, so I'll continue this in another post below)


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The window! ;-)a


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Jan 12, 2016 19:30 |  #28

The results:



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Jan 12, 2016 23:15 |  #29

That's some great work foodguy, thanx for sharing!!

Question regarding the tripod setup...;-)a

What arm is it on the tripod ? Almost looks like a Repro arm attached to the 3-way head.

This time of year we have very little window light here in the north, so the window for a shoot i very small.
Summertime is a different matter, as we have good light well into the evenings.

Next week i have shoot for a sushi restaurant (on location) they are located in one of the biggest malls in Scandinavia, naturally without any windows...:lol:

No real problem, as i use strobes for location shoots 99% of the time.


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Jan 13, 2016 04:54 |  #30

Thanks fotopaul-

It's a Manfrotto side arm attached to the Gitzo. I don't recall the part number, but here's a few additional views.

And agreed, the end of the day comes quickly. I keep asking my assistant if we have enough iso left. ;-)a

When we've totally lost the window light, I do have a strobe that we use, but otherwise I consider that to be the end of the day.


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