A few weeks ago I was approached by a Sydney food publisher to photograph a cookbook for Lisa Bryant, titled ‘Pods’. Lisa has created a wide range of frozen ‘pods’, which are essentially ice cube infusions. They range from curry starters consisting of herbs and spices to throw into a curry pot, to alcoholic ice cube pods for cocktails and fruit-infused dessert pod treats.
They’re a great idea for busy people who want a frozen stash of meal starters, ready to go. Of the 120 recipes featuring in the book, I was asked to photograph 40 of Lisa Bryant’s creations for the image content.
For this food shoot, I enlisted the talents of Pete May – a very skilled food stylist who works in the the Gold Coast & Brisbane region. It was going to take a man of Pete’s talent to devise 40 different ways to shoot ice cubes and make all of them interesting and unique food shots!
During pre-production discussions, I suggested that we fill a baking tray with water and freeze it. This provided an excellent small ‘table surface’ to shoot a number of the shots on, which also allowed me to light an additional glass tray from underneath, giving a dynamic, illuminated texture to sit the pods on, while also keeping them cold.
Pete’s terrifyingly vast range of food photography props and textiles provided relevance and character to the art direction and our client’s were immensely grateful and happy with the work – which is always so nice to hear!
The book looks excellent (from all reports) and has been bumped-up from national release to international release for Christmas 2015. A great result.
For more info about what’s being touted by some as the next food revolution, you can check out www.ThePodEssence.com
The cover of the new book
Here’s some insight into how I like to approach my food photography, in the form of a recent example while shooting for new Gold Coast client, Jack’s Creek.
Jack’s Creek produce exceptionally high quality Wagyu and Black Angus beef. Because they’re an Australian company with true Aussie heritage, I’d sourced some native timber slabs that I wanted to shoot their cooked meat products on. While sanding these slabs down the weekend before the food shoot, I noticed that the tree canopy above me was casting beautiful shadows across the timber and I set about figuring out how I could recreate this light in the photography studio.
2 hours later, I had created some custom tools that faithfully mimmicked a complex gumtree canopy light that’s available to me any time of day in the studio. Once the lights were in place, this took the Jack’s Creek food shoot to the next level, by casting a distinctively Australian dappled light across the food products, giving their brand’s photography styling a completely unique and ownable look.
This is photography lighting that no other brand is doing in their industry, which is dominated by beef and other meat produce which has been shot against white, to make it look ‘clean’ – when in my opinion, this kind of art direction only makes meat look like it’s for sale on eBay.
Art direction and pre-production like this is one of the things that keep me busy with new business enquiries from clients looking for quality food photography – which is great. But greater still, are the Brand Managers for clients like Jack’s Creek, who recognise opportunity to do something new when it’s suggested – something special and then put their faith in us to still deliver on their brief. This is how not only brands, but creativity itself can improve, evolve and inspire everyone on the project.
Below are some of the results from the 2 day food shoot and I must credit the incomparable Pete May for his exceptional food styling, management, prep and cooking. Enjoy!
Nature’s light canopy inspiration!
An ENORMOUS congratulations to MasterChef Australia 2015 winner, Billie McKay!
Billie was a Chef who I tipped as ‘one to watch’ from very early in the contest and she grew from strength to strength with each cook. Easily the most composed in the kitchen, she is a Chef who thrives rather than folds under pressure and has phenomenal skills right through to plating. Heston promptly (and wisely) offered Billie a job as she was crowned, and in doing so, a collective ‘Doh’ could be heard from restauranteurs all around Australia!
Even with some favouritism being shown by the MasterChef judges towards Georgia in the last 2 weeks of the contest, Billie managed to push on and show Australia that she is, as Gary Mehigan himself put it, the best Chef that has ever set foot in the MasterChef kitchen! Was this a tad awkward, given that last years winner, Brent was standing four people down from him as he spoke?! Perhaps, but who cares?! BILLIE FOR THE WIN! Wooohoooo!
Now, about that cookbook food photography, Billie…. 😉
Scoot Airlines recently needed photographs of the Gold Coast and since I moved here in October and have shot for them before in Beijing and Tianjin, I got the call-up.
The brief was to shoot a feature for their in-flight magazine, which aimed to dispel the Gold Coast’s reputation as a wasteland of cafe culture. Sydney and particularly Melbourne, have very vibrant cafe cultures and tired of weathering judgement and assumption, Queenslanders are finally rising and proclaiming “We’re tired of being latte losers! I’ve just smashed 3 long blacks and I’m angry”! And so has begun a growing collection of groovy cafes around the Gold Coast, to satisfy even interstate and international coffee snobs. For Gold Coast locals, the scene has never bean brighter.
* Paul Williams issues no apologies for the above pun.
I really enjoyed photographing the various venues and chatting with the friendly owners. As a photographer, I’ve come to rely on caffeine as a post-production partner, so it was great to find out where I can get a good coffee on the Gold Coast and shoot some nice images for an old client and new contacts. You can check out the Scoot magazine feature right here.
There is sometimes a belief that farming photography in Australia is necessarily dull, due to the industrial subjects and rural locations being photographed. Recently I was asked to photograph a robotic dairy farmer in Queensland, for client Bauer Trader Media. Excited at the prospect of futuristic cow-droids with laser teats that this subject matter conjured for me, I accepted the brief. I was also excited by the challenge of getting some striking images from a subject that many may be tempted to shoot without much thought for art direction.
Rising at shit-o-clock for sunrise over the escarpment was well worth it, to catch that magic hour and get some beautiful landscape photography of a cloak of frost rising from the valley floor.
After briefly becoming the only man in history to be bullied by a cow, I was greeted by Farmer Greg, who was very welcoming and enthusiastic to see the “National Geo-style” shots that I’d taken (thanks, Greg)!
You can read all about Greg’s state-of-the-art robotic dairy farm here and if you are in the Gold Coast or Brisbane region, drop by for a guided tour. It’s an awesome way to spend a morning. Enjoy the shots – I hope they make you see farming, rural and industrial photography in a more interesting light than you’re used toâ€¦
Here are the results of a food shoot, taken a week ago for another new client on the Gold Coast.
The brief called for vibrant, descriptive shots of their delicious slices and bread loaves – and I’m happy to say that the clients are ecstatic with all 70 shots.
Mena Delights use quality natural ingredients in their gluten-free products, so I decided to photograph them using natural props such as lightly-oiled slate stone, native timber and hessian. These surface textures beautifully complement the textures of the food, caught the play of light that was crafted and when coupled with the talented presentation of Chef Eric, produced these excellent results.
And yes, I ate virtually everything as it came off the product table – and it was awesome! Food photography has it’s benefits!