You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff you need to take on location for a lifestyle food shoot! Much as we’d like to just rock up with the camera and snap a few shots of the product on a pretty plate, it’s actually way more involved than that.
For starters, there’s all the camera equipment: lights, reflectors, tripods and spare batteries, adaptors, extension cables, not to mention the laptop, computer and of course the camera itself, plus various lenses. James our photographer always arrives early so that he has time to recce and set up before the rest of the team arrive. Being on location is always more challenging than a studio shoot simply because you don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with - how the natural light is going to behave, how the space will look on camera – so there’s always more to think about but that’s part of the fun.
Photographer James discusses the first shot with Sykes MD, Dan Wright
As the stylist, it’s my job to think about props and I always take more than we’ll need as I never quite know how the shots are going to work, so I hedge my bets. The night before a shoot my car is always completely rammed with various styles and shades of crockery, cutlery, serving dishes and accessories, napkins, wooden boards and herbs and spices. This time I also needed to bring Christmas decorations for a festive shot so spent ages rummaging around at home trying to find my wooden stars!
Props get laid out on the floor, making it easier to choose exactly what you need.
Before any shoot we always discuss a brief with the client to get a good idea of what shots they’re looking for and how they’re going to be used. However, just like working with children and animals, food can be unpredictable so we’re always flexible in order to get the best results.
On hand for this shoot was Sykes’s head of new product development, Howard, who was in charge of all the prepping and cooking. It’s always great to have extra help on set and Howard’s expertise and knowledge were super-useful, especially as it freed me up to focus solely on ‘the look’ rather than having to do the cooking too.
Trained Chef Howard cooks a meaty piece of sea bass for the shot.
Team work is key to any successful collaboration and it was great having the Sykes team on board. Senior buyer Matt was there, as well as Managing Director, Dan Wright, whose beautiful house we were using for the location. The open plan living space with an island for cooking was perfect for creating the contemporary lifestyle shots they were looking for.
The kitchen island was ideal for laying out the fish and creating a contemporary scene.
We managed to spread ourselves throughout the ground floor of the house, covering the living room with props and commandeered every inch of the kitchen for food prep. You can never have too much product as it’s really important to be able to choose the very best piece of cod loin or king prawn for that hero shot.
Once James was happy with the camera angle and lighting, it was time to work out the best way to present the fish and where everything would go on boards and platters. You’d think it’d be pretty straight forward to photograph a selection of raw fish, but you’d be amazed how tricky a piece of salmon can be if he doesn’t want to behave! There are so many things to consider – the angle, which way up, back or front, over or under. Who knew?! And all the time dealing with hot lights that create water stains with frozen product or dry patches after it’s cooked.
Every tiny detail is considered to create the perfect image.
With four shots to do in a day, we kept up the pace. It might not sound like a lot, but with each image needing a new layout and additional products being added to each photograph, we had plenty to keep us busy. Chef Howard kept things on track, cooking different samples of fish in a griddle to add authenticity to the shots.
One of the final images (Box 2) showcasing 8 different types of fish for home delivery this Christmas.
The final image of the day was for Christmas – an impressive selection of 11 different types of fish including luxury prawns, cooked snow crab legs, gravadlax with beetroot and smoked mackerel pate – which we decided to style as a Christmas table, laid out with table settings, decorations and a Christmas tree to boot. Unlike Mary Poppins, I wasn’t able to pull that one out of my carpet bag, but, fortuitously, Dan had an artificial one in the attic so we used just the bottom section to add the perfect finishing touch to our shot. Merry Fishmas everybody!
Looking down on our Christmas table. You can see lots of extra props at the head of the table which didn't make it into shot.
The final image, including just the bottom tier of the Christmas tree!