This past summer I received an email inquiring my food photography services for a new start up company that focused on gourmet doughnuts. Now, as most of you know, this past June I took Earl Studios on full time, taking the plunge into running a small food photography and video production company as my career, which, at 41 is a pretty frightening proposal. Needless to say, I was extremely excited about the project for several reasons, partially because doughnuts are an item I’ve been wanting to shoot for some time, and partially because after talking with the client, I got a sense from her passion and energy that this company was going to be huge. Opportunities like this are rare, so I know the possibilities that were presented within this project.
I’ve always wanted to shoot doughnuts, I’ve seen the amazing work done by big time food photographers such as Jim Scherer and Terri Campbell, and its been an item that has been on my “to shoot” list for some time. But truth be told, we really have no good, photogenic, gourmet type doughnuts in New Hampshire, at least none that I can find. Cupcakes and pastries are o’plenty, but doughnuts not so much. And there is no way I’m going to try to make doughnuts at the studio, making doughnuts requires a certain level of baking skill that I certainly don’t posses anymore, even after having been a professional chef for over 10 years. So after a few emails and making arrangements we set down our first schedule for the photoshoots, breaking them into 3 separate sessions, which gave me time to get all my props together and build some new rustic farmhouse style tabletops. The other opportunity within this project is that the client is working with a large local marketing firm, WEDU, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to partner with them on photos and videos for some time, so knowing that they would also be seeing the images was another exciting aspect of the project.
I can’t express the level of excitement I felt when the first set of doughnuts was dropped off at the studio. These were gorgeous! These were some of the most beautiful, detailed, and gourmet styled items I’ve had in studio. The day of the first shoot was also the day that my new Canon 6D was being delivered, so originally the shoot was to start at 1pm, but the Canon 6D didn’t arrive till around 5pm, so it was a late shoot, but we fired up the espresso machine and got to work. I was a little nervous about using a new camera on such an important shoot, especially after my not so lovingly reaction to the Canon 5D MK2, but I immediately fell in love with the images from the Canon 6D, the DOF, the sharpness, the overall feel of the camera made me positive I had made the right decision. Now, as with any creative person and especially with photographers, we are racked with a ceaseless sense of self doubt, always questioning if we are any good. Food photography, in particular, is a challenge in this sense. Just to get the first shot required at least 10 different setup attempts, constantly changing table tops, dishes, adding and taking away background elements, trying softboxes, octoboxes, grids, no grids, 1/16 power at f5.6, 1/32 power at f3.2, light on the side….light behind?, frustration ever increasing because the shots just not there and you begin to think “I absolutely suck at food photography”. Then, suddenly, everything just “works”, the light clicks, the setup fits, and finally things start to flow. Its really a metaphor for life, to never give up even when nothing seems to be working, because you might just be one slight change away from something great.
The reaction to the images has been outstanding, and to be honest, I think this project has allowed me to grow as a food photographer more in three shoots than I have in a long time, and for that I am beyond grateful. Growth only occurs through challenge and opportunity, and this shoot was one of the biggest and best opportunities to come through this little studio in some time. It really put all of my skills to the test, not just in food photography, but also in food styling and prop styling. I created a new tabletop specifically for this project, and its been one of the most used table top props since. I’m looking forward to the launch of the company, because its a product and a company that I wholeheartedly believe in. Its my starbucks if you will, and I count myself lucky to be able to say someday, that I was there from the beginning.