Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thinking of Spring in December

December is normally a raw cold month in the mid-west.  Today is one of those rare days in December it's going to hit 60 degrees.  Nothing like a little warm weather and shooting tropical fragrances to get one in the mood for spring!  

Orange Vanilla

Just a quick "Fact of the Day" Vanilla Beans are not beans at all but the seed pod of a tropical orchid.

White Lotus Flower and Lychee 

We had so much fun a few weeks ago shooting some new fragrances for one of our long time clients.  A number of years ago we were asked to help them "Visually Brand" their product with a consistent upscale look and feel that matches the quality of their product.  We've had this privilege for some time now and can't wait to see what new scents they come up with next.    If your a candle lover and you haven't fired up a Trapp candle, you don't know what your missing.  They are awesome!

                                By the way, if you don't know what a Lychee fruit looks like here's a photo.

I hope everyone has an awesome winter but if your not a fan of winter, like myself, it might help you make it through if you break out one of thse scented candle and think of the spring to come.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

84 Pounds of instant mashed potatoes later....

In a casual conversation about doing some new food images our associate photographer Tiffany Matson suggested I do a shot of a winter scene that was made of all edible items.  Hmm,  That sounds like a fun challenge.

84 pounds of mashed potatoes, 25 pounds of sugar, rock candy, cauliflower, pretzels, mushrooms, sugar cones, jerk spice, etc. later we came up with a fun winter scene.

Shots of the scene being roughed in.

Food stylist Sarah Hunt putting the finishing touches on the winter scene.

Putting powdered sugar on the sugar cone pine trees.  Although it didn't appear in the final images you can see we included a small stream in the set.

Set assistant Braden Edwards mixing another batch of instant mashed potatoes for the base of the set.

Braden adding rock candy as a rock wall next to the road.

Monday, October 31, 2011

One word "Plastics"

We had the privilege of shooting this ad for Sig Sauer recently.  Sig Sauer is one of the finest gun companies in the world because of the quality of their product.

Now, the rest of the story.  When photographing firearms the client can't just send you the product to photograph.   First, the gun has to be shipped to someone that has a Federal Firearms License.  Then you have to fill out all kinds of paperwork, they run a background check and then you can take it to the studio.
As long as you don't have any ammunition you can transport it in the same compartment as you are in.  If you have ammo, it has to be put in the trunk.  Once you're done then it has to be shipped back to someone with an FFL.  

It's always the little details that make the difference between good photography and great communication.

Between the 2 gun photos in this Ad we shot 40 shots.  Every little detail was carefully lit and shot then put together to subtly emphasize every edge and texture detail of the gun. 

The client wanted it to look manly, yet sexy.  I think it looks very 007. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nothing like the smell of beef searing first thing in the morning!

I thought you might enjoy a little behind the scenes grill marking show and tell.

Our grill marking guru and food stylist Trina Kahl prays she gets it right the first time. (;-)

We try to mark the spacing and angle we want the grill marks before we sear them in the meat.  As you can see if you look at the sticks on the meat above, they look off and at a weird angle.  Now, from the camera angle they look perfectly spaced and at the correct angles.

Different food stylist make grill marks different ways.  Sometimes it's done on set, sometimes they use hot skewers, sometimes it's done on the stove in a super hot grill pan.  No matter how its done it always give a great look of grilled meat to the final shot.

It may not be brain surgery, but it can be a close second.

If you've been in the photography business for awhile you'll eventually hear someone say that photography isn't brain surgery.   Their right, but sometimes it seems like a close second.  Someones life isn't on the line but your clients career and your reputation are. 

In my opinion, the difference between a OK shot and a GREAT shot is the attention to detail and passion one has for making the "Brand" look its best.

Quality photography takes time and attention to all the little details that may not be noticed at first glance, but make all the difference in the world to the final "Visual Branding" and communication.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shooting Stills and Video / it's a lot about creative problem solving!

Recently we were asked to shoot a video and still campaign for one of our Awesome clients.
We have shot a number of food projects for them in the past but this time they wanted to add motion to the project.  They love the "Visual Branding"  we do for them and wanted us to continue their look in motion.
We showed them our food reels on Vimeo and it sold them on our ability to do the project. 

I love shooting both motion and still although the motion requires more time, different equipment, more staff, and many times a lot more product.  For example, if you are pouring sauce on a product, every take will require a new plate set-up.

Communication is critical when shooting motion.  Everyone has to be on the same page on the final outcome of what your shooting.  What is it going to be used for, what does your client want the focus to be on, how many shot variations are needed.   We always need to make sure there is enough footage for the final edit. 

This was just part of the team for the shoot.  Food stylist, Assistant Food stylist, Art Director, Product managers, Photo assistants, Production Coordinators, Motion Digital Tech, Executive Chef, and Myself as Director/ DP/ Still Photographer. 

One of the challenges we had to solve was making the food look steaming hot for the video.  We ended up drilling a hole in the plates and piped steam up through the table and plate to get the food to appear steaming hot. 

Steaming hot and add some toppings!


We built this sandwich around the steam piping.

We did have one casualty!

Thanks to all the crew and staff we produced some great stills and motion for our client!
Thanks to my photo assistant Calvin for the great behind the scenes photos!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I hate corn, I hate corn, I hate corn!

Growing up in our home one didn't go to the store to get a can of corn.  Come to think back we didn't go to the grocery store to get much.  We grew almost all the fruits and veggies.

Most of the year, except winter it seemed like most of what we did around our house centered around the garden.  As soon as it got warm enough in the spring we were out tilling the garden to get it ready to plant.
Now that I'm thinking about it the garden was on my Dad's mind even in winter.  Late winter was when the seed catalogs arrived and Dad picked all the seeds for the spring and fall plantings.   Let's see if I can remember, there were the standards, "Jet Star" tomatoes,  "Kandy Kane" was the sweet corn, green and yellow wax beans, etc.

Mom was proud of her Sweetcorn field

Durring canning season, which seemed like all summer, Mom would get up and out to pick whatever needed picking by 5am.  Five am was cooler and my sister and I were still sleeping.   I think it was a good time for some peace and quiet from us two kids also.  By the time she got us up in the morning she had picked whatever was ready, got the water boiling, and made breakfast for us two kids.  Our job was to clean our rooms, eat breakfast and then help her can.  When it came to canning corn our job was to cut the corn off the cob, put it in freezer bags and take it down stairs and put it in the freezer.  I think, the only one of those we did without complaining was eat breakfast.  OK, I'm sure my sister and I complained about everything or were kicking each other under the table.     

A modern take on corn relish

 As I recall, one year during sweet corn season, it was the third or fourth day into canning corn, we broke for lunch.  I'm not sure what Mom fixed but more than likely peanut butter sandwiches, maybe some fresh sliced tomatoes, whatever.  What happend next is something my Mom told on me, even in her 90's.

Lunch break was over and neither my sister nor Mom could find me.  They looked outside, yelled for me in the basement, called the neighbors, etc.  Finally, Mom went in my room and heard something coming out of my closet.  She opened the closet door and found me yelling as loud as I could into my pillow, "I hate corn, I hate corn, I hate corn".  I guess I had had enough!  In her loving way she explained that it was a lot of work now but come winter that corn sure would taste goooood.  Knowing me I'm sure that didn't help much, I wanted to be out riding my bike or playing baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood.

Mary and I ready to catch the bus for school
 Mom was right, come winter that corn tasted really goooood!

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to build a great relationship with your clients And how to photograph black on black

How to build a great relationship with your clients
And how to photograph black on black

We were recently hired by a firm to shoot their new product packaging.   They saw my product photography on our website and felt our black on black style of product photography would be a good fit for their new packaging.  We didn't want to stop there, so we did a beautiful test shot for them.  It would have two effects.  1. It would show them we were very interested in their work.  2. It would be a great addition to our portfolio.  To accommodate the volume of work and the budget they had we needed to modify the look a little.

We were able to keep the core look and feel of our vision yet accommodate their needs. 

  "Our goal is not to tell potential clients how great we are, but to show them why working with us will make their lives easier."

The look and feel is similar but we don't light every little texture and element as we do with most of the black on black work we show in our online portfolio.

In advertising and marketing photography, what you see isn't always what you get.  We like to start with the basic form and shape of an object and then in post production do our visual enhancements.  It's still the same product but we highlight some areas and minimize the focus on others.  With many of the products we photograph enhancing the shape, form and texture is paramount.


Our client wanted their product to have a beautiful, sexy, high tech, look and feel. It enhances all of it's beautiful curves and design.  I think we have achieved this, more importantly the client does too.

"We find the key to client satisfaction and loyalty, is to be an invaluable flexible resource.  Make every effort to become knowledgeable about things that are important to their market, share your insights, and demonstrate that you understand the challenges they face."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another "Life in our back yard" post

Part of what happens behind the scenes as an advertising photographer is "creative experimenting".

As a creative person one has to practice their craft to stay relevant, always keeping your creative muscles exercised.  Besides, its just plain fun.  Not only has this project been creatively fun, but it's been a time of exploring wonderful memories.  Part of the creative process is drawing on your rich heritage of life experiences.

This group of seasonal food shots, from our families back yard, turned out fun.   I engaged my friend and stylist Trina Kahl to style the Gooseberry Desert and Zucchini cooked dishes.  We had a blast!  

Gooseberry Desert

Garden Lettuce


Growing up I remember my mom fixing simple but interesting dishes - using what grew on the property.  At the time, I didn't think too much of some of her choices.  As a adult, I look back with fond memories and long for those days.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Life in our back yard.

Another installment of images I wanted to capture in a way that reflects life, as I remember it, growing up in our back yard.

Red Currants

Raspberries & Blackberries

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sometimes you just need to do your own thing!

I've given myself an assignment this year to document some of the awesome organic fruits and veggies that my folks and I have grown.  I wanted to capture them in a way that reflects life, as I remember it, growing up in our back yard.

Here's a couple in the series.  Let me know what you think. 


Tart pie cherries

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What REALLY happens behind the scenes!

In past post I’ve been able to show some awesome thing we get to do at our studio.  What doesn’t get discussed much is all the “not as much fun things” that really makes a studio run.  This is not a “complain session” post, but some of the realities of running a photography studio that many starry-eyed young photographer or clients don’t see.  All they know, and all we want them to see, is we have a fun, clean, organized place to shoot photos and video and everything work’s perfectly. 

Last week, an average week:

1.     It rained and my intern noticed the, 4-year-old roof, had developed a leak.  Had to quickly get some plastic and cover a bunch of boxes so they wouldn’t get wet.  After the rain stopped I went up on the roof and noticed that when the workers had removed a tall brick chimney, one of the bricks fell and put a hole in the roof.  Will have to call the roofer and get it repaired.
2.     It seems like one of our two 12.5 ton air conditioner units was starting to squeal when it turned on.  Called the AC repairman to come change the belt.  I noticed that the pulleys weren’t aligned causing the belt to wear out fast.  More time and money.
3.    I noticed that weeds were beginning to grow in the cracks of the parking lot.  Mix up the weed killer and sprayed.
4.     Noticed that there are some sharp edges on the tile we put in our new restrooms.  I brought in a hand held grinder from home and ground the corners smooth.  This is important so someone won’t get cut and we get sue.
5.    Went through the 150 emails I got in over the weekend.
6.     A client rented the studio for a video shoot.  Need to mop all the floors, empty the trash, and clean all the bathrooms.  Oh, I forgot need to clean all the glasses and coffee cups that were used.
7.     After a wonderful 3 day photo shoot then we worked another 57 hours on retouching, making clipping paths, making zip files and uploading them to the clients server.
8.    Put together all the bills and time sheets too bill photo project.  Invoice client.
9.     Scouted location for upcoming photo shoot.
10  Attend 8 hour conference on photo marketing.
11  Answer more emails
12  Call client to make sure they got all the files and were happy.  They were thrilled!
13  Package up client’s product and ship back to client.
14  Called food stylist to schedule some test shots.
15  Assemble and addressed more direct mail promos
16  Opps, ran out of ink in the printer.  Go to the store and get more ink.
17  Checked my Google Analytics report to see how my sites are performing.
18  Back-up and archive Clients photo files
19  Install new hard drive on server.
20  Meet with Accountant to go over quarterly numbers.
21  Open and sort mail
22  Send email with photos to new Art Director I met.
23  Pre-Production meeting with client about upcoming shoot
24  Phone conference with interactive development company to find a way to upload images to our website easier.
25  Faxed insurance papers to our loan company.

These are just 25 of the things I could remember.  Behind the scene at most advertising photography studios, the mix is 80% business and 20% photography.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Latest Food Real, more "Visual Branding"

The concept of what an advertising photographer is and does today is being blurred.

We've helping to blur the lines by adding another "Food Reel" to our Vimeo site.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Photography Trends

Food photography, like fashion and interior design, has numerous visual trends.

We love to shoot with a loose, editorial look. It's one of the visual trends we have been noticing for a while. It’s a wonderful approach for some brands because it projects a more “real” and “approachable” look for their product.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Visual Branding

We recently shot another project for one of our outstanding clients. It was a perfect example of what David Morris Photo offers with regard to visual branding and capabilities.

For a number of years now we've helped develop libraries of visually branded images for various clients. What are "visually branded" images, you ask? Visually branded images are photography and video content that has the look and feel consistent with a particular brand's overall message and values. This way there is message continuity, not only in the logos, copy, and design, but in the photography and video content as well.

Visual branding is harder than it looks. Way before the photography ever begins, we spend time with the client. We familiarize ourselves and gain important insight about their brand. We discuss things like demographics, core values, and the brand's desired message.

For this project, the client charged us with continuing the same visual branding we had designed for them previously, while, at the same time, tweaking their message.

The brand's core values: Natural, Clean Tasting, Fresh, Flavorful, Healthy. It's targeted demographics include "foodies", female consumers, and high-end restaurants. The addition to the brand message for this series of images was versatility.

We normally start with a shot list. As you can see we take all kinds of notes.

Once we have a shot list we put together a reference story board with shot ideas and possible sides and send to the client.

After sending the client reference story boards, we schedule a preproduction meeting or conference call with the crew, food stylist and client. This is where we refine the look and feel of the visual branding, discuss food prep, presentation options, props and backgrounds.

Once the details of the plan are nailed down, our crew sets into motion. Our stylists visit select grocers and specialty stores hunting down top of the line food options. We, similarly, hit the streets looking for any new or unique props (plate ware, silverware, backgrounds) that the client has expressed an interest in. It's important to us that the extensive selection available at our studio stays diverse and up-to-date. I like to do the prop shopping myself since inspiration for a shot often strikes while I'm out browsing. Then it's on to setting up the shot set, refining lighting, pulling prop and background options, and making sure the equipment is working and color-balanced.

Shoot Day:

After everyone has settled in with some breakfast and a cup of our famous coffee (Okay, YOU may not have heard of it yet, but it's pretty famous around here), the photographer (me), client, agency, food stylist, assistants, and production coordinator all go over the day's game plan and discuss the first shot.

Once the shot order has been determined, prep begins in the kitchen, backgrounds and props are selected, and the camera angle is set.

Once the plates are picked, the food is plated and it's off to the set for the beauty shot. A few tweaks here and there, then final approval.

For this project we not only shot stills, but video as well. This allows the client to ensure continuity between both in their visual branding.

Time is critical when shooting food, so we've integrated our video equipment and photo equipment. This saves time and money for our clients, and allows us to do both motion and stills without having to re-style the food.

The results? As you can see, we ended up with a tweaked, yet consistent visual branding message that remained true to the client's brand values.