Freak Shake Promo Photography

Tim and I are working with the folks over at Agency Access to help with our photography studio marketing.  We're putting together email promos and printed mailers, and we wanted some striking images that grab the viewer's attention.  I recently read about food trends taking over Instagram, like decadent milkshakes, over-the-top desserts, things including edible gold, you get the point.  I thought it would be a fun project to show the age of opulence and instant gratification via the theme "freak shake".  We wanted to nod to popular food culture, so we included household names like Little Debbie's and Hostess in the freak shake toppings.

Tim and I planned well for this project, sketching out the layout, angle, color scheme and mood for the food photography.  I went shopping for all the ingredients, and when the time came, we took a half day shooting the shake.  Low and behold, the food styling was highly complicated for this!  Our first couple attempts were a mess.  We had to practice many times getting the caramel to stay in jut the right place, as it cascades over the glass, and discovered that instead of whipped cream, good-old cool whip holds its shape...forever.  We tried to salvage some of the shots from the first shoot, but it just didn't have the impact we wanted.  The angle was boring and the food styling was sloppy, and not in a good way.

Tim and I went back to the drawing board, perfected the food styling with lots of skewers holding up the food items and stand-ins to shoot with.  The next shoot was a success!  We narrowed down the dramatic angle first, then crafted the perfect studio lighting on the "stand-in".  Once we had the hero shake, we shot additional details.  Fortunately the hero was the best shot, and you can the results below.  Many thanks to Tim's masterful retouching skills to give the final "pop" and polish to the image.  We can't wait to send out the mailers!

Food and beverage photography in Austin, TX.  "Freak shake" photographed here.

Food and beverage photography in Austin, TX.  "Freak shake" photographed here.

Cherries and sprinkles left over after dessert photography.

Cherries and sprinkles left over after dessert photography.

Catalog Food Photography for Miiller's Smokehouse

It was quite a treat to get to travel to the gorgeous Texas Hill Country to shoot for Miiller's Smokehouse.  Located in Llano, Texas Miiller's Smokehouse was looking to update their catalog and website with new product photography.  During the preproduction meeting I got to meet the lovely owners Bryan and Lisa and we got a tour of the smokehouse.  The folks at Miiller's were so hospitable and accommodating, I just knew this photo shoot would go off without a hitch.  Food photography items included whole smoked turkeys, prime rib, tenderloins, bacon, and bone-in hams.  With these complex food items, I enlisted the help of Darcy Folsom, a veteran food stylist new to the Austin market.  Darcy has a long history with catalog food photography, and was also a great fit culturally for working with Miiller's. 

Stylistically, this shoot was a bit of a departure from our bright product images.  The client had a vision of a rugged, outdoorsy, contemporary style.  After some prop shopping at vintage stores and antiques shops we had the perfect accents for the food to take center stage and be complemented by dark and moody studio lighting.

After a few meetings and conference calls, we were ready for a full day shoot on location at Miller's.  We set up the portable photography studio in their packing room, close to the kitchen.  It was an aggressive shoot, but we assembled an amazing team and skillfully knocked out all items on the shot list.  Some of my favorites are below.

Watching a master food stylist work her magic is fascinating.  I definitely learned a few styling tricks myself and it was cool to see how Darcy made ribbons of bacon perfectly cascade out of the pan.

I can't wait to see the final results of their holiday catalog and hear about how new food and product photography has helped increase their sales.

product photographer Texas
holiday catalog photography
Commercial food photographer
Portland Food Photographer

50s Diner Food Shoot

I don't even remember how we came up for the concept of this shoot. Perhaps it had to do with Tim and I both being ex-smokers, but loving the way smoke looks as it wafts gently, creating patterns reminiscent of incense burning.  It also may have been the dining table we own, something that Tim picked up at a thrift store during his divorce.  In any case, we came up with the idea to shoot a scene that looks like an old diner breakfast back when men were men, they smoked, drank black coffee, and ate eggs and bacon for breakfast. 

The prop shopping may have been the most fun part of this shoot. We scoured antique stores here in Austin until we found the perfect gold ashtray, bought some cheap tableware from restaurant supply stores and even hit some Dollar Stores.  We started out using sad battery-hen eggs you get in the Styrofoam containers (wrong on so many levels) but the yolks were anemic, so we ended up using our favorite brand, Vital Farms, which promises bright orange, sunset-colored yolks.  We even bought Pall Mall cigarettes and pink packets of sweetener to complete the look. Tim came up with the composition to include the table's metal banding framing the bottom of the picture, and we set up the hero shot that way.  Then I nabbed some overhead shots of the table.  We also loved the ripped look of our red vinyl kitchen stools, so we included that in the background for the test shoot of cigarettes and coffee. 

I hope you enjoy these images as much as we do.  Gross, but pretty, right?

50s Diner Breakfast Scene
Coffee and Cigarettes
Editorial food photography

High Brew Coffee Product Shoot

What a pleasure to have High Brew Coffee over to the home studio for a product and lifestyle photo shoot.   High Brew wanted their colorful cans to stand out boldly against a neutral, yet stylish background.  During the drink photography preproduction meeting, we came up with the idea of shooting on a concrete surface with a white background.  Additionally, it was important for the image elements (the can, flavor indicators, surface and background) to be flexible and moveable for future use.  Fortunately Tim, our master retoucher, is able to create layered Photoshop files with each element, including shadows, on a separate knock-out layer.  In a few weekends Tim and I got busy creating a custom concrete surface to shoot on and mastered the art of applying condensation drops to the cans by hand.  All the hard prep work paid off, as the client was happy with the results and the two day shoot went off without a hitch.  One of my personal favorite varieties is the Salted Caramel, below.  It not only tastes delicious and indulgent, but the flavor indicators next to the product turned out gorgeously.  Tim also had fun playing with some of the images with splash photography and some experimental compositions.

Oryoki Dining Scene

Over the Zen Buddhist holiday/meditation period of Rohatsu, my partner Tim Brisko and I shot an oryoki dining scene to commemorate the anniversary of Buddha's Enlightenment. Oryoki, meaning "just enough" is an eating ceremony practiced in Zen monasteries. Eating utensils are placed carefully, linens are folded just so, and food is eaten in a very specific order, all with chanting and bowing thrown in the mix. This collaboration project captures the beautiful complexity of a humble and seemingly simple meal. Happy belated Bodhi Day and a happy, healthy 2017 to all!

Oryoki Dining Scene

Persephone Queen of the Underworld

I recently worked with my partner Tim Brisko on a new still life photo.  We wanted to combine food photography with photo illustration.  In this piece, Persephone, we explore the symbolism of the myth of Persephone, the young maiden, daughter of Demeter, who found herself torn between two worlds, the underworld of Hades and the earth of her mother.  The pomegranate represents Persephone, split in two between her husband king of the underworld and her mother, goddess of the harvest and the seasons.  Three lone pomegranate seeds have fallen on the table, representing the three seeds she ate while in the underworld, which sealed her fate as queen of the underworld.  Hades is represented by the hourglass and Demeter by the shafts of wheat.  Foliage continues to grow, as nature always returns and takes over the earth.  The moth was a fun addition, with a nod to Dutch and Renaissance still life painters, who would often include a hyper-realistic living element, such as an insect, as a trompe l'oeil, or trick of the eye.  Thankfully Tim is a very talented retoucher and was able to add the moth in post production seamlessly.  We enjoyed working on this project together and look forward to future creative collaborations.

Persephone Still Life

Texas Co-op Power Magazine Holiday Recipe Photo Shoot

One of my favorite clients to work with this year has been the Texas Co-op Power Magazine and working on their food photography recipe features.  What an honor to shoot the cover and winning holiday recipes for their December issue.   Over a two day shoot, we shot five recipes at the home studio with food editor Paula Disbrowe preparing the food and food styling along with the oversight and expertise of graphic designer Jane Sharpe.  We always have so much fun setting out the various props and choosing just the right backdrops and props to tell the story, often including vintage props and family heirlooms that we need to be specially careful with.  For this shoot, we kept it simple, suggesting a holiday setting with eclectic vintage china and silverware, coupled with graphic hand printed decorative paper.  The food was delicious as usual, leftovers being a major perk of this type of editorial food photography job.  The Texas Pecan Board sponsored the recipe contest.  The cover winning recipe, Pecan Pie Cake With Cinnamon Whipped Cream Frosting was simply amazing and really combined the best of dessert options (pecan pie filling and moist dense cake with frosting).  Check out the magazine tearsheets and food photography vignettes below:

Texas Co-op Power • December 2015 - tcp1512.pdf.jpg

Food and drink photography for Freebirds World Burrito

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the fruits of your labor up on display for all to see.  It was a pleasure to shoot the digital menu board photography for Freebirds World Burrito late last year.  They needed images for their backlight digital menu boards.  The photo shoot was held overnight at one of their restaurant locations, so we had the whole restaurant at night which was definitely an adventure.  Thank goodness I love the music selection of 70s and alternative rock at the restaurant which kept us going all night. Food stylist Kristina Wolter kept us on pace with her amazing food styling (and time management capabilities!)  Images were shot on black plexi background with slick, pronounced product lighting, thanks so much to my partner Tim Brisko to help with the lighting and Rachelle Bendixen as first assistant.  It’s so satisfying to see the end result up on their menu boards and we can’t wait to shoot one of their world famous burritos next.

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