Andrea D’Agosto’s recent shoot with Ardor, the restaurant inside the West Hollywood location of boutique hotel Edition, gave her a refreshing change of pace. A veteran food photographer, Andrea is used to clients wanting bright, revealing imagery of dishes. But Edition not only had a different ask, they had the exact opposite request.
I had previously worked with the creative director at another hotel chain, and when she moved to the position at The Edition, she thought of me for the project. The hotel was brand new, so it was fun creating imagery for them from the ground up. They knew what they wanted: dark and moody, and then darker still.
In the beginning, I struggled a little bit with just how dark they wanted the food shots, I was shooting to a laptop so throughout the first shoot they kept saying things like, ‘it’s great but it needs to be darker’ — at times I felt like you could barely tell what some of the dishes were. But, surprisingly, they were cool with that! Once I got on board, I started to fall in love with the fact that they wanted everything to be mysterious.
So often, food and product shots call for broad and open light but that’s not what Ardor was going for. It was refreshing to be given the creative freedom to focus on nothing but creating badass imagery and to leave some mystery for the viewer.
With the help of the “Vignetting” tool in Capture One, Andrea achieved what Edition was looking for and thoroughly enjoyed each step of the process. Of course, when Andrea used the phrase “badass imagery,” I had to follow up to pinpoint which shots came to her mind when she thought of the sentiment. Here’s one of the images she landed on:
There are two reasons I love this image so much. One, this is Chef John Fraser’s version of nachos. I’ve never seen a more beautiful or unique plate of nachos and two, the chef’s tattoos. I think it would still be a cool shot with another hand but the sleeve brings an added piece of artwork into the shot that I just couldn’t have planned for. In fact, if it was a blank arm, I’m sure I would have shot it vertical because it would have been too much arm. It’s a great example of thinking on your feet and taking advantage of the moment.
Across three eight-hour shoots, Andrea thought on her feet and got the desired shots. She had to keep her head on a swivel at all times, especially during the first shoot, because it was around the time Ardor was opening its doors to the public.
Our first shoot was done the same day the hotel and restaurant were starting their soft open so it was chaotic, to say the least. The restaurant was filled with staff from various departments all with their own needs and agendas, not to mention workers installing lighting, seating and applying finishing touches to the dining room.
When I’m photographing restaurants and chefs, I often find that our shoot is not necessarily the most important thing happening on that particular day and just roll with that. It can be a very different experience from shooting in a controlled studio setting where everyone is coming together at that moment for the sole purpose of the shoot.
To make sure Andrea was getting quality feedback in real time, she created a setup that sent her shots right to her computer. This way, her collaborators could make any needed adjustments on the fly.
The creative team was able to view the images coming in live on my computer so it was great to get instant feedback from them and of course it’s convenient for the chef to see the exact angle I’m shooting and be able to jump in and adjust a garnish if needed for example.
The images showed up on Edition’s website as well as their Instagram page. The crisp, clean look matches the clarity of the client’s vision, not to mention their creativity of their food-based handiwork.
I love that the team at Edition and Ardor have such a clear vision. Often a dish or drink would come out and I was amazed at its beauty and/or uniqueness.
Being able to collaborate with true artists in their fields is one of the gifts of the work that I do.
See more of Andrea’s work at andreadagosto.com.