When Daniela Gerson‘s boutique catering business closed down at the start of Covid, she began working full-time as a commercial photographer. She runs a food photography studio in Venice Beach, California, where she is the only cook in the kitchen. Daniela’s chef’s hat, however, is topped with a few others as well. With music full blast, Daniela fully immerses herself in cooking, food styling, photography, photo editing, writing, and recipe development.
A few years ago, she developed a relationship with Zwilling, a German manufacturer that’s been producing knives since 1731. Recently, she’s partnered with Zwilling to provide food and still life photography, styling, videos, and sponsored content.
When I pivoted to doing more commercial work, everyone asked, ‘are you the stylist, or the photographer…who does the prop styling?’ The way I sum it up, I often say I’m an artist and food is my medium.
Daniela initially reached out to Zwilling when she saw their Miyabi brand knives in Japan. Shortly after, she came across some of their Ballarini brand non-stick cookware. She started featuring those on her page — in addition to their Staub cast iron. By 2021, Daniela was officially working with Zwilling, including the above-mentioned brands under their umbrella, styling and photographing a different product each month. The company retained print rights as well, so Daniela’s photography is widely used in various forms of promotion.
When I first started doing this, I thought official relationships would happen a lot faster and now I have a much better appreciation for the courting dance.
You take the time to cultivate the relationship, and then once you make it official it’s like going steady.
When it came to pre-planning, Daniela knew what product she would be working with, a month or two in advance. Zwilling provided the product along with a curated Pinterest board for inspiration, and notes on how they wanted it presented. In some cases, they used Daniela’s past personal projects as a starting point for an official photo shoot.
Instead of using a set shot list, Daniela spent time considering how each product could be featured. This is a common practice for her, as she tends to leave room for any creativity that could unfold in the process.
I get my hands on the beautiful produce, cut it, put music on really loud, and start creating.
A lot of the fruit and vegetables featured in her food photography come from Melissa’s Produce, which Zwilling works with as well.
By using a tripod, Daniela was able to create action shots that showed her cutting a tomato, for example, or dropping strawberries into a blender, etc. In all other cases, she shot handheld.
Since Daniela uses all-natural light, photographing in the winter months meant a shorter window of usable daylight. The blender photo shoot spanned one day, whereas the knife, Vacuum Gratin Dish, and Staub cast iron shoots were spread across three. In doing so, it was important to make sure the vegetables she pre-cut were stored correctly for the following day, to preserve their vibrant hues.
Zwilling received seven images from each photo shoot to use at their disposal. Ultimately, Daniela would send a larger gallery of 80-90 photographs as well, with a set price for any additional photos chosen.
She noted that although it definitely comes with its challenges, Instagram – and this age of social media in general – is a valuable resource. Without it, creating a direct connection with an international company such as Zwilling, would have consisted of sending cold emails with a portfolio link.
It’s all about starting a relationship on Instagram, but taking it off the platform. That’s how it originally started. You have to learn how to make [the platform] work for you, instead of you working for [the platform] – it never sleeps.
This is exactly the work I love doing.
See more of Daniela’s work on her website.