Beautiful and mouth-watering isn’t usually what comes to mind when most people think of beneficial bacteria. Still, Portland, Oregon-based Dina Avila’s recent work for Fermenter is a feast for the eyes. Fermenter is a plant-based restaurant and self-proclaimed ‘beneficial-bacteria emporium’ that makes healthy choices seem easy.
Dina is a James Beard Award-winning Commercial & Editorial Photographer whose work has been featured in food publications like Eater, Art Culinaire, and Conde Nast Traveler so she’s no stranger to food photography. She’s worked with countless chefs and restaurants over the years, always bringing a fresh perspective to every shoot. When chef Aaron Adams needed images for his new concept, he knew exactly the right photographer for the job.
Aaron is very familiar with the quality of my food and lifestyle work. He desired my particular style and skillset to represent his restaurant’s transformation for his new website and social media. I have also photographed a LOT of chefs and restaurants over the years, which gives me a unique understanding and camaraderie with chefs.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, but restaurants, especially, have needed to adapt to survive in a world where ‘takeout’ is the new normal. With the need for change, Chef Aaron reinvented and remodeled Farm Spirit, his plant-based fine-dining restaurant, into Fermenter, a more casual take-out and counter service-focused concept specializing in fermented foods.
To safely capture lifestyle and product images on-location at the restaurant, Dina had to get scrappy and keep the crew very small – it was just her, the model, and an assistant. It was essential for her to work smart and not sacrifice quality while maintaining safety and social-distancing protocols.
My goal is not only to keep everyone safe but to make sure everyone on set feels safe and taken care of while I maintain my high standards for on-location shoots.
Dina specifically chose and hired the model for these lifestyle shots after working with her on a project for a hotel in Portland because she felt that she perfectly fit the vibe for Aaron’s new space. Having previously worked with the client and with the model before, they had an established rapport, and everything ran smoothly.
While this shoot was mostly smooth sailing, Dina, a perfectionist at heart, still kept up her usual process of taking notes on the lighting, camera settings, and specifics of the shoot to look back on later for improvements.
I tend to look at every shoot as a learning experience. I have a recap journal where I like to write down how everything went — what lighting I used and why, camera settings, any challenges that may have occurred, and how I approached them. I am constantly working to build, evolve, and improve my approach, technique, and skills.
The second half of the shoot involved capturing food close-ups and packaged products on a backdrop that matched Fermenter’s brand color. Dina used strobes and ambient lighting to capture images. Simultaneously, the client provided art direction, ensuring that the imagery not only looked appetizing but also matched Fermenter’s newly-established visual aesthetic and the brand’s personality.
The resulting images have a broad appeal and look absolutely tempting, making even the most devout of carnivores consider adding plant-based fermented foods to their regular diet. They also perfectly reflect Fermenter’s not-too-serious approach to making high-quality, flavorful, and healthy food accessible to all.
See more of Dina’s work on her website