Over the last decade, Los Angeles-based food photographer Rebecca Peloquin has categorized her food photography work into two distinct visual approaches that she calls “dark food” and “light food.” Rebecca utilizes contrasting tones to convey the complexity and flair of the dishes she captures. While working for the Los Angeles Times, she leaned into her dual method to feature two tree fruits in distinct and delectable ways.
Rebecca was excited when she received the call from the publication’s editor, who had seen her body of work on her Instagram page. She met the creative team over a friendly and encouraging Zoom call, where they pitched the first assignment: recipes for Californian dates, set to appear in the Sunday food section of the newspaper.
My first shoot with the LA Times was the feature on California dates followed just behind it with another shoot about apple variations in Los Angeles.
Having reviewed Rebecca’s previous work, the editors referenced several of her other shoots that matched the style they needed for the article. They asked her to bring her expertise and input to the drawing table, trusting her creativity as a food photographer to evoke the desired atmosphere.
I showed them examples of surfaces, props and lighting I thought would work with the brief, and day of, I styled with some input from their food columnist and approvals from the editors.
Earlier this year, Rebecca took the time to renovate an area of her residential property in order to build her own private studio. To style both features, she pulled pieces from her extensive prop library, which has vibrant backgrounds, wooden and ceramic serve ware, printed napkins, and an array of abstract pieces.
I renovated a freestanding space this year to be my personal studio and we spent the day shooting in there, with the AC cranked up to beat the LA heat.
Rebecca chose to approach the first shoot with a dark visual style when photographing the dates dishes. The backdrop included a black, acid-wash vignette that created a contrast with the colorful ingredients in each preparation. The goal was to showcase the recipes in an appetizing way while staying in sync with her style and the editor’s expectations.
My approved style for that set was moodier and darker than a lot of their shoots so I was nervous about trying to represent our creative goal while making it work for print.
It was excellent to work with such supportive and fun women! After the first shoot went so seamlessly they asked me in quick succession to handle the next one.
On the day of the second shoot, which focused on the variety of apples available to the SoCal region, Rebecca was informed that the story would be moving in a different direction than they initially planned. After inspecting her various props, she was able to quickly pivot to arrange the studio to fit this new route and went with a lighter tone, playing with beige backgrounds and raw woodblocks.
Having my prop library available meant we had options and again, it all totally worked out!
Through her practiced approach, Rebecca came to the shoot with a clear idea of the lighting and what she would use for the background surface. She laid out the props that fit the initial vision, but as the day moved on Rebecca welcomed the creative inspiration that allowed for a fluid and flexible assignment.
Often I’ll sketch out some loose ideas for placement but since I didn’t know exactly what food items we would need to capture or their scale, rolling with it is key.
This project gave Rebecca the chance to work with a well-known client with who she has been eager to connect since establishing herself in the LA photography industry. While she maintained her distinct styles throughout both features, Rebecca’s resilient ingenuity guided her through the project’s unexpected changes and helped to inspire creativity that aligned with the team’s vision.
I feel like I learned perseverance is key to getting in with the clients you want to work with but being personable and flexible will get you that extra mile toward building lasting relationships.