Interested in learning what it takes to be a professional food photographer? Perhaps you’re looking for tips on lighting, or marketing, or photographing ice cream, but you’re not sure where to find it all in one place. Well, there’s no better resource than Ohio-based food photographer, Teri Campbell. A commercial photographer for over 25 years, Teri’s accumulated a wealth of knowledge which recently caught the eye of a PeachPit publishing executive. And thus, Teri’s Food Photography & Lighting: A Commercial Photographer’s Guide to Creating Irresistible Images was born. In the book, Teri explains what it takes to be a commercial food photographer. It’s chock full of helpful tidbits including a breakdown of the cast of characters in commercial advertising. After recently receiving an advance copy, I got in touch with Teri to learn more. Below is our interview; enjoy!
– Maria Luci
Where did the initial idea come from for this book?
Susan Rimerman at PeachPit. One of the first question everyone asks me when I tell them I wrote a book is: how did you find a publisher? But the truth is, they found me. Susan contacted me after reading about my presentation at PhotoPlus Expo last year. We met at the Expo and continued to have conversations over the next couple of months. We talked about the need for books on food photography, and how most of the current books are geared towards bloggers. I then wrote an outline and a sample chapter over the holiday break (while I was in St. Lucia) and we signed a contract in February. That’s when I got busy writing.
What were the steps involved in writing and getting the book published?
My editor helped me establish milestones for each chapter and touched base with me, (monthly at first and then weekly as we got closer) to see that I was on track. As I turned in chapters to her, she would mark them up and return them to me with her notes. We would go through a few rounds this way before they moved on to layout and proofing.
Knowing where to start was difficult for me, but fortunately I have a wonderful producer, Sherry Wilson, who helped me out with organization, writing and editing. My assistant Sarah Haun, who has a background in graphic design, handled the lighting illustrations and shot many of the behind the scenes photographs. Scott Martin, my digital artist, organized the images and prepared them for printing. Peachpit Press handled most of the graphic design and layout, but gave me final approval.
Who is the target audience?
Commercial photographers, whether they shoot food or not. Amateur photographers who are interested in learning and elevating their skills. Anyone who loves beautiful pictures of food, or works with food photographers.
What does the book cover?
There are three keys to photographing food: working as a team, (usually with a food stylist or chef), knowing when to press the shutter, and lighting. This book talks about all three through a series of vignettes that show detailed lighting setups and a candid description about how each image was created. In addition, several introduction chapters describe the process and tools necessary to succeed as a commercial food photographer. I feel I was very fortunate that Peachpit was not looking for a how-to book. I didn’t have to describe alternate ways to do everything, I just wrote about what worked for me.
Were there any challenges in creating this book?
Fact checking terms and descriptions that we use everyday. Suddenly, when you’re committing something to a book, you realize that even though you’ve always called it “whatever” your entire career, you wonder if that really is the correct term. Gobo, comp, C-stand, mood-board and beauty dish were just a few of the terms I had to double check and make sure I was using correctly. But really, all of it was a challenge—since I am not a writer. Knowing that whatever you said would forever be in print is pretty daunting. The last three months were the toughest, I even had to turn down work to make sure I would finish on time.
Which was the hardest chapter to write?
The chapter that describes the roles of everyone on set was the most difficult for me to write. I think because I had to put everyone into “a box” when, in reality, it’s much more collaborative.
I do think one of my greatest contributions is in that chapter—on page 73—the “Unwritten Communication Chart.” This is almost never discussed, but it’s how the real world works.
How have readers responded?
Amazingly! I have had so many great responses. I’m truly humbled by all of the compliments.
Do you plan to write more books?
That really wasn’t my plan, and when I was in the midst of this one, I really didn’t think I would—but now that it’s done and I can see the effect it is having… maybe. I learned a lot, and it’s given me a new perspective on my own career and just how far I’ve come.