The First Time: Shooting Product Photography

Nothing ever replaces that first time an artist sees their work accidentally in the public world. The musician, Sting,  often muses about the first time he heard “Roxanne” being hummed in an elevator, and that was when he knew that he had made it. In my case, it happened while V. and  I were walking through a Toronto store and saw our product photography from the Spring sessions on Paderno boxes stacked neatly on the shelves. Frankly, it was a bit overwhelming to realize that the work I was doing for a commercial company was probably being seen by thousands of people over the product’s lifetime.

Paderno Cast Iron 2009

Most of the products on show were the cast iron line that are part of the company’s import section. For this particular shoot we had to do basic high key shots for catalogues and a series of styled shots with food for boxes and a possible magazine advertisement. So the trick was to produce six separate dishes to showcase each Paderno cast iron piece, to have uniform colours with interesting textures, and to have everything be timed to come out of the oven at the same time.

As I grew up with the Paderno brand on Prince Edward Island, I always understood that it focused its product at real people who need to cook for families every night. It is a brand that I always used, and even dragged a saucepan into Algonquin Park for a week to cook on open fire and to toss into trees as a counterweight when keeping food away from bears.

For the late night session, we baked a cherry crumble in a small frying pan, a Spanish seafood paella, a gratin dauphinois in the baking dish, a deep dish pizza, some lamb chops on the grilled pan and a Boeuf Bourgionne in the casserole. It is so wonderful to be able to embrace both my love for food and photography into a single session; especially when I get to eat all of the food after, which helps with the grocery bills. I am not really into the whole food stylist idea, where you use chemicals to keep the maple syrup from soaking into the pancakes or plastic lettuce. Food should be real and it should look appetizing if it is ever to connect with a buyer. I am more interested in the style of the masters Con Poulos and Mikkel Vang, whose breathtaking images adorn Donna Hay’s or Martha Stewart’s stylistic cookbook pages; they know food, style and most importantly light.

What strikes me most about the whole process is how the cycle comes around. My new commissions for Paderno are starting to come in again, last year’s work is out in their new catalogue and I am privileged enough to have my first attempts at commercial photography make two magazine issues, a catalogue and product packages shipping nationwide. It is so far removed from this time last year when I had just bought a camera to see if I could take some pictures to enter into travel contests. In two weeks I head to Philadelphia where I hope to be able to capture some classic shots of a funky town with my Canon EOS 1DmkIII camera. No film this time, as I want to do some journalistic images and have some immediate feedback on my lighting.

Paderno Stainless Steel

To quote Tori Amos: pretty good year…


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