Monday November 18th, 2013
by Liz Ream
Back in August, KFC launched KFC Eleven, a “fast casual” joint that puts a healthy spin on it’s famous fried chicken. Cincinnati-based photographer Teri Campbell photographed the restaurant, and I delved into the project soon after.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that food stylist Jackie Buckner, a member of the WM crew page, worked with Teri on this shoot. Jackie is an accomplished food stylist who has worked with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, as well as directors Elbert Budin, Bob Giraldi and Robert Rodriguez, and actors such as Colin Farrel, Al Pacino, Jason Alexander and Hugh Grant. Recently, I chatted with Jackie regarding the art of her profession, and what goes into such a job. Enjoy!
How did you get into food styling?
I studied art and film production in college – cooking and baking was a hobby back then. I was working as an art department production assistant on feature films when a producer asked me if I would be interested in working on a tv commercial shoot. When I arrived at the location (an apartment on Park Ave. / NYC) I was directed to go to the kitchen, where I was assigned to the Food Styling department. The key food stylist from that shoot liked working with me, so she continued to hire me on a regular basis. I loved working on food shoots right from the start, and pretty soon I was assisting the top food stylists in NYC.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m never bored! I’m lucky to be able to style food for print as well as motion and for beauty tabletop studios as well as for companies shooting food on location, sometimes in very challenging places, and sometimes with very interesting talent and crew. I meet great people on every single job. I love the “first shoots”, when I fly to different cities to collaborate with people I’ve never met and I don’t know exactly what awaits me. Last minute problem solving and group effort goes into what appears to be the simplest image, and that experience bonds people. I travel to many interesting places, here and abroad, styling food and teaching about food styling. I’ve had the great fortune to work for some terrific clients over the years, resulting in some phenomenal personal as well as business experiences.
What goes into a successful shoot?
For my department, I think the most successful shoots always start with clear communication and extreme organization, combined with a reasonable budget for a shoot schedule that allows enough time for me to be as detail oriented as possible. A good budget also allows for at least one assistant for me, if not more. I had two excellent assistants on the KFC Eleven shoot, Nick and Lyndsay, and they were a vital part of the success of that job, supporting me in the kitchen as well as at camera. The photographer or director are also obviously key to the success of a shoot. They set the tone for the entire set, so a relaxed, supportive photographer will create a better atmosphere for a happy, comfortable collaboration between us and everyone else involved with the project. The results are obvious to me. When I’m rushed, or if the energy around the set is highly stressed, I always feel like the shots could have been better, even if the client is completely thrilled.
Photo by Teri Campbell.
Photo by Teri Campbell.
What did you enjoy most about the KFC shoot?
I was allowed to style the images very freely and very naturally. Although I can style food for a multitude of visual requirements, my personal preference is a very natural approach. As long as I kept true to the legal specs for the products, I basically had free range (no pun intended) with KFC Eleven. I was also working on this job with an uber talented group of people from Creative Alliance and Teri Studios, who, in my experience, consistently turn out great results. The clients from KFC were very excited about the new concept and their enthusiasm was contagious.
Any challenges from the shoot?
The biggest challenge was also the most enjoyable – all the freedom I was given to style the new menu items, with none of the usual parameters or restrictions I generally have to work around – it felt like a larger than usual responsibility because there was no preconceived guideline of how anything should look. Technically speaking, I remember I had to really “baby” the Flatbread Wrap on set, very precisely with a steamer, keeping the bread supple so that it would retain it’s shape after cooling off, while still keeping the fresh ingredients safe from wilting. It was a bit like juggling.
Were you happy with the images?
Absolutely! I love the images! I was psyched to be involved with such a cool project, so I think my creative energy was pretty high and the shots flowed beautifully. I was able to give lots of input about props, backgrounds, food placement, etc. Although I can also honestly say that when I work with Teri Campbell, I’m usually very happy with the results of our efforts.
Teri Campbell on set.
For talented crew members where you need them, check out our crew page.
Monday September 16th, 2013
by Liz Ream
KFC is putting a healthy new spin on it’s famous fried chicken, and Teri Campbell was recruited to document it.
The popular restaurant chain launched it’s new “fast casual” concept on August 5, marking a different direction for KFC. The single location in Louisville will serve new menu items, unlike those offered by traditional KFC restaurants, in a dramatically changed setting.
The assignment came to Teri through Creative Alliance, KFC’s agency in Louisville. Teri was happy to get the job, as this is different from previous work he’s done for KFC. He explained his approach, saying:
Shooting food is about connecting the image to your emotions. So I am happy to adapt to whatever style I think will resonate most with my audience, but it usually involves keeping at least part of the image in soft focus, blowing out detail, and trying to capture the moments right before you start to eat.
Teri spent time visiting other restaurants with a similar atmosphere prior to the shoot, to get a feel for what KFC is trying to create with KFC Eleven. He also scheduled a test shoot to work through ideas and concepts with the creatives on set. To Teri’s satisfaction, the clients were very laid-back, only suggesting simple changes. Teri explained the ups and downs of such a relaxed atmosphere:
This assignment gave me the freedom that is very rare in the world of “commercial” food photography. usually we have detailed layouts, production manuals, and very specific parameters within to work— this assignment had none of that. That also meant that a lot of the success or failure rested squarely on my shoulders, but I enjoyed that challenge. And it has given e a lot more confidence to push my clients for more control on set.
After some fairly simple post processing, Teri said that the images have been well received, by both KFC and others in the industry.
And the food? Teri recommends it, saying that it is nothing like what one would expect from the Colonel we have all come to know. Seeing as these innovative joints probably won’t make it out to us on the East Coast for awhile, we will just have to settle for these tasty images. Luckily, they don’t leave much to the imagination.
View more of Teri’s work at teristudios.com
Tuesday March 26th, 2013
by Maria Luci
Proving that search engine optimization really does matter, Teri Campbell was recently hired for a shoot by Yum! Brands after their creative team found him by Googling “food photography”. They were looking for a great food shooter for a new KFC campaign, and when Teri’s name popped up, they quickly clicked to his site. Ironically, Teri had already worked with KFC, shooting a year’s worth of their point-of-purchase and print imagery through Creative Alliance. But Yum! didn’t know this until they began reviewing his online portfolio.
Examples of Teri’s past work for KFC.
They soon contacted Teri about creating iconic imagery to present each of KFC’s product lines: Original Recipe, Grilled, Pot Pies, Strips, etc. They wanted stand-out images to use on the KFC website, and their art director, Scott Howard, had the idea of using dark wood surfaces to make the food pop in an tasteful way. Teri took on the assignment, looking forward to the “opportunity to approach the KFC brand from a different direction, to try something new with the photography.”
Unlike KFC’s recipe, it’s no secret that Teri has an amazing studio, equipped with just about everything needed to shoot food artfully. However, what Teri didn’t have was dark wood surfaces, an integral part of the shoot. As luck would have it, he came across man selling walnut cutting boards at a flea market. Their finishes perfect—but they were far too small. Teri asked the man—Hayes Shanesy of the design firm Brush Factory—if he could make him any larger pieces, and he said yes.
Once he had the gorgeous (and appropriately sized) wood surface in place, Teri got to work photographing the chicken. Chicago-based food stylist William Smith came in to collaborate with Teri on the project. “He was a great choice because of his background styling for cookbooks and editorial work.” They also had a former KFC employee help them with the food preparation, since KFC required that they use specific equipment and procedures to make their dishes. This meant that Teri had to install fire suppression systems in his studio, so they could use the same pressure fryers as KFC uses in their restaurants—one more item to add to the list of Teri’s studio’s amenities! Once the chicken was cooked, William got to work styling everything.
Behind the scenes.
The shoot spanned five days. The background image used is one that Teri shot several years ago. “It’s actually a garage door with glass panels, that has been manipulated to create the soft, out of focus background.” Once Teri handed over the images, Yum! added some steam before posting them on the KFC website. They liked the images so much, they’ve already started talking with Teri about using them in internal pieces and possibly in advertising. Teri says the project reminded him that “you can never stop marketing, even to current clients.”
From KFC’s website.
View more at terishootsfood.com.
Tuesday November 27th, 2012
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 our own top-notch 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 (there’s also a nice Wonderful Machine shout out on page 113). 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.
View more of Teri’s work at terishootsfood.com. Food Photography & Lighting is available on Amazon.