Welcome to episode 34 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! Today, Bjork is talking with Richard Westley Wong and Sara Bartus – a food photography and styling team based out of Minneapolis, MN.
Last week, Bjork went solo as he talked about the Pinch of Yum redesign. He even compared the internet to the Matrix! #nerdy. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
How to Start a Career in Professional Food Photography and Styling
If you’ve ever dreamed of leaving it all behind and starting a brand new career in food photography or food styling, then this episode is for you! Both Sara and Richard started their professional careers in totally different fields – but they both landed in the creative space of food photography.
Now, they work together as a team, shooting both editorial content and banner shots for large companies. So, how did they get to where they are today? Listen in to find out!
In this inspiring episode, Richard and Sara reveal:
- How they left their corporate jobs and started new careers in food photography and styling
- The equipment Sara just couldn’t do without
- Why they’re getting into video
- How they feel abut used camera equipment
- What their respective jobs actually do to get the perfect shot
- Whether the food in their shots are “fake” or actually edible
- Their advice for newer photographers
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes:
- Pheasant & Hare on Instagram
- Capture One
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode #34 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Hey, there. It’s Bjork Ostrom checking in from the lovely St. Paul, Minnesota for the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Kind of a fun thing, speaking of St. Paul, we are today talking with not only our friends but our neighbors at our Minneapolis studio. For those of you that don’t know, it’s the Twin Cities, St. Paul-Minneapolis. Lindsay and I live in St. Paul, and we have a studio where Lindsay does food photography workshops in Minneapolis. When we moved into this studio, we were hauling some stuff up the stairs, and we walked by another photography studio, and we were like, “Oh, that’s cool.” We looked, and not only was it a photography studio; it was a food photography studio. Rich and Sara from Pheasant & Hare, Rich is a food photographer and Sara’s a food stylist, and they do food photography and food video.
We wanted to have them on to talk about all of the different tips and tricks they have for different food photography related things, and food video, as well as styling, and then also talk about some high level stuff, like some of the trends that they’re seeing within the industry, and what they see from different brands that they work with, where different brands are shifting their attention to. It’s a really fun conversation and was really excited to have them on. A little bit funny because I’m doing this from our house and they’re at the studio. It’s so close but so far away, but nonetheless a great conversation with Rich and Sara. Without further ado, Rich and Sara, welcome to the podcast.
Sara Bartus: Thank you.
RichardWestley: Thanks for having us.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s fun! The ironic thing here is we don’t share the actual space, but we both have a space in the same building, but I’m recording from home today. It’s like you guys are there, I’m here, so I apologize in advance for not being there with you guys. I feel like that’s not very nice of me to be recording in the different spot. Sorry about that.
RichardWestley: It’s totally not fair.
Sara Bartus: Not fair at all.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you forgive me?
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, so the quick backstory here for those that are listening, so Lindsay and I recently got a studio spot in the Minneapolis area, kind of a trendy neighborhood. We’ve met some trendy people there, Pheasant & Hare, Sara and Richard, are two of those people. I was really excited once I had this idea, it took me awhile to get here, to have you on the podcast. We walked by your studio, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, I think these people do food photography and styling.” We got that. It was really easy for us to understand it, but I’m curious to hear from each of you. Let’s say you run into somebody, you’re meeting them out and about, and they say, “Hey, what do you do?” How do you explain what you do to somebody that you’re just meeting?
RichardWestley: Yeah, so I’m the photographer, Rich, the pheasant in the Pheasant & Hare.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, and how did you come up those? I’m so curious.
Sara Bartus: That’s a long story.
RichardWestley: That’s another-
Bjork Ostrom: Did you guys have to draw straws?
Sara Bartus: No, no.
RichardWestley: That’s another long story and Sara usually doesn’t let me tell it, so I’ll let her.
Sara Bartus: Okay, well Rich and I started working together probably four year ago, five years now?
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sara Bartus: We were working at a company and we were on company chat, and we really both like food, obviously, and Rich-
Bjork Ostrom: Company chat, what is that? Can you explain that?
Sara Bartus: Kind of like a G-chat or a-
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, sure.
Sara Bartus: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Like a internal chat-
Sara Bartus: Yeah, Instant Messeng-
Bjork Ostrom: … communication.
Sara Bartus: Yeah, Instant Messenger. We were chatting about food and I was talking about how much I like Sichuanese food.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh my gosh. I don’t even know what that is!
Sara Bartus: Like Chinese food, but from the Sichuan province.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, wow, niche!
Sara Bartus: Yeah. Rich is of Chinese heritage, and he was trying to say that he isn’t as fond of Sichuanese food because he’s a simple Cantonese peasant, but he typed pheasant, which I thought was hysterical.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m seeing that, yeah.
Sara Bartus: He’s a hunter and he also hunts for pheasants, and they’re such a fancy bird. As you mentioned, Rich is so trendy and fancy.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so you were-
Sara Bartus: I don’t think we’ve ever been called trendy before, but we’ll appreciate that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, well you guys are, just from the outside when we walked by we-
Bjork Ostrom: … by, I thought, “These people are trendy.”
Sara Bartus: It’s real-
Bjork Ostrom: I was right. You guys are.
Sara Bartus: Real nerdy. Anyways, I thought it was hysterical. Then fast forward a little bit, and we started working on a cookbook together for a different client, and we wanted to have some way of branding ourselves. We’re like, “Oh, remember that was so funny when you called yourself a pheasant?” We looked it up and the pheasant is actually the national bird of China, and so I’m half-Dutch, and we looked up the national animals of the Netherlands. We found out that, well one was the dairy cow, and we felt like that was maybe not the right-
Bjork Ostrom: Pheasant & Dairy Cow has a total-
Sara Bartus: Then-
Bjork Ostrom: … trendy ring to it.
Sara Bartus: Totally! Then the other one was the hare, and so we thought that that had a nice ring to it, and thus our name was born.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome! That’s great. Pheasant & Hare, a collaboration between the two of you.
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You each have a little bit of a different role, so Rich, can you explain-
Bjork Ostrom: … what your role is in Pheasant & Hare?
RichardWestley: Yeah, so I’m the food photographer. Typically when people ask me what I do, I usually say I’m a photographer. Then they dig a little bit deeper and I explain that I do food photography, and then they usually ask, “Oh, do you shoot for restaurants?” I usually say, “No, it’s more of the commercial, web, social, packaging, advertising, kind of work.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, and I did a total tangent in a new direction. I didn’t let you, Sara, finish how you describe what it is that you do, because I was so curious about Pheasant & Hare. Rich, do you feel like people, for the most part, understand once you say that? They’re like, “Okay, I get that,” like people understand Caribou Coffee needs images for their marketing, for instance, and people –
Bjork Ostrom: … are able to get [crosstalk 00:05:59].
RichardWestley: I think most people, I think they get it. They’re definitely fascinated by it. People are actually more interested in the food styling piece. They hear stories about how things are done in the styling world. I think from a photography perspective, they kind of get it, but they are fascinated that it’s a job, right? People think that it’s really cool.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
RichardWestley: It’s really fun, and we are blessed to do what we do, but it’s hard and it’s a grind, but it is. It is a fun job-
Bjork Ostrom: Cool.
RichardWestley: … and we-
Bjork Ostrom: I’m excited to talk a little bit about what the daily grind looks like. You do the photography aspect of it, so you’re behind the camera. Sara, how would you describe to somebody what you do? People have a phone in their pocket, so they understand photography, but they might not immediately understand what your side of the collaboration looks like.
Sara Bartus: Oh, absolutely! I’m a food stylist, and I also say that I’m a Rich wrangler, so I wrangle Rich.
Bjork Ostrom: Which is like directing Rich, literally wrangling him around and saying, “Okay, go here. Go here. Do this.”
Sara Bartus: Yeah, pretty much or like, “Stop that.”
Bjork Ostrom: That’s actually a full time job in and of itself.
Sara Bartus: I think so.
RichardWestley: Takes time.
Sara Bartus: I think his wife probably has an even bigger-
RichardWestley: She does.
Sara Bartus: … role there, but-
RichardWestley: She does a little bit of that, too.
Sara Bartus: Anyways, so actually I think a large portion of people that I know don’t actually really understand what I do, because I still get the whole like, “Oh, what camera should I get?” I’m like, “I have no idea. I don’t know anything.” They think I’m a photographer. What I say, the quick way of saying it, is that I’m a glorified makeup artist for food so-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, nice.
Sara Bartus: I might be making the food from scratch, or I might be taking a product from a client that’s already made and just trying to make it look as good as it possibly can, and then just working in front of the camera to get the plate, or the drink, or the plated meal, or item to look as pretty as it can.
Bjork Ostrom: Great, so I’m really curious to know … Rich, I want you to talk about your story a little bit, too, because I was perusing through your Instagram, and so I’ll follow up on this, but this’ll be my teaser. I saw an image of the Minnesota Pond Hockey Tournament and how that was the impetus for your photography career, or genesis, or whatever word you want to use, so I want to ask about that. Sara, I’m curious to know, with food styling, is that something that you intentionally are like, “I want to be a food stylist,” or is it like, “I kind of realized that I’m good at this,” or do you pour a bowl of Cheerios in the morning and then find yourself adjusting them so they look just right before you eat? What does that look like in terms of getting into a career as a food stylist?
Sara Bartus: Sure. For me, and it’s different for everybody … It seems like a large portion of people come from a restaurant background or a professionally trained cooking background.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, so maybe they go to school, like-
Sara Bartus: Yep.
Bjork Ostrom: … culinary school, and then they decide to shift and go into styling.
Sara Bartus: Yep, absolutely, and then there is some of the, I’d say, more experienced … There used to be the home ec degrees that a lot of people used to come from there. Then there’s a portion of us who have an art background, and my background is in art. I have-
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Sara Bartus: … a studio art degree, but I’ve always loved food. I’ve always loved to cook. After college, I went and I worked in office jobs for a couple years, and I just was really unhappy, really missed being creative. I always cooked at night. Then I was lucky enough to have a couple really good breaks. I had a friend who was a photographer, and she said, “Hey, have you ever thought of being a food stylist?” I was like, “What’s that?”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.
Sara Bartus: At the same time, I had a friend who worked at General Mills, and she was on a committee with one of their staff food stylists, and she was like, “Hey, you should come and meet this stylist, and hear what she does, and shadow her.” I did, and I absolutely loved it, and I was really fortunate and applied for an internship there, even though I was twenty-six or twenty-seven and way older than all the other-
Bjork Ostrom: Good for you!
Sara Bartus: … interns.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great!
Sara Bartus: I did that. Then I assisted for a few years, and then I was able to transition to styling, and that’s how it all worked for me.
Bjork Ostrom: What was it that you loved about it, or love about it, that you still enjoy?
Sara Bartus: I love food and I love cooking. I love being in charge of my own schedule, to some extent at least, and I love being able to use my art degree, like my background in how does this image look? Is it balanced? Is the composition good? I don’t know, I don’t know. I just like that whole putting all those pieces together. Then I even do use some of my background from office jobs and business for managing all of those fun, and not so fun, nitty-gritty part of-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, fun in quotes.
Sara Bartus: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Cool, so Rich, I did a little teaser on this. I was looking through your Instagram, and saw that pond hockey picture which is an awesome picture. I’ll just tell you your story. You were hired to photograph a hockey tournament. Is that right?
Bjork Ostrom: That was the first time you’d ever really gotten into photography?
RichardWestley: Yeah. I took a couple classes in high school and college, never really considered it a career. Got my undergraduate from liberal arts and business management. I was an art minor also, but it just never really occurred to me that the creative industry was something that I’d be interested in.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
RichardWestley: I did corporate jobs for about six or seven years, ended up at Target as an analyst, and just didn’t enjoy it. I needed something a little more tangible, a little more creative. One day, I told my wife that I was going to quit, and I quit. I actually told her on the drive. We carpooled to Target or to downtown, and I told her, “Today’s the day I’m quitting,” and she supported me.
Bjork Ostrom: Wow. You didn’t know at that point what was next.
RichardWestley: No, I did not know. I had an idea maybe I would go back to school, but I had no idea. She does events, and she was producing the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, think that was ’06 and ’07, and she said, “Hey, do you want to shoot the Pond Hockey Tournament?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t have a camera.” She’s like, “Well, go get one.” I said, “Yes, ma’am.”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you’re hired.
RichardWestley: Yeah, so she got me in touch with the agency, and they basically told me they wanted me to tell the story of old time pond hockey. I had my camera, I had my assignment, and they said, “Just go out. We’re not going to tell you anything else. We just want you to tell the story.” I loved it. I enjoyed it. I took a ton of pictures. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have a good lens, but I was having fun.
Bjork Ostrom: You did it.
RichardWestley: I did it. I turned over the files. The agency was like, “Can we get your business card?” I’m like, “Uh …”
Bjork Ostrom: “Uh … ”
RichardWestley: “Uh, business card.” They’re like, “Oh, did you run out?” I’m like, “I don’t have business-
Bjork Ostrom: I’ve been passing them out-
RichardWestley: … cards.”
Bjork Ostrom: … so much that I don’t have any left.
RichardWestley: Yeah, right. I gave them all out.
Sara Bartus: They’re all gone.
RichardWestley: I said, “You know what, I don’t even do this.” They said, “Well, you should.” It resonated with me, and I went back to school to study photography, and kind of the same route, you have to go through assisting. You work your butt off, and you build your portfolio, and here we are.
Bjork Ostrom: Why food? Was it the kind of thing where you knew that you wanted to get into that, or did you find consistent clients coming to you and requesting food? What was the reason for this path into food?
RichardWestley: Sure. I actually fell into it. I thought I wanted to do environmental portraitures, executive portraits and stuff like that. I enjoy working with people, but I found that I don’t enjoy directing people in front of the camera. I started assisting also at General Mills, and it still wasn’t that interesting to me until I started to get into it. I think what I found was, well A, I love food. I think everyone does.
Bjork Ostrom: [crosstalk 00:14:31] Yep, for sure.
RichardWestley: Yep, and then also you still get to work with people, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
RichardWestley: You’re working with two, three creatives on set, other photographers, creative directors, art directors, stylists, clients. From that, I took interest in working with people in a different way and still having, obviously, the creative piece of doing the photography.
Bjork Ostrom: I know that Lindsay talks about that sometimes, just like how she misses the collaboration of working. She has a shoot assistant she’s working with now a little bit and really loves doing that but really misses that collaboration element. I think that’s cool that you’re able to do that, without having to be like, “Okay, person that I’m photographing, move over to the left a little bit.” It’s food, which cooperates a little bit more, I think usually. Maybe not. Stylists would maybe disagree with that, but-
Sara Bartus: He likes to direct me, so I was like, “Really?-
Sara Bartus: You don’t direct people in front of-
RichardWestley: Yeah, I like-
Sara Bartus: … the camera? That’s really-”
RichardWestley: I guess I don’t-
Bjork Ostrom: He’s directing you and you’re wrangling him, and so it all-
RichardWestley: It works.
Bjork Ostrom: … works out. It balances in the end. The two very big topics that I want to talk about today … Before I say that, thanks for telling those stories. I think it’s fun for people to hear and important for people to hear the stories that people have to move them along their way. So many people that are listening to this podcast have this idea of the story and the journey that they want to take. They maybe have an idea of a destination that they want to get to. I think we all always have that. It’s not like we ever get somewhere, but I think it’s inspiring for people to hear stories and to hear, Sara, you took on an internship at twenty-six years old. I think that’s inspiring for people. Rich, you’re like, “Hey, I’m going to quit my job, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know that I’m not happy right now, and I need to make a change.”
It’s not necessarily related like food blogging, or food photography, or food styling, but it’s important, so I appreciate you guys sharing that. Two big things that I wanted to talk about, and we’ll see if we can get to both of them, but one, I’m just curious to talk about your process, photography tips that you have, any advice for the people that are listening. Then the other thing that I was interested in talking about is any of the trends that you see with the different brands that you’re working with. You have an interesting job in that you’re working with multiple brands and different people, and they’re coming to you and saying, “Here’s what we really want.” I’m curious to see if there’s trends with that, or things that you see that as a shift is happening, and maybe there is or maybe there isn’t. Those are the two things that I would love to talk about.
First let’s focus in on that area of photography, and styling, and tips, and any tricks, or things like that. I want to lead off with this question, and I’d love to have each of you answer this. If you could go back to yourself, Rich, this would be when you were first getting started, and Sara, when you were in that beginning stage, what would be the advice that you’d give to yourself professionally from a career standpoint? As a food stylist, Sara, what would you say if you were speaking to yourself when you were just getting started, the advice that you’d give to yourself?
Sara Bartus: First of all, I think Rich and I were both so lucky that we did have really great mentors and that we did have, in his case his wife, and in my case my then fiance, who supported us as we each quit our jobs and started off on internships, or for Rich going back to school. I would say I really do think that sometimes you do have to just take that leap. If you take that leap, you can figure it out from there, so I think that I would go back and say, “Don’t be afraid. You have to go for it.” Then to follow up with that, every connection is a good connection, so learn everything that you can from everyone that you work with. Just remember that every person that you work with has something valuable, whether or not it’s directly to what you’re doing, but they have something valuable to impart to you, some bit of wisdom, or a skill, or just even that connection. You never know when that might become useful again, so …
Bjork Ostrom: In a situation like that, how intentional are you in pursuing that information from somebody? Are you intentional about, or would you recommend being intentional about, asking questions or-
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: … saying like, “Do you know anybody that works in food photography?” What does that look like?
Sara Bartus: It’s more like I’m intentional about asking questions, but I think I’m thinking more of like when you’re actually in that situation. If you are already talking to someone and you know they’re in that industry or they might be in that industry, definitely asking questions about it, but not being afraid to ask those questions, but also being respectful. I think sometimes people can feel a little bit harassed. Harassed is a strong word, but it can feel a little intense to them, too. I definitely was intentional, but I really genuinely like people. If it’s something you’re passionate about, you’re going to be really curious, and you’re going to want to know those things. I think that really shows. Looking back I was so passionate about food, it just came really naturally to me to want to know everything that I could about this. I think that that serves you well with transitioning.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, and even that idea of finding what it is and taking time to think about like, “What am I passionate about?”
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Both of you guys have talked about this, but it takes an insane amount of work, and energy, and time, but that load is lightened a little bit if it’s something that you truly enjoy. It doesn’t mean that it’s not hard work. It just means that you won’t feel like this totally sucks if it’s hard work that you have to do all the time if you’re passionate about it, which makes it a little bit easier. What about for you, Rich? If you had to go back, you had a coffee shop conversation with yourself as you were just getting started in this industry. What would be some of the things that you’d say, “Hey, here’s a little tip for you”?
RichardWestley: Yeah, I would echo what Sara said about really having great mentors and really taking advantage of them, and not in a negative way.
Bjork Ostrom: [crosstalk 00:20:50]. Suck everything you can out of them and-
RichardWestley: All the-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, no I know what you mean, though.
RichardWestley: No, but you know-
Bjork Ostrom: I know what you mean.
RichardWestley: You know there are people that I’ve had the privilege of working with that, whether it was a formal mentorship or someone that I really respected, you can tell when they want to help you and they have their best interests. Those are the opportunities where you have to take it, and you can’t take it lightly, and you appreciate all of the advice that they give you. I definitely did that. It’s not something that I would tell myself I needed to do more of.
Bjork Ostrom: You would-
RichardWestley: I do-
Bjork Ostrom: … say, “You’re going to do this, and when you do, that’s a good thing.” That’s the-
Bjork Ostrom: … advice that you’d give yourself. Nice.
RichardWestley: Yep. Also, I think when people start as a photographer, especially in the commercial world, you start out as an assistant. I think a lot of times, some people get stuck as an assistant. I think it’s important for them to set a goal and say, “By the year XYZ, I want to be shooting.” I think people get complacent. I assisted for, I think, three or four years, which is fairly short, but I would have loved to have been shooting full time faster than that.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain the difference between assisting and shooting for-
Bjork Ostrom: … people that aren’t familiar?
RichardWestley: Yep, so photo assisting is essentially you’re assisting the photographer. A lot of times you’re setting up the set, you’re balancing the lights, you’re doing file management, you’re layering the files for Photoshop, you’re archiving the files.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. You’re in the room, you’re interacting, but it’s like you’re assisting the person that’s doing the main stuff and helping out with that process, versus making the creative decisions.
RichardWestley: Yes. Yep.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure.
Sara Bartus: It’s-
RichardWestley: If you’re working with a photographer that’s interested in mentoring, they’re going to give you a little more opportunities. Like I said, I had some really great people in this market help me along the way, and I was blessed by that.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m curious. Let’s say you set a date. It’s 2016 now, and if I was just getting into it, I’d say, “In 2018 or 2019, let’s say 2019, I want to be, which sounds so weird to say that, but let’s say in 2019 I want to be shooting on my own.” How do you make that transition? Do you just start to say like, “I’m going to start calling people now and asking if they need work?”
RichardWestley: Sure. I think the big thing is unfortunately you need to prove your work, so it’s building that portfolio, building your book, really establishing your brand. I think people, they’re looking for someone with a good body of work. It’s testing, which we call it testing; it’s basically portfolio work. It’s working on shots that aren’t for clients, but it’s-
Sara Bartus: Shows what you can do.
RichardWestley: Yeah, shows the breadth of your work.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s proof to somebody, like, “Hey, I can actually do this.”
RichardWestley: Yep, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: Clients want to see other client work, but they also want to see the work that you put your heart into, and what your style looks like, and so on and so forth.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Okay, cool. Sara, I’m really curious here. I know photography not super well, but I’m relatively close to it because of the stuff that Lindsay does, and I’m generally interested in photography. As a food stylist, what does the tool belt of a food stylist look like? What are the things that you use, the things that you’re like, “I couldn’t live without this,” or do you feel like it’s mostly the artistic process of rearranging things?
Sara Bartus: Oh, no. I guess a little bit of both, but for sure there are things that I take with me. I have quite the little package of tricks. I have some tool boxes, rolling tool boxes and things. The things that I would take with me on every job that I would need, that I use all the time, are a little spoon and set of tweezers that I’ve had the whole time I’ve been styling, and if I ever lose-
Bjork Ostrom: Same set?
Sara Bartus: … it I’ll-
Bjork Ostrom: Like the-
Sara Bartus: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … actual same one?
Sara Bartus: Yeah, I shouldn’t even say this because now I’m going to lose it because it’s my favorite thing.
Bjork Ostrom: I knocked on wood for you, so …
Sara Bartus: Yeah, thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: Does that apply if you just make a statement? I don’t think that’s the way knocking on wood works, but I’ll do it anyways.
Sara Bartus: Yeah, I’m doing it, too. Then a small, little set of scissors, I use a little spritzer bottle a lot for water, some paint brushes, and a really small really, really, really sharp knife.
Bjork Ostrom: Huh, and so-
Sara Bartus: Those are the ones-
Bjork Ostrom: … I’m curious with the paintbrushes, I feel like that would be one where there could … Do you have a specific type of paintbrush? Aren’t there oil paintbrushes and really stiff-
Sara Bartus: Sure, right.
Bjork Ostrom: … paintbrushes? Is there a certain kind that you would recommend or that-
Sara Bartus: I think mine are watercolor brushes. Mine are soft. I think you usually want soft. You just need something to be able to brush crumbs away or brush something on.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yep, yep, so the idea is it’s for the detail work of if you’re wrangling Rich and he’s pouring in something and it goes all over the place then-
Sara Bartus: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … maybe touch it up with a brush.
RichardWestley: She doesn’t let me pour anything.
Sara Bartus: There’s no pouring for you.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, she’s the all-time pourer.
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: Are you building something from the ground up? Somebody comes in and they have, let’s say it’s a soup, are you taking that and completely … ? You’re doing the pouring with that, you’re doing the arranging of it, everything.
Sara Bartus: Yep, yeah, and so it depends. Okay, we’ll use the soup example, but it might be that it’s a recipe for soup, in which case I’m actually making the soup from scratch and then also plating it. It might be canned soup, in which case I would be sorting through all the what they call particulates in the soup and figuring out the right ratio, and then, like you said, building the bowl of soup. Actually soup can be really challenging to style, so-
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Sara Bartus: … using those little tricks.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things I feel like comes up a lot whenever I talk to people that are not in this industry, when it comes to food styling, and I think people like this idea, is like, “Oh, that McDonald’s hamburger is probably plastic,” or “Oh, in those photo shoots they probably spray this weird stuff on it, and it’s not even real.” Do you feel like there’s anything that you use like that that’s pretty extreme that really transforms the food? Do you know what I’m talking about-
Sara Bartus: Yes, I know-
Bjork Ostrom: … or is it-
Sara Bartus: Actually I get that a lot, too. It’s like, “Oh, is everything fake?”
Bjork Ostrom: Right.
Sara Bartus: It’s like, “No.” I think there was a time, before either Rich or I were really in the industry, that that probably had some truth to it, but as the style of food photography has gotten more and more realistic, and people like seeing mess and crumbs, and that’s appetite appeal for the aesthetic that’s popular right now, most of what we do you could eat off set if it were not sitting there for so long.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right, right.
Sara Bartus: There are some things that I use that I’d be like, “Oh, you don’t want to eat that.” Especially it seems like with poultry, like whole roast birds and things like that, there’s sometimes some fun and games, or sometimes we’ll glue something to make sure it stays the way we want it, but for the most part, I really use edible stuff, everything that you’d have in your house probably pretty much.
Bjork Ostrom: Is there a special type of glue that you use, or is it like Elmer’s?
Sara Bartus: Oh, no. It’s like Super Glue. I’ve actually Super Glued myself before.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh no! Yeah.
Sara Bartus: It was like, “Really? Awesome.” But-
Bjork Ostrom: Okay, yeah, for sure. It’s interesting because it seems like that’s the general idea with food photography is that it’s the actual food, but I feel like people still have this perception that if it’s food in the photograph, it’s probably fake. It just doesn’t seem to be the reality.
Sara Bartus: No, and some companies now have almost a … I think it’s a part of their legal department that it actually does have to be their product, and it has to be … For the McDonald’s example, and I don’t know because I’ve never worked with McDonald’s, so just put that out there, but-
Bjork Ostrom: Bucket list.
Sara Bartus: … I’m guessing that they are going through quite a bit of product to find that perfect looking patty and then quite a bit of buns to find the perfect bun, and then they’re probably tweaking the bun with repositioning sesame seeds or whatever just so that it looks absolutely perfect. One thing I will say it is one thing to plate food and make it look pretty to the eye, but to do it for camera is really different.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Sara Bartus: That was a huge surprise to me. When I first started, I was like, “Oh, this looks great!” Then you’d put it under camera, and it’s like, “Ugh.”
Bjork Ostrom: What’s the difference between those two things? What do you have to change in order to make it look good for the camera?
Sara Bartus: I’ll let Rich answer, too, because he might have a interesting perspective on that, but for me it’s always seems like everything needs to be simpler for the camera. Everything will be magnified under the camera. If something looks a little bit weird to your eye, it’s going to look crazy onscreen. Then you have to remember when we look at something, we’re naturally moving a little bit, but the camera is staying in one place, so if you look at it from the perspective from the camera, you’re looking only at one very specific angle or face of something.
RichardWestley: Yeah, I think from my perspective, no pun intended-
Bjork Ostrom: Ah, well played. Good transition.
RichardWestley: [crosstalk 00:31:06]
Bjork Ostrom: You guys should do a podcast.
You guys should do a podcast.
Sara Bartus: Oh my gosh. That would be terrible.
RichardWestley: Food stylists, they’re not thinking about … Some of them I’m sure are cognizant, but they’re not thinking about, “What lens does the photographer have on his camera?”
Sara Bartus: Some of them are.
RichardWestley: Yeah, no, hey, I’m not saying … In general [crosstalk 00:31:21].
Sara Bartus: I’m not, but he’s always with me.
Bjork Ostrom: Your perspective-
RichardWestley: If I have a real big-
Bjork Ostrom: … is skewed a little bit.
RichardWestley: … wide lens on-
Sara Bartus: Yes.
RichardWestley: If I have a very wide lens on and I’m shooting a burger, it’s going to show a lot of that burger, right? It has that wide perspective. If I have a longer lens on, then it’s going to compress it, so the background’s going to get softer, and there’s going to be a very small focal point so you’re not going to see as much. I think to speak to what food likes to the eye and to the camera, it’s going to be different, especially coming from someone’s perspective that’s not always working with a camera.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
RichardWestley: Then also-
Bjork Ostrom: Go ahead.
RichardWestley: Then also the lighting when you’re looking at a burger in the kitchen when you’re styling on your stylist station, you know the lighting’s going to be different than the lighting that’s going to be on set. Lighting’s going to be, it could be directional, it could be softer, it could be harder, so that’s all going to play into how big a difference it’s going to look like when it gets on film.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, can you explain the … There’s a concept that you talked about where you’re talking about wide angle and you said, “There’s going to be essentially more of it in focus, and if you had a longer lens, then-
Bjork Ostrom: … it wouldn’t be.” Can you explain that for people that aren’t familiar with different lenses and how that works?
RichardWestley: Yep, so there are a few different things that can change the depth of field. One of them is your aperture. The larger the aperture, which is actually a smaller number, the less depth of field there is, so there’s less in focus on your focal point.
Bjork Ostrom: For example, let’s say 1.8.
RichardWestley: Yep, it’s going to be a really soft foreground or a really soft background. There’s going to be a sliver of sharpness, let’s use the burger example, on the front of the burger. Then if you go to F8 as an aperture, you know you’re probably going to get an inch of field focus depth. Then another thing that can affect the focal length is the length of your lens. If I’m shooting that same burger, getting tired of the burger, but if I’m shooting-
Bjork Ostrom: I’m a burger guy, so we could use that example all day long.
RichardWestley: Yeah, I like the burgers. If we’re shooting the burger with a lens that’s at 24mm, more of that frame is going to be in focus than if we shot it with a 100mm lens. Then also, the closer your subject, or the closer your burger to the lens, it’s also going to compress that background, so you’re still going to get an even more shallow depth of field-
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: … using a longer lens.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool, yeah, that’s one of those photography concepts that I didn’t realize, when I was first getting started, was that the depth of field … I understood aperture and that made sense, and I also understood if somebody’s closer to you, then you know the background blur will be greater, but I didn’t understand the longer the focal length of a lens, that impacts depth of field. I think that’s a really cool point that I wanted to point out here for those that weren’t familiar. Rich, we didn’t get a chance for you to talk about in your tool belt, obviously this wouldn’t be a literal tool belt, but what are the things that you feel like are the essentials for you in terms of gear? You can talk about specifically what type of brand and stuff. I’d be interested to know what are your go-tos?
RichardWestley: Yeah, I use my iPhone.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, entirely! Nice, iPhone 4, yeah, for all of your shots.
RichardWestley: It’s the first version.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s actually you just do it within Instagram, and then you just send it.
Sara Bartus: It’s all Instagram. That’s all we do.
Bjork Ostrom: The clients say, “Where are the photos?” You say, “You can just go to my Instagram and pull them-
Sara Bartus: Exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … from there.”
RichardWestley: Yeah, I actually shoot Nikon, all DSLR. When I shoot for commercial photographer for commercial clients, I’m shooting tethered to my iMac with One software.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about how that works? I think that’d be interesting for people to hear.
RichardWestley: Yeah, so Capture One is a software. It’s a raw processor, so basically it’s a USB connected to my camera.
Bjork Ostrom: Is it like a super long cord?
RichardWestley: You can have varying lengths, but yeah I have probably a ten to fifteen foot cord just so that my camera, if I’m on a [bono 00:35:36] stand shooting top down, which all clients want these days, I need that action length. Yeah, it basically is a software that we get to see the image instantaneously instead of looking on the back of the camera.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: Then you process out those raws as whatever kind of file you need.
Bjork Ostrom: Just to dig into that a little bit more, so what’s the advantage of that? I think most people would know, but I’d be interested to hear.
RichardWestley: Yeah, it’s nice for your clients to be able to see exactly what they’re going to see before I do Photoshop on it. One thing that’s really nice is you can put overlays on it. Let’s say we’re shooting Caribou Coffee and they have the artwork done and the copy, so they can send me that layout, and then we can actually image overlay it right over the photo while we’re shooting, so every time we take a shot, the new shot will come underneath that layout. We can change the size and the opacity of the layout to really make sure that we’re getting what the designers are looking for.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: Then same with crops. Say we’re working with a client that’s looking for a web banner. Say it’s a vertical shot one inch by ten inches, so not a typical aspect ratio. We can create that crop as an overlay or a layout, and so we can shoot specific to that design.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. That’s called Capture One.
RichardWestley: Capture one.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. I’m looking at Capture One Pro 9. Does that sound right? I just pulled it up here.
RichardWestley: That’s the greatest, newest and greatest.
Bjork Ostrom: Newest and greatest, okay cool. We’ll link to that if anybody wants to check it out. Cool. You’re shooting DSLR, obviously Nikon, you’re hooked into iMac. You’re using Capture One. What are some of the go-to lenses that you like?
RichardWestley: For Lou … For Lou, I don’t even know what I was saying. For food-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, lewd. It’s a niche within-
RichardWestley: I was thinking of lens and food, so I was like-
Bjork Ostrom: Lewd, yeah. That’s what happens. That’s like when a crumb gets on your lens.
Bjork Ostrom: Then that act is called a lewd, and so you got to get rid of the lewd.
RichardWestley: That food styling lewd act.
Sara Bartus: [crosstalk 00:38:06]
RichardWestley: It really depends. If I’m shooting editorial or social web-type photography, it’s usually a longer lens, a 50mm to 100, and it’s typically a prime lens, which is a lens you can’t zoom and-
Bjork Ostrom: When you say editorial, just to define that a little bit, what does that mean?
RichardWestley: Like cookbooks-
Sara Bartus: That’s the fun and pretty stuff.
RichardWestley: Yeah, magazines. The good stuff, you know?
Sara Bartus: That’s the stuff you guys get to see.
RichardWestley: Yeah, the pretty stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, versus a banner, or what would be-
RichardWestley: Yeah, versus packaging.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: Usually packaging, you want everything sharp, so you might use a little bit of wider lens. When you’re shooting packaging, they usually want it fairly sharp, and they need to outline it, so they cut out … Let’s say we’re shooting a bowl of Cheerios. They want to outline that bowl, so in order to do that, in Photoshop, you need that sharp line contrast, so-
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
RichardWestley: Yeah, it really depends on the job, it depends on the client, but most of my stuff can be done between that 50 to 100 for a DSLR.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. I’m curious. If somebody’s just starting out, they’re maybe in the like, “Hey, I think I’m going to buy some stuff for my food photography,” and let’s say they have a budget of $500, which is a lot of money to spend, but at the same time it might not be able to get you too much, what would you recommend they do with that budget?
RichardWestley: People always ask me. I shoot Nikon, and actually most of the photographers I work with shoot Canon. This isn’t really exactly answering your question, but it-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting nonetheless, yeah. [crosstalk 00:40:06]
RichardWestley: Yeah, so to me the camera body’s important, but the lenses are more important to me than the camera body. It’s hard because I always tend to persuade people to buy the best.
Sara Bartus: Like my husband for-
Sara Bartus: … example.
RichardWestley: Like Sara’s husband, I get in trouble with Sara when I say, “Ah, don’t waste your money on that. Spend more money on this.”
Bjork Ostrom: I’m the same way with computers, or if somebody’s like, “What should I buy?” Part of it’s like, “Well, what’s your budget?” But it’s like, “Man, buy the best thing you can if you’re really going to be using it a lot.” That’s the qualifier is if you’re actually going to be using it.
RichardWestley: Yeah. You can get a decent DSLR with a sensor. It would be hard to get a decent lens with a decent camera for $500. That’s a tough one.
Sara Bartus: Rich-
RichardWestley: I would-
Sara Bartus: Rich-
RichardWestley: You know what I would say if you are-
Sara Bartus: Rich is not a bargain hunter.
RichardWestley: I would tell them to get a bigger budget.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, here’s my advice, is don’t buy a camera yet and save up for a little bit. One of the things that we recommend is, and I think Nikon has a similar one, is they call it the Fifty Nifty. I don’t know if that’s what they actually call it, but it’s like a 50mm 1.8 prime lens, and I think it usually lands in the $100 to $200 range. I haven’t looked at bodies for a long time, in terms of even a new used one, to see what that would be like, but yeah it’s-
RichardWestley: Yeah, used cameras-
Bjork Ostrom: … tough to get-
RichardWestley: Used cameras are good. I’ve bought used film cameras before and never had a problem. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a used lens, but I’ve used obviously used lenses.
Sara Bartus: I think actually the lens that you recommended for my husband, I think he got a used one, and it was great!
Bjork Ostrom: Hey, all right! Good, even thought it was really expensive.
RichardWestley: Yes, buy used.
Sara Bartus: Yeah, it was expensive. It was much cheaper because he got it used, but-
RichardWestley: Yeah, he bought a nice fast lens.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice. What were you going to say, Rich? You use … Were you talking about the … ?
RichardWestley: I don’t remember, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. It was so long ago. It was like five seconds ago.
RichardWestley: It was like ten seconds.
Sara Bartus: Five seconds is …
RichardWestley: It might have been ten.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I was curious to ask about was natural light versus artificial light. Is that a client-based thing? Are you guys always shooting in artificial light?
Sara Bartus: Yes, sir.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have a preference one way or the other?
RichardWestley: Yeah, we both have preferences one or the other.
Bjork Ostrom: Do they match up?
RichardWestley: Yeah, unfor-
Sara Bartus: Uhh-
Sara Bartus: … no.
RichardWestley: Unfortunately, well not unfortunately, the bulk of our work being in commercial photography is artificial light.
Bjork Ostrom: Why is that?
RichardWestley: Because you need control. I get the most control out of natural light as far as consistent exposure.
Sara Bartus: No, not natural light.
RichardWestley: I’m sorry.
Bjork Ostrom: Artificial light.
RichardWestley: I get the most control-
Sara Bartus: There you go.
RichardWestley: … from artificial light. Yep, there she wrangles.
Bjork Ostrom: Yep, you’re wrangling now. That’s good [crosstalk 00:43:04].
RichardWestley: Controlling the color, the exposure, the quality of the light, the contrast, the softness, blah, blah, blah. If we’re shooting packaging, I can’t shoot three bowls of cereal, because it would probably take a couple days to get those three bowls of cereals all with that exact same consistent light.
Sara Bartus: You probably still even could. I mean it’s-
Sara Bartus: … amazing if you look through and watch the light change. I didn’t really believe him in the beginning, but now-
RichardWestley: Then also if we’re shooting something like, say, a stack of pancakes, we’ll shoot the pancakes, and then if the client wants syrup, we’re trying to A, freeze the syrup so it’s not showing motion, and then B, I might take anywhere from three to ten exposures of that syrup and composite together to get the perfect syrup composure or composition.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you explain what you did for that?
RichardWestley: Yeah. Sara’s styling pancakes and we get in a spot that we really like, just the cakes, and I’ll take an exposure of that. Then she’ll start doing syrup, and let’s say the clients wants a cascade of syrup on the left. She’ll start doing the top, and then she’ll bring some syrup down on the left, and then I’ll shoot an exposure for that. Then let’s say the client wants one on the right, so we’ll do that and we’ll bring a cascade of syrup down the right. Then they want one more coming forward, so she’ll style the syrup coming forward. Syrup moves, so if we try to do it all in one, we wouldn’t get all the cascading syrups the way that the client wants, so we’ll shoot them separate, and then in Photoshop layer them up as layers, and then mask them off, and then we can paint in those areas that we want of the specific cascading syrup.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome, cool. One of the things that I was interested in talking about is obviously the photography process, tips, tricks, and just how things work for you guys in general, but I’m also interested to talk a little bit about this idea of working with brands. It’s something that some of the people that listen to the podcast do, but for a lot of people that listen to the podcast, they’re doing their own thing. They’re maybe observing from the outside different trends that they can observe and see brands doing, but you guys are working hands-on, and you’re interacting with these brands, and you’re hearing from them. I know that let’s say in web design there’s trends, and as an example, there’s the trend moving towards flat design, and maybe that’s a universal design trend. I see it in web the most obviously. Are there similar trends that you see as you work with brands, in terms of photography and styling, and could you, if there are those, maybe talk about what those would be?
Sara Bartus: Sure.
Bjork Ostrom: Great.
RichardWestley: Go ahead, Sara.
Sara Bartus: You go ahead, Rich. No.
Sara Bartus: Go.
Bjork Ostrom: Same time.
RichardWestley: Same time.
Sara Bartus: I will start. I think I mentioned before just that movement away from things being really perfect. A phrase that we hear all the time I feel like is “perfectly imperfect,” so that crumb falling off of the piece of cake just so, and so it looks natural and a little bit messy but not too messy.
Bjork Ostrom: Why do you think that is?
Sara Bartus: It used to be so perfect. If you look back, people used to literally measure things, like, “Oh, this is supposed to be cut into quarter inch cubes,” and you’d literally measure the quarter inch cube. Now I think people want it to look like something approachable, something you could either make at home, or it’s not scary, it’s not so perfect. For me personally, I find it much more attractive, the food that actually looks like-
Bjork Ostrom: Food.
Sara Bartus: Yeah, food, exactly. Exactly! That’s exactly right, like not plastic, not the plastic burger that doesn’t move.
Bjork Ostrom: Do you think that ties into the real food movement at all, or is that … ?
Sara Bartus: Hmm, oh an excellent point!
Bjork Ostrom: Is this moving into philosophical a little bit?
Sara Bartus: I think we could. We could do that. No, I think … I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought of that. That’s so-
Bjork Ostrom: People don’t want-
Sara Bartus: … insightful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, people want as much as possible their thing, whatever it is, their food, to look real. I don’t know.
Sara Bartus: Yeah, I think there could definitely be something to that. I think that people aren’t as formal either in their lives. I don’t think that we aren’t doing the 1950s formal cocktail dresses and cocktail hours and all that.
Bjork Ostrom: Lindsay and I still are, but we’re … Yeah.
Sara Bartus: Oh, well you should invite me over then, because I would want-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. We’ll have perfectly plated dinners that we’ll serve you.
Sara Bartus: Yes, absolutely.
RichardWestley: We had a progressive studio dinner.
Sara Bartus: That-
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, yeah, progressively perfect studio dinner.
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Sara Bartus: Progressively perfect. Done. No, I think you have a good point there, so-
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks, I appreciate it. I sneak one in every once in awhile. Rich, one of the things that we were talking about once in passing was you’d said that you’ve noticed a big trend, or maybe it’s not a trend, like a movement, to use that word in a fitting way, I hope, but towards video. Is that something-
Sara Bartus: Just I knew where you were going.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it was a nice little lead in there. Look at us, doing these great little transitions. You said that you’re starting to do more of that work with Pheasant & Hare. Do you feel like that’s because that brands are coming to you and saying, “We really want video?” or are you like, “Hey, I’m really interested in video, so I want to do more of it”, or a little bit of both? What does that look like?
RichardWestley: I think it’s consumers. I think what clients are seeing is a huge interest in moving pictures from consumers, and how-to videos, and things that are aspirational, and things that people can attain to make, so to speak.
Bjork Ostrom: Can I tell you a quick story about that real quick?
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Sara Bartus: We like stories.
Bjork Ostrom: Story time. I was in Scandia, Minnesota today. Have you guys ever been to Scandia?
Sara Bartus: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You have! For what?
RichardWestley: Oh, yeah.
Sara Bartus: Oh, yeah. Not quite sure that I remember.
RichardWestley: Yeah, I don’t remember what-
Sara Bartus: I don’t know what we were doing there, but I’m sure we were there.
Bjork Ostrom: This is where we learn you actually haven’t been to Scandia; you’ve only heard of it.
Sara Bartus: No, I’m pretty sure I’ve been to Scandia.
Bjork Ostrom: I’m-
Sara Bartus: Okay, anyways.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you guys, we can check in on it later. Great town. Love Scandia. We were going there. This is going to turn it into a two hour podcast, because this is a one hour story. The orphanage that Lindsay and I are connected with, and work with, and we spent a year there, they have somebody who volunteers to do web development, and so we go to Scandia to meet with him. We go into the Scandia Calf-A, and it’s spelled C-A-L-F dash A, okay? That’s an important note there, Scandia Calf-A, and they have Mona Lisa cow paintings and stuff. The special for the day was, they called it a Super Bowl Cheeseburger something. I don’t know what it … It wasn’t a cheeseburger, but it was something, and then it was deep fried or I don’t know what. I’m food illiterate in case you guys don’t know.
We asked about it, and we’re like, “That’s so interesting. It’s such a unique thing. Where did you hear about it?” The cook from outback came out and he’s like, “Oh, I saw this on Facebook.” He pulled it up and he showed it to us, and it was literally one of those fast motion, how-to, you can make this food videos. I was like, “Oh my gosh. Not only are people consuming these and watching it at home, but literally there are restaurants that are using this as inspiration for their certain specials for the day.” I just thought it was so interesting, so that’s-
Sara Bartus: Yeah, that’s amazing.
Bjork Ostrom: … the end of story time. You’re seeing that with brands. You’re seeing them have an interest in moving towards video and those kind of-
Bjork Ostrom: … how-to videos.
RichardWestley: It’s inspiring people to do it, so it’s not teaching people how. The specific ones we’re working right now, that fifteen, thirty second quick videos, it’s not teaching people how to make the recipe. It’s encouraging them to click on the link to buy the product to make the recipe.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Sara Bartus: I also think people’s attention span has gotten so much shorter. Even for myself. I know when I’m flipping through Instagram, you want something that catches your eye. If you’re just scrolling through really quickly and you see something moving, you’re a little bit more likely to stop, so I think that’s another reason that people are really moving towards video. It does seem like that is something that really, really, really has picked up. When Rich and I first started working together, we did that for fun in the very beginning just a little bit, and now it’s something that we are doing more, and more, and more, and more of. A lot of our stills clients are like, “Hey, you guys do video, right?”
Bjork Ostrom: You’re like, “Yep.”
Sara Bartus: Works for me. Yep.
Sara Bartus: Yep.
RichardWestley: We do now.
Sara Bartus: We do now.
Bjork Ostrom: We talk about it a lot in terms of attention economics, and it’s the economics of a situation is online where the attention is. If people are giving attention to video, then naturally economically things shift. It’s so interesting to see how that changes and the different industries it affects. You guys as still photographers and stylists, the economics of attention have an influence on the type of work that you do, which I think is so interesting. Can you guys talk a little bit about on a high level how you do those type of videos? What does that look like for you start to finish to do that?
RichardWestley: Yeah, so usually clients work with an agency to storyboard and pick what recipes they’re going to do. Then, really similar to what we’re doing in stills as far as propping, and then food comes on set, depending on the recipe, maybe we’re using that recipe to get to the final what we call hero recipe, but we’re just recording it the whole time.
Sara Bartus: I think it helps-
Bjork Ostrom: You press record and then you don’t stop, like-
RichardWestley: There will be times when we stop. There might be a roadblock where we’re like, “Well, hang on. Let’s think about what we’re going to do next.” If we’re doing that, I’ll stop recording and then just hit record once we get going again.
Bjork Ostrom: Let’s say that you have a half an hour of footage. Do you then pull it in and then you watch it back to grab the good parts, or do you make a note of where the good part is? What does that look like in terms of tracking that? It’s obviously a different process for-
RichardWestley: Yeah, and my process is probably not the most economical, efficient way to do it. I’m basically, when I pull a card out of the camera, I just call on my Mac and figure out which clips I need and then just piece it together.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice, and then are most of the ones that you’re doing sped up, like they’re fast?
RichardWestley: Oh, yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Bjork Ostrom: Great. Sara, you were starting to say something. Do you remember what it was? Do you have a longer memory than Rich does?
Sara Bartus: I do have a longer memory than Rich, I think.
Sara Bartus: Wow, so crazy. I think what I was going to say is that for styling it’s really different, too, because you go from something where you can see every tiny, little flaw in what you’ve put on the plate, you can see every little tear in the piece of meat or every little blemish on the tomato. Then you go to video and it’s like first of all it’s sped up. Second of all, it’s fifteen seconds, and nobody’s looking at it so closely, so it’s a really different … You’re looking much more for bigger issues or overall movements, and so having someone who’s comfortable being under camera and actually doing the … It helps because I do a lot of the-
RichardWestley: The hand modeling.
Sara Bartus: … the hand modeling.
Bjork Ostrom: Stirrings, yeah, right.
Sara Bartus: The stirring.
RichardWestley: The stirring.
Sara Bartus: I do a lot of that, and that I think helps, because I can then control how it looks, and it’s hard to style. You can’t really change it with video. That’s the one thing we’ve realized is once you’ve poured that milk onto that cereal, there’s no going back.
Bjork Ostrom: You can’t fix it and post in the same order that you can-
Sara Bartus: Right, exactly, exactly.
Bjork Ostrom: … in photos. Yeah, cool. It’s an interesting trend to see how that slowly but consistently is impacting specifically the food industry. I feel like on Facebook, for a while I thought it was like, “Oh this is just me, because this is the industry we’re in,” but it’s like, “Oh, wow. This is everybody that’s seeing how to make these rose colored cookies from TipHero or whatever.” It’s a really interesting trend to see how that impacts both on Instagram, and Facebook, and other places. It’s cool.
Sara Bartus: It’s everywhere.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re coming to the end here. Is there anything else that you guys feel like would be really important for people that are listening that are just getting into the food photography and food styling world, like, “Hey, this should be something you should know,” a takeaway, any other kind of parting thoughts that you want to bestow upon the listeners of the Food Blogger Pro podcast that you guys can think of?
Sara Bartus: Do you have anything, Rich? You got to think?
RichardWestley: I’m thinking.
Sara Bartus: He’s thinking. I would say I think that finding someone who can be mentor is really, really important, and really respecting that mentorship and being so appreciative. Then I would also say that, and this one’s really I think was tricky for both of us, is there’s going to come a time where you are maybe going to get an opportunity for a job and you’re going to be really, really scared, and you’re going to have to be really honest with yourself and think, “Is this something I can do?” Then if you feel like, “Yep, it might be, but it’s kind of scary,” that you should probably still go for it. I might be not articulating this-
Bjork Ostrom: No, that’s awesome.
Sara Bartus: It’s a really delicate line, because you obviously don’t want to overcommit to something that you’re not going to be able to come through for the client on that particular job, but you also … It’s scary. It’s really scary to be like, “Yep, I’m going to do this, and it’s all going to be me, and I’m going to figure it out. I’ve never done this particular thing before exactly for a client. Maybe I’ve done it a few times for a test, or maybe I assisted on a job like this, and I learned how to do it, and I think I can do it, but I’ve never done it for a client.” The only way to move forward is to, at some point, say, “You know what. I have enough background in it. I know I can do this, but I’m scared, but I’m still going to just take that leap and go for it.”
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. I think it’s something that in a lot of ways, regardless of it’s client work, or we talk about even with publishing a blog post, that can be a scary, vulnerable thing where you’re putting yourself out there, and-
Sara Bartus: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: … to know that, and this is what I heard you saying a little bit, you’re probably a little bit more capable than you think you are, and to move forward, and to go for it, which I think is awesome. Rich, that’s pretty darn inspiring, man. I don’t know. Do you have anything?
RichardWestley: Yeah, I can’t top that. No, just back to what we talked about, really finding a good mentor, taking advantage of your mentor.
Sara Bartus: Oh, God.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’ll use that as the pull quote for this podcast.
RichardWestley: I also talked about portfolio testing, just really working on your work, really establishing your brand. I think it’s important to define where you want to go, but then also how do I set myself apart from the other photographers? There’s a lot of great photographers in town. There are a lot of great food blogger photographers.
Sara Bartus: And great stylists, too.
RichardWestley: Great stylists, too, and then also one thing that we work really hard on as Pheasant & Hare is being on top of trends. Clients are always wanting photographers and stylists to have a look, you know?
Bjork Ostrom: Yep.
RichardWestley: There’s definitely a shift in right now for food photography, across all mediums, to have that editorial look. Being able to be flexible, and having different styles, and different lighting techniques, and styling techniques, depending on what the brand your client wants, it’s important to be able to have that, to really be able to do that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome, cool. Appreciate you guys coming on so much! It was so fun to talk to you. If nothing else, this would have been just as valuable because we’re studio neighbors, but not only that; we get to record it and publish it as a podcast. Last question before we wrap up. Where can people find you? Where can they follow along with what you’re doing on social media or things like that, if they are not in state? If they are, and if they’re interested in working with you, whether they have a company or a brand that needs some help with some food or recipe related photography or video, where can people find what you’re doing?
RichardWestley: We’re on the interwebs.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s good.
RichardWestley: You may have heard of it.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s a good start.
RichardWestley: Yeah, our website www.pheasantandhare.com.
Bjork Ostrom: Great.
Sara Bartus: As in the bird and the rabbit.
RichardWestley: The bird and the rabbit, and then our social platform is Instagram.
Sara Bartus: We have a Facebook page, but we don’t check it.
Bjork Ostrom: Don’t go there, yeah.
Sara Bartus: Don’t go there.
RichardWestley: Yeah, don’t go there. Don’t go there, but-
Sara Bartus: Don’t go to Facebook.
RichardWestley: … go to Instagram and follow us, because we do fun things and-
Bjork Ostrom: You guys, we get to see your dogs then.
RichardWestley: We’re trendy people.
Sara Bartus: We’re so trendy.
RichardWestley: We’re so trendy.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, if there’s one thing that we want to take away from it, it’s that. I do want to make this note. Hunter and then Beau … Is Beau your dog, Sara?
Sara Bartus: Yeah, Beau is my dog and Hunter is Rich’s dog, and I [crosstalk 01:01:32].
Bjork Ostrom: They’re friends with Sage, which is so fun-
Sara Bartus: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: … to have that connection. Cool. Sara, Rich, thank you guys so much for coming on the podcast today. Really fun to talk to you, and I know that people will get a lot out of it, so thanks. Really appreciate it.
Sara Bartus: Thank you-
RichardWestley: Yeah, thanks.
Sara Bartus: … so much for having us here.
RichardWestley: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Sara Bartus: It was really fun.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we’ll see you around.
Sara Bartus: Yeah.
RichardWestley: Thanks, Bjork.
Bjork Ostrom: All right.
Sara Bartus: Thanks.
Bjork Ostrom: Bye. That’s a wrap for episode #34. Thank you so much for tuning in. Hey, real quick note here as an aside before we wrap up. Just want to say thank you for those of you who have been able to jump on and leave a review on iTunes. It really means a lot to us. I wanted to call out one here, and it is from iamlauren. She said, “I’m so appreciative of this podcast. The content, the questions, the guests, it’s all good. I even get the theme music stuck in my head.” All right, happy to hear that. She says, “The information shared here is so valuable. It has really introduced me to a lot of great ideas and tools.” Thank you, iamlauren, for that review. We really appreciate any reviews that you can leave.
It helps us to show up higher, so it’s like a search factor for iTunes, so that just means a lot to us if you guys are able to jump in and do that, if you’re in iTunes or wherever you are listening to this podcast. Thank you guys so much, and hope that you continue to find value in these podcasts. We will continue to offer them each and every week for free as a way to say thank you for following along with what we’re doing. We will be back here in seven days, same time, same place, with another podcast. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks, guys.