Friday, March 1, 2013

Inspiration from the blogging community - Jerry Deutsch

 A couple of  months back, Bart Luczak of K&L food blog started a food photo critique club, a gathering of like minded people who love to share their passion for food photography and a great place to learn. Some of the members are professional photographers and some of them chefs - most of them masters in their own field. I am so glad to be part of it as I have learned a lot and it is a lot of fun. Jerry is a professional still life and product photographer specializing in food photography. He is part of the food photography club and I have learned some valuable lessons and gotten some great tips from him.  Jerry has a very keen eye, and trust me, there is not a teeny tiny shadow that he will miss. I think he is the tech wiz as far as photography is concerned and he knows the science behind the art. I think some of us (and that totally includes me) are driving him nuts with our endless questions. Hope we don't drive you away!  Thanks Jerry and thanks to all of you at the photo club for the critique, feedback and encouragement.

My first lesson was: there is always one hero and that is your subject - food! Am never going to forget that lesson. There is so much to learn from him that I thought it would be great to have him over at TnS. Welcome Jerry,  hope you enjoy your stay as much as we enjoy having you over. For his complete portfolio you can visit him here or on his blog : photography by Jerry 

What inspired you to food photography? Where did you study photography or are you self-taught?

I am neither self-taught nor did I get a photography education in college. I was trained as an assistant/apprentice. (Now they call them interns.) I did take classes online and attend seminars.

I was first exposed to photography in high school (a long time ago) and fell in love with it. It gave me an opportunity to be artistic even though I couldn’t draw, paint or sculpt. Photography was my hobby through high school and college. One day we had a speaker at our photo club at college – a wedding photographer from a local studio. He told us about becoming a photographer’s assistant and I jumped at the opportunity. I did that for over two years and finally went out on my own as a wedding and bar mitzvah photographer. During that time, I had graduated from college started a career as a chemist and switched to become a science teacher. 

As a teacher, I had the summers off and saw an opportunity to become a summer assistant for a commercial still life photographer in New York City. I did that for two summers for one photographer and for a third summer at a different studio. This last summer was for a food photographer. I fell in love with it.

What in your opinion is a great food photograph? In other words what elements do you look for in a food photograph?

The last thing I look at is the food. I am a photographer, not a foodie. I look at composition and light. I am judging to see if the image could stand on its own, regardless of the subject. Now, that being said, great food makes for great food photos. But, you don’t always get great food to shoot. My job is to use the tools of light, composition, angle of view, point of view, background and depth of field to make whatever is placed in front of me look as good as it can look. Making the food look great is why I have a food stylist. My stylist is my muse. They provide my inspiration.

What inspires you before a photo shoot? Do you spend a lot of time on props?

I don’t use many props. I like coming in close on my subject. I have two rules of photography. Rule 1: after taking a picture, take it again closer. Rule 2: go back to Rule 1. 
When I do use props, my stylist and I would spend a lot of time getting its position perfect. I look for the way the edges of things intersect. The food stylist is in charge of moving the food, and we would both move the props. I shoot tethered and find it much easier to look at the image on the computer screen rather than through the viewfinder or back of the camera. I like shooting at small f/stops to get lots of DOF and you really can’t see that through the lens…I don’t like using the DOF Preview button. Boy this is so different than the old days when I was assisting.  We would shoot Polaroid’s and then shoot film – leaving the set untouched until the film came back a few hours later. Digital really spoiled me (in a good way.)

What is your favorite photography gear?

Mirrors. OK, maybe not but, mirrors are what make my life easier when shooting food. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and the 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens most of the time. I love that lens.

A little bit about lighting in photography and the equipment you use.

I only use studio strobes. I have the same inexpensive strobes that I started with 3 years ago. I have 5 strobes in total but most of the time I use two. I use a soft box in the front and try to get specular highlights using a grid spot from the side/back.

Photography is part art and part science, in your opinion what is the single most important aspect of photography, that makes the image speak to the audience?

It’s all about the light. Good lighting is the most important aspect of good food photography…it’s what makes the food jump off the page. Of course, good composition is also crucial…using the frame, leading lines, balance etc. are all very important. 

The discussion of photography as art or science is very important to me. I am more of the scientist than the artist. Actually, I think of myself more as a technician. I am less about the concept and creativity; I am more about the lighting, composition, execution and problem solving. I feel that as a food photographer, my job is to make someone else’s vision come to life.

What is your favorite food photography that you have ever taken and why? 

I have several favorite images. One is of sliced tomato with honey being drizzled on them. Another is of a fruit tart. Both of these have wonderful composition, similar points of view but totally different lighting. My third favorite is of chocolates. Unfortunately, I cannot share that image because of my agreement with the client. Close behind I have several images of muffins. I love these because of either the texture or the sexy drizzle. I really like something I had done recently, a concept thought up by my stylist-pork on cabinet knobs. I like this one because it forced me out of my comfort zone…something that is really good to do.

What is your advise to emerging food photographers?

I have a hard time with this question because I still consider myself an emerging food photographer. I started food photography after I had retired from teaching. I’ve only been doing it for three years and there is still so much more to learn. I’ll give it my best shot.

Like you become a doctor before you become a specialist, be a photographer before you become a food photographer. Not necessarily a professional photographer, but, know your basics of photography first. Composition should be second nature.

Find yourself a great team. Whether its assistants or stylists or anyone who will help you create your images. The more eyes on the image, the better it is. 

Shoot tethered. Know what the image looks like on the big screen.

Look at your light. See how the light is shaping your image. Don’t just see if the food is right. Specular highlights and shadows are what make light special. 

The light, composition, point of view, the placement of objects in the frame and the other aspects that make a great image are your responsibility. It’s like going to a beautiful location and taking a picture. It’s not the location that makes the photo beautiful, it’s the light, point of view, choice of lens and exposure, and composition that make a great image stand out above everyone else’s. 

And most importantly, know what the hero of the image is.  Are the other elements in the image supporting your hero or distracting from it. Remember, it’s all about the hero and everything else is there to direct us to it.

Oh, one more thing that nobody would ever tell you. Join a camera club that has monthly competitions. While the rules of a camera club are different than what you will use in food photography, it will get you to be much more careful about composition and lighting. Remember, camera club judging is unique, often to be ignored. But, use it to learn the basics.

Print Friendly and PDF


  1. nice article.. nice tips about food photography and styling

  2. Beautiful photos, great tips on food photography still I am a kindergartner in that part.

  3. absolutely great post..jerrys pics are always fab

  4. I too joined that group, but so far could not post anything there. Thanks for sharing these tips.. i am not doing good on this resolution of getting better in food photography! This post is like a kick in the butt have to start doing something!

  5. I often think you take beautiful photos of food and its nice of you to look up to another photographer and learn from him.Thanks for sharing his knowledge. I love his photos.

  6. Wonderful to learn more tips and tricks about food photography,am still a baby in fotography, beautiful clicks, he rocks.

  7. This post is a very interesting & informative.. The food pics are simply awesome,amazing, mouth watering and a feast for the eyes. I am feeling hungry already.


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to browse. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. Hope you enjoy your stay :))


Related Posts with Thumbnails