I have been teaching photography courses for the last two years and before that, I helped to train new digital tech, and Jr. photographers at my previous job. I have found that one of the biggest problems that new photographers have is getting sharp photos. Whether you are a food photographer, a product photographer or a lifestyle photographer these tips are for you.Read More
In August of 2010, I ordered a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head (you can order yours at www.reallyrightstuff.com). I have had the Really Right Stuff BH55 for 8 years now. I think it is now safe for me to do a little review of this ball head. The BH55 is the biggest, beefiest, and most expensive ball head that Really Right Stuff offers. In the configuration that I have this ball head runs $489. So the big question, is a ball head worth $489 for a food and product photographer?Read More
I got asked to do the cover photography for the Murfreesboro Magazine Burger Issue again this year. This is one of my favorite editorials that I get to shoot. The magazine sends me to some incredible burger places in the Murfreesboro, TN area. This year I went to Goodness Gracious at the Mill, Burger Republic, and BurgerIm. I had a fantastic time doing burger photography at all three restaurants. Keep Reading to check out the tear sheets and see behind the scenes.Read More
My Top 5 Food Photography Purchases of 2018
As much as I like to say that photography is not about the gear, having the right tools certainly makes the job easier and faster. So here are my top 5 food photography purchases of 2018.
DJI Osmo Mobile. I use the Osmo Mobile every day. I do all of my instagram stories, and IGTV post with the DJI Osmo Mobile. It is a fantastic gimbal for phones. The price point is right as well. Also this gimbal has amazing battery life.
Wall Plates. These things are cheap and invaluable on set. I use them as surfaces, and also to mount reflectors to. I honestly don’t know how I used A clamps to hold reflectors up before this. Below is a detail shot of a wall plate and another image of me showing how to tape a wall plate to a reflector doing a workshop.
20in C Stand. While I only have one 20in C-Stand it is one of the most valuable players in my kit. You don’t always need a full size 40in C-Stand. These little guys are the right weight and size for so many jobs. I often will use them to hold on to a wall plate that I will use as a surface. I purchased mine used from a retired photographer it only ran me like $20. You can see one on set holding up a bottle of Rock Town Bourbon below. This bottle of bourbon is actually sitting on a wall plate.
The Zoom F1-LP. This is an affordable wired lavaliere microphone and recorder. I purchased this for a video tutorial series on Adobe Lightroom that I did for The Luxe Academy. I used this microphone in all videos that I produced for them, and I have also used it in a ton of quick IG stories that I have created and on some talking heads interviews. This mic really helped to open the world for video up to me.
Flag Frames. When I worked at Saks 5th Avenue I discovered the beauty of Flag Frames. These little guys are fantastic. They mount to the knuckle of a c-stand and allow you to move around your diffusion panel with ease. I tend to put Savage Translum on them because it is a great diffusion material. Like wall plates these will change the way you work. It makes moving and adjusting flags super easy. You can see a flag fame with Translum diffusion on set here it is on the left side of the image. We were working on a video shoot here and it was the perfect tool to diffuse the led panel.
To sum it up real quick none of these items will make you a better photographer. They are nice things to have to speed up your workflow and to open up some doors. The links in the descriptions are just there for information. I don’t get a kick back of any sort from linking to these products and I am not affiliated with any of the brands.
Nick Bumgardner is a food and beverage photographer based out of Nashville, TN.
It has been two years and I have never talked about what happened that led me to food photography.
One word Passion. Reality is complicated. Two years ago I was laid off from my Lead Still Life Photographer job at a luxury retailer. I was thrown a curve ball. I knew it was coming. Six months before the lay off I started to get some strange vibes at work. Three months before the layoff the company formally announced the layoffs. I still get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about it.
Life is a journey let's talk about it!
I have been a commercial photographer for the last 10 years. I started as a freelancer for a newspaper. I met some awesome people while there and started being a photo assistant. I wanted to get more of an inside perspective on the commercial photography world. I climbed the rank from photo assistant to digital tech, to studio manager. Finally, I took a leap and went out on my own again as a photographer. I did general commercial photography work for a few years. It was great. I was having a blast, but not making the most money and I struggled with getting enough work.
I decided to make a change. I wanted to tackle a market that was pretty barren in Nashville. So I jumped into product photography. For about two months I focused my time on creating a product photography portfolio with a prop stylist that I had met. This is one of the best moves that I have ever made for my career.
A new Career
At about this same time I got word that a luxury retailer was going to open a studio in Nashville. There was a rumor that they needed product photographers. I hurried and put together a book of my new product photography. The rumor turned into reality. One of my good friends who was a product photographer had a recruiter reach out to him. He also gave them my name. A few months later I sit down for my first of three interviews with this company. The company makes me an offer to be a Jr. Photographer.
I started with this company as a Jr. Photographer, worked my way up to a Staff Photographer and finally, I made Lead Still Life Photographer. It was an awesome journey and I learned a ton along the way. I was at the Nashville studio from the day that it opened. I helped build the desk, put together the workstations, helped lay out the initial set design. I was with Saks for 3 years. It was an amazing job opportunity. I became friends with some amazing photographers, retouchers, and stylist that are now part of my team.
This job allowed me to meet some of the best product photographers I have ever seen. I was mentored by an amazing jewelry photographer. My photography skills accelerated at an amazing pace because I was doing photography 40 hours a week. I went from thinking I knew a lot about product photography to actually knowing. Photographing product and fashion for 40 hours a week will change you as a photographer. You learn what the important things to watch for are, you learn how to shoot a lot of items in a limited time frame. You learn how to photograph one item and take your time to get the perfect image. When I started I thought I knew about workflow. Over three years I learned what makes for a good studio environment.
I was creating product images every day and essentially doing the same thing every week for 40 hours. I say that, but I was always excited to go to work. I never stopped freelancing. I still had the drive to be creative outside of work. I knew going in that this type of job is rarely a forever job.
The Good Stuff
The great things about being a full-time staff photographer. You get a paycheck the 1st and the 15th of each month. You don't have to worry about getting paid on time. You don't have to market. You don't have to do business taxes, sales tax, or any complicated tax stuff. You have a place to go and work every day.
The Bad Stuff
The bad things about being a full-time staff photographer. You are doing the same thing every day. You are in the same studio every day. You are creating to the same standards every day. It can kill creativity.
While I was working as a full-time staff photographer I got bored creatively. I wanted something to do that was creative and fun. For the majority of my marriage, I have been the home cook. I started taking my cooking to new levels with fresh ingredients, and new flavors and textures. It became a really fun adventure to see what I could cook next.
Since I was creating really tasty and beautiful food I figured I might as well start photographing it. So in November of 2015, I started photographing my food. I photographed my food for fun. For creative freedom. To escape reality. To live. To be free. Photographing food was solely for me. I had no one to report to. No one to say if it was good, bad or indifferent. I did not care how good my food photography was.
Something is not right
Fast forward to January 2016. I start to feel something strange in the atmosphere at work. Things are just not quite right. I start to get more serious about my food photography. I start bringing out my lights. I start creating some surfaces to photograph food on. I start putting my work together for a possible portfolio. I'm having a lot of fun thinking about food photography.
The Gut Punch
Eventually, we get the word that they are going to close down our studio. I'm pretty gutted about it. I have been doing a job that I honestly loved for almost 3 years. It is hard to find an amazing full-time photography job. They let us know that it would be a while before our last day the studio would be open for a few more months and that we would be getting severance packages. Over three years the people that I was working with had become like family. I was going to miss the people that I was working with more than anything. Despite the fact that I felt that this was coming I was still shocked. It ended up being about three months from the time we were notified until the studio would shut down.
My first call after finding out the news was to my wife. She was amazingly supportive. She was 100% on board with me opening back up my freelance photography business full time. She had zero worry about me being able to make enough money.
My second call was to a good buddy that is the Cheif Creative Officer for an advertising agency. We discussed opportunities with his firm as an in-house creative, and also started talking about rebranding my work. I decided to pass on doing in-house work with his company. We focused our conversation on rebranding my work and creating a new logo.
My third call was to my old business coach. We went over a few ideas on how to get me in front of a lot of people in the next few weeks to interview, and to also pitch my portfolio to as many people as possible.
Over the next few months, I went on dozens of interviews. I wanted to at least try to find another good fit as an in-house creative. I interviewed at a lot of really cool companies and got offered 6 full-time creative jobs. I ultimately decided that as much as I would like a steady paycheck that I really just wanted to spend some time and do my own thing again.
I consider myself truly lucky. I was able to have a few months before one job ended to figure out what I wanted to do. I was able to think about and plan my journey.
The Hard Work
I pitched my book to dozens of advertising agencies and creatives. I had put together a portfolio of my work in about a week. My portfolio consisted of 4 sections: food, product, lifestyle and a personal project. I was completely sold on the idea that I would be a product photographer. I thought product photography especially my e-commerce work was really strong. I was selling myself as a product photographer. This was the hard work. Getting to meet a ton of new creatives takes a ton of time and energy.
What actually happened though was during all of these meetings that creative directors and art directors were drawn to my food photography. I had hit on something that people were wanting to buy.
For three months I was the lead still life photographer. It was a great job. It was a difficult job. My former manager left the company early to pursue a new opportunity. I was given an amazing opportunity to try my hand at management without a lot of the responsibility. I got to help guide my team of still life photographers through a layoff and try to keep team energy high and still produce high-quality product photography. I'm going, to be honest, it was rough. Everyone had high emotions. Luckily because I had an amazing new manager who I reported to he made the task easy. The last day was really bitter sweet. We packaged up all of the studio gear into boxes and just left. It was great to wrap up that chapter of my life. We got to pack everythign up and I think that was good it allowed for a sense of closure that most people dont get. It was sad becuase over the course of three years I had made some amazing friends.
The New Buisness
About a month into my new business I landed a contract to photograph 20 restaurants for a company. That 20 restaurants ended up turning into 60 restaurants. Those 60 restaurants turned into 120 restaurants. I was suddenly a food photographer. This one client turned into dozens of clients. It was a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.
Let's be honest this was a gut punch. We had just moved into a bigger house. We had just taken on a much larger mortgage. My daughter was still in daycare. We had a lot of money going out each month. It was super stressful.
I have found that moving on to the next thing is always difficult. If you want to continually better yourself you have to challenge yourself. I heard a quote the other day that "Next level life comes with next level challenges". IT is completely true. It is a challenge to get to the next level. You have to embrace the hard stuff.
I am a Food, Beverage and Product Photographer!
Food photography ended up taking off. Two years later and I am happy to be a food and beverage photographer. I left a company after three amazing years. I was able to pull myself and my work together and start a freelance business again. It was a huge jump to get back in. I'm going, to be honest, I was super nervous. What would happen? Will I make enough money? Will people buy my work? I was a nervous wreck for months. Lots of hard work and effort and I can say that my business is going well. I'm still at a point where I am constantly working on improving my work, my business model, and workflow. I'm still evolving as a creative. I hope that my creative journey will keep changing. I have bigger goals for every month and every year. There is always something to change or test. I'm also super glad that I'm finally talking about how I became a food photographer.
Hopefully, I can give you a little bit of inspiration if you are thinking about becoming a food photographer. If you have gone though a career transiton tell me about it. How did it go? Do you have any tips for becoming a food photogarpher?
I will be the first to admit that I'm a foodie. I love Nashville's food scene. Since I really got interested in food in 2006 the scene has grown an amazing amount. I have seen amazing restaurants come and go. I currently have a hard time keeping up with all of the new restaurants that are opening in Nashville. I'm a food photographer who shoots on location a lot and I'm constantly going to new restaurants on assignment, plus going to new restaurants for lunch and dinner and I can't keep up with all the new restaurants. So when I got the opportunity to photograph several of the restrains for Nashville Lifestyles Best Burgers edition I jumped at the opportunity. I was totally jazzed to be photographing burgers from four of Nashville best burger joints.Read More
Hey Y'all! My behind the scenes video with Paul C Buff and Tether Tools just went live. Check it out below! I had a blast working on this shoot. To check out my write up on the shoot go to Food and Product Photography News Letter.
Check out my final photos!
Hey there! Thanks for reading my article on Tether tools or watching the video on the Paul C Buff YouTube channel! Here is a list of all of the equipment that I used for this photoshoot!
I hope you all enjoy looking at the kit that I used for this shoot with Paul C Buff and Tether Tools. I had an awesome time with the Paul C Buff team creating this content! If you have any tips or tricks for product photography feel free to share them in the comments. Do you have a favorite Paul C Buff light or modifier tell me about it in the comments!
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Last weekend like most weekends I found myself at the farmers market. The farmers market means fresh locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. These are all things that a food photographer loves. It also means family and community.Read More
Hey Y'all! I teamed up with Story Forge and Paul C Buff for my first ever workshop on June 12th 2018. This first workshop was an introduction to product photography. To find out more about my workshop and more about this series come on in!Read More
The Native Magazine Cocktail of the Month is one of my favorite regular gigs that I get to photograph. Native is always sending me to cool bars and restaurants to shoot these cocktails. I get to meet some pretty cool people along the way and take some pretty awesome pictures. So lets dive into this cocktail. This is the Cherries Etc. which was made by and styled by Nick Dolan the Head Bartender of The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club. It features Lustau Brandy, Cappelletti red bitters, lemon stock, Maurin Quina, absinthe, Scrappy's Chocolate Bitters, and 3 fresh Cherries. To see the recipe in full be sure to pick up the magazine! Keep reading to see how I created this beautiful cocktail photo.Read More
Today I photographed the July Cocktail of the Month for Native Magazine at Kuchina and Keller, but the cocktail is actually from Chopper Tiki, which will be opening soon. I'm super excited for Chopper Tiki to open because Nashville needs a good Tiki bar. Omni Hut in Smyrna is awesome, but its BYOB. Check out this behind the scenes video to see how I created a beautiful cocktail image for an editorial shoot.Read More
Hey! If you are reading this you probably attended my workshop on product photography at Story Forge. I'm glad that you made it out. To make things a little easier for everyone I created this list of all of the equipment that I used at the workshop.Read More
So this is part one of my lens review on the Nikon 60mm AF Micro Nikkor f2.8D lens. I have an updated review coming soon that talks about why this lens is so good for people getting into food photography. For now check out the video below to find out my opinions on this awesome lens. This is the best lens for food photography if you can only have one lens. Period end of story. This lens is that good if you can just have one.Read More
For the May 2018 issue of Murfreesboro Magazine I was asked to photograph the cover story on Hometown favorites. I was able to shoot the cover for the issue at Goodness Gracious at the Mill. I was also able to photograph one of my all time favorite restaurants Demo's as well as a new favorite Karin's Custard Cup! Keep reading for some great food photography tips and to see some amazing food photography!Read More
For the March Issue of Nashville Lifestyles I was asked to photograph the Amari Makes Dinner Better Article. The magazine wanted to get shots of Amari specials at Nicky's Coal Fired Kitchen and Pastaria. Both restaurants have amazing amaro collections. I photographed 4 cocktails in total and photographed the amaro bars at both restaurants. Keep reading if you are looking for some beverage photography inspiration and some amazing beverage photography. So lets talk about the shoot!Read More
For the May issue of Nashville Lifestyles Magazine I was asked to photograph mocktails at some of Nashville's hottest bars. The magazine featured mocktails from Union Common, Husk, and Henley. The assignment was to capture vertical and horizontal images from each of the three restaurants. When photographing editorial content at bars I like to try and feature some of the unique attributes of the locations.Read More
First picking up a DSLR for food photography is quite daunting. After picking a DSLR the next major decision is picking a lens? The lens is the single most important part of your camera system. Lenses are forever, and bodies are temporary purchases. Investing in a good lens system, to start with will make your photographic journey easier. When it comes to food photography there are three main lenses that commercial food photographers use. They are a 50mm lens, a 85mm or 90mm tilt and shift and a 100mm or 105mm macro lens. My recommendation is that every food photographer needs at least a 50mm lens and a 100mm macro lens.Read More