Food Photography with Food Allergies
Posted on 14th October 2019 by Austin Gould

Photographer: Joseph Keller

Art Director at Storey Publishing: Carolyn Eckert

Prop Stylist: Ann Lewis

Location: Coco & The Cellar Bar , Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor

Project Release Date: October 29, 2019

We recently interviewed Joseph Keller about 2 images he shot for a cookbook titled Curry & Kimch i published by Storey Publishing. The conception of the photos was a collaborative process between Joe, art director Carolyn, and the prop stylist Ann Lewis.

The photos were taken over the course of 5 days at a restaurant in Easthampton, Massachusetts, called Coco & the Cellar Bar, owned by wife and husband Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor.  Their restaurant is a humble and inviting space with food based on the couple's multi-cultural heritage. They have a love of simple, easy to execute food, and Joe tried to convey this in his photography.

In Joe's words, "Their food is cleanly and simply constructed yet has an incredible depth of flavor. Spices, sauces, oils and vinegars play a huge role. The colors and textures were so rich! With this in mind, we set out to create warm and easy to read images of the main dishes as well as close-up detail shots that show the beauty and diversity of the ingredients. We wanted to remain true to the feel and spirit of the restaurant."

Joe has a particular "advantage" when it comes to food photography: he has a large number of food allergies. We call this an advantage because the food often looks very delicious, and the allergies help circumvent the temptation to eat the subject. Because of his allergies, Joe primarily relies on smell and sight when working with food. Joe told us that it can still be hard sometimes, but as his allergist once said, “Portrait photographers can’t eat their subjects!”

In terms of his process, Joe told us, "My goal is always to create a beautiful image that will make someone say 'I want to eat that!' Each dish or ingredient has a 'best' angle whether it’s straight overhead or from 45 degrees, close in or pulled back.  The other component is lighting which, for me, feels best when it looks like natural or ambient light."

In terms of equipment, he used 2 Profoto D2 strobes and shot most of the images with a Fuji GFX 50s. He created a wall of light with an 8x 8 silk and a 7’ umbrella and used a small octa bank as the key or backlight.

Joe's advice to up and coming photographers is, "Ask yourself what makes you different and better than your competitors. Be true to yourself as an artist- shoot what you love and are interested in.  Try to shoot everyday.  Use every and all marketing avenues available to you."

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