The demon that can make or break your job application
As private chefs you should be investing time and effort into keeping your photo portfolio up to date and ready for new job opportunities.
Before my critics pounce upon me… I should explain that I am far from a professional photographer. This article isn’t designed to explain the professional aspects of food photography, I’ve written it because I’d like you to explore the possibilities available to you. When you apply for new positions to further your career, your photo gallery is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Basically, they can make or break your opportunities.
The idea isn’t to have the most professional looking photos; the idea is to tell the right story. But how do you find the right story? That’s the job of your agent. I dedicate a large amount of my time into choosing the right photos for my chefs to support my clients’ brief, in other words – to tell the right story. You need to constantly keep your photography fresh and new so that it evolves along side your new dishes and new food trends. Then, when you apply for your new position, you will have a wide and varied portfolio to choose from.
“Stay away from pictures of dishes that magically float in mid-air…”
One of my biggest concerns, and yes I’m going to moan a little here… are the incredible floating plates. Photos of dishes that magically hover in mid-air with no apparent connection to the laws of gravity… If the chef really is a magician then I would suggest waving a magic wand and creating an authentic backdrop for the photograph, maybe a table and cutlery could be a good idea? Remember, the purpose of your photos is to enable the client to connect with them, my advice is to keep your images realistic and don’t play with Photoshop software. Clients would rather see that your images are real than something that looks like it has been digitally doctored.
The objective is to demonstrate your ability to deliver the culinary lifestyle that the client wants to achieve. The common mistake is to only photograph fine dining dishes. A private chef is required to produce far more than this and your choice of photos needs to demonstrate your skill set and your capability to provide what the client requires. So open your mind a little, if you have a kitchen garden where you are working, take some photos of the fresh produce you use. Do you make jams and chutneys? Do you grill over hot coals? Are you baking on a regular basis? Create a photographic culinary journey via your portfolio.
Remember that photographing your food during the cooking process is another great tactic to employ. It connects the person viewing the photo with the process and “brings it to life”. A perfectly cooked rib eye steak looks great on a clean white plate. Now, imagine taking a photo of the same steak grilling over coals or in a griddle pan… this image increases our imagination which engages other senses, you can almost hear the steak sizzling and smell the meat caramelising. A picture that’s taken during the cooking process increases our nostalgia, awakening our senses and our memories.
The one comment I hear time and time again is the time issues regarding taking photos during a busy service period. I agree, it’s hard, it’s not easy, and therefore it’s even more important to be prepared. If you have the opportunity to plate an additional dish, do it, and photograph it after the diner’s plates have been served. If that’s not possible, think carefully about photographing elements of a dish as they are being prepared prior to service. For example, making pasta is a prime example of an element that can be photographed during production and produces an excellent image for a portfolio. Perhaps you spend time designing and developing new dishes, this is a great opportunity for some snaps. When all said and done, even chefs need to eat… so surely it’s possible to plate your own food nicely and get that all important shot? What I’m trying to highlight here are the possibilities, and to ask you to think carefully about how you can take some great photos and increase the prospects of getting shortlisted for your job application.
There is an unlimited amount of information and resources available on the web to help you improve. Most of it is free and will enable you to take worthy photos quickly and easily.
The bottom line is that taking pictures for your portfolio requires time, organization and effort. Your food images are a key component of your job application and the chefs who embrace this element will continue to succeed within the application process.
If you’ve got any questions let me know – Happy snapping!