Food Photography / by Brenda Hartshorn

Although I shoot a wide variety of things for San Joaquin Magazine, I was primarily a food photographer for 2 years while working with them.

Early in my career, it was a highly respected field in photography because there was a lot of buzz at the time about how food photography isn't necessarily what you want to eat (i.e. that beautifully browned turkey might be rubbed with motor oil for the photo.)  Given, all the trickery in food photography I did for the magazine was through lighting only, as the photos were for editorials.  For everyone's integrity in editorial food photography, you have to shoot the plate that a guest of the restaurant is able to order.  Even though I didn't work with a stylist, people were still respectful of my profession.  

About a year ago, I thought about going back into food photography.  Food is something everyone is passionate about.  Many of our social interactions, no matter what culture, revolves around sharing a meal.  I was thirsting to be around passionate people again.  However, in recent years this field has lost its reverence.  People are no longer awed by the idea of food photography.  Any idea why? Yep, you guessed it: Instagram. There has been an explosion of photos of food thanks to people blogging about their every meal.  I still love food photography, but I have a hard time dedicating any time for it when it is a fad among amateurs.  While trying to break back into this field, I was met with a shocking number of rude people with a lack of respect for the field altogether.  There was an immediate chuckle after people learned I shot food, followed by an, "Oh, are you on Instagram?"  To which my usual response was, "ummm, no.  I've been making my living as a photographer for over 5 years."  Food photography is not the field to be in right now, I could be wrong- but I wouldn't recommend it.  Maybe in another 10 years when the fad has not only died, but has long been cold, stiff, and buried in the ground never to be exhumed again.

Right now, I'm a Research Photographer at Google, which I absolutely love.  I really couldn't ask for anything more: great team, totally awesome environment, and I love the work.  At Brooks, I concentrated in industrial/scientific photography and with my years of working professionally, it has finally led me to exactly where I wanted to be.

Photography is one of the rare professions where people can more easily jump fields to remake themselves.  I think most professions would require you to go back to school for years to get a different degree.  If you find yourself stagnating as a photographer, you do have the freedom to make a change.  I've moved from food and lifestyle, to studio portraits and weddings, to product and fashion, and now to research.  Wherever photography takes me, I hope that it continues to be around passionate people.