I’m discovering that I love test shooting. It’s a chance to work with another creative person (or people) to make images that please you, that develop your skills, and that play with images and ideas you want to explore. Those are important things to do occasionally, between the client shoots where the focus is often tightly defined and brand standards are the holy grail. (Those shoots are equally, if not more important (and not just because they pay!) because they hone the skills that make a stylist versatile and able to meet clients’ goals. But when it comes to personal projects, getting to focus on a creative idea and see it through from concept to execution is really gratifying.)
Besides the creativity aspect, as an assistant on client shoots, it’s also pretty rare that I get to spend any time working with the hero food on set because that’s the the lead stylist’s territory. I’ll often prepare the food from start to finish, but once it leaves for the set, my role is complete. So for me, test shoots are where I get to practice those on-set skills.
A couple weeks ago, I teamed up with two very creative people, food photographer Jason Richardson and prop stylist Gwen Lemos. Gwen and I have worked together before, on the set of photo shoots for Crate & Barrel, where we’ve both assisted, as well as while filming the ninth season of Chef Rick Bayless’s PBS cooking show “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” She has great style and a flair for vintage fashion and design, something that I also gravitate toward in images. We had talked for a couple of months about doing a test shoot where we could bring that vintage element into the tabletop design and propping. Gwen roped in her friend Jason, who specializes in shooting food for a major photo studio and also takes gorgeous food photography of his own, and we started talking about the focus for our shoot. Jason suggested focusing on meat and seafood, which we loved, and we agreed that we wanted to work on creating compositions with a darker, slightly moody color palette and some of those vintage design elements.
Armed with some great-looking whole branzino and mussels, some lovely frenched lamb chops and bags and bags of props, we went to work. You can see the results below in some of my favorite photos from the shoot. I especially like the contrast of the sophisticated props in the lamb shot with the piles of caveman-esque bones on the plates, and the way the slate background and black bowl set off the vivid golden broth and red cherry tomatoes in the overhead shot of the mussels. Thanks, Jason and Gwen, for letting me learn from your amazing talents and creativity. It was a great day, and I look forward to more!
[All photos by Jason Robert Scott Photography. Prop Styling by Gwen Lemos. Food styling by Emilie Zanger.]