Catalog photography is not an easy job as it seems

We all know creative photography is more high end than catalog type of photography. Photographer can make a lot of money if they can produce really creative photo. On the contrary catalog type of photography got less paid, require less skill, average photographer can do it. I know these are true. However I think catalog photography can be a harsh task. It require certain personality trait to excel this type of work. It is definitely not an easy job.

I photography food a lot. Clients use my photo for menu, website, poster. I always shoot a lot of food with limited time. I consider my work as catalog type of photography. If someone is shooting for food magazine or cookbook kind thing, I consider that as creative work.

let me demonstrate my point by showing some of the difference between a food photographer doing catalog work and someone doing creative work.

1. studio vs location

It is very likely a photographer doing creative shot will be shooting at a studio. They want the environment to be as much controlled as possible. Whereas a photographer shooting for menu usually doing it on location at the restaurant. It is not practical for client to bring chefs and other staffs to studio.

This means photographer need to carry a lot of gears to location. But more importantly photographer now has to do deal a lot of uncertainty and uncontrolled factors. Photographer do not know what will happen on location. There are many things need to be concerned such as lighting, space, time, etc. And these factors all vary from one location to another location. It is always uncertainty. It brings challenge to photographer. Some photographers only work in studio, they avoid on location work because they do not like uncertainty. They like everything under control.

2. Working alone vs working with a team.

If a photographer is shooting for creative purpose, like magazine, cookbook, it is usually involved with team working. There will be stylist, assistant, art director, all kind of professions working together to create that beautiful shot.

Whereas photographer who shooting for menu at restaurant is usually working alone. For the sake of budget, it is not practical for restaurant to pay couple hundreds dollars for each photographer, stylist and assistant.That means now everything is on the shoulder of the photographer. He needs to think a lot during photoshoot. He needs to set up everything on his own, he needs to do some simple propping, he needs to decides what to put on the table, how to composite the shot and so on. Yes a photographer can not be the expert at everything, but still he need to do a decent job to provide quality photo.

3. fast pace vs slow pace

I watched an online food photography workshop at The host Andrew Scrivani said that when he is shooting for magazine and cookbook, he usually need an hour to shoot just one dish from preparation to finish shooting. This is not possible for shooting menu for client on location. I would say average 15-20 mins per one dish for my experience, sometimes can be as fast as 5 mins per one dish. It is just that intensive. I know it is kind crazy. Some photographer can not stand it. And doing it fast is not an excuse for bad photo. Client do not care it. They expect your photo just as good as it should be. Yes as photographer we know it is not possible to have same quality photo as  someone shoot it for an hour. But we still need to capture decent photo that meet client demand. It is a challenge.

4. boring and tedious vs creative

Many photographer do not like doing catalog type of work because it is boring and tedious. That is true. You just keep shooting and shooting. We do not change lighting setup between each shot. We are not create new scene for each shot. It is boring. After 2 hours shooting you perhaps start to lose attention and get tired. You are not feeling that you are enjoy photography. That is one big reason why many photographer avoid catalog type of photography.

In my opinion one need to have certain traits to be able to doing this type of photography regularly. You need to have patience, quick adapt to environment, mental toughness, good stamina.

I want to say that in this creative world, a typical catalog photographer would not got much attention and applaud. Your work is not outstanding. You portfolio looks average. You do not make huge money. But I want to say this is not an easy job because it got less paid. Sometimes I feel blue because I can never create outstanding and very creative photography. I do not have that kind of talent. but really I should give myself more applaud and confidence. I am a great photographer. I am patient. I am reliable. I work hard to meet client demand.


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