Delectable Designs

Isabella Cassini talks about photographing food

Images courtesy of Isabella Cassini Photography

Cassini frequently shoots her photos showing food from above.

Images courtesy of Isabella Cassini Photography

Scholastic Art: What is your job?

Isabella Cassini: I am a freelance photographer. I specialize in food photography for advertisements or articles about food in magazines, newspapers, or online. My main goal is to make the food appetizing and mouthwatering.


SA: How does an assignment work?

IC: First, I bid on the job. I put together a selection of images that have a similar look and feel to the images I will create for the client. If I get the job, I talk with the client to learn exactly what they are looking for. Then I move forward with the shoot. That could take one day, several days, or longer if I need to travel for the assignment. After the shoot, there is the post work (see below).


SA: How do you compose your photos?

IC: Often, I shoot from above rather than from the side. The shadows fall differently, the light hits differently, and you see more of the dish when shooting from above. But it depends. Some food looks better from the side, such as a hamburger where you can see all the layers or a bowl of French onion soup where you can see the cheese dripping down the side of the bowl.

Images courtesy of Isabella Cassini Photography

SA: How do you decide on the background color?

IC: Usually, a simple background is best, as it allows the food to stand out. It also depends on the mood I’m going for. A black background might work better if I am going for an elegant mood. And a white background might be better for a happy, lively mood—especially if the food and plate or utensils are bright colors.


SA: What is the post work?

IC: That’s where I edit the photo. That might include deepening or brightening the color of something to make it pop, dimming the light in certain areas, or even adding something that isn’t there. For example, in a photo I took of a cereal bowl breaking as it drops onto a table (below), I wanted more of the cereal splashing out of the bowl. So I digitally added splashes from another image to the final photo.


SA: How did you shoot the suspended hamburger, above?

IC: One at a time, I put each layer on a clear, circular piece of plastic that was suspended with wires. For each layer, I raised the plastic so the angle would be correct when all the layers were together—so that, as the viewer, you are looking down slightly at the bottom bun and slightly up at the top bun. Then in post work, I edited out the wires and any visible plastic.

Images courtesy of Isabella Cassini Photography

How did the artist use problem-solving skills to take this photo?

SA: What challenges do you face?

IC: One challenge is that some food, like chili, doesn’t look good from any angle. It just looks like a pile of mush that’s all the same color. So to compensate for something like that, I might work with a food stylist to add garnishes in contrasting colors. Another challenge is that each shoot is unique, so I’m never sure what might happen—or not happen. When I was shooting the cereal bowl breaking on the table, the bowl didn’t break the first time I dropped it. The bowl was too thick, so I cut an X into the bottom to weaken it.


SA: What advice do you have for students who want to become photographers?

IC: The best education you can get is assisting a professional photographer. You’ll learn the mechanics of the camera and the artistry of photography. You’ll learn about the business of being a photographer, and you’ll also make contacts—networking is very important for success in the business.


SA: What do you love about your job?

IC: I love the artistic aspect of the work. I also enjoy the problem solving. It’s very satisfying!

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