Capturing the 'Wow' Factor: Insights from Food Photographer Emily Schindler

Capturing the 'Wow' Factor: Insights from Food Photographer Emily Schindler

Capturing the 'Wow' Factor: Insights from Food Photographer Emily Schindler

by Amanda Jaquin

A conversation with Luupe member Emily Schindler about her path to food photography, styling and composition techniques, tips for beginners, and insights into evolving industry trends

We're not sure when Emily Schindler sleeps. In addition to her busy career as a food, product, and lifestyle photographer, Emily leads photography at The Infatuation. She manages photography across all platforms and ensures that imagery is on brand, while managing and directing a team of on-staff photographers and hiring and providing creative direction to all freelance photographers. She has gained recognition for her vibrant and delectable food and drink photography and her work has been featured in cookbooks, on social media, web, and billboards across the U.S.

Inspired by her energy, drive, and passion for all things food photography, we caught up to learn a few of her tips and tricks and hear more about her career journey.
The Luupe: How did you get started in photography, and what drew you to the world of food photography specifically?

Emily Schindler: I started shooting around in high school for fun and then majored in photography at The Fashion Institute of Technology. One of our assignments was to capture the word “pleasure” in a photo. While most of my classmates took this assignment in a different direction… I photographed desserts! I had so much fun styling a still life set and after that shoot I knew I wanted to continue photographing food.

The Luupe: How do you approach a food photography shoot, and what are your go-to techniques for capturing the perfect shot?

Schindler: Before a restaurant shoot I always research the location to see what the lighting situation is so I know what to expect and plan for. At the shoot, I always keep 3 things in mind - lighting, styling, and composition. When it comes to lighting, shooting near a window is always my go-to. As I’m styling the table I love to include details that are unique to the restaurant - fun glasses, textured tabletops, a fun booth moment, etc. Composition-wise, I always make sure the dishes are evenly spaced and that I shoot from an angle that best represents both the food and restaurant space.

The Luupe: What are some common mistakes that you see beginner food photographers make, and how can they avoid them?

Schindler: Shooting food from an unflattering angle is a common mistake. For example, if you’re capturing a dish that’s flat or in a bowl, shooting from the side isn’t going to do you any favors. Instead, raise your camera up to a ¾ or top down angle to show off the food and not just the side of a bowl. While that top down angle may work well for certain dishes, it won’t be great for foods with height like a burger or a sandwich. Instead, swing your camera around to the side and capture all the layers. Knowing what angles work best for certain dishes is key.

The Luupe: Can you walk us through your post-production process, and what software and tools you use to edit your photos? (We noticed you sell Lightroom presets on your site!)

Schindler: I always use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my work. First I upload my photos into Lightroom and star all my favorite shots. After that, I start by batch editing those selects using my custom food photography preset. This preset is something I created years ago. I wanted my work to look consistent, so once I finally settled on an editing style that I really loved, I created a custom preset with those settings and have been using it ever since. (Yes, you can purchase this preset on my website.) After making some additional adjustments from there, I bring photos that need additional attention into Photoshop. This last step is where I’ll clean up the smaller details - wrinkles in a tablecloth, reflections in a glass, etc.

The Luupe: What do you think sets apart a great food photo from a mediocre one, and how can photographers achieve that "wow" factor in their images?
Schindler: Adding action and human elements to food photography definitely adds that “wow” factor for me. For example - hands grabbing slices of pizza from a pie, showing a bite taken out of something, wine glasses clinking over a table spread. Photos like that will always grab my attention more than just a shot of a singular dish on a table with no life.

The Luupe: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in food photography, and looking to build their portfolio and client base?

Schindler: If you’re just starting out in food photography my advice would be to never stop shooting. I can't emphasize this enough. When I was in college and wanted to build my portfolio I’d spend my weekends setting up fake tablescapes on my apartment floor just to have something to shoot and practice with. It helped me grow as a photographer and also have relevant content to share on my website, socials, and with potential clients.

The Luupe: How do you stay inspired and creative in your work, and what do you do to push yourself outside of your comfort zone?

Schindler: I’m constantly looking at what other photographers are doing. I especially love watching behind the scenes videos that show exactly how a photographer set up their shot or went about their shoot day. I’ve always struggled to find the confidence to speak to a camera like that or to record voice overs of my own. This is something I’ve definitely been pushing myself to play around with more. I think behind the scenes content like this really helps photographers connect with their community and learn from each other, so I definitely want to make more of it.

The Luupe: What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as a professional photographer, and how do you overcome them?

Schindler: It’s easy to compare yourself and your work to others. When I start to lack confidence in my own photography or feel stuck in a creative rut, I twist that negative energy into inspiration that fuels me to want to make cool things, keep shooting, and try something new!

The Luupe: How do you see the world of food photography evolving in the next few years, and what trends are you most excited about exploring in your work?
Schindler: I think people used to focus more on making everything appear simple, clean, and “picture perfect.” Things are much more casual now. It’s all about personality, fun styling, and action. Photographers are shooting with hard flash, including kitschy table decor in their shots, capturing motion, and documenting more of the dining experience and ambiance as a whole. The world of food photography is constantly evolving and changing and I’m excited to see what trends come next.

The Luupe: Finally, can you share any pro tips or tricks that you've learned over the years that have helped take your food photography to the next level?
Schindler: A major pro tip would be to learn how to adapt to any situation. One day you might be asked to capture cocktails in a dark restaurant at 11pm in a room packed with people. The next day you might be shooting sandwiches on a picnic blanket outside in direct afternoon sun. Being able to work with what you’ve got and know how to get the perfect shot in any situation is extremely important. Watch tutorials, learn from experience, and have the confidence to take on new challenges.
Amanda Jaquin
Amanda Jaquin is brand experience manager at The Luupe where she brings energy and ✨ to marketing, design, and community engagement. She lives in Kingston, NY, hates pickles, loves solving puzzles, and has a million tabs open right now.
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