Using People in Food Photography

Chicken Soup

The main idea behind Crustcrumbs was to shoot food how and where it might be eaten – sometimes in an imaginative way, like slime on a Sedgewick Hotel dessert cart, and sometimes literal, like eating chicken soup in bed while you’re sick.  While John and I both love gorgeous, perfectly staged food photography, we wanted to do something a little different for Crustcrumbs.  Food can be messy – actually messy, not “here are a few chocolate chips and splashes of flour strategically placed on a distressed wood board around some cookies” messy.  And usually, it’s eaten by people.  So when we decided to do a series of food to eat when you’re sick, we knew we wanted to get a model to play our sick person.

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It turns out it’s fairly easy to get people to say yes when you ask, “do you want to lie in my bed and drink a milkshake for a photoshoot?”  Our sick person was played by Kevin Matviw, and the person delivering food to Kevin is Jordan Armstrong.  Both are staffers at Second City in Toronto (and you may remember Jordan as being Crustcrumbs famous for loaning us a cart for our Ghostbusters shoot).

As we’ve learned, there are some pros and cons to working with people.  For instance, pro:  people are more fun to work with than food.  Con: sometimes they light napkins on fire in your kitchen while trying to make soup steam.  (We did this after a long conversation about whether or not microwaving tampons to create steam would release poisonous tampon chemicals into our lungs.  Janice Poon writes more about creating food photography steam on the set of Hannibal, here.)

Lighting napkins on fire

Pro: even something as simple as a hand adds an element of storytelling to a photo.  Con: models talk back.  (Not pictured: Jordan yelling “HOT! THE BOWL IS HOT!”  Be quiet and accept your first degree burns in the name of Crustcrumbs!)

Jordan serving chicken soup.

Pro: when we’re done, John lets us do shots of Sortilège.  Con:  uh… none.


Since shooting people is what I do, I’m always up for using people in food photography.  Right now we’re working on everything from belly dancing to 1960s office Christmas parties to big group dinners.  Check out our Instagram feed for some spoilers.

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