“..an appreciation of every sweat, every hard work, every honest effort,
all great things it takes to make one good food.
Let’s do some justice by capturing them right.
‘Cause when you make people wanna lick the photos,
you know you’ve done good.”
~ Riana Ambarsari ~
Before I forgot everything I wanted to say, I better spilled out anything now. Been wanting to write this for quite a while, I realized if I didn’t start writing right when I had the first chance, most likely I wouldn’t ever write it at all.
I just finished sorting about 400-ish photos and doing minimum editing to them. Those were for 30 recipes included in one of NCC upcoming books. Tomorrow, another 500 photos are waiting for the rest of 30 recipes. I won’t talk about food photography here, what do I know. I’m the street one, I’ll let other fellows do that.
What’s been tantalizing my mind is the irony of a phenomenon called “when a passion turns into a job”. People see it as a dream comes true. A dream job. Where you’ll be having fun instead of working. Well, yes. And no. And I’ll tell you why.
You’ll Lose Your Freedom
A classic conflict, may I say. I like these photos I know the author and editor wouldn’t choose. I sent them anyway only to listen to disagreements of why this photo didn’t show the shape of the food, or why the texture of this food wasn’t obvious, or why the angle is unusual, or why the color tone was extremely soft, or why most parts of this food look blurry. Ha-ha, bite me! You don’t care if one food doesn’t show its shape, or the texture was lost in an out-of-focus weirdly looking world somewhere in the background, or everything looks blurry, or the color was so soft you feel you’re in a dream, or everything is so over exposure or, worst, so dark you have to light a candle. You like it, end of story.
Calm down, don’t worry. The sun is gonna shine tomorrow. Of course you’ll always provide them with the “normative” version of the photos to finally call their stressed out spiky hair to come down to earth. Pick those, people. Our happiness can wait. We still have Dexter Season 6 to look forward to.
You’ll Lose Your Street Style
You get used to the above, gradually you become one of them. You’ll lose your wacky weird street style that was your charm in the first place. What can you say, you were born into this foodie photography sphere with no guidance. You crawled in the dark, dragged yourself out from the darkness until you finally see the light, and now you’re walking tall and proud, ready to explore more of the world in front of you, kick some more a**es. All that by learning your very own experience. First hand, first punch, first blood. You survived by your own way nobody taught you how. Instinctively, you lived. Now somebody else is trying to shape you into a certain form the society would prefer to accept. They told you to wear suit instead of ragged cool jeans, throw away your rasta hair and slick it back shiny. You are a corporate slave in the making. Gone is your bad boy-ethan hawke-rolling stones-tupac shakur charm, if you know what I mean. There, my friend, is where you struggle. To stay true to yourself. To not let anything tell you what is right and what is not. If you’re lucky, you’ll once again survive. When you sent those “unusual” photos anyway, even only to piss them off, there lies your true glory. You smile ear to ear you feel it is all worth it. The hell with the world, you’ve made your point. If you’re lucky.
You’ll Lose Your Appetite To Do Personal Project
For me, this is fatal. I miss doing personal food photo session. I miss doing everything from searching for recipes, shopping solely for that purpose, trying it, sometimes several times to perfect it, sweat myself capturing the result, processing the photos, ..all the way to uploading and finally writing the story. Publish, edit, re-publish. Repeat as needed. They say destination could be anywhere, it’s the journey that counts. And it is indeed a long journey.
I envy those who are still well supplied with time, energy, and, most importantly, enthusiasm, to do this. The sacred thing that brought me to where I am now, ironically. Funny thing, often times I still found myself planning: collected recipes I planned to try, visualized the photos I planned to take, but that’s it. I dunno why it is just not the same anymore. Maybe I’m just tired. Blame it on the work. Easy.
Worst thing is, it even expanded into taking photos in general. Right now I would kill for a chance not to be expected to bring my camera everytime I hang out with friends. And I would kill anybody who expects me to do so. Don’t take me wrong, please, I’m the queen of expression. I love my friends, I love taking photos of them. Just don’t expect me to do it under certain order, anymore. Have mercy.
You’ll Learn A Lot
Hell yeah, you’ll learn so much. Departing from producing several photos a day to hundreds of them in several hours. From stress-free no-pressure unlimited time to nerve-wracking deadline. And, like those are not enough, you have to make it within budget. Whatcha gonna do?
You’ll learn to build an efficient budget-conscious work flow.
Plan your style, get the proper gear and props. Buy, borrow, beg, steal, whatever. As for me, this includes a visit to a local carpenter to buy a couple of wooden bars, had it cut, painted them myself with pastel colors. So fun. Visits to a dollar store, traditional market, computer store, Ace Hardware, and.. a very generous kind-hearted old friend who lent me her lens before I could buy my own. Including phone calls to three wonderful friends who let me borrow their vintage props. Allah bless them all!*
Prepare the set, have photo sessions. You’ve got to provide for 35-60 recipes, with or without step-by-step photos *Allah, help us*, you have to break down the sessions into 4-5 days. Bring extra shirt to the set, you would want to take a bath afterward. Learn from me.
After the long sessions are over, you’ll be heading home with 700-900-ish photos to be sorted and edited where it is necessary. Here comes the best part: you have to do it in like 2 days. Whatcha gonna do?
You’ll learn to establish a smooth post-production process and do it fast.
You’ll find the best software to help you out with the drill, and no, it’s not Photoshop. The whole job is ninety nine percent decision making and you have to decide FAST, you have 899 photos waiting. Once the sorting and editing were done, you print the recipes list and start renaming the files. If you left out one recipe, you will know now :). And that means you go back to square one *it happened*. Done with it, you proceed with converting the files from RAW to whatever the editor asked you to provide. If you convert to tiffs, make sure you have enough disk space for one file alone could size about 60-70 Mb. Prepare your disk ahead, you did this at “get the proper gear” phase *I bought a 320 Gb external hard drive solely for this purpose*.
While your machine’s converting the files, you can lay back a little bit now. Sip your tea, check your facebook and reply the long abandoned tweets from your friends. Get 3-4 empty DVD-Rs ready, it’s burning time. Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn.
Now, take a shower. Send the DVDs to your editor, then take a good rest, you look like hell.
You’ll learn that many things are not always wrong, and even many more things are not always right.
Rule of Third doesn’t always work. It is alright to use your props more than twice. Yes, your lens makes a big difference *hate to admit this*. You can work fast without an assistant, faster with an assistant. You can’t double-role as a foodstylist without having at least 2 giant containers full with props. In one of those days, you can have a long photo session and comeback home happy and sane. Ya-ha.
You’ll Shape A Proven Portfolio
Before you know, you’ve established your album. No, no, not your personal project photos, your professional ones. The ones people paid for. Take 10 out of them and you’re ready for a go-see *like that word exists in photography world*. Bring your published book and you’ll always be geared up with proven materials, all passed judgment to be sellable. Forget personal projects, you might not need one *Might. I said might!*. You have the whole world in your pocket.
You’ll Get To Stock Photos
Out of 10-20 photos you took for 1 recipe, you sent, let’s say 3-4 photos to the editor. You kept, maybe another 2-3 photos for your personal collection. Because you couldn’t just throw them all away. Another different angle is another different photo, no matter what people say. Those keepsakes, my friend, are the dust and speckles that will pile up into a galore famously known by stock photos. Also known as, your piggy bank, if you play your card right. Which I don’t know how yet, haha. When I’m 64, if I’m lucky, I’ll just enjoy my earl grey in the afternoon, chat around with my friends about the glory old days, and sell those photos through GettyImages. If I’m lucky. I’ll live up to those days.
You’ll Become Wiser
With all the boundaries and limitations *which are practically the same words*, you’ll be forced to make it all happen anyway. You’ll compromise and get creative. Your adrenaline will be pumped up and you know frustration is only another word for excitement. By the end of the day, you’ll learn to accept everything. To be satisfied with what you have achieved. You’ve done the best you could. Sure, there were some things that you may have done differently given the chance, but all in all, you made it through every storm, every fire, and up every mountain. As for me, the storm is literally speaking :).
Sometimes we all forget how far we have come and only focus on how far we still have to go. You’ll now sit down and really think about the long path that has brought you to now.. and pat yourself on the back a little. You’ve done your part. And it’s not too bad after all.
Oh, well. So it might not always be rainbow and butterflies. There are also sweat and tears there, just like a balance life it is. The rainbow comes out after the rain. Butterfly flies out of a cocoon after a caterpillar finished its metamorphosis. When the dust finally settled, you slurp a big gulp of tea with honey on your sofa waiting for CSI to be aired. Tired but contented. You’ve done good, you couldn’t care less about next photo shoot. Not now. You’ll worry about it tomorrow. Now you just wanna see Sara Sidle and Grissom solve another murder.
All in all, I’m still a happy girl. A wiser one, hopefully.
Pejaten, September 10th, 2010