That’s A Job! (Food Photographer)

As we’ve been talking to emerging creative professionals, it’s become apparent that there are a lot of jobs out that may not get the recognition they deserve. I know when I was in art school, everyone assumed that they would be “an Artist”, largely because we didn’t know how many jobs there are around art that don’t necessarily involve producing work. So we’re starting this new column on the site to shed light on some jobs that exist and you might be interested in learning more about. Our first profile is Toronto-based food photographer Maya Visnyei. 

Name: Maya Visnyei
Job Description: Food and Lifestyle photographer


Knock Twice Blog: What background do you have for this job?
Maya Visnyei: I studied photography atRyersonUniversity. I have an Image Arts degree.

KTB: Are you a freelancer or an employee?
MV: Freelance

KTB: Where do you work?
MV: I shoot both in my studio and on location.

KTB: Can you describe your pay-structure, for example, how you structure your rates?
MV: For a food shoot, it’s usually a full-day or half-day rate. If it’s a full day it can include up to five final food images, depending on what we’re shooting.

KTB: Does that mean you shoot five images total, or are there additional set-ups that get shot?
MV: There might be some variations, in which case the client makes their final selections, and those are the ones I process.

KTB: Who are your clients?
MV: I’ve got mostly editorial clients and local magazines. I work for Globe and Mail, Oxygen Magazine, Clean Eating Magazine, The Grid, Today’s Parent, andCovetGarden.

KTB: How did you get those clients?
MV: While I was assisting I was working on my book for quite a while, and trying to figure out what I wanted to shoot and how I wanted to shoot it. Once I figured that out I put my portfolio together and started sending out emails, contacting people, art directors, building my site, setting up promotional pieces, and that sort of thing.

KTB: What is an average workday for you?
MV: I usually work with a food stylist and prop stylist. They both come to the studio in the morning before the client arrives, and get things going. The prop stylist pulls out all of their props, and once the client gets here we start going over the shot list and what we should start with first. In food photography you and the stylist are partners in crime so you need to work together in terms of flow; what they have to prepare first, what needs more prep, what needs less prep, etc, so you can prepare the flow of the day. Otherwise you waste an hour waiting for something to bake in the oven while you could be doing something else.

KTB: What do you think are important skills for someone interested in food photography?
MV: I would say patience. You’ve got to enjoy it. If you enjoy what you do you do it well and do it with care. I work hard to provide good service and a good product for my client so they want to call me back. You have to listen to what they want, and give them what they ask for.

KTB: What is a favourite shoot you’ve done?
MV: That’s hard. My latest favourite was a Today’s Parent shoot in the studio where we got to do a winter feel; we had maple scones, we had hot chocolate. The props were very beautiful, so it was really fun to put a beautiful story together.

KTB: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve shot?
MV: I’ve gotten to shoot a lot of raw stuff; raw meats and raw fish. There was one job where I had to string up raw sardines….

KTB: What is the most important thing in your toolbox?
MV: Silly Putty. You’re always trying to balance things. There’s a joke that the hardest thing to style is a napkin on set; you use all kinds of things to make the napkin flow well; so it looks nice, but not over propped or staged… I also have all kinds of little wooden pieces to make things level.

KTB: What is a misconception people have of your job?
MV: People think that the food is not real. It is all real. It might not have been in the past, but it’s all edible now.

KTB: Where does the food come from?
MV: The food stylist. It depends on the timeline, but for example if you need a cake they will bake on site if there’s time, but otherwise they may prep and bake the night before and then assemble things at the studio for the shoot.

KTB: What happens to the food after a shoot?
MV: We try to distribute it to everyone on set. The client takes home stuff that hasn’t been cooked. And it’s up to the stylist to decide if what’s been on set is safe for people to take home. We try to leave as little waste as possible. And if it’s a large shoot where there’s been, like, 100 donuts, we’ll call Second Harvest and they’ll pick up the leftovers.

KTB: Is there anything else people should know about your job?
MV: Just that there are a lot of avenues for this kind of work; advertising, packaging, editorial, and travel food, as well as location work that’s available. If people are looking into it, it’s a good job and a lot of fun.

You can see more of Maya’s work on her website. We’re working on profiling a bunch of jobs in the next little while, but let us know if there’s something you think we should add to our list.