Chefs and Photographers – 10 Things They All Do

10 Similarities Between Chefs and Photographers

Everyone cooks, and everyone takes photos – so there must be some similarities between Professional Chefs and Professional Photographers… here are a few:-

1 – Everyone can use the tools

I’m not a professional chef, but I can use a hob, oven, knife and many other things you see in a professional kitchen….
I can cook a decent curry most days, lots of different thing with mince beef taste lovely….
Most people will have cooked – just as most people will have taken a photograph with a camera, be it the film cameras years ago, digital cameras of today or the little camera on their phone.
So the tools of both our trades are relatively accessible to everyone – leading many people to assume that getting better tools will make you a better chef/photographer.
Sure, a great knife with hard, sharp edge may slice through onions faster and with precision, but do your cooking skills increase because of that?
Just as someone going from an i-phone to £5000 professional DSLR will result in people getting sharper, better exposed pictures – but will they have any more interest, soul, compositional skill or message? Will they be able to handle awkward situations any better because of the better tools?

2 – Raw ingredients are relatively cheap

If you worked out how much the raw ingredients were in a soup, then compared it to the price you pay in a restaurant, you’ll probably think you’re getting ripped off…
Some things, like lovely steak or exotic ingredients may well cost a fortune, but in general, and onion and a potato is relatively cheap
A standard 10 by 8 inch print from many photographers starts at £20, maybe some doing them at £100 framed. The physical cost of the paper and ink is minimal, even high streets probably only charge £2 or £3 for a print.
Also, film costs have gone – digital cards can be filled, emptied, and re-used over and over….
So in both cases, the actual cost of the ingredients is minimal compared to what you “need” to charge

3 – Hours behind the scenes

Every day, well before the restaurant opens, the chefs will be planning menus, trying new things out, experimenting, prepping and honing their food to be the best it can be.
Photographers spend hours and hours after a shoot, firstly reviewing all the photos to choose the best ones, then going through each one, diligently editing them to either their taste or to fit the breif. A typical wedding with 1000 photos will take a good few days to edit and prepare the images ready to present to the couple.
What you, the customer, sees is the tip of the ice-berg

4 – You (should) pay every time you eat or use a photo

When you eat, and pay for a meal, that doesn’t mean next time you go in and order it you get to eat the same thing again for free. You pay every time you eat it. Simple common sense.
It’s the same with professional photography – you pay for the use of a photograph every time you use it. So if you get a nice photo of your building created and you want to use it for your brochure, you pay the photographer for that use. Then a week later, you fancy the same photo again, only this time on a flyer, you don’t get to use it again for free – you pay again, just the same as you would with a steak or pizza.
This is commonly misunderstood – when you “liscence” the use of a photo, you use it only for what you agreed. Any other use would be like going into a restaurant and eating a steak, then leaving without paying.

5 – You need to know what you want before you order

When you go to the restaurant, you choose the type of food you like first – italian, indian, chinese, tapas… the restaurant usually specialises in one or another type of food.
Then you look through the menu and choose what you would like – the price is on the menu and you can see what the ingredients are. With this information, you can give  your order to the waiter and they will bring the food in due course.
With a photography, you should be doing the same – planning what you need in advance of commissioning the photographer is a massive help as it focusses what the photographer will create for you. Also, you need to know how many photos you need as most professional photographers will price on number of images delivered.
So when you ring up, asking a photographer to come round and take some photos and giving you the results on a disc for £100 is a little like going to a restaurant and asking for “some food” for £10, then proceeding to order and eat everything on the menu.
You need to think of ordering photographs a little like ordering food – what style will dictate your photographer, just as your choice or restaurant dictates the food style. Then you need know how many you need AND what of, just as you need to know how many people are at the table and what they want to eat.
The difference with Photography is that we need to know the usage too – if the photos is going on the wall or if it’s going to be used on every bill board in Europe, we need to charge accordingly.

6 – Years of training to hone skills

This goes without saying – no one starts out getting consistently amazing results with their camera or pans. It’s hours of passionate practice that gets you there.

7 – Individual taste and flair

We all learn basic setups in photography just as all chefs will learn the basic techniques – classic sauces, how to cook different meats, how to set up a Rembrandt light and use a light meter to get the exposure…..
That’s like an author learning to write.
It’s what you do with these skills that sets you apart – the individual taste and approach is what separates us.

8 – No 2 chefs are the same

Follows on from 7
Heston and Gordon, both 3 michelin stars – one does classic, the other uses dry ice…. both amazing, top of their game, so different.
Same with photographers… we can all stand in front of the same model and get totally different results, based on ever move we make, every thing we say to the model, the light positions, the aperture….
You’re buying a creative person’s time and skill….

9 – Signature Dishes

Every chef has one of these apparently – the dish they’re proud of and have work towards all their life. The dish people drive across the country, or fly across the world to taste.
Photographers are the same – it maybe the way they work with models, their lighting, their photoshopping or something which gives them a distinct look which clients buy into. Bread And Shutter is an example – dark, broody processing, amazing lighting, textured and complex.

10 – Pioneers

There will be pioneers in every field of life – people who either work towards a goal or stumble upon something new – the result is the same, they break new ground.
Think of Bailey’s black and white fashion in the 60’s, a completely different approach to what went before. Ansel Adams transforming landscape photography with his Zone System approach. Chefs like the bloke from Noma in Denmark who are serving up whatever they find in the seas and woods that day or Heston’s snail porridge.
Pioneers in Photography can drive a whole “look” in the online community, Dragen portraits went around the world, Strobist has taken everyone’s flash off camera, Keith Henson took Ephotozine’s cameras down low for landscapes and put steam engines on the map once again – but in a black, gritty, human way.

So there you go – 10 things chef and photographers have in common – there’s probably more, but I need to go shoot…. a Chef now!

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