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60 Second Interview: Food Photographer

Photographers have the power to excite, amuse, confuse, shock and shape the way we see the world with their pictures. 

Whether they are documenting real life events or designing artistic shots, it takes a mix of technical and creative skills to put together a great photo.

You might expect to spot a photographer working in the fashion industry or at a big event, but they work in more areas than you think.

The Army, Police and NHS all recruit photographers, as do magazines, newspapers and retailers, including the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry, who are keen to track down talented and creative folk to give their products and services extra appeal.

We caught up with a food photographer to find out more about what she does and how she got started in her career...

Ria Osborne

Name: Ria Osborne
Company: Ria Osborne Photography
Industry: Art & Design / Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industry
What is your job? Food photographer: I take pictures of food for magazines, cookbooks, packaging and advertising
How long have you been doing this job? 3 years, with 4 years working as a photographer's assistant beforehand


University: London College of Printing
Degree: B/A hons photography
A-levels: Maths, French, Chemistry and General Studies

What was your very first job? It was food based!... at a Local cafe in Hereford (where I grew up) serving people chips.

What did you want to do when you were at school? I had no idea until I started my A-levels. I wasn’t doing amazingly well at the subjects I chose and found photography club far more fun. I didn’t realise I could actually do something with it until my careers advisor pointed it out to me.

What made you want to become a food photographer? I wanted a career in photography of some kind from the age of 17. After I graduated I started assisting lots of different photographers working in fashion, music and advertising, but food photography was the most chilled out, friendly and fun, plus I got to eat everything when it was shot - a perk that never gets old.

How did you get there?  After school I took a one year Art foundation course then a degree in photography. During the final year of my degree I started doing work experience with a music photographer. He gave some really good advice about where to go next. I started assisting as soon as I graduated and realised I had so much more to learn. You can only be taught so much at college/university; learning on the job is a massive part of the journey for a photographer.

What is a Typical Day at Work Like? I don’t shoot everyday, but if I am it normally starts at the studio at 8.30. My assistant meets me at the studio, we have a coffee and a quick chat and then start readying the studio before the madness begins. Over the course of the day, a props stylist, a food stylist and an art director will arrive. Props will be laid out, food will be cooked and the art director and I will run around making it all come together and look pretty. We always try and sit down and have a nice lunch, but it depends how much we have to do... We normally finish shooting around 6, then I have an hour to tidy up, back up the shots and send things off to the clients.

What’s the best thing about your job? Everyone is really friendly. It’s a less “life or death” industry than fashion photography plus we get to take some lovely photos of food and eat it afterwards. When I was assisting, as the lowest paid in the room, I would get first dibs on the food at the end of a shoot. I didn’t do any food shopping for 4 years!

What is the most challenging thing about your job? Multitasking. I’ll be setting up a shot, getting my assistant to help, entertaining clients and answering phone calls and emails at the same time. There is also lots of pressure on certain shoots, and now that everything is digital, people are always looking over your shoulder and wanting to see what you’re doing before you’ve even finished, which can be quite stressful.

What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do? It’s really important to be a people person. People book you because they like your work and they want to have a nice day out of the office on a shoot. Attention to detail is really important too, as is determination. There were 100 people on my course at uni - less than 15 of us have careers in the photography industry now. It’s hard slog, and a lot of people give up. But if you really want it, just keep going, get lots of experience and you will make it!

What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career as a food photographer? Sometimes I wonder how essential my degree was. I learnt more in my first few months as a food photographer's assistant than in three years on my degree. I gained a lot of life experience at uni, but I think I could have got where I am today with on-the-job training.

Who inspires you? It’s a fairly small industry, so most people know of each other. I always look at what other people are doing and it’s a constant inspiration.

Where would you like to be in 5 years? I would like to have my own studio, with a studio dog and be shooting every day!

Photos by Ria Osborne