NAME: Lou Manna
LOCATION: New York, NY
ORIGIN: Brooklyn, New York
MAIN GENRE: Digital Food, Photography
TRAINING: Bachelor of Arts, Communications, Stony Brook University, with 35 years professional experience (as a NY Times photojournalist and a commercial photographer)
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: ASMP – American Society of Media Photographers, IACP – International Association of Culinary Professionals, PAI – Photography and Imaging
BIO: Lou Manna is an award-winning “Olympus Visionary” photographer whose work has appeared in national advertising campaigns, major magazines, and more than 40 books. After shooting for the New York Times for 15 years, Lou established his Fifth Avenue studio in 1990 where he produces unique images for a wide range of corporate, advertising and public relations clients. Lou brings a natural sense of style, color and composition to his photographic work. He is especially well-know for his ability to make food sparkle through his advanced lighting set-ups, prompting world-renown chef Eric Ripert to comment that his images are “exquisite and mouthwatering.” Many of Lou’s techniques and secrets are revealed in, Digital Food Photography the only book on food photography devoted exclusively to digital technology. He is presently working on a sequel, More Digital Food Photography. Lou teaches group and private digital food photography workshops in his studio and at schools, photography associations, camera stores, and other venues.
LATEST WORKS: My book entitled Digital Food Photography
Please describe your artistic themes
I keep my shots simple and usually have a single area in sharp focus. My subject stands out without a lot of background elements that can draw one’s attention away from the main item. I create lines that pull the eye in a clockwise circular direction, often with a spiral pattern. This helps to create a visual flow in the photograph that keeps your eye moving through the elements and retains the viewer’s attention. My composition keeps your view in close to the food. Lower camera angles and shallow depth of field help achieve this effect. Correct color rendition and specular highlights (pinpoints of white light) create warmth and freshness. Specular highlights are also essential to get food to sparkle like a jewel. In food photography, you eat with your eyes first. Lighting, color, texture, contrast and composition are key elements that I use.
Please describe your creative process
Being a good photographer not only requires having a great camera and lenses, but also a feeling of connection to my clients’ needs to bring out the best of a subject. I have to understand how my client seeks to portray a subject and try to relate to it in order to capture its essence. It requires patience, a collaborative spirit as well as a sense of style and creativity. In photography, lighting is key as everything acts as a mirror to reflect light, even black objects. Lighting affects the mood of the photograph and is a powerful tool to enhance the subject I am shooting. I visualize and think of shooting food as I would when shooting a portrait. I use various techniques for diffusing, reflecting and subtracting the light from the subject matter to achieve a three dimensional looking image jumps off the page or screen.
What are your artistic goals?
My main goal is to create images that tantalize viewers and satisfy clients. The ideal combination of the key elements, lighting, color, texture, contrast and composition, create mouth-watering images that are good enough to eat! I’ve been a food photographer for over thirty years, and mastering the techniques to achieve this takes time, practice and patience. The goal is to shoot pictures that are simple, fresh and natural-looking without a lot of other distracting elements. Often having less is more—and better!
What are your views on the industry?
The importance of a photograph in our society is greater than ever before. Technology has helped people who don’t know what they’re doing come up with something decent or, at least “good enough.” There are still those clients who understand the value of a professional image in promoting their product properly in its best light, but they are becoming fewer and farther between. This is the age of the “do-it-yourselfers” in all aspects – videos, websites, blogs, and writing. People are using their camera phones to take photos of food everywhere they go. With the current state of the economy, it might not make sense for companies to go with a professional photographer. I can tell you first-hand that clients have increased their sales volume 10-50 percent once my images are proliferated. That to me is obviously a sign of a wise client, and proves that investing in a professional photographer is worth every penny.
What advice could you give to emerging artists?
I always advise photographers to shoot every day or as much as they can. Try different lenses, lighting and angles and look to shoot even the most ordinary subjects in a different way. As a photographer you really do need to think outside the box and get creative. Besides delivering a high quality artistic image, for me, the most important “best practices” involve networking to meet people, joining professional organizations, going to conferences, and workshops. Besides improving my skills, I make connections in the industry, which lead to jobs. In today’s world of the internet, a diverse on-line presence via a website, blog and other social media outlets is essential.