Andrea is a seasoned photographer specializing in the food and beverage industry in Rome, Italy. His clients are typically restaurants, hotels and cocktail bars looking to capture the perfect, mouth-watering picture for advertising or editorial use.
Watch or listen to learn:
- How Andrea broke until an exclusive pack from food photographers
- The impact of making connections with clients, who’ve since become friends
- Where he looks to use his talents to help a struggling restaurant industry
- How COVID has shaped his clients’ needs
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the photographers journey podcast for the photography community. I’m your host, Lucas dredger. And I’m also the CEO and co founder of format. On this podcast I’ll be interviewing a diverse range of successful photographers from around the globe, about the journeys as artists and entrepreneurs will talk about their stories, their work, their inspiration, and how they have grown their businesses. Okay, welcome to our second episode in the season called photographers COVID in the future, where I’m talking to photographers about how they got started, how COVID has impacted them their recent work and their outlook for the future. I hope that their stories and the work will be the source of inspiration for all for you as you continue your own journey through the pandemic and beyond. Today, I’m joined with Andrea de Lorenzo. So Andrea is a well known food photographer and a travel photographer based out of Rome, Italy. Over the past 10 years, he has worked with more than 1000, restaurants, hotels, pizzerias, cocktail bar bars, and has traveled around the world on assignments for magazines and private car clients. Thank you for joining me today, Andrea, thank you for having me. I know you had a busy day, and you’re calling me from Rome, Italy. I’m in Toronto, Canada, but happy that you were able to make the time and we’ll we’ll we’ll get to it. First I wouldn’t mind starting to talk a little bit about and understanding your photography journey. how you got started in photography, and how you ended up becoming a food food photographer specifically?
Well, I mean, I ended up let’s start from the late part. For the last part, I started being a food photographer by chance. So I started as a with a degree in movie in history and critical movies cinema. So I mean, it was a pretty long jump from cinema to you know, to food. But by chance, I had the opportunity to work with an agency in Iran who started working in social advertising, social media management, back in 2010. And since then, I was really involved in the industry. And lately and right now in 2021. I’m very, very into the industry and one of the I would say most important what but one of the biggest photographer of food and beverage in Italy, and of course travel photographer, but this is something that has been stuck for the last year and a little bit more than one year, but still going on, you know, but yeah, I started as a movie critics movie critic, and then I turned out I wanted to be there not that I want to be a director. But then I changed my mind and then moved to photography. And then I move from movie to food. And it was a pretty nice job, I must admit.
But so you know, food is a very specific type of photography. How did you get into it? What’s the first step that you took to get into food photography to remember?
Yeah, I mean, as I told you, I found this job. And I found this job announced on the internet, this job requests from this agency, and I said to myself, okay, I really I’m Italian. I like food. So I should give it a try. But before that I had the opportunity to shoot like zero food. It was my first job as a food photographer. So it really wasn’t an idea. Really, it was more like a suggestion, you know, at the very beginning. So I said to myself, let’s try it. Let’s go for it and see what what happens. And it turns out that I was really into it. Because even if it was my very first job as a food photographer, I do recall that it was in a two Michelin star restaurant. And it’s something of a sort of a big deal. I found myself like, okay, I like the job. They like me. Why not give it a try. And so I keep it ongoing. I still do some movies. From time to time I write about movies I I was a still photographer as well. But then I realized that the food industry, food and beverage industry was my field. I really loved that. And I really loved eating and drinking, as well of course, but I really loved the people involved in the industry. And so I keep on going, I kept going and even even today I had another job with the restaurant. And yeah, you said correctly more than 1000 restaurants, pizzerias and so on in 10 years, but maybe even something more, because I really can’t keep a track of how many places I visit.
Well, first of all, congratulations starting from something that you found through our, you know, a single job posting. And, you know, launching your photography career and becoming who you are today is is impressive. This is a pretty generic question. But is your most of your food photography shot on location at these restaurants? Or do you take and you set up studio shots, and you have your own studio to do the shots?
No, I mean, it’s correct to define my food photography as location photography, I work mainly on locations. So it’s much easier to me to work on location because I you know, working with high hands, Chef, Michelin star restaurants, and cocktail bars, you have all the facilities there by yourself. And even the people they’re working for you is literally much easier. And my job is not like an advertising photographer. So I do work in studios. But this is like 5% of my job. I do work on location. And so working and traveling as well as become like a unique part of my job.
Got it? Rome is, you know, one of the capitals of amazing cuisine in the world. Is it a competitive field of photography in Rome, Italy?
Not really. I mean, Italy is a pretty challenging marketing market. But in Rome, we are not so many in your email in terms of food photographer. So we are maybe two free photographers working in food and having a huge impact on the industry. So speaking about Italy, of course, we are much more. But from is not very competitive. So that’s why I tried to move outside of the city. But I mean, my main field, my main place of job involvement is Iran, of course. And now with the COVID situation, it’s even, it’s even more than normal. As you can imagine.
Yeah. No, for sure. And we’ll get into that a little bit later on. I’m sure. I’m sure. COVID has impacted not only your personal life, but your your professional life as well. So we’ll touch on that. So you know, at format, we believe that successful photographers are both, you know, amazing, creative photographers, and they’ve developed the creative journey, but also their business journey, become business people, entrepreneurs, how has that side of the journey, photography journey come for you have you naturally become a business person? Were you a business person before? Have you trained in any way to becoming a good businessman? Or is this just coming naturally to?
Oh, well, no, it wasn’t really natural. I mean, I was lucky working with a Swiss photographer who taught me how to deal with money. And this was a really important part of my growing, you know, professionally speaking. So my growth. But then, I mean, being a businessman is it’s a very complicated thing. I mean, be me, I’m more like, creative, creative guy. So having to deal with people in terms of money in terms of contrast, in terms of pre production, post production, and hold it. All this part of the job, you know, besides shooting a photo, it was really, really, really difficult. Right now, after 10 years, I can call myself a businessman, because I spend so much time in terms of signing contracts, preparing contracts, speaking about money with clients, but it was a very long journey. It’s not something that you I mean, you can literally be born with it, you can be a natural account, or you can’t, we are just normal person webs. We struggle, speaking about money. And in Iran, Italy, it’s really easy to struggle speaking about money, because it’s very difficult to speak to someone else about about you heard a much you would like to earn. So but lately, I mean, I’m pretty confident with my business side, and but I still hope to get get better, you know,
like everything. And this this person that taught you about kind of the business that you mentioned, some Swiss Swiss photographer that taught you that what specifically were some of the takeaways for you? Was it you know, how to price your work? Or was it was that person a mentor for you? How did that relationship help you? Well,
it was a mentor. First, first of all, because it was the first photographer I worked with as an assistant. And in like four or five years of assisting him, he taught me about the value My job, so create how much the value of a photographer, and the the value of one photograph can be really reward for someone else. So then this is very important because somehow in and lately in my field, it’s been very difficult to make people understand what’s the real worth, in terms, not just, you know, not about just about money, but in terms of commercial speaking, you know, so, it taught me about getting a prize and explaining people how much it’s important to get good photographers, and good photography for your job, and your and your restaurant and your movies or whatever, you know, you do.
Yeah, and I can imagine, you know, social media is one of the main reasons for devaluing photography work, and potentially even, you know, stock photography, and the growth of stock photography, and free stock photography as well. Probably impacted that as well. And maybe we can touch on that a little bit later on. I’d love to get into a little bit of your work. I was looking at your format website today. And I’d love to maybe, let’s start, would love to ask you about a specific photograph on your site. It features I think, what is a noodle bowl with a lot of with an open paint can. And I think what is a head of lettuce painted and think I’m not exactly sure if it’s the head of lettuce. Tell me a little bit about this photograph. And its background.
Well, this is a very lucky shot. I mean, this is a unimproved shot, because there was this restaurant that was restyling all his location, turning from very classical Italian restaurant, to artists made restaurants. So these artists came and say, Okay, I want to paint everything in pink. So with the chef and the owner, we choose to create some pictures, some photos that were like food with this pink paint. And so we were working, we have paper all around, you know, in order not to get the floor dirty with this pink paint. And I remember this girl coming in into the room, and putting this dish of ramen, pink ramen, of course made for the shoot on the paper close to the pink paint, you know, to the can the lead tools that we use before. And I remember looking at the dish and say to yourself, oh my gosh, this is a perfect picture. Because this is really getting the point of all the situation, it was very alive. And, and they really love it. Because somehow I’m always very, I’m always improvising in my job because I go to a location and I studied with the chef or the owner, the location itself. And when we decide where to shoot the dishes, or the portraits, I
would say, I think categorize as cuisine work, and then on the other side, or kind of your more more cuisine, like photography, and then on the other side, sometimes I’ll come across this very minimal style of photography. And I think the one that I that’s putting my attention to is a photo of a red shrimp. What’s the What’s the story behind a photograph like that?
Well, this is a very editorial job. So I was in this Michelin star restaurant and I was shooting an editorial for Italian magazine. And so I had this very minimal minimalistic dish, because you can see there is just this red frame is very nicely done with some hairs on top. And but how do you treat a dish like that, I mean, you can’t really create a set a huge set, because you really need to focus on the, on the food on the craftsmanship. So the idea was to use a very strong light, very harsh light within just a small reflection to get some shadows and enhance just the little red shrimp and using the geometry of the dish as well to get even more strong impact, but still having just a white dish on a white background. And it’s very nice that you choose these two pictures because they are like the antithesis of my jobs. On one side you got the gourmet side, of course where you really literally have to treat food like a work of art like morass. statue made of marble for example. And on the other side, you got the commercial job where you have to find a very nice idea every time you go to a restaurant to convey An idea or storytelling idea or a situation or a new world, or whatever. So, it these two images are really like the two sides of a coin. And the coin is my photography?
And how do you decide? Like, do you have a framework when you decide to switch from one or the other? Or is it very clear when you go out on an assignment, what kind of photo you’re shooting when you’re going?
Well, I have to say that I have an idea when I get to the place, but then I’m really open to the situation. I mean, if it’s if speaking to someone there, like the chef, or even a waiter, and the points out to something that I didn’t fold about, you know, I can change my mind and switch to another situation. But of course, when you work, working with a magazine, and you have a layout to respect, of course, this is a little more strict in terms of opportunity for
style. Where do you see yourself kind of moving as a photographer? In in this specific type of photography? Do you see yourself branching out internationally? Do you want to stay in Italy? As a food photographer? What do you see yourself moving? Or where do you see your career moving to?
Right now I’m living in a comfort zone. I mean, Italy is my place, Rome is my city. And I’d love to keep working here. But of course, I mean, as every photographer working in the industry or every photographer to cool you, you really want to go out and try yourself with these different situations, and meet new people. Because it’s very important that a very important part of this job is this social connection that you can make. I mean, you will meet a lot of people, you learn, literally a lot a ton of information every day you get in touch with something else with someone else. And going abroad, having the chance to work with foreign people with people very distant from your point of view, it’s really important because it opens up, it opens up your mind and helps you with your job not just abroad, but in your town as well.
Yeah. And then why do you have an opinion? Why you believe people, restaurants and businesses keep calling you back for photography? Why is it about your photography? Is it the way you carry yourself as a business photographer? Or as a photographer in general? Is it the way that you build relationships, your approach to photography? Do you have a understanding of why people continuously come back to you for work?
I don’t, I have to admit that I don’t I I do believe I’m a good professional. I’m a good photographer, but I’m a very nice person as well. I became a sort of an influencer for the industry in Rome lately. That’s because of course working for 10 years in, in the industry makes you someone that everybody knows, that knows a little bit of everyone and everything. So I must admit there is a lot of things that a photographer needs to work and being capable. And it’s pretty sad to say, but being capable of taking good picture is just a part, let’s say a 50% of your job of your profession, then you have the everything else.
Yeah, no, I definitely agree with that. Right? Like you’re dealing with clients everyday or you’re communicating with people, then you have to actually do the business side of photography. So yeah, there’s the creative component of photography, but everything else is the reason you’re there. You know, the photo, at the end of the day, the photo has to be amazing. Like, you know, clearly your work is, but it’s all about the business side, the communication, the human interaction point. Where, where’s why I believe people are calling you back. Based on the conversations we’ve had. Let’s let’s move the topic into social media a little bit. What is your perspective of how social media has changed your career as a photographer, and let’s maybe touch on specifically Instagram, because I think Instagram seems to be the social media platform that is image heavy, and use the widely by you know, people that are taking in kind of a visual format. How is Instagram impacted your your career.
I said, told you, being a photographer is just a part of your job, being on the Instagram. For me, it was like opening up to of course to many people about my job, but it becomes also a place where I could show other people, my idea about food, my idea about the restaurant industry, and to show support to the industry as well. So It’s not just the portfolio, I was speaking to pastor chef today about it because she was getting into Instagram, pretty late him as a bit, but we were speaking about the fact that you just can’t consider Instagram portfolio like your site, even if it’s a very, very strong portfolio, if it likes humanity, if it likes the kind of engagement to other people, I mean, people have to reflect themselves in your picture or in your stories in order to get engagement in order to get in touch with you. And this is very important, and you can get it just being real, not just being professional. So you have to take sides, you have to express yourself, and you have to be a little bit carefree. I mean, you have to be a little bit, as we say, leggero, you have to be light. In Italy. Yeah.
And so I know that, from what I can tell on your Instagram COVID has impacted your personal life as well as your business life. Would you mind touching on how COVID has specifically impacted you?
I got COVID, like in March, and I spent one month stuck. It was pretty harsh. But more than that, I mean, COVID struck the restaurant industry very harshly here in Italy in the last 12 months since March 22,020. We literally struck struggle with work, it was very difficult situation. I mean, me as a photographer, of course, I was, I lost more than half of my jobs. That’s because restaurant closed because of COVID delivery was a part of the new situation, new economic situation. But it wasn’t really something where you call a professional photographer, to get photos to you know, they, they started to take picture by themselves, and the hospitality field shut down. So this was a very huge loss for me as well. But as I told you, when this happened, my main concern was to was to stay close to the ones that were close to me, in terms of clients, in terms of friends that I made during my journey. And so I started to call them every day get in touch with them sending messages. Sometimes I did some photographer for photography for them, as well for off of my fee, or a very low fee respect to my normal fees, minimal wages. That’s because it was a very difficult moment. And they say, and I thought it was my part too. I wanted to do my part, you know. So being close to these people, being their friends more than their photographer, it was a very important moment to me, because it showed to these people that it wasn’t just about photography, it is not just about a professional is not just about taking good picture is about creating connection with people and creating very strong relationship with these people.
Yeah, and I think you touched on this last time we spoke that you went out of your way to help smaller businesses during that time as well. Do you mind going into that a little bit?
Yeah, sure. I mean, as I told you, I, I have some some friends that have restaurants or small bars. And it was really natural. I mean, I didn’t really think about the economic part, you know, we were in, we leave the moment where everyone was on the same level. I mean, I’m helping you because you’re my friend because I do care about your about you and I do I believe in what you do in terms of food in terms of drink, in terms of business, everything. But at the same time, I’m helping an industry I met the industry. And this is something that should be getting back to me somehow, when everything when all this common situation would be over. So we did a few for the shooting. The small ones, but, you know, there wasn’t very much to communicate because of course, there was no new menu. There was no new drinks. There were stories, there were people struggling with their work. So we tried to convey this situation in images, and somehow it worked.
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I think it will be hell on earth for us photographers, because even right now I’m flooded with requests, not just from restaurants, but from hotels, from brands that it’s pretty new for me to get brands coming to me. And so and this is just an the very start of this new beginnings. So I do believe that in September, let’s say September, October, I will be flooded with with work. So I’m starting to get people working with me, I got some new assistant producer, and hopefully, everything will be back to normality. And we’ll be back to our normal life and normal a job routine.
Yeah. So, you know, when Rome, Rome comes back to normal, like you said, You’re, I’m sure you’re going to be super busy. Do you foresee changing how you operate as a photographer? Will you be increasing your rates to make room to make, you know, to make sure you fit everything? Will you just be taking on more work? Do you have any thoughts there?
No, no, I, I I don’t want to have you know, too many jobs on my in my hands. Because somehow you lose quality. You know, you you can’t really have too many things to think about, you have to decrease your your clients, you have to decrease your jobs in order to get the top quality possible. So I’m not sure about my rates, and I still have to think about it. But that surely that’s something that I that will do that I can do. Because raising your your rates makes you less appealing for small business, but it helps you know, getting more bigger ones. But I will still help you know small business like friends business and business I do believe in, in order to get this industry industry going on.
Just based on you know the conversation we’re having today and knowing what I know about you and getting to know you. My belief is that you’re a successful photographer, because you truly care about your clients. And not only about the restaurants and the work that you’re doing, but you care about more than that, right? You care about the relationship you’re building with them, you care about their success, potentially, you know, you said during COVID, you went out of your way to check in on them make sure that they’re doing well, you know, that goes above and beyond of what a business person would do a typical business person would do, I would say. And I do truly believe that, you know, the businesses that go above and beyond and care about their clients and the customers do see value in that whether it’s you know, those relationships lasting longer or those people, those customers and clients turn into friends that then end up recommending you a lot more.
I do believe that is a very huge part of my job and my success depends on that as well. It’s not just about being a good photographer, you have to be a good human being. And somehow you have to turn yourself in a friend for some of your clients and it’s very nice to see that some of our of my clients became turned out to be my friends in the end. So right now I can count not many, but a few very nice friends, very close friends in the industry and I’m really happy about that and then I’m really happy as well that this part of my job is considered Cause you know, I don’t want to be just a photographer. I want to be hanging out to these people. They want to be someone who can help them to grow perforate but also So I want to be someone they can rely on. And even if they have a very small problem, like, oh, Andrea, we got a we have to change the lightbulbs in our restaurant, can you give us advice about which color we can choose? I mean, I really open to be your counselor on that. Or just about, oh, we made a new dish, we made a new cocktail, we, why don’t you pass and you try it and tell us what fig I mean, I love to eat and drink. And so this, this will be perfect. And it will be helpful on both on both sides, you know, and I really, I really like it. And I owe people, the people I’m working with. Appreciate that as well.
And then, you know, just to summarize, where do you Where do you go from here next? What’s next for you?
Well, next, there’s Milan, then there’s Venice. Lately, I started again, traveling around Italy. And I’m really, really happy about that. Because one of the main, one of the core of my photography is to travel all around Italy, and Europe and the world as well. So being able to travel again, it’s a makes me really happy. And I got some very nice projects coming on that we’ll see light in autumn, or next year. But I want to talk about that, because I’m pretty schematic. So I will touch hold in order to get it done. And but I see, I’m positive, I’m really positive about what’s coming next. And I have this positivity will go for not just for me, but for all the people in the industry, all the photographers, and all the people around me.
That sounds that sounds really exciting. Do you have advice for photographers that would want to aspire to be a successful photographer like yourself in the food, photography, industry, and potentially travel industry,
you have to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, I do remember taking some so many horrible pictures in order to get the perfect one. And that really gives you the idea of our job, you have to get your hands dirty, you have to take a picture you have to study you have to try anything new that comes to your mind. And this is very important not to be afraid of making mistakes.
No, that’s I think that’s great advice. Where can people find you online and connect with you if they want to reach out?
Well, of course, I got my formats portfolio. So www dot Andrea de lorenzo.it. Or you can find myself on the Instagram. So it’s at Andrea underscore de Lorenzo. Or that’s it. I mean, I’m on Facebook as well. But I’m not using that so much. I’m not on Twitter, cause for a photographer, it’s it’s not really the right place to be. But but this is just my opinion. And so those are the two places where you can find me and I’m really open to get email dm. So if you haven’t any idea if you want just to chat with me or if you’re in Rome and you want to get a coffee, just DM me, send me a mail and I will be more than happy to answer you and to get in touch with you. That’s great.
Thank you Andrea for your time. Your your insight today. Thank thank you for sharing your journey with us. And good luck with everything that you’re doing your photography career. And, you know, we look forward to hopefully meeting you one day and meeting on some side of the world and getting a coffee. Thank you very much. Thank you again. Thank you. Cheers. Thanks for joining me on the photographer’s journey. Join me next time at format comm slash podcast for another photographer conversation. as we learn more about how other professional photographers build their business. The sport is podcast. Don’t forget to sign up for a free firstname.lastname@example.org podcast listeners get 20% off the first year at format with a promo code journey when you upgrade your plan. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe and be sure to share it with your network. From all of us at format. Thank you and remember we’re here to help you succeed. And I look forward to one day sitting down with you and learning how you’ve succeeded in your photography business. Until next time, thanks.