How do pros create custom branded content? Discover the secrets behind creative client photography with food blogger and photographer Joanie Simon.

The self-proclaimed pixie-haired food photographer, educator, wife, Mom, and potato lover Joanie Simon is a creative force. Whether she’s sharing her extensive knowledge of food photography through her YouTube channel the Bite Shot or creating exclusive custom content for Shutterstock Custom’s brands, we’re constantly impressed by Joanie’s creativity and expertise in food photography. We spoke with Joanie about her creative process, what she’s up to, and what brought her to Shutterstock Custom. Here are a few shared words with food photographer extraordinaire Joanie Simon.

Joanie Simon

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Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Joanie Simon

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

Tell us about you, Joanie! How did you get started in food photography?

Well, my name is Joanie Simon and I’m a full-time photographer specializing pretty much exclusively in food. I went to school for art history with a masters in counseling, where I did a lot of roles in teaching. I never really considered my creative passions as a way to build a full-time career. However, fortunately between a combination of my love for food and photography, I made it happen. As much as I’ve always loved cooking, I realized that I loved capturing the visual component of food. It’s now my exclusive medium and main creative outlet.

When you transitioned into blogging and then photography, how did you start creating your educational videos?

A few years ago, some bloggers wanted me to do a workshop on how I photograph food. I did a few more workshops, and started to get really excited to keep them going as teaching is in my background. When I made a video about how I do food photography, it was widely popular and I thought that maybe I could make a whole channel of food video content!

 I started to see an explosion on YouTube for photography educators, but I wasn’t seeing anything food photography specific. There are just a million things to know, and I thought this could be a great opportunity both for teaching and photography. It’s been really neat to get to connect with people with all sorts of experience in different areas of photography.

Video courtesy of Joanie Simon’s YouTube channel, The Bite Shot.

We couldn’t agree more. You’re so good in front of the camera and behind! Did that come naturally from your teaching background?

It’s definitely hard, and I saw that as an opportunity for me because I do feel comfortable in front of the camera. That comfortability comes from a combination of my background in teaching, spending several years in Toast Masters honing public speaking skills, and a lot of learning. The more you do it, and the more you practice it, the better you’re going to get at it.

The biggest thing I can tell people is not to think about it. The second you start overanalyzing, you get too much into your head and prevent it from being authentic. Sometimes, you have to just do it!

Do you ever translate your videos into Instagram Stories?

Absolutely! I think IG Stories is a great way to launch into speaking into a camera vs. the more formalized process traditionally recorded for YouTube. You connect with an audience and have the opportunity to communicate genuinely. It can feel like you’re just talking to your buddies!

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Cultivate Your Creative Voice

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

You have a strong personal brand that shows in your work as well as your professional portfolio. How do you balance the two in the work you make public?

Everything is under the Joanie Simon Media brand, so there’s blogging, photography, photography education, and so on. It really helped create a solid voice through everything that I do. The clients I take on very much understand who I am and the work that I do. That way they are coming to me for the work I do, and the voice I have. There’s an understanding of what I’m good at creating, and they work with me for that. What you see is what you get!

We’re in a very fortunate place in the world where if you’re honest and genuine online, people embrace it. It’s been nothing but a positive experience for me. The people who don’t appreciate what I do are the people I don’t need to worry about.

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Be Honest with Your Work

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

How did you brand yourself under the Joanie Simon Media umbrella? You have such a distinct brand, and it’s such a strong visual story.

I’d love to say I was intentional but I really wasn’t! I think when photography came to the forefront, it was about staying honest about where you are and where you fit somewhere in a general area. I’m going to be honest with myself and true to my audience.

I’ve spoken to a lot of photographers that have a very broad skillset where they can shoot a wide variety of types of photography, and I could see how finding a niche within that can be challenging. I’m very fortunate that food just speaks to me and is the place where I’m happiest. That helps me hone my brand.

My personal work is really important to that, that’s where I grow and discover the most.

How did you first hear about us and get started with Shutterstock Custom?

My cousin was working with a hair care company, and I did some hair modeling because I have short hair. She heard about the company and encouraged me to apply, as she knew I was interested in photography. It’s crazy how much the process has changed, and it’s been a lot of fun to work with and grow up with.

Video courtesy of Joanie Simon’s YouTube channel, The Bite Shot.

How has the transition been from then to where we are now? The company has changed a lot!

It’s definitely morphed and changed, but the thing I’ve loved the most is the relationship and that’s still there. Even with the automation, there’s still a connection with the Project Coordinator. There are always very timely responses, and mutual respect and understanding. It’s always a real treat to work with everyone. I still feel that connection which speaks volumes to the leadership at the company.

You’ve worked on countless projects. Do you have any favorites you really enjoyed?

One that stands out and that I learned a lot for was a cookbook I shot for one of the clients. It was on location and the client was physically there. The spectrum of full production was really fun to work with.

The video briefs are also unique opportunities to work on that are really fun. We got to shoot at 60fps, so the editing had a lot of room to get creative with. Social media moves so quickly, so venturing into this more slow-mo stuff is really fun to get to experiment with new formats.

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Work with Client Briefs

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

So you take on both full-production and regular projects, what pulls you to both of those project types?

I definitely enjoy both. The images are different for both. On full-production shoots, you have a lot more people involved which can be really fun compared to shooting alone. When you’re in a full-production situation you have more people around you who specialize and can be an asset to the project. However, on regular projects, you have the ability to strengthen your areas you want to improve. It’s good discipline to cross-train in both.

What’s your go-to gear set-up?

I primarily shoot Canon, with a mirrorless Sony as a backup. I’m addicted to my C-Stand! It’s such a versatile piece of equipment and is perfect for those overhead shots. I always shoot on a tripod. Living in Arizona, there’s never a cloudy day so a diffuser is absolutely essential in my studio. I prefer shooting with artificial light for that reason. My go-to light is an LED panel, it’s my baby and my friend!

Do you usually shoot with prime or zoom lenses?

Mostly prime. I have a 100mm f2.8 macro that does 99% of my head-on or ¾ angle shots. You get a nice compression and it’s absolutely fabulous. I recently added a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and it’s just butter. It just covers so much.

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Consider Your Focal Lengths and Lenses

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

Perfect focal length! I’m with you. And you shoot in a studio. How is your studio usually set up?

It’s a 600 sq. foot space so it’s got a bit of room and a kitchen in here. My studio kitchen is all white with beautiful countertops, so it’s pretty on trend for most of the work I do. For the most part, it’s the same but I sometimes change or shake it up depending on the shoot. It depends on the vibe we’re going for, but I do have a great degree of flexibility!

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Studio Setup

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

That’s amazing. Do you have any personal projects you’re working on at the moment?

I just completed a bunch of work for an ongoing client and June is National Dairy Month, so I shot heaps of dairy so that will be going up this month. In terms of personal projects, I’m working on a few premium courses for my audience. I provide free videos on my YouTube channel every week, but the premium courses are more of a deep dive into those videos.

Food Photographer Joanie Simon on Working with Shutterstock Custom — Maintain Personal Projects Too

Image courtesy of Joanie Simon.

A fun footnote- Shutterstock Custom is the reason behind the name of my YouTube channel the Bite Shot. I was doing a bunch of videos for a brand, and one of the segments was to have a child’s hand come in and help with the shot. They needed a kid’s hand to come in and I had my son who was 5 at the time come and help, and the first thing he said was “Is it time for the bite shot yet?” The final shot was the bite shot and that was all thanks to the client!

Thanks to Joanie Simon for sharing her words on food photography and creating custom content for clients with us.

Top image courtesy of Joanie Simon