Behind the Lens: Evi Abeler’s Stylish Approach to Food Photography
In an open, bright studio, a food stylist carefully wipes away a stray drop of dressing, arranges a wayward leaf of arugula, places a cracked peppercorn just so. The photographer reviews the tableau and waits for the light pouring through a nearby window to shift. With the click of the shutter, an ordinary salad becomes a beautiful source of inspiration to accompany a recipe in a food magazine. It looks so simple. And that’s the point.
Food photography—whether it’s editorial or promotional—is transformative. It turns ingredients, props, brightness and shadow into an image that delights. It also takes a lot of creative effort and collaboration. “That’s what I love about the work,” says New York food photographer Evi Abeler. “The teamwork that’s essential between the food stylist, the prop stylist, the client, the art director. I enjoy all the planning and organizing that goes into a photo shoot, and then having the client see their product or dish come to life.”
Whether she’s shooting a specialty food product for advertising, a restaurant plate for promotion or a recipe for publication, Evi is all about the details. Her clients appreciate that she’s highly efficient and organized. She’s intent on every aspect of a shoot, from creating a detailed list of photos and a precise project schedule, to assembling just the right creative team, to making perfect adjustments to a scene. Like any talented artist, Evi has a creative vision for what she hopes to achieve in an image. Yet she always remains flexible to the project’s needs—and her graphic design background enables her to shape her work to a magazine or advertising layout. “I understand what the image is being used for and I shoot with an objective in mind,” she says.
A self-described “country girl” and “worker bee,” Evi has a knack for staying cool under pressure, even when the unexpected happens. Photo shoots—even well-planned ones—can get sidetracked: a sudden downpour on a picnic scene or the stylist that decides on white plates instead of cream ones. “People tell me I’m very calm,” Evi says. “If something goes wrong, I figure out a solution. I don’t panic, and I try not to stress others out.”Evi’s process is pretty straightforward. She begins with a client meeting to talk about needs, ideas, timeline and budget—that initial conversation ensures a good fit and sets the stage for a successful project. Once she and the client agree, she moves on to planning every aspect of the project: scouting locations, recruiting a creative team and planning a detailed list of images (along with the needed ingredients and props). The shoot itself is a collaborative process, as Evi works with the stylists and invites the client’s input and approval. With the shoot complete, she retouches the client’s selected images until they’re perfect.
But not too perfect. Evi’s work celebrates the personal, authentic, handmade nature of food and cooking. Her photography shows traces of the people who make and enjoy the food: a close-up of skilled hands kneading bread dough, or a strategically placed crumb on the table. She appreciates working with natural light and seasonal, wholesome ingredients. “Growing up in Germany, I lived the ‘farm to table’ life,” she says. “And I think that inspired my creative interest in food that’s prepared with care and love.”