Spotlight Interview … Food Photographer and Stylist Paul Lillakas

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JRP: It is truly a pleasure to welcome Food Photographer and Stylist Paul Lillakas to James Robinson Photography Blog. Thanks Paul for your participation.

Paul Lillakas: Thanks so much for the interview!

JRP: Where do you call home Paul?

Paul Lillakas: I proudly call Toronto, Canada home.

JRP: How did you get started in photography? Is there any formal training in your background?

Paul Lillakas: I got started in high school. I was the yearbook editor and I’ve been doing it ever since. I do not have any formal training. I have passion and I’m a good researcher!

JRP: Would you name two photographers that have influenced your work and why.

Paul Lillakas: Marcus Millson, a photographer whose style is very rough and tumble. His food photos are very real (half-eaten food/destroyed dinners), a quality that I really admire. Also Annie Leibovitz, typical I know, but I truly admire the creativity involved in her work. She pushes boundaries and I aspire to do just that with food. Whoopie Goldberg in a bathtub of milk? Does that still count as food photography? 🙂

JRP: Do you have support people who help with your projects and if so what areas do they handle?

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Paul Lillakas: I generally do my work solo. I enjoy getting into the zone and just working away. I’m also very particular about everything involved so until I would need a support team I would always choose to do it myself.

JRP: What equipment would we find in your bag for a typical shoot? What type of lighting do you favor and why?

Paul Lillakas: You would find a Canon 40D – DSLR Camera with a Canon 28-135mm lens and a Sigma 105mm DG Macro lens which I use for most of my food photography. I always try to use natural lighting however in some instances I like to use low lighting at night to create a more warm, indoor feel such as in my Fenugreek Pumpkin Soup photo.

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JRP: Please describe your digital work-flow and the software you use?

Paul Lillakas: I do all of my post-production on Photoshop CS5. I try to keep this as minimal as possible but adjusting white balance and mid-tone contrast is usually key, especially when working with indoor, low lighting.

JRP: You prefer to work with fresh food items in your shots. How does this influence your work?

Paul Lillakas: My cooking always influences my photography. My first inspiration always comes from finding a particular food item and I go from there. Sometimes I’m inspired by a new plate or serving dish, but generally I know right away if what I’m cooking is going to end up as one of my portfolio shots.

My portfolio is very seafood heavy for a few reasons. 1. I love seafood any day of the week. 2. I have always thought that seafood is the most photogenic meat. Visually, fish and shellfish have extraordinary colour and natural beauty. Ahi tuna and lobster (for me) will always yield a more striking photograph than steak, chicken, boar or any other protein.

JRP: In your opinion what is the biggest misconception regarding food photography?

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Paul Lillakas: I would say the biggest misconception is that food photos feature inedible, fake food. I know that sometimes this is the case but not all photographers work by this standard. My food photography philosophy is to keep everything very real. I state this on my website and it holds true for all of my work. Everything you see is real and was happily eaten after the shoot!

JRP: In today’s market tell us how you keep productive and retain your creative edge.

Paul Lillakas: I keep my creative edge by featuring ingredients that are not all commonplace (such as wild boar, monkfish, crispy fried avocado, bacon tuiles, etc.) I also create original recipes that are not taken from any other source. I may borrow inspiration, but I never copy or re-create anything that I have seen others do exactly the same way. Food innovation is all about evolving techniques and combinations to create new and exciting things and this is exactly what I try my best to do.

JRP: Name a project where you realized how far you’ve come as an artist?

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Paul Lillakas: I guess when I first launched my website and got such a great wave of positive feedback I truly realized that I was doing something that I really loved and doing it very well. I of course had a hard-copy portfolio for years but to have a clean, attractive online presence made me feel very accomplished! It’s been a great tool for sharing my work with others and ultimately what brought me here to this interview!

JRP: What has been some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Paul Lillakas: The best advice given to me by another photographer was to shoot what I love. A little sappy, I know. But before I started shooting food, I was very much into nature photography and without that advice I probably wouldn’t have even gone down this road. Figuring out that I could combine my passions for cooking and photography opened me up to a whole other world of both industries!

JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?

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Paul Lillakas: Do not let other photographers tell you what you are doing is wrong. Art is subjectivity at its finest. There will always be another way another person would do something, but that doesn’t mean your work is wrong. One of the most frustrating things about the art world is that principles are sometimes taught as finite rules. As a mostly self-taught photographer, I value things differently and seek to appreciate something different in everyone’s work.

JRP: Thank you Paul for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure.

Paul Lillakas: Thanks so much for taking the time to feature my work!

JRP: To view more of Paul Lillakas’ photography follow this link: www.paullillakas.com

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