This week’s Questions with a Pro features Cory Howe.
Cory is a photographer and retoucher at Hormel Foods, a position he worked towards initially as an editorial photographer with his own studio. He is now one of the top food photographers in corporate America and his passion for food is what has led him to his leadership role overseeing the entire photography studio at Hormel Foods. Here, he describes how his work came to revolve around food, how he stays up-to-date on technology in the constantly changing industry, and what he wishes he knew before pursuing a career in photography.
We asked: How did your work come to revolve around food? Please describe a bit of your path to a career in photography.
Cory said: I started in Colorado, so I easily fell in love with taking photos of nature. I mean, come on, it’s Colorado. I went to Colorado Institute of Art majoring in Sports Photography. After I graduated, I ventured to Kansas City, Missouri and found a love for Studio Photography. As the years passed, I bounced from Missouri to Colorado to Wisconsin. I started working for a package and design firm and learned the beauty of Food Photography. The colors, textures and then to be complimented with beautiful design layouts just blew my mind. I thought I finally found my passion for creating art. The great recession hit and I did everything I could to keep myself afloat. I was blessed when I started up my own business and everything took off. I photographed everything. LED lights for fish tanks, location work and a little food here and there. Having my own business was wonderful, however the price for my success was the loss of a home life. I never saw my family. So my wife and I started talking and just on a whim, I applied at Hormel and the rest is history.
We asked: How do you alleviate stress on a day-to-day basis? Any tips and tricks that others should try?
Cory said: Oh boy, I wish I knew! I’m horrible at this. One thing that has kept me sane is to focus on what I can control and try to let go of the rest. Which is easier said than done.
We asked: What strategies do you use to ensure that you are up-to-date on all of the changing technology in the industry?
Cory said: Social media. I follow all of our vendors for the latest equipment and gear. I’m active in watching training podcasts as well as new product release notes. Of course, ASMP. And Hormel is blessed with various freelancers due to our volume. This really helps me; hearing about different techniques, new equipment, new software, etc. for basic day to day jobs from freelancers all over.
We asked: Please describe what you do for Hormel Foods. How did you obtain this role, and how has it changed your career?
Cory said: At Hormel, my hands are in everything related to running a studio. From normal computer and camera maintenance updates and repairs, to managing our e-com line which consists of managing a team of freelance photographers and retouchers as well as managing file maintenance, sending out images for clipping paths, getting them back, running some actions, marking up all images for retouch, proofing them and sending them out to clients.
My main gig is Food Photographer, however you could say I’m also the Production Coordinator, Computer and Camera Maintenance Manager, Color Corrector, Retoucher and Freelance Manager. I’m also involved in several location shoots showcasing celebrity chefs. Lastly, I’m in charge of Hormel’s executive portraits. This has taught me a few vital points.
Number one: learn shortcuts to all software. Photoshop, Capture One, emails, you name it.
Number two: actions. I must have 6 automated tasks for actions on my desktop that I use all day long.
And lastly: templates. Templates for emails, production notes, job completion forms, repairs. You name it. I just do not have time for the small things anymore.
We asked: What is one thing you wish you knew before pursuing a career in photography? Why is this so important?
Cory said: I wish I knew how fast our industry would change once digital photography came around, but even more so when the iPhone came out. Everyone is a photographer now. I have so many people that come into the studio without the understanding or knowledge of what it takes to create high-end photography. They just want content and as fast as they can get it. Their layouts are mock ups from something they took with their iPhone and of course they love the look of it. It’s almost comical on some jobs when we have roughly $80k in equipment on set just to do a gif for a social media post. And yet, at the same time, I’m happy when I see that same photo properly enlarged for a trade show.