Vinnie began working with Applebee’s in June of 2018, when he shot a test for them. Applebee’s agency had been tasked with finding a new photographer to work closely with their team to develop and implement all in-restaurant promotional materials as well as menu imagery. The selection process took a few months, according to Vinnie, “which included multiple treatments and conference calls with the agency to ensure that we were all in alignment on the direction they wanted to take their creative . . . The whole crew was ecstatic to find out we won!”
How often do you shoot for Applebee’s?
We shoot for one week a month, more or less. They occasionally need additional days/weeks based off of their promotional calendar.
SR: Do you have a favorite image you’ve shot for them?
VF: That’s a tough one. We’ve shot hundreds of images at this point and I like different shots for different reasons. We get to shoot more creative images for promotions and menu inserts so I’d say those images tend to be more fun to work on. They leave more room for interpretation and collaboration between all members of the team. If I had to choose one, it would be an early shot that we did for a burger insert. The contrast of the burger against the darker background, the humanity with the hand coming in, and the drippy, messy, lived-in feel of the burger.
SR: I heard you set up/purchased your own studio primarily for Applebee’s, is that true? Tell me more about that process.
VF: Well, that’s true to a certain extent. I had been looking for a studio prior to the initial conversation with the team at Applebee’s. I did select the particular studio that I ended up building out because I knew the scale of the Applebee’s workload. I was originally looking for something slightly smaller, but once I got a better idea of how big of a production the Applebee’s work was going to be I started looking for something a bit more substantial. By a stroke of luck, after I shot the test my broker found an amazing space in downtown LA. It was big enough to accommodate everyone and everything I’d need, it that had a ton of natural light and more importantly access to natural gas for my stoves which is way harder to find than I would have ever imagined.
Knowing that Applebee’s would want to start shooting pretty soon but not knowing if I had won the business I was in a little bit of pickle. I didn’t want to make a commitment to such a large space without having that steady bread and butter client, at least in the beginning. So I started all of the wheels in motion to secure the space and then I dragged my feet on signing all of the final paperwork. When I got the phone call that we had won the business I celebrated briefly, signed all of the paperwork and got to work building out the space. It was pretty wild.
SR: What are the differences in your role when a client shoots every month?
VF: Our longer history and pretty much constant contact means that our shared vocabulary is way more refined than it would be with a one-off client. We tend to understand each other a lot better and get to a solid result a lot faster because we’ve gone through the process so many times at this point. We’re constantly building on what we’ve learned and implementing it as we go. It also means I know everyone’s snack and coffee preference and the atmosphere on set is a lot more relaxed than most commercial photography sets. Plenty of jokes, ribbing and banter to go around. I'd say overall I feel like we're more of a team and less of a collection freelancers stepping in to get a job done.
More about Vinnie’s Studio
Big Hue Studio is a full service rental studio. The studio is 3,000sqft which is equipped with a 1,000 sqft Prep kitchen, 100 amp single-phase power, southern exposure, large cyc wall (21’W 12’H 21’D), with 2 full bathrooms. The studio is available for rent, you can find out more about the space and contact at www.bighue.com
Located right across the 4thstreet bridge from on the border of Boyle Heights and the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.
See more of Vinnie's work at www.vinniefinn.com