At a time when nothing seems as to be expected, Vinnie Finn is about as prepared as you can be.

In a behind the scenes live look into his remote set-up on our Instagram @AskSternRep, Vinnie was kind enough to share his expertise on what it’s like to work remotely on a commercial shoot during Covid-19.


Working with a repeat client, Vinnie was able to use a new remote set-up he had been testing with the comfort of a group he was familiar with. Featuring instantly populating digital galleries, Zoom conferencing with high resolution audio, and a live view streamed through camera, Vinnie was able to transport the team into the set-up as if they were experiencing it in real life.

Paying extra attention to the added health measures needed for Covid protection, Vinnie worked safely with a minimal crew, taking sanitary and space precautions and setting up technological software and hardware to ensure the brand could be a part of the shoot from afar.

What’s it like to be in the studio of a remote shoot with Vinnie? Check out his video below to get the vibe!

In addition to his informative Q&A above, Vinnie shared with us this generous look inside of what commercial food and product photography looks like during the time of Coronavirus:

SternRep: Can you tell us who the client was or what you were shooting?

Vinnie Finn: Yes, I was shooting with Applebee’s. We’ve been working together for almost two years now. We typically shoot monthly, there’s a mix of library images and new promotional food and beverage shots.

Applebee's delicious food photography of grilled chicken bowls by Los Angeles commercial photographer Vinnie Finn | SternRep

SR: How many people were actually on set?

VF: We had 5 people total on set; a food stylist, food assist, prop stylist, studio manager/COVID safety, and me. 

SR: Any extra COVID measures in place?

VF:  Aside from mandatory face masks and physical distancing, our studio manager (my wife Laura) was there to ensure we were adhering to all CDC and local health and safety guidelines. She did her research beforehand and took the reins on making sure everything was up to snuff in terms of both local guidelines, and CDC recommendations. We took everyone’s temperature before they entered the studio every day and had a health questionnaire for all crew to complete as well.

Before the shoot I sent out guidelines that we created to set the tone for the shoot and ensure everyone knew the game plan for the week. To make sure we were keeping an appropriate amount of space we taped off 6-foot marks on the floor and spaced out workstations as far as possible. There’s plenty more that we did in terms of cleaning, access to personal hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes but I think I may bore everyone to tears.

Los Angeles commercial food photographer Vinnie Finn shoots new remote work for Applebee's. Previous fruit smoothie trio work featured. | SternRep

SR: How did that affect productivity? Morale?

VF: It was definitely more strenuous having to work with a skeleton crew, not to mention adjusting to working all day with a mask on. We reduced our crew to the bare essentials, our prop stylist and myself didn’t have our assistants and our food stylist who usually has two assistants for this job only had one. All of that meant that our shot list was around 15% lighter than usual because we didn’t have the added efficiency of our normal crew. 

I think we did everything in our power to make the studio a safe and healthy environment which the crew was very appreciative of, however there’s no getting around the stress associated with this pandemic.

Meals were all taken separately to reduce the risk of spreading the virus which is when we usually get a chance to unwind for a minute and shoot the shit. That was a bummer, but overall I think it was really nice to be around other people albeit at a distance.

SR: How did your preparation help in the actual remote shoot days?

Having a well-tested system in place made for a very smooth remote approvals process. I would have been really stressed if I just showed up to the studio planning to share my screen on zoom without optimizing and tinkering beforehand. 

Mud Slide, Cosmo, and Margarita beverages from Applebee's captured by Los Angeles commercial food and drink photographer Vinnie Finn | SternRep

SR: Did you have a stylist?

VF: Yes, we had a food stylist and a prop stylist.

SR: Do you have any specific equipment or programs that have helped you be successful connecting with clients remotely (i.e. bluetooth camera, Zoom, etc)?

VF: Leading up to this shoot I had plenty of time to tinker and optimize my setup and approach to remote shooting. I did a lot of research on what software to use, we ended up using Zoom for client communication and screen sharing. 

I updated my network at the studio with hard-wired ethernet connections which meant we had zero downtime or connectivity issues throughout the entirety of a 4-day shoot. I also set up a full-frame DSLR and Zoom h5 microphone to stream high-def audio and video from [the] set. 

SR: Were you nervous at all about live broadcasting your shoot to the client?

VF: Not at all. Like I said I’ve been working with this particular client for almost two years.

They were the perfect first commissioned shoot back in the studio for this “new normal”. We also set up a live demo at the end of our pre-pro to walk through the process and address any questions or concerns before the shoot.

I’ve also spent a lot of time on Zoom with friends and family during the quarantine so it’s starting to feel somewhat natural to be in front of the zoom camera for hours on end. It is a bit different with a mask on and without a drink ;)

Classic Combo of dips and appetizers image captured by Los Angeles commercial food photographer Vinnie Finn | SternRep

SR: How did shooting remotely differ from a regular shoot? Pros/Cons?

VF: Well, masks and COVID safety protocol aside, the approvals process went really smoothly. The clients were actually surprised at how well it went and how much detail they were able to get from the setup we had, so that’s positive.

It is definitely a different, less personal experience all around though. Nothing can substitute integrating with [a] client in person, you can’t recreate that experience digitally with people calling in from different time zones in different physical spaces around the country. That being said I'm very grateful for the technology that’s out there that has allowed us to continue working.

SR: Do you think some of these new remote skills will continue to be a part of shoots after life starts to open back up again?

VF: I do think there will be a shift in how productions are approached in the future. This pandemic has forced us to find ways to effectively communicate and create across the globe.

I don’t think it will be as easy to convince clients that agencies need to send a team of people across the country for a one day shoot. That may be to the industry's detriment in terms of creating real lasting relationships with our clients. But looking at it realistically at the end of the day it all comes down to money, and I can see travel being considered unnecessary as a result of all of this.

Cowboy Brisket lifestyle burger image captured by Los Angeles commercial food photographer Vinnie Finn for Applebee's | SternRep

SR: Love all your new test work! Did the test work you created in quarantine help in preparing you for the shoot?

VF: Thanks! The test work that I shot over the quarantine was really a way for me to distract myself from what was/is going on around us. It’s a lot to process. That and I felt that this was a really good opportunity for me to fill out my portfolio with the type of work I want to shoot in the future. I had a lot of ideas piling up in my notebooks that I didn’t have time to shoot before the lockdown so I got to work.

SR: Do you have a favorite image shot during quarantine?

VF: That’s a tough one, the macro waffle shot is really graphic which is something I aim for in my work. However, I also experimented with splash photography, cosmetics and new lighting setups so I’m pretty excited to integrate everything into my portfolio.

Graphic modern breakfast image of melting butter on a waffle image by Los Angeles commercial food and product photographer Vinnie Finn | SternRep

SR: You recently started shooting cosmetics. How has that differed from food photography?

VF: The cosmetics shoots actually came about because one of my wife’s friends works in the industry and she asked for me to shoot some product as a favor for a personal project she’s working on. There was no brief, she just wanted interesting cosmetics related images for a new site she is working on. That allowed me to play and experiment with light in a different way than I would with a traditional food client. 

My background is graphic design and art direction and my creative process hasn’t changed much. I’m constantly saving things that interest me from all creative disciplines. Then I'll pull together mood boards from that reference imagery so I have a loose idea of the look and feel of what I’m trying to accomplish. Then I start making, iterating and creating something that’s my own.

New cosmetics product photography captured with bright modern teal and yellow vibes by Los Angeles commercial photographer Vinnie Finn | SternRep

If you’d like to see more of the contemporary food and product imagery that Vinnie Finn has been up to during quarantine, check out his hot modern food photography set on our blog here and look out for our upcoming blog featuring his NEW cosmetics creations next week!

To learn more about Vinnie, follow him on Instagram @vinniefinn and view his portfolio at