Working on her own, Tallon developed lighting techniques to enhance her graphic style. She noticed photographers using specular light for people and portrait shots in the early 2000s and wanted that sharpness and intensity in her still lifes. “Nobody was using it for food as far as I could see,” she said, “but I liked its crisp quality. I wanted food to feel heroic, larger than life.” The effect also intrigued Margaret Johnson, a partner at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. “I’d never seen anything like that for food,” she said. “You look through portfolio after portfolio of all these allegedly amazing food shooters and it’s really kind of a sea of sameness.”
Tallon was hired for their campaign showcasing the fast food at Sonic, the drive-in restaurant chain. “Her whole approach is just more artful and graphic,” Johnson said. “She thinks of food sculpturally, which is different, especially for fast food. Sonic loved it. We were treating food like a character rather than just a prop.” The retoucher applied Tallon’s techniques on set, keeping the process flowing. “You felt like you were working as a team, which isn’t always the case,” Johnson said. She also asked for Tallon’s help on Sonic’s tv commercials, adding, “We did a lot of tests and experimenting to get the ‘Sue Tallon’ graphic quality and color when we shot live action.”
Goodby Silverstein’s Jeff Goodby loved this tater tot shot and blew it up for their offices.