Where do you start when someone asks you to take some food photography for them? It sounds simple from an outsiders perspective. However, it can be an overwhelming question to start from. Below I will outline a few tips on how to get through a food photography shoot.
1. Ask lots of questions.
For instance, what type of food is being photographed? That question alone can require different amounts of time and resources to photograph. From simple chocolates to steaks, burgers, ice cream and fish. Are the dishes high end and fancy, street food or somewhere in between? Do you want the photos to be of the plate itself or in an active environmental setting with models eating? How much propping do you require around each setting? Where will the photos be taken, in a studio or on location?
When you start to ask these types of questions, you can see how what seems like a simple question about taking a few photos turns into a larger and more complex process. However, the more you dig into things the more intentional your product will be, resulting in better more quality imagery.
2. Stylists and Props
Let's take for example a photoshoot I did in West Virginia for Penn National Gaming at their Hollywood Casino location. The client needed 21 plates of food photographed over a 2 day span. We were shooting in the middle of a food court in a casino as well, which came with its own set of challenges. It was a quick set up and turn around, but because we asked the right questions in a meeting we had prior to the shoot, and a proper stylist keeping things on track, we were able to be prepared and bring plenty of props. We didn't need about half of them, but we were happy to have the options on set. We also asked the chef to bring the food out cooked, but not prepared so that we could melt things and add sauces on the set. Having these things available made for a more productive shoot that resulted in better images.
The biggest part though is having a great stylist on board to not only help keep things organized, but to check the shots after you take each one and tweak it as you go. Then making sure you capture everything needed on the list.
3. Be prepared to be flexible.
Shoots can only go as planned for a while before something will trip you up. Be ready to take it in stride and realize that nothing will ever be perfectly planned out. But if you don't plan at all, things can be a disaster instead of a minor inconvenience.
Keep in mind, there is always a purpose for what you are doing, and to understand the final purpose will help to give a better final result that will be better utilized by clients for their intended purposes.
Client: Penn National Gaming
Stylist: Nancy Stamatopoulos