LATELY, I have been commissioned to do several food shots from different restaurants. Shooting food is not as easy as many think. This applies to the restaurant owners as well. It is as complicated as shooting products. It requires a lot of patience, creativity and an utmost attention to details.
Not a lot of people know that shooting food requires food styling, creative props, precision lighting and a bagful of tricks. It’s done by a group of creative people and not just photographers alone. The challenges you face when shooting food are always unique no matter how many times you have done it.
Since we started shooting food three years ago, we have accumulated more than 30 kilos of props, utensils, plates, etc. I know, I recently flew to Iloilo to do food photography and I realized that our props weigh more than our camera and lighting equipment. Not included are the fresh vegetables we have to acquire locally.
When shooting food, you need an ample space for food styling table, shooting table with enough space for your lighting equipment, table for your laptop and shooting distance for your camera on a tripod. The set is a sure accident prone area. With all the wires from your lighting and camera to laptop, light stands with big softbox, tripod and a lot of other stuff is a sure recipe for an accident. If you have battery pack strobes, I’d recommend it.
Like any other type of photography, planning is key. Knowing what type of dish to shoot ahead of time allows you to prepare the props that match the dish and the type of base you need. Props include salt and pepper shaker, fresh vegetables and fruits, wood platform, utensils, candle holder and just about anything that relates to the dish.
The food stylist works a lot with the chef and the photographer. He makes sure that the dish is prepared for shooting and not for consumption. It means that the only consideration is the visuals, not the taste. The taste comes in when the customer decides to buy and that’s another story.
The food stylist would do the plating based on how the dish is served. He will meticulously arrange every strand of details in the plate and position all the elements based on proper composition, color harmony and gastronomic relevance. It’s important to stay to what is actually served on the table and for you to work your magic within those limits.
What I love about food photography is the amount of control you can have in every shot. I love the idea that you can play with dramatic or high-key lighting without worrying about the subject getting bored or uncooperative. You can work your lighting to show every details of the food knowing that it’s not moving anytime soon.
Food photography is a very interesting genre in photography. Oh and you don’t get to eat what you’re shooting, most of the time it’s tasteless and raw inside. But since the chef is your buddy, he can reward you with the bestseller during break time.
Keep on shooting, everyone!