6 Easy Ways to Shoot Food That Looks Good Enough to Eat

Todd Pierson
Todd Pierson

Food is the ultimate sensory experience. Beyond taste, it engages one’s senses of sight, smell, touch and sometimes even hearing. But of all these ways of experiencing food, it’s the visual sense you can harness to the greatest advantage as a marketer. That’s why food photography and videography go hand in hand as key tools for telling a brand’s food or beverage story. And now, as technology opens the door to a vast digital audience, it’s even more important to understand how to present your products in ways that make them irresistible to your customers and consumers.

In my 30-year career as a food photographer and videographer, I’ve shot every imaginable type of food and beverage. Through trial and error, great mentors and experience, I’ve learned the ins and outs of what works to make each shoot go smoothly, while bringing the client’s food story to life with beauty and appetite appeal. Successful results all stem from careful planning. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your next photo or video:

Always, always schedule a pre-production meeting.

(In the biz, we call it “pre-pro.”) This meeting will help you document your team’s vision for the shoot and iron out critical details such as number of shots needed, angle, lighting style and more. For videos, your team and the studio’s would review an approved script or storyboard. The more scripted out each scene is, the faster and more efficient the shooting process will be. A tight script also helps your production team gather the right props before you get to the studio.

Have more product on hand than you think you’ll need.

“So a package of product will be enough, right?” Not even by a long shot. Depending on the particular type of food item, you will often need to sort through several cases of product to find the “hero” pieces offering the perfect appearance.

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Keep recipe builds simple.

If you’re doing a video and shooting recipe assembly, avoid recipes with too many steps or that include sub-recipes creating complexity. Remember, shorter is better with videos designed for web or social media consumption, so simplicity is key.

Choose a background, props and plates to add context and appeal.

The right background, table surface, plates, glassware and seasonal cues or props can help you put your food or beverage in context, while showcasing it to the best advantage. In general, most of the food shots we do take place in either a restaurant or home kitchen. If it’s a tight overhead shot, often the “environment” can be something as simple as a warm wood or granite background indicative of a home kitchen, or a stainless table top for foodservice. As for plates, think contrasting colors to highlight your product and make sure the size of the plate is appropriate to the dish.

Ask for a recommendation on lighting.

The amount of light or lack thereof can go a long way to set the mood of a shot. Darker, moodier or directional light can add a richness and mystique to certain foods. Brighter light is a good, all-around default. Discuss with your photographer or videographer which is best for your product and desired effect.

Have both a chef and food stylist in attendance whenever possible.

To marry both aesthetic and practical considerations in your photos and videos, your best bet is getting two pros with complementary skills in the same room. A food stylist is trained to make food beautiful for the camera. Having a chef on hand can help ensure prep is represented how it should be, but also, he or she makes an excellent talent choice if you need a set of skilled culinary hands. Most recipe videos we do are shot from a top-down, hands-only perspective, so even a camera-shy corporate chef can pull off the scene (whether in chef coat or plain clothes).

In short. . .

When it comes to the visual techniques of telling your food story, we could delve into details for days. The main thing to remember, however, is that like food, photos and videos are art. A trained eye, an efficient process, a talented pool of chefs, stylists and a trusted photographer or videographer are all you need to capture your product in the best light. If you want to talk about your next food shoot with my team or me, reach out now. I can’t wait to help you tell your story!

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