What Are the Food Photography Project Planning Steps?
Silvain • updated June 28, 2022 • 4 min read
Silvain • updated June 28, 2022 • 4 min read
Planning for a food photography project is almost as important as the shoot itself. This includes making a mood board, coming up with a color scheme and lighting concept, and gathering props.
How well you plan is half the battle. It gives you peace of mind, time, and the things you need to act quickly if something unexpected happens.
To avoid this, you need to plan out your food photography well. We all make mistakes, but we like to use ours to help you take better pictures of food and avoid some embarrassing situations.
In the first step, you should pay close attention to the customer’s wishes and prefer to ask once too much than too little. It is clear to the customer that he wants beautiful pictures of his food.
But it is easy to forget to mention for which purpose the pictures are needed and in which format. This is important for you so that you know in which resolution you should provide the pictures in the end.
And whether the images are needed for a very narrow horizontal banner, for example, or for a vertical Pinterest display. So whether you should shoot more images in landscape or portrait.
Also, I always ask about the mood you want to convey. Should it be rather dark and atmospheric food photos or rather light and airy. Sample images can also help here to find out what exactly the client has in mind.
I then write down all the important information on a little cheat sheet that I place next to the set during the photo shoot. Because while you’re shooting, it’s easy to forget one point or another.
So it’s a good idea to check every now and then to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Start to get ideas, look at Pinterest or Instagram, as well as magazines and cookbooks. Keywords like “food photo ideas” or the name of the food can help you find good photos.
It’s not about copying the images, but about smaller things like a color scheme, dishes, or decor that might fit the client and what they want. It can also help to look at the client’s competitors to figure out how to use images to make the client’s business stand out.
If you’re not sure if you’ve understood the client’s ideas correctly, you can send the client your mood board and ask for a feedback.
Don’t send pictures that don’t fit your performance. If you only send moody photos from expensive studio shoots, but you only take pictures during the day, you’re making things difficult for yourself.
Once you know have decided on the image style, start making a list of things to buy and organize.
After you’ve done your research, give more thought to how your images should look. You should always start with the food or meal itself, as this gives you the basic color information.
You can speed up the process by using free tools like Adobe Color Wheel to figure out which colors will always look good with your basic color. This makes selecting the color for the backgrounds or your props very easy.
Compile a list of all the dishes, that need to be photographed, including side dishes, toppings and special ingredients. This list helps to decide which ingredients to add the scene.
For a picture of a nut cake, for example, it makes sense to include a few nuts so that the viewer knows right away what kind of cake it is.
Brainstorm about toppings and background decorations and write your ideas down on a list. You can then check and see which decoration is on stock and which one needs to be organized.
The same goes for the props. You may have a lot of cups, plates, and bowls, but sometimes you are missing a piece or two that the customer wants.
It’s best to do this planning a few business days before the actual photo shoot, so that you have time to get any missing props.
If the photo shoot is going to happen at the client’s place instead of yours. Then, you write a packing list and a shopping list at the same time, so you don’t forget anything and end up at your destination without a battery charger or memory card.
When you’re ready for anything, it gives you a huge sense of security, and when you have a solution for everything, your customers always like it.
The day before a picture shoot, I like to lay out the full day’s schedule for getting everything ready. As part of my pre-production routine, I do a preliminary set of tests, including charging all the batteries, wiping the memory cards clean, and trimming my fingernails. It was a common occurrence for me to place my hand in the shot while photographing.
Always make sure you have well-groomed nails and hands before taking photos. Possibly your hand ends up in one or the other food photos.
Buy all the groceries one day before the photo shoot and ensure that the ingredients are as fresh as possible. Some vegetables may appear slightly wilted after only 1 day. Salad and herbs are very delicate, as you may see later on in the food photos.
If you want to make sure that your vegetables still look as fresh as possible the next day, put them briefly in a bowl of ice water in the evening before you put them in the fridge overnight.
The day has come, now it’s finally time to photograph food and set the scene.
If shooting on location, communicate to the client in advance that you be there an hour before and set up the set. Tripod, base, camera, cheat sheet, and other items are put into position.
Then connect your camera to the laptop and take some test shots until you are happy with the lighting situation and setup. Finally, lay out all the ingredients and props you need for garnishing.
Then the cooking process begins. If a chef is in charge of the preparation, you may go into the kitchen with them and help with the plating.
Then it’s time to garnish and photograph. Have a look at your cheat sheet that you don’t forget anything and when you have finished check off everything and pack it up.
That often takes at least as long as the setup. So if there is staff involved, communicate that beforehand as well.
Start with photo editing the next day. Do not wait too long between edits; otherwise, motivation can drop and overlap with other jobs. Again, go through the checklist and check if all criteria are met.
If you want your food photos to look good, you need to plan and prepare your shots. Set up your own way of doing things.
In addition to your own tastes, it should include online research. Finding the right angle and styling the food; coming up with a specific color scheme, thinking about the mood you want to create and how the lighting will be set up; and last but not least, thinking about the props you might need.
You should always be able to make changes on the spot, both for yourself and for your clients. But if you feel like you’re as ready as you can be, you’ll work and act much more calmly in front of a client. Because things will definitely go wrong.
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