Food Photography & Video That Stands Out – In A Good Way

Jason DP shoots food commercial

3 Tips for Food Footage That Rocks Your Brand

Ever seen a video ad or TV commercial where the food was, well… less than appetizing?  Under studio lights ice cream melts, salads wilt and sauces run all over the place.  Ugh.  Some photographers spend their entire lives mastering this specialized craft, and that experience shows in their work.

As a photographer/cinematographer working with video since 1998, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of food shoots.  So here’s a few tips for capturing great food visuals based on my personal experiences.  The photos and video I reference in this article came from our shoot for Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano.  The TV spot titled “Fresh Is What We Are” was honored with a Gold ADDY for Cinematography.  We were charged with telling the story of a locally owned restaurant where nothing comes premade in a can or box, trusted to make it look mouth-watering, and do it all with less than 30 seconds of airtime.

Filming amazing food video in Branson, MO.

Filming amazing food footage in Branson, MO. Say that three times fast.

#1 – Hire a food stylist.

What?!?!  You thought this article was going to tell you all you needed to know about styling food in 3 concise paragraphs?  You presupposed that “Madison Avenue food look” could be mastered by asking The Google App?  WRONG.  It’s all about practice, and experienced food stylists do it EVERY DAY.  Hire one.  You won’t be sorry.

In the case of the Florentina’s restaurant shoot, their in-house graphic designer had previous food styling experience, so we were set up to win from the start.  She had great ideas for background props and was essential in defining the “look” of the ad.  She was also a team player, with no ego to be found, gelling with the chef and video crew.  Pros don’t undertake a serious food shoot without a dedicated stylist.  Period.

#2 – Have a plan.

Your production company should open the lines of communication between your photographer, food stylist and the chef prior to the shoot day, not hold their cards close until the hour of the shoot.  They’ll develop a plan for what plates will be shot first, and they’ll work to reduce friction between your stylist and chef.  Before the first dish hits the set, ask the chef for a few test plates so the lighting team can adjust their setup before the styled food arrives.  Once the food stylist sets a plate, work quickly.  We’ve done it before.  It’s not easy, but if the team works as one unit, it’s rewarding.

“You presupposed that “Madison Avenue food look” could be mastered by asking The Google App?  WRONG.”

Timelapse and high frame rate shooting of salad prep in a restaurant.

Timelapse and high frame rate shooting of salad prep in a restaurant.

#3 – Slow-Mo

Gooey cheeses, little wisps of steam, a fiery saute… the shot you need lasts for only a moment, so shooting slow motion is essential to capture the drama.  Our video production company, Digital LunchBox, made a significant investment last year in the new Sony PXW-FS7 camera, which captures 240 frames per second of super slow motion HD without the high rental costs of previous camera systems.  Slow motion video is achievable at nearly any budgetary level in 2016 and we can’t wait to use it on our next food video. (Was that just a shameless sales pitch? Surely not.)

There are so many other details to a successful food shoot like what lenses to use, like lighting techniques and special effects (like steam and flame).  But remember – creativity doesn’t come from a bottle, and it certainly doesn’t come out of a camera without talented, creative people who work together as a team.  Good luck on your next shoot and keep in mind that hiring competent professionals make all the difference. A big shout-out goes to our client, www.florentinasristoranteitaliano.com and their marketing director Tom Forster, as well as Becky Blair for sharing her behind-the-scenes photos of this shoot!

Don't forget the acting talent!  There are MANY more details that a knowledgeable and experienced video production company can help you with.  It's why you hire them!

Don’t forget the acting talent! There are MANY more details that a knowledgeable, experienced video production company can help you with. It’s why you hire them!

Author Jason Spencer

Jason Spencer is a director, editor and cinematographer who serves as managing partner of Digital LunchBox, a creative agency and video production company based in the Missouri Ozarks. He has worked with agencies, production companies, and TV networks since 1998, unleashing awesomeness on literally hundreds of productions. +Jason Spencer

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