After almost five years of photographing food, I've learned a few things about having a smooth shoot. So whether you're hiring me (YAY) or going with another photographer, here are a 5 tips for a great photo shoot - things you can do to guarantee a great day.
1. It’s always going to take longer than you think
You probably need to book at least four hours, preferable eight hours. The photographer and the chef will be fussing with the dish more than you ever anticipate and it takes time to get the perfect shot - the lighting, the plating, the propping, new garnishes, shining glasses - there are a million little touches to every beautiful food photo.
2. You don’t have to shoot the entire menu
One of the 5 tips for a great photo shoot has to do with a quantity. Rather than working through an entire menu and not devoting enough time to each item, concentrate on selecting your most popular dishes, your most beautiful and your most unique dishes.
3. Pick a time and day that isn’t busy
I personally prefer working when the restaurant is closed so I can have the chef’s undivided attention on the shoot. It also minimizes the chance a guest might wander through the shoot (safety first!). If you’re always open, then working between lunch and dinner is usually best.
4. Don't be afraid to use flash (in a well-done manner!)
I know (and believe) that working in natural light can help a food photo really accentuate the natural beauty of the dish. But often on shoots, I’ll add in artificial light (flashes) to deepen the shadows. And with almost all cocktail/bar shoots, you need that sexiness a strobe can provide to convey night.
5. Know when you need a food stylist
Certain foods (pizza! burgers!) and certain restaurants will do best working with my CIA-trained food stylist. It’s not to say the chef doesn’t know how to plate – it’s that the food stylist will use her 20+ years of experience in getting dishes camera-ready. I work with Stacey Stolman and she knows all the tricks to really accentuate each dish to the best it can be photographed. Bring on the brown food!
So now that you already know 5 tips for a great photo shoot, here's an extra one. Know when you need a professional. If you want to get serious about bringing in customers, elevating your brand and getting placement in publications, you’re going to need professional photographs. And I highly recommend working with a photographer that specializes in food. Trust me – you don’t want to hire me to shoot your wedding nor should you hire someone to shoot your food that doesn’t understand the intricacies, light and details of shooting food. And hey - if you'd like to talk to me about a shoot, drop me a line.