Food Photography

Preparation Guide

How to prepare your food for a photo shooting?

Secret Food Styling Tricks

In this Food Photography Preparation Guide, I teach you how to prepare your food for a food shooting at your restaurant.

A great food photograph can do a lot of things – it can make a viewer hungry, it can convince a diner to order a dish. But knowing how to get your food photographed to get great results requires specific knowledge of what works best and what looks terrible. I have put together a few things you will need to think about when you get your food photographed if you want results as you see in glossy magazines and websites of your competitors.

While there are a few food photography tricks to getting great shots, there are also a few quick and easy food styling tricks to make sure the food looks as good as possible. Here are some to keep in mind.

  • Anything green (like lettuce leaves) will look greener and fresher by soaking it in ice-water for a few minutes before the shot. Shake them dry before you photograph them.
  • Brush some oil on hot food to make it look fresher for the photograph, especially if it has been sitting around for a while
  • Don’t put too much dressing on the salad for photographs – it makes the salad look limp.
  • Fresh is best – for both taste and looks.
  • Undercook the food – it looks fresher and brighter for the photograph.
  • Make sure the plates and settings are really clean – spots of errant food on the tablecloth or where it shouldn’t be can ruin a photo.
  • No customers are interfering in the shots.
  • The chefs can focus on making gorgeous dishes for the shooting (and not on their actual job of serving up food for customers)

My Work

Your Table Setting Can Make or Break Your Food Photographs

The surroundings that your food appears in are almost as important as the food itself. A well-designed setting can give context and mood to your shot so think about it a little. What is in the background and foreground of the food? Do you want to exclude setting altogether and get an extreme close-up of only the food? Are your dishes matched to the color of the food? Are the surroundings set up to give a balanced composition? Elements that you would usually find in the context of a meal (condiment holders, cutlery, napkins, etc) can be arranged by a stylist to help the composition. Usually, you will want these elements to complement rather than dominate the main subject – the food.

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Think About Colors in Your Dish

Colour is a massive part of good food photography. In a lot of cases, you can add garnishes that contrast the color of the dish which is very effective in adding an element of color in your photographs. Knowledge of the color wheel and which colors contrast well and which colors complement well can serve you very well in food photography.

Food Photography Bangkok  Thailand
The Food Has To Be Fresh To Get The Best Results

In photographs, food usually looks best when it is full-bodied (as opposed to “big”). The problem is that often when you take something out of the oven, it usually loses its body in the cool air to a degree. Several photography tricks exist to account for this, but the simple ones are probably the best!

  • Shoot the food while it’s still very hot and fresh from being cooked.
  • Build the dish so it looks full-bodied (sometimes this requires putting things on the plate but under the food to make it look fuller. Sometimes it requires piling the food on other food.)
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What Kind Of Food Shots Do You Want To Show?

 Many photos show the finished dish only, and that’s fine. Many also show beautiful ingredient shots and others show food process shots. So think about what kind of shots you want to showcase.

Food Photography Bangkok  Thailand
Prepare Your Restaurant

It will be up to you whether you choose to shoot your restaurant, bar, café, and any other dining facilities you have with people or without. Shooting a full and busy restaurant can be difficult, people are constantly moving in and out of shot, lighting can be trickier and your photographer won’t have as much control of the environment, however these shots can be atmospheric and interesting if done well. Just remember that it can be a good thing to inform your guests about the purpose of the photographer and take note of anyone who wishes not to be involved.

Empty restaurants are certainly easier to set up; take some time to ensure your chairs are neatly aligned, you have as much natural light as possible, windows are open if relevant (and depending on the season: otherwise, a roaring fire always looks wonderful if you have a fireplace!). Any al fresco dining opportunities, any views, cellars, lounge areas; all of these should be captured independently to give you an expansive and specific image library to use moving forward.

It can also be worthwhile to have your chef and bar staff prepare some of your most visually striking dishes on the menu, as well as a few coffees and cocktails, or any other signature offerings you can. Food photography can add a level of detail and elegance to your images; ensure your photographer is on stand-by to shoot them as soon as they are prepared.

Food Photography Bangkok  Thailand
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