This is an interesting question, as things have changed in the last few years. No longer do you find those set up shots, often with fake ingredients – so no more mashed potato ice cream, sauces substituted by motor oil or use of brown shoe polish to give meat that fresh roasted look!
The modern food photographer has to work a little harder now in order to perfect their craft.
You just need a great set up, good organisation and perfect timing to get the food looking at its best.
In the last few years food photography has become very popular. This is in part due to the success of the Pink Lady ‘Food Photographer of the Year’ competition. It has spawned a whole new breed of food photographers. The emphasis is not just on the food itself but to the aesthetics surrounding the plate. They are looking for colour and texture. They use raw ingredients to help tell the story. The rise of social media has helped with many sharing their images on Instagram and for many it is a great hobby.
You should aim to make it look so real that the viewer can almost smell the food and hear the sizzle. For the client they are looking for a realistic representation of their craft. The food should look fresh and succulent. It should look inviting and make the viewer hungry. It should show the context and include a hint of the surroundings – vitally important if you are working for a restaurant.
I was commissioned by the Barons Pub Company who are undergoing re-development of their existing website. They had realised during the review that there was a distinct lack of suitable food photography on their site. While preparing for the shoot I referred to the points of culture from the client to ensure that the images fitted their ethos and reflected their branding. For them the importance was to show the food in a way that appealed to families, so they included items from the kids menu. They also wanted to emphasise the surroundings of a friendly welcoming pub. The food needed to be presented in a way that gave a lasting impression.
As the aim was to highlight the food and to make it look very natural, I decided that natural light would play a role in the set up – so found a table close to the window which luckily was north facing. This provided a nice back light to the food, but it was not enough to light the food as I wanted. The decision was made to add some artificial light which needed to be as natural as possible. This was achieved by using a Lastolite highlight background to give a very soft flood of light. These are designed to be a background for high key portrait photography, but they are also excellent at producing what looks like natural window light.
To fine tune the lighting, I also used some small reflector panels and black boards to remove light where required.
Another useful thing to do when working directly with the client is to shoot tethered, so that a preview can be viewed immediately on a large laptop screen. This helps because you can receive immediate feedback from the chef and the client can also gain an insight into how the finished image will look. This can save a great deal of time later in post production. Using a tripod is vital of course as this helps to slow down the process so that details can be checked before firing the shutter.
A plan is essential, as you need to maximise your efficiency during the shoot. There can be some points where things are time sensitive, such as the presentation of a sizzling dish or where ice cream is involved – preparation is vital for these shots so that you can nail them quickly.
An early start was required, as there was a great deal of preparation to be completed. This involved the kitchen as well as the shoot set up. Also time was of the essence, as it was a working establishment which would have a busy lunchtime service to contend with as well. We managed to section off a part of the restaurant so interference to normal operations was kept to a minimum.
When the first of the dishes came out, the initial impression from the laptop view was positive, with some comments of improvement, so all was good. This set the tone for the rest of the shoot as they could see the results immediately. There followed a large number of positive comments as the shoot progressed. At the end the clients were feeling very positive about the outcomes.
As I always shoot in raw, post production is essential. This will ensure that I always give the client the best quality that can be achieved. The fact that the images had already been previewed and approved made my work easier. Mostly it was just a bit of a crop and a few tweaks to exposure and colour in order to finalise the images.
The client was of course delighted with the finished product.
If you are looking for a food photographer for your business or event – Get in Touch Today!
Or take a look at more of my food photography!
© Andrew Boschier Photography 2019