Recently I wrote an article on How To Prepare For A Photoshoot, but for Chefs, there is additional preparation involved! Although you are not a stranger to food prep things are a little different when it comes to shooting it.
You aren’t going to be preparing this food to be eaten, so don’t be surprised if we get creative in order to make the food look more photogenic.
The following instructions will help you be prepared for a shoot and make things go smooth.
(Note: For my my clients, full branding shoots you will need to come up with 5 menu items you want to shoot. For Mini Branding sessions, you will just need to prep one dish for prop purposes).
1. Menu items should involve some kind of grilling or pan searing, I love to catch the steam coming up off the grill with still photos! We can brainstorm these items together or you can just let me know what you want to make, totally up to you.
2. Unless it is a very colorful and detailed salad, I suggest not doing salads. These can be a little boring, I think after the shoot you will likely be disappointed having just a salad shot. I know for me, I make an amazing Kale Salad, and I had it shot for a cookbook and it is not a picture I will ever use except for maybe an instagram post.
3. Use forward thinking when putting together the list. If you do a huge holiday marketing push, you may want to do some themed recipes as well as your standards.
4. Angles and picture positioning. Part of the shot list is what different kinds of looks do you want. Always want to get both a vertical and horizontal, but do you want close ups of certain dishes, do you want full table scapes, different focus points etc. Make things as detailed as possible so we achieve all the looks you want.
Trust your photographer and their guidance!
You know how to prep, there is no doubt about it, but setting up for a shoot requires a slightly different approach.
1. Prepare as minimally as possible for 2 recipes – This is so we have as many stages of the process as possible to shoot. We will not be shooting every step of every recipe, but we want to have variety.
2. Double your grocery list – What I mean is, prior to the shoot cook off each recipe as a finished product (although don’t finish it with any sauces etc. until shoot day). Think of it like something you see on TV, they prep everything and then magically pull out a finished product 2 minutes later! Make sure we chat about the logistics of this, there may be some you don’t need or want to do this for.
3. Do not fully cook your meats – This is where things get frustrating as a Chef! But what you don’t want to have it charred meat. I highly recommend that you sear your grilled meat and just don’t worry about the inside. If we are going to be cutting into it and you don’t want to see raw meat, we can discuss the best approach, it will depend on the meat and the dish itself.
4. Anything (like Cheesecake and Whip Creams) cold needs to be kept cold until the last minute – The goal is to make everything look as fresh as possible, so this is another reason to have double of certain things.
5. Find the freshest herbs and greens as possible – The camera picks up everything so make sure we don’t have a lot of brown or wilted greens.
This is something we will discuss in advance, but honestly it will also be something that will likely change in the moment. Have as many different sized dishes and color variations as possible. Keep in mind we want smaller serving dishes a lot of time, it just makes the food pop better. (I also typically bring a lot of options!)
We will discuss the different looks you want and the surfaces that can accomplish your brand style.
I don’t like to have things set in stone when it comes to this because a lot of times what we think is going to be the perfect layout, ends up changing.
Your task for this is gathering inspiration photos for the type of look you are interested in achieving and getting them to me in advance.
For my clients doing The Branded Chef Experience, the first day we will do your food style shoot. This will consist of 5 menu items you want to showcase. This will be an entire of day of shooting. Please prepare for a long day. I know 5 dishes doesn’t sound like a lot, but you will be surprised how much goes into the details of these shots. We start first thing in the morning and work through until we have completed everything on your shoot list!
The second day is your Style and Action shoot and will last an entire day as well. I begin with your action shots for example, you at the farmers market talking with the staff to find the freshest ingredients. We pick 5 locations plus your kitchen and prepare for you to have a different outfit (or top) options at each location! As a note, I also use some artificial lighting, however the more natural light the better!
Finally, we will shoot into the early evening, grabbing shots at sunset which are usually some of my favorites!
If you want to learn a little more about how Personal Culinary Branding can help build trust with your audience, I am happy to jump on a call! Click below and schedule a time that work best for you!