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Planning the food photography photo shoot

It’s an interesting fact when I plan the photo shoot in my studio, approve drafts with clients, decide the setup in advance, collect the props – the entire photography process goes fast and the results are usually impressive. The moment client says we will decide during the shoot, I can add 3-4 hours extra. The reading of “Planning the food photography photo shoot” is advised for clients, so for photographers. So, let us take a look at how to avoid these extra hours, just by making a plan!

Make yourself a Q&A session. Take the pen and paper. Here are some questions to answer:

Who will see these pictures?
Describe your target audience, the people who need to be caught by the visuals, while others may not notice it. The more accurate explanation you find, the better result you will get.

What do I wish to get from the viewers?
Do they have to buy your product or they have to be inspired by the illustration of the recipe and cook? This final goal may dictate the treatment of the composition: close-up, empty space, colors, etc.

What emotion will they feel?
A good photograph always brings forward some emotions. In case of food photography, it can be hunger, desire, passion, inspiration, love, and you name it. So what emotion you need to arise to reach the goal mentioned in the previous question?

Where are you going to use these pictures?
Social media requirements are a lot lighter than the magazine advertisement. Also for the online usage, you need more pictures than for the print. In other words, how are people going to experience your photographs? Would it be a timeline in some popular SM? Nice glossy page of the expensive magazine or a book? Maybe it will happen on some food site where other pictures will compete with it or it’s a big advertisement in a shop? Maybe it’s a giant screen in a cinema hall? The way how viewers experience the picture may give some ideas for the shoot treatment.


Come with the idea!

The answers to the preceding question probably inspired you with some sort of idea. Does not really matter if it’s still raw, note it down. Actually, write down all the ideas which just came in your mind. You may like to brainstorm it with your colleagues. You may like to discuss it with your photographer. Polish it, come with several really good thought on how to move forward. By the way, if you need some inspiration on how to get better ideas, check this out. Once finished, proceed towards the next questions.

How many products or dishes you want to shoot? 
A Food photographer can finish from 6 to 10 setups in one day, if we talk about serious professionals. Probably you do not need to shoot all dishes in a complex setup. I’m asking because startups often want to shoot 300 dishes for the site or more. You may create 6 extraordinary images to highlight the theme and the values of your brand. But all other pictures you can create with a simple setup, say on a white background. It will save time and money. Draw a list of the dishes in which you decide what is requires a primary attention while the other secondary.

Who will cook and style the dishes? Do you need props or prop hunter? Which props will reflect the idea? Do you need the models and make-up artist for them? 
If you need extra specialists, you need to think about it in advance. They need to be paid and the cost of the photo shoot doesn’t cover their services (project cost maybe different, than the cost of the simple shoot). They are required to sync their time schedule, as well. Excellent news – a photographer usually knows such specialist and can advise someone.

Once we have an idea, the list of the dishes and experts. We have to decide a location. The place for work has to match the technical requirements, mood, and need. For example, if we shoot with artificial light, we need a lot of space just to place the equipment around the table and no people around (it’s not safe for clients to jump over the wires). If we shoot with natural light, then we need to have enough big windows and good weather on the day of shooting. Whatever you choose, get the maximum from the location, so if you shoot in the restaurant, incorporate the interiors and some branding elements such as napkins with logo or so.

And here is the final stage – you find your idea, you know exactly what to shoot, and where. Start making drafts. You do not have to be an artist to make drafts. But you need to realize the way how the light falls on a dish. Your draft will include basic composition, props ideas, and basic lighting vision. These drawings will help in saving a lot of time and making the shoot organized. It’s really important that both the client and the photographer agreed upon these drawings. Ideally, a photographer is supposed to create the drawings, but if client draws the drafts – it’s also good.