I thought it might be nice to take you on an insider tour of what actually goes into a food shoot. There are many different types of food shoots and each has their own level of workload. In this I’m going to give a rundown of what goes into a restaurant shoot.
I hope you find it interesting.
Pre-production work starts right from the very first email I receive about an enquiry to shoot for a hospitality establishment.
I will spend about 30 min going over the email carefully to see what’s needed and run through any questions I might. I also go through the brand’s website and social media to evaluate whether they have established a particular style or if we can start from a blank canvas.
I then arrange a call or zoom with the client to go over in fine detail what is required. This usually lasts about 40min. (If we just converse over email, there can be a number of emails to finalise the full brief.)
From that call I will write up a full costing brief based on what’s required (more to follow on this in another newsletter!) and try to give my client realistic expectations for the day. I go through what’s needed for production such as lighting, space in the venue, props and an assistant. I run through what I hope to achieve in terms of final content and how it is delivered. Approx 40min.
This is then sent to the client to approve and discuss further if needed. I ask the client to send me over their shot list of food and drinks for me to evaluate and consider if and how we can do the shoot in the designated time frame.
Finally, I will write up a shot list that is sent to both chef and client on duty to run through the day. I spend time looking up each dish, thinking about the venue and considering what shots will suit the dish best. Approx 1 hour.
It is my job to source props, gear, lighting and assistants or models if needed. Approx 1-2 hours.
I consume myself with inspirational imagery to get my head in the game ahead of a shoot. Each type of food photography, for me, requires this practice because it’s a different way of seeing through the camera. Approx 2-3 hours of research.
Before the shoot:
There is always a some travel involved and this can be close to a 3 hour drive before I get to a venue.
I arrive at the venue. I greet my clients, the chef and staff. We walk through the venue with the shot list deciding where is best to shoot depending on lighting and ambience. This takes approx 1hour.
I start to unpack all my gear (camera, tripods, stands, lighting, soft-boxes) and set everything up. This takes approx 40 min.
We immediately start shooting the food and drink once all is set up.
Working from the shot list created and with decided locations in the venue I will aim to run through at least three different scenarios/view points which will ultimately give the client more content to work with from just one product.
Examples of this would be:
- The dish on its own at an angle that suits with the characteristic furnishing of the venue
- The dish with a drink or paired wine
- The dish with a hand model either picking a drink up/starting to eat
- The dish held by a server
This process is not straight forward, each dish requires attention in terms of styling and camera angles. It’s not uncommon to spend at least 40min on each dish and that is working fast!
I always suggest to shoot more viewpoints of one dish rather than one shot of many dishes. It just makes sense in this media hungry world we live in. Plus, it gets the creative juices flowing!
We run through this process until we are finished the shot list. A full day is often 7-8 hours and if I can, I might work overtime in order to get everything done. Then it’s time to clean up and pack all the gear up. This will take about 40min.
The fabulous perk of travelling for my job is that my clients let me stay in their beautiful venues. So I get a delicious meal and a pampered rest after the shoot. Thank you!! But before that I go back to the room, upload all cards onto my hard drive and back then up. I charge all my equipment and upload any social content I created from the day such as behind the scenes shots.
The day after, I hit the road home again. If the job is in Dublin it’s a little trip home to do all of the above, less pamper! (I do usually get fed delicious food either way!)
Post-Production in this case is the editing. This is something many people who aren’t familiar with professional food photography don’t take into account. Editing takes time!
Every photographer has their own editing style and every shoot will have it’s own editing work-flow but for ‘hospitality’ photography this is how it works for me:
This is when I go through every single image and decide whether it will make it to the next round of editing. For me, there are about two rounds of the culling process until I have a final selection that I will edit. For a full day’s shoot approx 2-3 hours.
I then import all my images into Lightroom and adjust the colour, white balance and contrast to suit my particular style. Approx 2-3 hours.
This is where time really slows down! I export my images individually into Photoshop. Each image is scrutinised with a fine tooth comb to ‘clean up the images’ I removed distractions on the plate like crumbs, finger prints. I clean up the glassware the glassware. I’d touch up certain parts of the food that would look distracting to the eye or needed a little lightening and darkening. This process is done with each image and cannot be copy pasted. Approx 10 hours.
There is one side note here:
1) Having explained the touch up process, this is where I can’t stress enough that we do not rush the food shoot. The more attention that is paid to the shot in terms of finer details on the day, the better the editing process will be. The more attention that is paid to lighting and composition on the day, the better the editing process will be.
There is a constant play between production and editing with food photography and attention to detail is crucial to creating a great shot.
Labelling, resizing and uploading:
Once all edits are done it’s time for me to file the images, label them according to dish/drink and then resize for social specs (stories/reels and grid) I feel it’s important to proved the client with my version of cropped images for both reel/stories and for the grid. That way they can easily download a considered crop specific to their needs without having to crop themselves.
I then upload these onto a private viewing gallery for the client in an order that I feel is easy to view and download when needed.
A final email is sent to the client explaining everything I have done and how the gallery works together with a separate invoice email.
This take approx 3 hours.
In total, we are looking at approx 30-40 hours of work for one shoot.
Now we have discovered the amount of time and effort that goes into one full day’s shoot I think it’s worth noting the value that this photography will bring to a brand.
- The client will have about 4-6 months worth of content to work with for their social media.
- The client has a large gallery of imagery to send to PR for publications (So important and professional photos are a must!)
- The client has a beautiful gallery of images to upload onto their website which not only shows off the food, but gives a true feel of the experience that will come with dining and/drinking at their establishment.
- Your social pages, website and publications have a singular style that is unique to your brand. (great branding power there lads!)
Great food photography will be an integral part of your branding and marketing plan. Great food photography will be your social/web pages signature style. Great food photography will elevate you from competitors. Great food photography will make your amazing food/venue look even MORE amazing!!