Preparing Our Next Food Shoot

By mattantonino | March, 22, 2010 | 1 comments

I wanted to document a bit of how we prepare for a new stock shoot. Unfortunately I’m not shooting hot models a la Chase Jarvis so I’m not going to be live demo’ing anytime soon!

Our thought process on a new photo shoot works something like this:

  1. Overall concept/theme/ingredient
  2. Specific recipe
  3. Lighting/angles/technicals
  4. Shop
  5. Shoot Day

1. Overall concept/theme/ingredient

We shoot two days a week – Friday and Sunday. If we shoot more that’s fantastic. If not, oh well. We plan those two days to have one breakfast or lunch type shoot (Friday) and one dinner/dessert (Sunday). It’s easier to spend a long time cooking/shooting on Sundays for us and dinner/dessert usually seems to take longer than breakfast/lunch.

I follow some really great foodies on Twitter/Facebook/blogs. One thing I always look for is a recipe that a) will taste great and b) will LOOK great. As a bonus I often look to see if I can find a healthy version so nobody gains 10 pounds per recipe I shoot.

2. Specific Recipe

So Friday we need to create a lunch. I bookmarked a delicious looking recipe two weeks ago and decided quickly I’d try that this week. The recipe will be 3 Cheese Chicken Cacciatore Manicotti. That was easy. We also need to figure out dinner for Sunday. I wanted to find something not as “fancy” as cacciatore manicotti so we looked at several recipe sites, some cookbooks and finally decided on something the Biggest Loser Cookbook called “Mom’s New Beef Stew.” That fits my requirements: tastes great, looks super yummy and bonus: it’s fairly healthy at 275 cals per serving.

Some weeks I will decide on a recipe by ingredient. Take Kahlua for instance. We have leftover Kahlua from the chocolate mousse we made a week ago. This Chocolate Truffle Pie also uses Kahlua. If we don’t make that Sunday for dessert I’m certain we’ll make it next week. Using ingredients you have on hand greatly reduces wastes and product going bad/old.

3. Lighting/angles/technicals

After printing the recipe and making a shopping list we write on the back of the recipe some ideas for the shoot. Mostly this is just note-form. Here are some examples from our banana split shoot:

  • Yellow/orange
  • high key
  • OJ – don’t think milk will work
  • Balance the color
  • Angles: will be propped up
  • Spoonful

Generally meaningless until you get in the shoot. We did end up using a yellow napkin and orange juice – it balanced the color very well. We did some shots near the end of the shoot with a spoonful of split in front of the dish. We tried but didn’t use milk because it did, in fact, look bad. We ended up propping the bowl with a small bottle cap for a few shots.

4. Shop

Shopping day is Thursday. That dictates our Friday shoot – if we need something super-fresh we may have to pick that up Friday morning before the shoot. Sunday’s shopping is done except fresh on Thursday as well. WE have a local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings year-round so we do our fresh shopping for Sunday then.

With our recipe and our ideas already in place shopping day is generally pretty straightforward. Pick the best items you can find.

5. Shoot Day

Well, shoots are shoots. The only thing we try and do specifically at each shoot is pre-organize our ideas so we don’t cut up the food before we’re done with it. The further into a shoot we get the more we “mess” the dish and the more we feel free to cut, chop, move, adjust, add to, take from, etc. We want to get those setup shots first, the meat of the shoot, then start playing with the outer edge of the shoot – closeups, eating, some unusual stuff just to see how it works, etc. Get the bulk of work done when the food is as fresh and perfect as possible. Once you get that THEN experiment.

Wrap Up

So that’s the way a typical shoot has been going for us. We are pro photographers but very amateur food photographers. The combination is sometimes an interesting one. I can figure out how to light something I’ve never shot before but I may not know how to drizzle syrup “correctly” yet. We continue to read foodie sites, blogs, watch food stylist tutorials on Youtube and read food photo books. Many many ways to learn in 2010!

Hope you enjoyed the post! It’s great to be back and thank you for all the comments and well-wishes recently.

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One Response to Preparing Our Next Food Shoot

  • artoeat

    this year I have decided to ramp up my photography.I bought a Nikon D5000 and am wading into the fray. I’m a chef and am used to plating food. I am teaching my eyes a new way of looking at the plate. Reading about your mis en place for shooting helps me formulate my own shooting rhythm. Thanks!