Food photography should absolutely elicit a physical response from the viewer. What every restaurant owner or chef really wants from their food photography is a viewer reaction that’s akin to Pavlov’s dogs. We want the viewer to feel that photo in their jaw. We want them to imagine what it will taste like. We want them to know with certainty that “that tastes good!” Food photography is one of our favorite things to do here at Schnebly Hill Media, and not just because we get to eat the food (it’s written into our contracts . . . just kidding!) Food photography is really a challenging thing to do frankly, and we love the challenge. While great lighting for food photography is terribly important, styling is even more so. But what do we do if we are working with a smaller, local restaurant, and a food stylist just isn’t in the budget? Slow way down, and pay close attention!
Food Photography Styling
Let’s start with something simple, like a burger and fries. Have the chef make a burger, and have them pay special attention to making it look as appetizing as he or she possibly can, before they bring it out. This will be a good starting point. Have them plate it really nicely on their best looking plate or perhaps a cutting board and bring that sucker out. Now get your photographer, manager/owner, the chef, and the marketing director together to just stare at that burger for a few minutes. Have everyone take some notes if you like. Now share ideas. Here are some potential questions to ask: does the meat look juicy? Dry? Is it literally bleeding juices to a point that’s unappetizing? How’s the cheese? Does it look like a cheese slice, or a pile of goo? Is it wrapping nicely around the curve of the burger? How far down the side does it go? Look at that lettuce. Is it wilted? Springy looking? Is the bun soggy? Can you see condiments coming out all over? There are so many elements to look for that you can literally drive yourself crazy with the details, and believe me, people do! However, if we can knock out the most commonly agreed upon suggestions, we’ll be going a long way to making some great food photography.
Food Photography Styling Ideas
Once your group has identified some issues, figure out the best way to solve them. One helpful idea would be to bring out the ingredients separately and build that burger as you go. Start with a fresh grilled bun. Place the lower half on your plate or cutting board. Turn it slowly, and find the best looking side. Maybe you want a tasteful dab of mayo just peeking out the edge of that lower bun. Now, carefully place a freshly cooked patty onto that lower bun. Do the same thing with the patty that you did with the bun. Turn it around, and find the best looking side. Got it? Make sure you can still see that dollop of mayo! Now, let’s place some crispy lettuce on that sucker. This is tricky. Turn that lettuce this way and that. Find the best side and angle of presentation. Make sure it’s thick, and pay attention to browning or wilting. Same thing with the onion, pickles, tomato, etc. Just slowing down and paying close attention to the details will take you a long way with making your food photography really stand out.
Next, it’s on to the fries, pickle wedge, garnish, and that perfectly beaded glass of soda. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it! That’s because it is. It’s not uncommon for us to be on a food shoot for 6 – 8 hours and only photograph about 3 or 4 dishes. These are your hero shots, and they’ll not only establish the reputation of your establishment, but give the customer a feel for what they can expect when visiting. This is detailed work, and running through this routine with your on-site staff before you even call your photographer will save you a lot of time and money. Better to iron out the details now for the cost of a few burgers than to have your photographer charge by the hour as you figure out how to make your food look its best.
If you’d like to talk with Schnebly Hill Media about food photography, we’d be happy to help out. There’s no cost to give us a call and pick our brains about your food photography project, and what you’d like to do to get the best food photos you can get while staying within your budget range. Schnebly Hill Media is available for food photography all over Arizona, and our rates are terribly reasonable. Give us a shout out. We’d be delighted to help!