Behind The Scenes Photography

  • Posted on 06-14-19, at 12:00 pm
  • Photography
Troy Millhoupt

Lights, Camera, Reaction

The glitz, the glam, the lights, the models, the exotic destinations. That’s what we all naturally envision when someone mentions the term photoshoot. And sure, while those types of high-end shoots do happen, I want to dive into a different, more tantalizing kind of shoot — one that we do especially well. One where the subject is delicious, but the tricks up our sleeve may have you wanting to think twice before grabbing a bite on set.

Behind The Scenes: Food Photography

Like many things in life, there are many variables that can affect the setup and output of any photoshoot. Budget is a great example, because it can influence everything from space/location, crew size, equipment, props, etc. For food photography, a lot can be achieved on a smaller scale as long as you have the right equipment. Investing in great lighting and a top-notch camera can have you looking like you booked a high-end studio.


Before any shoot, the more planned and prepared you are, the smoother and quicker the shooting day(s) will run. It’s important to set realistic goals and to have all parties agree on the plan in advance, especially if you need to capture multiple subjects in a shoot day. Pad schedules for the unexpected. Perhaps a quick reshoot might be your saving grace if you accommodate for it. And remember, track your shoot time to make sure you are staying on schedule to get your shot list fully covered.

It’s most efficient when you have visual aspects planned and approved before your shoot day, such as: surface selection, props (plating, napkins, silverware, ramekins, glasses), secondary elements in frame, shooting angles mapped out, and your shoot order/sequencing. Take our  Cinco de Mayo photo series for Avocados From Mexico and Tostitos partner content for example. Knowing which shots needed Scoops or Originals, plain guac or pineapple guac, blue mats or green in advance made a complex shoot run like clockwork. In these cases, it’s also a great idea to connect with the food stylist in advance to talk through the shot order, make sure you can maximize your time on set, and create a flow that makes sense for your team in the kitchen.

Setting The Scene

The first thing we do on set is to get the scene ready and approved while the kitchen team preps. The more you can get done and approved early (from a technical perspective) the better, especially if your shoot day includes multiple subjects that need to fit the same theme. Test all of the angles you have planned to make sure you are getting the desired results. See here how we captured the best of two views with a combination of overhead and 3/4 angle shots for the Avocados From Mexico Salad Center. The same goes for lighting. If you are going for a brighter, more well-lit set or a more natural setting, keep testing until you get it right. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but you don’t want to forget the simple things when pressure is on and the shoot schedule is tight.

Calling An Audible

For however much planning you do, it’s inevitable that the unexpected can occur. During these times, it’s best to keep calm and make quick, confident decisions to keep the photoshoot moving. If a recipe isn’t coming out right, it may be best to bump that one down the list and move on to the next, so the kitchen team can have more time to solve the problem.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

A fun thing about the world of food photography is not all is what it appears to be. It’s not my place to give away the food magicians’ secrets, but there are cases with food photography when actual ingredients may not photograph as well, requiring unusual, inedible solutions. The rationale behind this is not to trick the viewer, but for the sake of sustainability on set. It can take hours to get one shot or recipe just right and approved. With that in mind, if you are dealing with ingredients that lose their luster over time, replacing them is the route you need to go. This technique is also important when dealing with the issue of food waste. It decreases the number of dishes needed in case you need more than one shot to get it right.

Action, Reaction

It’s okay if you aren’t getting the shot perfect on the first try. Be honest what you are seeing in-the-moment and what you would like to see differently to help make necessary adjustments until you and the client are fully satisfied. With luxury of modern technology, keep in mind that small details and imperfections can be fixed in post-production. To keep your ship on schedule, spend less time removing crumbs, smudges, and other small details by using technology to your advantage and “tighten the screws” in post.

All Eyes On Food

Capturing the appeal of any food in images takes both practice and skill — and our practice has proven itself time and time again. Our team has both the eye and heart for tantalizing food photography that gets people craving on any channel, in menus, on screens and beyond. If you’re looking for a photo team that knows their way around a kitchen (both real and staged), we’re hungry to help. Let’s get the conversation started around what our fresh food photography can do for you.