Here you can find tips for what is necessary to create great food images
and to understand the process of professional food photography.

This article explains the planning and execuction of a professional food photography shoot,
describing the roles of all people involved in the shoot,the pre planning,
the procedure of a photo shoot and tips of how to photograph on location.

Planning a food photography shoot
There are several points which have to be considered before you do a food shoot:

1) How many images need to be taken?

There is a time limit of how many images can be taken during a day, depending on the complexity
of the images and the time it takes for the cooking and arranging the food, props and lighting.

2) Are they simple cutouts, styled/propped images or Composites?


You can photograph more simple cutouts (single item on a plate) in a day in comparison to styled images, a cheaper way.

These cutouts are unstyled images without any surrounding props and do not show any particular style/atmosphere.

These cutouts still need to have the right size of plate to match the size of the food and the layout,
organised by a prop stylists or myself. Cutouts also require a clipping path, which is part of the digital retouching

But styled images surrounded by props are much more stunning!

Imagine: 2 main courses on a table, a nice bottle of wine and some candles, flowers, traditional background.....

Propped images do take longer to be photographed, since more time is spent on arranging/composing and lighting changes.

There is also a need for a budget for the prop stylist, to arrange and hire or buy all these props.

In general, for an editorial shoot of 8 simple images per day, the cost for the props is around £ 100.

Composites contain several items in one shot, this can be very time intensive to produce!!!


3) What is the style/mood/colour scheme desired for this project?

Xmas, Easter, summer, blue, pink...? That all has to be discussed with the prop stylist and art director/graphic designer and
photographer and affects the time spent on prop styling, props and the lighting styles.
It is also important to consider a particular style for your work in case you want to match this style in future work.
View samples on the Food Photography Styles and the Food Photography Lighting pages.

4) Where are the images published: web, magazines, books, packaging or posters?

This affects the resolution of the images, websites generally do not need the same high resolution as bill posters.
Professional equipment for high resolution digital images is expensive.
Also the reuse of the images in different media has to be considered for future purposes..

5) Which way are the images displayed: horizontal, vertical, or square?
- Do these images need to have a particular aspect ratio?
- Do I need to leave space for text within the image area and where and how big?
This is a very important issue. The more you know about the layout, the better your image gets!
The food stands out better and becomes much more appealing if you know where to place the food, props and copy/text.

6) What's the schedule?

Before the shoot all these points above have to be discussed with the team to set up a time schedule.
Then the food stylist might need to test the recipes before the actual photo shoot and organize/buy all the food before the shoot.
Then the prop stylist need to organise, hire or buy all the props, which then has to be delivered to the studio.
After the shoot, I might have to do all the retouching before the images go to the designer/client.

Procedure of a food photography shoot

- Food Stylists shop and sometimes prepare some food (eg. cakes) the day before the shoot

- The Prop Stylists or myself organise, buy or hire all the props days before or on the day of the shoot


- Props arrive days before or on the morning of the shoot


- The team arrives: Photographer, Food Stylist, Assistants, Propstylist, Artdirectors, clients...


- Prop stylist unpacks all props, plates get selected and the order of images to be taken is confirmed


- Food stylist prepares first dish


- Photographer / Assistants set up the lighting / camera / tablesetting, backgrounds and props


- First dish arrives as trial food
- Lighting and camera get adjusted
- Test images are taken
- First dish will be adjusted or replated, recooked
- Final image gets captured and approved by the client or designer

- Whilst we wait for the next dish, we start setting up props/table for the next dish and start the digital retouching


- Previous 6 points get repeated for each image


- In between we might have a great lunch with the leftovers, so we do not waste any of the food we've used


- Studio setup might need to be cleared for a following shoot


- Following day propstylist arrives to repack all the props


- Within the following days all the digital retouching needs to be done, before the images go to the client.

The Team:
Food Stylists / Home Economists
Food Stylists ( Home Economists) are professional cooks, who also have skills in nutrition and food standards.

Professional Food stylists work together with a team of art directors, prop stylists and professional food photographers.
They not only prepare the food, they often write recipes, test the recipes and buy all the food x2 for the testing and photo shoot.

Unlike most professional chefs (who can create amazingly tasty recipes and presentations), Food Stylists understand more
about how to arrange food on plates for a photo shoot (in conjunction with the photographers lighting techniques)
to give it the best photogenic look.
Having worked together with famous chefs in various restaurants, I occasionally still have to give advice on how to arrange the food.

Food stylists also know many amazing tricks about preparing the food and keeping it fresh looking during the photo shoot.

Here is a list of Food Stylists I recommend

Prop Stylists
Prop Stylists organise all the props needed for the food photo shoot.

First, they liaise with the Food stylist and art director/ graphic designer to discuss the size of each recipe,
the layout within the publication and the style/mood required for the shoot. Afterwards, they arrange all the plates, backgrounds,
cutlery, napkins, glasses, tablecloth, flowers and other things by either hiring or buying the items which are required for the shoot.

They have a great knowledge of photgraphic styles and know where to hire or buy all these props, which is timesaving.

Here is a list of Prop Stylists I recommend

Art Directors - Graphic Designers - Web Designers

Working on Location
I regularly shoot on locations like restaurants, hotels, venues and even private properties.

To do a proper shoot for still life, food or menu photography on location,
I usually bring a car FULL of equipment with me, additional deliveries for large items might be required.

Photographing in Restaurants usually requires a few options:

For the menu/food photography you need quite a large space, minimum of 2 table settings, ideally a spare room
(which i use most of the time).
If the photo shoot cannot be done with continous daylight throughout the day within the restaurant, a professional flash lighting setup
with softboxes has to be used. The flashing of professional equipment may be disturbing to the customers,
so its best to do it when no customers are around.

Interior photography is normally done without any customers, since, as a restaurant owner,
you need permission from each customer (Model Release),in order to publish their image.
So the best time to photograph interiors is when the restaurant is empty.
I have done images showing a full restaurant, but all people were asked for a written permission.

The lighting conditions within the restaurant are quite important for the interior photography to reflect your atmosphere.
The best romantic lighting is normally in the evening, but that depends on the number of windows you have,
how your lighting is set up and the contrast. I sometimes also use several lighting heads to enhance the interior images.

Exterior photographs very much depend on the lighting mix between the outside and inside lighting.
To get the best pictures, the outside lighting has to be appropriate, sometimes dawn is the best time,
but this depends on the atmosphere you want to show, daylight, evening or night.

Professional food and advertising or still life might require a proper photographic studio.
It is private and has all the space and facilities needed.

You can read more about this on my photographic studio page.