We are no stranger to filming food. From lemon meringue pies to carrot & lentil soup; chicken & white wine casserole to frozen strawberry daiquiris, there are very special challenges involved with shooting perishable food – and it’s not just the heat from the lights.
A staggering 88% of web enabled home cooks in the UK access websites to find recipes. For brands involved in the food & recipe space, it is therefore critical that their food filming is expertly and professionally undertaken. Below are our top 10 food filming tips, which has led us to work with top kitchenware brands such as Kenwood and renowned chefs such as Raymond Blanc.
Our top 10 tips on filming food:
1. Take extra time shopping
When shopping for items such as fruit, vegetables, pastries, or buns spend a little extra time really picking the most perfectly coloured, shaped, or symmetrical from the options available. The camera really picks up blemishes and rightly or wrongly the viewer will expect to see perfection.
2. Buy with purpose and seasonality in mind
Select your food props and ingredients with purpose and seasonality in mind. For example, if you are zesting lemons on film, unwaxed lemons are best. If you are shooting in December, don’t plan to film a strawberry pavlova as strawberries aren’t in season so you really won’t get the best on offer. If you have a local green grocer they are worth befriending as they can be a fountain of knowledge and really help source top ingredients.
3. Buy more than you need
It is always best to buy over what is needed for filming. This ensures that you have ingredients available should any re-shoots be needed due to any mistakes during the shoot. Any left over food doesn’t go to waste as it can be distributed between those at the shoot. Much better than having to put the shoot on hold to go out and buy more onions!
4. Keep food fresh
Food refrigeration needs to be considered before and during the shoot. Often shoots can last all day and food needs to be as perky at 6pm as it was at 9am. Put lettuce in ice water. Buy herbs in their pots. Use fake food doubles to perfect lighting and positioning and replace with the fresh, refrigerated food at the last minute. Similarly, some foods such as pasta (especially spaghetti) can be under-cooked. This helps it retain firmness which will then mean it stays firm during the entire shoot rather than wilting half way in.
5. Consider coloured props
By using coloured plates, service trays, bowls etc contrast is added to the food presentation which can add vibrance to the presented food. Also, contrast your ingredients. For example limes, lemons, chillies, red onions all work perfectly together in a bowl. Be careful that the prop colours contrast well with your chosen ingredients – for example don’t choose a red bowl to present tomatoes and red chillies!
6. Think like the chef
Consider the work space and what the chef will need to prepare the food being filmed. Will a chopping board, knife, salt and pepper be needed? What utensils, pots, pans or baking trays will be required? Ensure they are all easily to hand. If making a recipe, ensure all ingredients are pre-weighed and presented rather than in original packaging. In terms of props and hero ingredients, position them within reach on the work space and with the best angle to camera.
7. Stack ingredients for height and volume
Stacking food draws food up to the eye and makes the final dish seem more appealing. This can be achieved by stacking the actual food, for example expertly stacking strawberries along side a slice of cheesecake or it can be achieved by using slightly smaller props. For example, if you need to display a bowl of apples, using a slightly smaller bowl and staking them in it will create good height and angles for the camera.
8. Mix real food with fake food
Never use all fake food as it will be obvious. However, mixing real and fake food can sometimes work to your advantage. This can work especially well when using ice. A mix of fake and real ice cubes in an iced latte, for example, can keep the ice looking crisp and melt free.
9. Use a spray-bottle of cooking oil
Most food has a matt finish so the food surface doesn’t reflect much light. A quick spray of oil can add a shine to items that will enhance how most food appears on film.
10. Soft lighting makes food look good
The general rule in shooting food is that soft light makes food look good to eat. Hard light can create harsh shadows which can make food look blacker and less fresh.
Food filming is a skill worth investing in.