What to expect at a professional food or product photo shoot – Part 2

Many of my clients are entrepreneurs and have never been to a professional photo shoot before. So, I thought that I would write a few blog posts on what happens before, during and after a photo shoot as a guide for the newbies. Here is part 2…

Whether your creative team is just your photographer or if you have an ad agency, web designer or print designer, communication is key. Your photographer needs to fully understand your needs before the shoot. You and your creative team should communicate well in advance of the shoot.

So, what information will you discuss?

  • Whether the images will be used for print or Internet is something that is important for the photographer to know – the color space (some technical mumbo jumbo) for the Internet (RGB) and the color space for package printing (CMYK) are very different.
  • Whether you need squares, horizontals or verticals
  • The look and feel (clean white background, rustic look, formal setting etc.) Use examples from the Internet.
  • The type of background
  • The type of surface
  • Prop selection
  • Will you use flavor cues
  • Is there a need for a food stylist or a prop stylist.

…and many other questions need to be discussed before the shoot.  Have a Pre-Production meeting, either face-to-face, by phone or even by e-mail if necessary, before your shoot. Prepare a shot list – a list of all the products and the photos you need of them.  Once you’ve had your pre-pro (pre-production) discussions with the photographer, stylist, art director and/or designer you are now ready for the shoot. Now, it is up to you to bring the product to the photographer’s studio.

A term that you will probably hear in the studio is “Hero”. The hero refers to the product that looks so good, that it’s the one that is used in the final image. Before the hero is put on set, the photographer will often work with a stand-in, to get the background, camera angle, lens selection and lighting right.

If you are photographing packaging such as bottles with labels, hand pick the best ones. The labeling process often puts labels on crooked or scratches them. The bottle has a seam.  Try to get bottles where the seam is on the side rather than in the front. If possible, bring extra labels so they can be put on the bottles by hand.  If you have a bottle with a clear liquid in it, such as liquor, the back label will have to be removed. Check the printing on boxes and bring perfect ones. Check the corners of boxes to make sure they are not bent.

If you are selling a baked product that is frozen, try to get it before it is frozen…immediately before the shoot. Hand pick the best and treat them as if they are very fragile. Keep them separated from one another so they don’t collide during transport.

If you are using food in a recipe, you need to start with the best ingredients to end up with the best hero. I feel that the best way to do this is pay the stylist to shop for you. They know where to get the heroes and what to look for.

So, how should you prepare for the photo shoot? Have lots of stuff…I mean lots! Especially, if it’s food. The photographer or stylist is going to go through all of your products to pick the best ones (or the best pieces of several of them and put them back together to make it look awesome.) Don’t run out of product and have to compromise. Make sure that your heroes are as good as they can possibly be. Product is the least expensive part of a photo shoot so have lots more than you need.


About Jerry

I was a science teacher for 31 years. During that time I photographed wedding and Bar Mitzvahs for about 15 years but that was in the days before digital. Being a teacher, I had my summers free so I assisted food and commercial still life photographers in NYC for 3 summers and fell in love with it. Having a wife and a mortgage, it was not practical to give up a job in teaching and go into photography so I put off my dream of becoming a food photographer until I retired from teaching. Now I am living my dream - I am a food and product photographer servicing New York City, Philadelphia and all of New Jersey.
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