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Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)

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Jason Olsen
Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)
on Oct 6, 2005 at 2:20:48 pm

I have a client that whats to feature his food (sub sandwiches) in his commercial. I know having good lighting on the food is key, but if any one has dealt with filming food before I sure would like to hear what ya gotta say.


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Mark Frazier
Re: Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)
on Oct 11, 2005 at 3:10:17 pm


The best lighting I've used for food shots is very diffused and set up well off the camera line. I want shadows to show texture and depth of presentation, but I like soft, not harsh shadows.

I use a large softbank set off to one side for a key light (I start at about 45 degrees from camera line and adjust farther away as needed.) I'll usually fill in the shadows with a reflector or a much smaller soft light, just enough to give definition in the shadows. A softened backlight, usually a small freznel with some diffusion, will provide some depth to the sandwich.

Also, use a fast shutter speed or ND filters to stop down your camera and shrink your depth of field so the sub will stand out against whatever is in the background. Camera diffusion also does wonders for food shots.

Make sure the client brings plenty of product (kept cool and away from the lights) to freshen up the "star" as the shoot goes on. I'm assuming you're shooting video, and the heat from the lights will be pretty brutal on the food.

And as always, get some slick magazines featuring beautiful food shots to get ideas for your setup.

Good luck!


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Nino Giannotti
Re: Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)
on Oct 11, 2005 at 4:36:04 pm

Food preparation for the camera can be a tedious process. Higher budget productions for TV or photography will normally hire home economist that specializes in food preparation for photography. Just think, if Subway or Taco Bell would use the food for advertising in the same visual manner as it is delivered to customers they would not last long in business. Unfortunately most budgets cannot afford a food preparer so you'll have to do it. Study advertising of similar businesses like Subway, Blimp, Quizno, etc. There are also books on food preparation for photography, do an Amazon search.
I do a lot of food video and still photography as part of other project, both in the high and low budgets. You can check my demo web site under Travel & Hospitality to get an idea how we handle food shots as part of larger projects.

Visually preparing the food is very critical. The chef usually prepares the dishes to be visually appealing, good chefs have an eye for details. I use one main light, usually a small or medium Chimera with fabric grid or honeycomb on top and back, just like you would use a backlight (or hair light) in an interview, this will give nice roundness. For the front I use a reflector to fill the shadow area. For highlights I use small mirrors on adjustable mount to direct the light precisely where is needed. If the light from the Chimera is not enough for the mirrors I will add a 150 Arri Fresnel pointed at the mirrors so I can project a stronger light. Use a warming card when white balancing.

Good Luck

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Jason Powell
Re: Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)
on Oct 13, 2005 at 2:05:16 pm

I'll echo the need for a good food sylist, but they don't work cheap. If you have a local tape/film worker directory you might look for someone who lists themselves as an assistant stylist. They will have good experience and might be willing to work cheaper for a chance to build their resume.

But that's not really a lighting issue, and the suggestions above sound good. Another option for creating highlights is to punch a 1k or 2k light through a piece of foamcore with a small hole cut in it. Also, I find that a piece of foamcore suspended directly over the tabletop can provide a nice ambient base when you bounce a higher wattage instrument off of it.

Also put a lot of thought into the setting for your shot. Butcher blocks dressed with nice colorful vegatables; little ramikins of spices; its the little touches that create an attractive scene. The stylist will have good suggestions for that. Don't neglect the background of the scene either. Shooting in front of a fireplace or something visually interesting can be an option. Generally, you just want some depth and visual interest behind the food so you aren't locked into shooting straight down on the table.

Finally, my personal camera is a dvx100, and I found pretty quickly that the minimum object distance was too great for close-up work on small objects. A Century achromatic diopter was a great investment for me, enabling me to shoot both food and smaller stuff like jewelry. It helps shorten the depth of field as well. Shooting off a smaller boom arm can also be a good idea for some floating camera moves.

hope that helps, and good luck!


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Re: Filming food? (making it look good and tasty)
on Oct 29, 2005 at 9:02:39 pm

Bring a bag of marbles to rotate the plate as you zoom in. Bring incense for 'steam'. Take photos instead of video if you are not going to show movement or steam and then zoom in post.

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