Changing my creative workflow enabled me to get tremendous results. Copy my strategy and become a better Food Photographer & Stylist immediately.
I know how frustrating it can be when looking at your food photos during a photo shoot leaves you with the feeling that something is missing. When literally nothing is going on in the food pics. Zero. No emotions.
Or when it’s difficult to figure out what to put in the shot and how much to add. Props are an important part of the visual storytelling and can be so powerful, but when chosen wrong, they can be so harmful too.
Or when you have the feeling that you don’t have full control over the look. For me, as a perfectionist, this was always something I struggled with. You just don’t get the outcome, you desperately want.
I hear you. I’ve been there too. It made me sick when I started shooting, and I was completely lost and struggled what to do now. Styling and photographing food just by instinct doesn’t work out all the time. We all know that.
I always knew there must be a better way to style and photograph food without all those overwhelming feelings which killed my creativity when I needed it the most.
I completely changed my workflow and my approach to food photography and styling to an organized system where I break down the creative process into smaller parts to be more focused and creative in every single step. Since I’ve implemented this strategy, everything changed. Literally.
How to become a better Food Photographer and Stylist immediately
Food Photography is all about emotions. Great food photos are the emotional connection between the viewer and the food. How you compose and style your food photography is the secret weapon to create highly emotional food photos which pull the viewer into the picture and let his imagination play. It’s hard to describe emotions but feeling them is a process that happens naturally.
Splitting the creative process into three smaller parts enabled me to get better results in every step. My creative process looks like this: brainstorming, planning, shooting. This workflow saved me a lot of headaches, bad gut feelings, some tears, and increased my creativity. And it helped me to find my style.
That you can be laser-focused and creative during a shoot, you need to envision your desired results first. The better you are organized and focused on your desired outcome the more flowing the shooting will be. Framing your idea beforehand lets room for more creativity during the shoot because you are free in your mind and have the eye for those killer details you didn’t think of in the planning.
This system enabled me to improve my skills tremendously and immediately. Following two pictures where taken within the same month, November 2017:
The Apple Walnut Pie in the left photo, was the last photo shoot before I changed my workflow. One week later, I started to shoot Christmas baking recipes, like this Eggnog Gingerbread Tiramisu in picture two, for my blog with my new system. You see? A HUGE transformation.
Picture one is just a slice of pie on a plate. There is no story, no emotions, no creativity. Zero is going on. That does not even count as minimal styling. Minimal styling is beautiful. With minimal styling, you can also create emotions and tell a story. Picture two tells a story and evokes emotions. That transformation was just possible because I changed my workflow.
I always took “the food has to be the only star” as an excuse to do nothing with it. I thought, as long as the food looks appetizing, everything is alright. Well, that’s true that the food has to look appetizing but to make someone stop while scrolling through Instagram or to attract clients and get paid for what you love it needs more than that. You need a story and emotions to grab the attention of the viewer.
To understand what that all means, I walk you through my system how I got kickass results in Food Photography and Styling.
Believe it or not. Starting to brainstorm my shoots was the biggest game changer for me. I start brainstorming right after I developed the recipe or got it from a client.
In this stage of my creative process, I determine which emotions I want the viewer to feel when he looks at my food photo. It’s the foundation — the starting point. Emotions are the soul of Food Photography. Through emotions, we immediately connect with the food pic. That is the key to great Food Photography.
To think about which emotions you to want to evoke with your food photos makes everything so much easier. It affects all your styling decisions from the beginning till the end.
You don’t know how to evoke emotions with your instant pot chili, salad, or you name it? Or you don’t feel anything when thinking of a vegan salad dressing? If there comes nothing right away, don’t panic! Research it! Search for your food in Google and Pinterest.
Organize all the pictures which you love on Pinterest boards for example. Then analyze them. Is there a common thread through all those images. Are they all bright or dark? Are the artistically or naturally styled? Is there movement? What do you feel? Long story short. Do the photos which make your heart beat faster have elements in common?
Tip: Think out of the box. Don’t research just your photography and styling niche for inspiration. You will also find beautiful inspiration from interior or lifestyle photographers for example.
NOTE: With researching and getting inspiration from other’s photos, I don’t mean to copy them. It should just help you to decide which look and feel you want for your food photos.
Everyone has another imagination. It does not mean that you imagine the same things as me when we look at the same photo. There is no right or wrong. With determining the emotions you want to evoke, it is the same. You can tell any story you want. It’s not essential which one it is. It’s just important that the viewer can feel and connect with the photo, then everything is fine.
When I know which story I want to tell and which elements help me to do so, it’s time to put them together in my mind. It’s like painting a picture and envisioning the results you are after. This is the stage where I make my styling decisions and define them. Based on what inspired me the most while brainstorming and researching my idea, I determine the following:
- which backdrop to choose
- which and how many props to use
- how to style the food
- which materials I want to use like wood, ceramics, etc.
- which colors to use
- in which angle(s) to shoot
- which quality of light to use
Tip: In this stage, look through all available props and backgrounds in your house to see if something jumps at you. I don’t know about you, but I have so many props and backgrounds that I don’t have them all in my head. Sometimes I have this “ahhh” moment when I look through.
You need to figure out how to present your food that it is the only star in the photo. It should not compete with anything else. All elements you add should have one purpose: emphasize the food.
How often have you been in the situation where you think during a shoot that some fresh basil, or raspberry, or beautiful big chocolate flakes would be THE killer garnish you really would love right now but don’t have it at home or didn’t prepare it?
Planning your shoot makes you also aware of which additional ingredients or styling elements to buy or to prepare. It makes sure that these situations can’t happen anymore.
Now it’s time for having some fun. And really, it is so fun to shoot food with positives vibes and confidence. Begin with reading your notes, that you come into the right mood for your photo shoot.
Because it’s not always in reality as we imagine it, I often need to make little adjustments while I’m shooting. It’s also the stage where I decide on which composition technique is the best for my food.
Tip: Especially when you decide to take action shots or have food that doesn’t allow you take all your time in the world, like melting ice cream, powdered sugar that gets wet, sauces which dry out quickly, etc., it’s crucial to set up everything before you take your food pics. Then place the food and let’s shoot that baby fast.
Please, don’t compose your photograph that it looks staged. It’s not natural that all berries around a bowl lay with the exact same distance to each other and on the same side. Don’t let the perfectionist in you push you in that corner. Let the artist in you style your photo.
If you stuck during a shoot mentally and creatively, it’s helpful to leave the set. Leave the room for 5 minutes and come back with a free mind.
With brainstorming, researching, and building your vision you take full control of the look and the outcome you desire. It is the foundation of highly emotional striking Food Photography and Styling. Investing the time into thinking about which emotions you want to evoke, will save you time in the planning and shooting process.
Well planned photo shoots save you a lot of headache and maybe tears when shooting food. An increasing stress level during the shoot decreases your creativity. And taking pictures of food without creativity doesn’t lead to stunning food photos.
With organizing your creative workflow with this three steps system, you are fully aware of what the strengths and weaknesses of your food are before you shoot it and can consider it in your planning. Planning keeps your head free during a photo shoot to stay creative and pay attention to the details.
And it’s worth to mention that no Food Photographer on this planet loves every shot he takes. That’s an illusion. We all take photos where we think “That’s not my best work.”, and that’s okay. Not every food photo you take has to be better than previous ones.
So be patient with yourself and accept that you won’t love every single food pic you take no matter how awesome you are. Food Photography is a journey. All Food Bloggers and Food Photographers are on this journey, just on different stages.
Tell me! What do you think about this strategy? If you have any thoughts on that, please leave a comment below!