… in an efficient and cost effective way. Big deal, let me tell you – and you know it from direct experience, don’t you? Beautiful food photography ain’t easy.
To put together a bunch of Portfolio quality images, you need great looking food, props, backdrops and surfaces and , most of all, a good dose of inspiration.
It helps to be well organised and to have a practical approach to things; so here is an insight into the way I set myself up for some Portfolio work:
Your inspiration might come from a million different things…. who knows, for me it’s different every time. But you have to start somewhere and start developing your ideas, start pre-visualising things and see what could work, and what wouldn’t.
For my next session of Portfolio work, I have decided that I want to use the wooden surface you see in the image above – the flat one with the props on it, not the backdrop. That’s where my inspiration comes from, and that’s where I am going to start from: I have this surface, and I want to get 5-6 shots out of it – a nice little series that i can use for different purposes, i.e. website, social media, brochures, e folio etc…. I will start working on 8-9 ideas, and then I’ll narrow it down to 5-6, only using the best images.
The surface has a bit of texture and a very nice colour ; it’s called cygnet, a kind of a pale purple-ish colour, pretty neutral, that you can take either side of the colour wheel, towards cooler or warmer tones.
So i start pulling out whatever props i have available that will go well with this surface – I have a nice little collection of props at my Studio, but i will still need to outsource some more pieces from prop hire shops in Sydney. Anyway, I first look at what’s available, and i group the props as i see them fit.
This process of gathering props together leads me to the next stage of the pre production work: the food and the recipes; i start pencilling ideas down and making notes: I could do this, or I could do that, etc…
As I fine tune ideas, I’ll discard some of the props i had originally selected, and I’ll also make notes of what i need to outsource; ultimately it’s the food that will push in one direction or another.
I even use whatever ingredients I have handy to help me pre visualising the shots i have in mind. And obviously these are only reference shots i took for the post; the lighting and composition will be different in each final image, and I make notes of that too. The better i do the pre production, the smoother the production will be, and with very little post production required.
As you can see, the cygnet wooden surface plays well with different textures and different tones; this way i’ll be able to pack together a consistent yet diverse set of images, optimising the resources i have available.
The next step, will be to involve a home economist / food stylist, and really start working on the food; some recipes will have to be tested, and some shots might have to be re-thought. It’s a lengthy process, but on the other hand some interesting images could happen that had not been planned – luck is not a coincidence, it only happens when you have done all your homework meticulously.
So, this is one way to approach a Portfolio shoot; it’s certainly not the only way, but this is how i do it and it works for me – i hope you’ll find the post helpful, and i look forward to some feedback.
If everything goes right, soon enough, i shall be posting some finished images – but i am still looking for a young, energetic and creative junior stylist to team up with to take this work to the next level.
Dario Milano is a professional food photographer and food stylist, based in Sydney and servicing predominantly advertising and commercial clients, restaurants and the food packaging industry.
He also teaches regular food photography and food styling workshop in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne and Brisbane.
To get in contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org