Capturing the food preparation process can be just as beautiful and interesting as the photo of the final dish. In food photography, process shots are an excellent way to transport the viewer to the scene where the food is being prepared and to tell the story of cooking a dish.
When I’ve enough time to make a recipe, or when I’m shooting for a personal food photography project, I like to include a few process shots to bring the viewer into the scene, especially if I’m preparing a sweet recipe, like a cake or a tart. Process shots are time consuming to make, but they are a great way to contribute to telling your food story.
Process shots in food photography
Step photos are also a way to showcase a product and this is why food brands love them. One more reason to love process shots is that they are a way to get multiple shots out of one single recipe, and this is great for your Instagram feed!
I hear you: you don’t have time for this. Let me tell you a secret: you don’t need to take hundreds of process shots for a single recipe, you just need two or three!
If you want to take your process shots to the next level, here are 5 tips that will help you tell beautiful food stories by digging deeper into a dish.
#1: Select the crucial steps
A great process shot shows an important recipe step or a photogenic one, something that is mouthwatering or interesting to capture. For example, if you are working on a cake recipe, you could capture the moment the dough is poured into the mold or the cake decoration phase. Here is when a great photoshoot planning comes in action: during the pre-production, select the most crucial steps of the recipe and make a sketch of the shots you’d like to take.
#2: Start before cooking
Set up the scene in advance and take a few shots without food to make sure you’re happy with the composition. This will help you get the perfect lighting and composition without the risk that the food might loose its freshness. You can adjust the scene as you go, but if you prepare it in advance you’ll have more energy to cook and shoot.
#3: Add a human element
If you want to include a human element in your photos, process shots are a great place to do it. My advice is to take the same shot with and without hands, just in case you’re not happy with the result. Be sure to capture some action and not just hands that appear for no reason. Remember that aprons, dresses and sweaters contribute to the storytelling, so choose them accordingly! For more tips about including hands in your photos, check out this post.
#4: Less is more
Resist the urge to use whatever props you own. There is no need to fill the scene with many props. Instead, use all the necessary elements and get rid of the rest!
#5: Embrace the imperfections
Crumbs, spillings, some flour on the bench… They are all narrative elements that add visual interest to your photo. To make this controlled “mess” more natural you can prepare the food directly on the photographic backdrop. Just make sure you don’t overdo it and remember to always protect your camera and lens!
What’s your relation with process shots? Do you enjoy taking them or do you prefer to concentrate on the final dish only?