May 16, 2019

Keepin' It Real

Contributed by FIFTEEN

We’ve seen them all before: those behind the scenes videos that pull back the curtain on food ads: how those thick, foamy glasses of beer, dollops of fluffy whipped cream and pancakes smothered in rich syrup are all actually achieved through dish soap, shaving cream and motor oil. Even though the final product looks appetizing, the process is anything but.

When it comes to food photography and videography for our clients, however, we only use the real deal because...well, because we don’t believe in faking it. Having actual Milk for Life, Bison Dip, Ru’s Pierogi and Rich’s Plant Based Pizza Crusts play a starring role in our work presents unique logistical challenges for our team, and they’ve had to invent some ingenious methods for capturing that perfect shot, whether if it’s in our in-house studio, or on location.

For senior copywriter Richard Herbeck, who frequently assists in our photo shoots, planning is everything. Weeks before the shoot he’ll work with the photographer and culinarian to compile a carefully curated, chronological list of all the desired shots. “It’s the difference between making your day or making lots of extra food,” he said. “You need that insight into the products and recipes, along with understanding how long it will take to set up each shot, to ensure that everything is ready and looking its best precisely when it needs to.” One of his secrets is to prep as much as possible the night before by creating a tray for each recipe that contains all the bowls, plates, cooking elements, etc. needed for the dish. He’ll also measure dry ingredients and gather garnishes so the team is set for maximum efficiency during the shoot.

Art director Sarah Walczak maintains that a “clean as you go” regimen saves a lot of time during shots and makes them run smoother. “Nothing is worse than a cluttered set or having to readjust your shot because you didn’t take the two seconds to wipe down your area from the previous shot,” she said. Plus, having an organized set means the shots can go quickly, something that’s essential when working with real product. “Everything looks best right after it’s made so you can’t let the food sit for too long before shooting. Once the lettuce wilts or ice cream starts melting, it’s difficult to make them look ‘alive’ again.”

Heather Sargent knows the importance of capturing that perfect angle in order to make a food or dish look its best. Whether photographing for FIFTEEN or her own business, she makes sure she has the following objectives on her mind while getting down to work: make the viewer get hungry, and make the viewer get hungry for that product. To do that, she decides on what part of it is the most interesting or tasty-looking and focuses on that. “Is it the drip of ice cream down two scoops of plump frozen deliciousness onto its cone? Or maybe the way steam pours from the top of a bowl of fresh ramen? Deciding what ‘it’ is can make or break a tasty photograph,” she said.

Account manager Robert McGlenn puts his interpersonal skills to work when it comes to perhaps the most finicky food photography subject of all: ice cream cake. Notoriously known for melting under pressure, ice cream cake can be a temperamental subject, but Robert has learned a few tricks to help put it at ease. “The secret is to put a plate and knife in the freezer with the ice cream cake. This buys you a couple extra precious seconds to capture the perfect shot,” he said. Of course, in order to show we’re always willing to go the extra mile for our clients, Robert has another idea to help prolong an ice cream cake’s shelf life: “you could always do the shoot in the in the freezer and have all the time you need, just bring mittens.”

Needless to say, we haven’t yet put his theory to the test.

Did you find any of our team’s food photography tricks helpful? Be sure to check back next month, when we’ll expand our horizons and offer agency life hacks that are sure to help you work smarter.

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