We’ve had the pleasure of working with many brilliant food photographers and videographers over the years, often working out of photography studios in London or the home counties. However, since we opened the Ceres Studio Kitchen last autumn, we now manage these shoots in our new purpose-built studio, which is just across the corridor from our food PR agency office, on the outskirts of Reading.

Having our studio onsite offers many advantages. We have designed the space to ensure there is plenty of room for both food preparation, as well as space for the photographer or videographer. And whilst we still hire props when the project requires it, we already have a large selection of our own, including backgrounds. There is plenty of natural light for the good days, but photographers can still light shots if they prefer. Oh – and we have parking outside – major bonus for those doing the shopping or carrying the props!

The Ceres Kitchen also allows clients to either join us for a day’s shoot without going into London for the day, (pre-lockdown) and lately we have managed shoots with clients attending ‘virtually’ thanks to technology. Either way it’s proving a popular and cost-effective option for many clients, and we already have produced a stunning collection of still and video content since launch.

But why, in the age of the iPhone, use a professional food photographer? Well we believe food photography is an art and a skill all rolled into one. Great food photography must appeal to consumers’ emotions, making them stop, look and want to buy or cook and taste for themselves - done properly it can take things from looking rather average to awe-inspiring.

Having spent three days on a shoot in our studio kitchen with the team which includes Simon Reed, a local and well renowned food photographer (who originally trained as a chef and worked for 8 years in hotels and restaurants and retrained as a food photographer), I thought it would be interesting to get his view on what makes a great food shot…

“Working as a professional food and drink photographer was quite a niche area when I started out as an assistant 15 years ago. Digital cameras of any quality were not readily available and the ones which were cost a small fortune. Today everyone has access to camera phones and post vast amounts of food imagery to social media.

So, here are some top tips for creating great images...

  • Usually as a professional food photographer you are working to a brief and have some criteria which may need to be considered. If it is for a brand then the look and feel must reflect their identity but also consider the food and any packaging which need to be shown.
  • Having a selection of props to choose from is vital, some things which you first thought would look great in a shot might not work, so being able to have alternatives is very useful.
  • When using props, it’s important to acknowledge their reason for being there is to set a scene or feel to a shot and not to overpower the subject matter; colour, tones and texture are all important things to consider.
  • When setting up a shot I like to talk to the food stylist about what the food will look like, how it’s to be presented and what colours it will include. I then decide on an angle to which it might best be presented and select an appropriate background and props to complement it.
  • Food is best shot quickly and does not respond well to sitting in set for long periods, you must be able to be versatile as you may need to think quickly and change things if they are not working.
  • Lighting is one of the most important things to consider. I like to use daylight as it gives a natural feel to the food, this method requires being able to control the direction of light and exposure for different subjects, also having to adjust for different colour temperature changes throughout the day.
  • I like to use a shallow focus on the food which then makes the other elements in the picture blurred and less significant. However sometimes you have to show a product which must be identifiable, so a longer depth of field is required.

Having worked in food photography for many years, this has given me the knowledge to know what things are likely to work and what won’t! This helps me work faster and get more done in a day. A professional shoot can involve many people, you are part of a team and everyone’s position is equally as important”

I think what Simon says about working fast and getting more done in a day is really important – especially when we need images to now work across a multitude of platforms from websites, social feeds, editorial and advertising – which in itself means you are sometimes shooting portrait, sometimes landscape (and always allowing for the important square crop for Instagram), and it’s not as simple as turning the camera around, each time your change the orientation the set has to be redesigned!

Food photography, albeit hard work and long days, is great fun and we thoroughly enjoy working with our team and clients to create some amazing material.

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