Planning a Food Shoot

I've been wanting to go over this process for quite a while now, and I actually was going to incorporate it into my first blog post but it would have just become a long and convoluted thing so I decided to save the technicalities and planning for a separate post.

I don't want to say I always get questions about my process - but I get a fair amount, enough to justify putting it down in one place for easy access. I'm hoping to help out some fellow photographers with their shoot process, and give people who aren't familiar with the field an idea of how much work actually goes into the 4:3 picture you see on your feed.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me planning this post out on my stories. I divided this into three parts, and put it against a little timeline:

1. Planning

2. Process

3. Post Production

1. Planning

My planning process begins on a Tuesday night (Weird, I know. It is what it is). This is when I decide what I want to make. It's usually a baked good because they perform well on my page. I then go through my favourite bakers on Instagram for a recipe that they might have and are easy enough for me to follow. I also peruse around on Pinterest because thats just recipe heaven. This part sometimes flows into Wednesday depending on how busy my work week is ( I do all the planning in the evenings after my 9-5).

Once I have the dish I want to make and source the recipe I want to use - I move the process offline for a little bit, I just like having things written out in one place. I have a little pink book also known as my shoot book. It's a little 4 x 6 book that I use for almost every shoot. I start by writing out the recipe; listing the ingredients, the steps, and then create a shopping list for any ingredients I might need to purchase before shoot day. I also create a prop list, and a shot list. This ensures that I only bring out the props I need on the day of, and I have a clear plan for the shots I'm trying to capture.

I've tried to shoot a little snippet of what my prop and shot list would look like:

I try to keep my prop list limited to items that are relevant to the dish I'm shooting, and items that will help tell the story through the image. For example, in the image above, the page I included shows the planning of a brownie shoot. My prop list includes a cooling rack, a board, linens, some small bowls and plates, florals, jars and coffee cups. These are items I can curate together in a scene to tell the story. I also believe that having some signature props help to establish your style! Some of the props I like to include as much as possible are my cookie jars and coffee cups. I want people to see those and just know it's my image

My shot list is honestly such a time saver! If I was to give anyone a tip for the planning portion of this, it would be to create a shot list in advance. This way, you're not rushing through your shoot, or throw things together just to get something shot. I like to sketch out 3 or 4 main ideas, with varying viewpoints and compositions. My notes are kind of rough and hard to read but I like to list the angle I'm shooting at, some notes about specific placement of my subject and props etc. I do all this because remember, it's only Wednesday - I want to remember all this by the time shoot day comes around!

Thursday and Friday are dedicated to sourcing any ingredients from the list I made on Tuesday. Keep in mind this outline is from pre - COVID times so it was easy for me to just pop into the stores after work and grab what I needed. I could also make a trip to local value village in case I need some props for the shoot. Now, I try to use what I have on hand but I wanted to include this part of the process for reference once this is all over!

2. Process

This is where the fun actually happens! Sometimes, I bake on Friday night so all I have to do is shoot on Saturday. Recently though, I've been filming some of the baking process, so Friday nights are prepping everything I can from my camera equipment to the props I want to use.

Saturday is shoot day! My favourite part of this whole process because it's just me and the camera for a good hour.

I like to try and keep the day running as smooth as possible, so I start by filming what I need to, and while it's in the oven I set up my scene completely. I essentially want my entire image set up so all I have to do is add the subject and get the shot (this is why my sketches are super handy!)

I typically spend about an hour or two on the actual shoot. The goal is to get a few variations of the shot list I had outlined - I like to capture these three angles:

- A 45° shot

- A straight on shot

- An overhead shot

I also try to capture some portrait and landscape oriented shots so I can use them on Instagram and here on the blog.

3. Post Production

If you ask me, the Planning and Post Production take up the most time. Once I feel like I have the shots I need, I start with the cleanup. You might remember from a previous post that I like to clean up my camera equipment up first (expensive gear). I don't want anything getting knocked over while I clean up the rest of my set. Once I tear down my equipment, I clear away the set and then tackle the mess I may have made in the kitchen while baking. This entire process takes just under an hour even when I try to be super efficient!

The next step is transferring my files onto my computer and editing my photos. I've got a pretty good workflow that I picked up from a studio I worked at years ago. It works really well for me, so I've stuck to it (can totes share this in a future post). I give myself at least 1-2 hours to cull and edit my images to the light and airy theme I love so much. Once I have my final edits, I send them to my phone so I can plan out my posts.

3a. Post Post Production

These are the last steps, that don't have a specific day to get done because they're ongoing and I am constantly doing these whenever I have some free time. It's the boring admin stuff like organizing my posts into a feed planner, planning for one post a day, writing out captions (which is literally the bane of my existence) and finally keeping an eye on my Instagram analytics to let me know what performs well on my page in order to get that Tuesday planning phase going again!

These shots were taken a while ago, but I wanted to give you some info about the tool I use to plan my posts. There are a ton of them out there (Tailwind, Preview, Plannr etc.) I personally like using Planoly because I like the interface, and it's what I started with, so I'm just used to it. I pay for the version I have in order to access some of the features I need, like posting everyday, tracking insights and more - but there is a free version and it's just as good if you don't plan on posting more than 30 times in a month. I like to plan out at least a week of posts so that I'm not constantly sitting in this app writing out captions. This requires a couple of hours dedicated to filling in all of the info that Planoly requires for it to do its magic:

- The photo you want (obviously)

- Fill in the caption

- Add your hashtags: you can save your fav ones and quick-add them, which is amazing

- Tag accounts: the app also saves any account you tag for quick access in your future posts

- Add a location

- Crop within the tool: I like doing this because I don't crop down to 4:3 in Lightroom (just remember to shoot a little wider so you can fit your entire image into this crop!)

- Schedule a date and time to post: the paid version also suggests the best times for you to post based on your followers' activity!

- Auto post: this is the whole point of the app. The only time it doesn't automatically post is when you plan a carousel post. In this case it copies all the info from your caption and you just paste it in when you manually post your images.

I like to fill in my captions, hashtag, user tags, location and crops before I decide on a date and time to post the images. This lets me play around with the placement until I'm absolutely satisfied with the final look, then I just go in and set my times and I don't have to worry about it for another week (hopefully).

This wraps up all of the work that goes into one Instagram post, I really hope you found this helpful, and maybe it gave you some insight into how much work this actually is.

I'd love to do more posts like this! If you guys are interested in seeing something similar for a breakdown of the equipment I use, a behind the scenes look at my editing/workflow process, or anything else photography related. Let me know!!!

Until next time, friends!


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