Food photography can get expensive. Not only do you need the right camera equipment, but you also need a variety of props to make your images stand out. From different backgrounds to plates and dishes, things can quickly get out of hand. And that’s before you factor in the cost of the food you’re shooting.
Of course, professional commercial food shoots generally have big budgets to spend. They will often be able to hire prop stylists, food stylists and more to help run the shoot. However, if you’re just starting out or working with smaller clients, how can you make sure that you don’t waste food? In this video, food photographer Joanie Simon shares her favourite reusable foods for photo shoots to help your budget stretch that little bit further.
Upon watching this video, I was immediately reminded of a friend whose father had been a commercial food photographer. My friend would regularly come home from school, open the fridge, and find all sorts of delicious-looking items inside. Of course, one bite, and he soon realised the majority were inedible props! Rule number one: do not eat any food on a food shoot!
This rule, however, can be somewhat relaxed if you are photographing the food in a natural way, with no non-food ingredients. It might need reheating, but baked goods, particularly, can still be edible after a shoot. My favourite shoot ever was at a local bakery, where I took a whole cake home afterwards!
Joanie’s top reusable food items start with coffee. She doesn’t like to use hot liquids on her backdrops, and having some pre-brewed coffee in a jar in the fridge can be really useful when you just need to add an extra prop. Of course, if you add milk, then it won’t keep for as long, but it will still last a good couple of months if kept chilled.
Rule number two: label everything carefully so that unsuspecting people don’t use the food by accident and get sick as a result!
The next item on Joanie’s list is also a liquid. Red wine often needs to be diluted with water to be photographed, and no one likes to waste wine if they can help it. Once again, Joanie simply keeps a carafe of watered-down wine in the fridge and reuses it whenever necessary.
Finally, Joanie uses 2-year-old eggs. These were laid by their own animals and admittedly do have beautiful speckled shells. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to eat these eggs after so long but used merely as a prop, they can add a to of character to a photograph.
Personally, I have used out-of-date cream to create milk splash shots. I find that cream works better than milk as it’s thicker and doesn’t have a blueish tint that milk can sometimes have. It did make a bit of a mess that day and smelled a bit bad, but the results were worth it!
The takeaway (see what I did there?) then is to be creative, and re-use items whenever you can, as long as they look good in the image. Label things carefully, and don’t eat out-of-date food. You’ll create some great images and save some money in the process!