Use these free transitions, backgrounds, lower thirds, and animated characters as the cherry on top of your next cooking video.
Some of the most popular videos created by burgeoning content creators online are those that combine their culinary skills with their cinematic ones. Here are some useful tips and tricks on how to recreate these cooking video styles. Along with this free video element pack below!
Angles to Recreate
First off, we have the “top-down” cooking style, mostly made famous by Tasty. These videos are quick, to the point, and tailored to those who may not have much time to watch a recipe video. By far the most difficult task involved with these videos is how to mount your camera directly above your cooking space.
Once the camera is turned on, framed, and focused, be sure that it’s shooting in the highest resolution available (to allow yourself any possible framing changes or punch-ins). Then, leave it alone. No touching!
Place your key light similarly to your camera, beaming light straight down onto the work station with a nice, diffused, even spread. You’ll want a low, flat light to fill in any shadows your hands or any bowls might produce in the shot. This style of video normally doesn’t use any sound other than a music track, so make sure you dig through our royalty-free music library and find the perfect soundtrack for your video.
When introducing items to your work space, sometimes it’s nice to have the same repetitive hand motion to give your project some conformity, but also feel free to play around with it. You can also try introducing objects from different sides of your frame, sometimes even introducing multiple items at the same time, by cropping two shots together.
Use pre-measured quantities with appropriate text to accompany the ingredients (which would look stellar placed on one of the free backgrounds above!). This style of video should allow your audience to take a handful of screenshots to later reference when they actually start cooking, which should be all they need.
The Headless Chef
Binging with Babish champions this particular style. For these, we have a somewhat shallow focus shot where the top of the frame cuts off the presenter’s head. The main focus is on the ingredients and all that sweet cooking action. Utilize a higher shutter speed in these videos so that you can see every sharp detail, every shred of cheese, which also helps the video feel more upbeat.
No diegetic sound in these videos, either. For audio, the main focus is actually a rapid fire and rather witty voice-over that’s recorded in post. So, if you want this look for your at-home cooking show, switch out the shotgun for a cup of tea and a studio microphone. A nice, extremely low-in-the-mix music track can also be quite helpful to these types of videos.
Something important to note about the “headless chef” style is that the onscreen action and the mise-en-scène is never overly complicated or congested. Instead, break the recipe down to single actions, with only the items for that specific scene in the frame. Then, place these shots in order to help walk the audience through your recipe.
This style is also gently lit, with diffused lighting and features and virtually no text. However, adding text to the sides of your framing may actually be a huge help to your audience.
The Conversational Cooking Show
This is the classic cooking video, with the on-screen host looking down the barrel of the lens, explaining what they’re doing as they’re doing it. This type of video uses a basic lighting setup and normal camera settings — like 23.976 fps at a shutter of 50 or 29.98 fps at a 60 shutter for a broadcast look. Pro-sounding audio is extremely important here. You want to clearly capture what the host is saying, while making certain all the wonderful sizzles, chops, and grinds are cleanly captured.
These videos can be long — some reaching lengths of thirty minutes — and can, at times, completely careen off the tracks, as seen with some Bon Appétit videos. Distractions from co-workers, babies, off-screen family members — it’s a style where the host not only deals with any exterior factors around the shoot, they embrace them. This can actually make the content much more enjoyable—relatable, even. And, in this style, since you’re not in a hurry, adding your own personality to the video could be a great way to establish a connection with your viewers.
Transitions to Replicate
Transitions play a big part in top-down style videos. Since your camera remains static, this is a great way to keep your video entertaining and engaging. Try using an object — like eggs in a bowl — to block the lens of your camera with, then place that same bowl back down on the work station with all of the eggs cracked. Take a dish that’s ready to be cooked, pass it out of the side of the frame, then immediately bring the cooked dish back into frame.
One of my favorite transitions is when you need something to be chopped, pass a knife over the un-chopped ingredient, then chop the item while keeping it in the exact same spot. Then, pass the knife back in front of the lens, over the chopped item, and cut the two shots together on the action of the knife, using some simple key-framing.
Add Some B-Roll and Beauty Shots
Something that always adds so much to the production value is stellar B-roll. Used b-roll in the beginning of the edit to entice the viewer, and again at the close of the video for a powerful end screen. There you can embed links to other videos.
Get creative with your shots. Try putting your camera in a pantry to remove an ingredient, and utilize depth of field to control the gaze of your viewer. To me, this is a great way to separate yourself from many other at-home YouTube chefs, if you can make it feel organic and natural to the production.
Even after the shoot is wrapped, if you realize you forgot something, there’s a plethora of amazing stock options to give your video that extra flare. Check out Shutterstock’s video library of beautiful chopping footage, simmering footage, and gorgeous shots of cookware. Looking for footage that’s even more curated? Try out our Culinary Collection to find a good fit.
Don’t forget to grab a few beauty shots while you’re shooting. You can use stills for promotion, or place them on savable recipe cards for your viewers to use later. If you wrap up shooting your video and realize you need a few stills, no worries. We have you covered there too.
Increase FPS on Your Camera for Slow Motion Shots
It’s the slicing of fresh ingredients, the limes squeezing, the knives chopping, the steam rising, and the sauces drizzling that really make your mouth water. Film these at higher frames per second so that you can utilize slow motion or speed ramping, always involving movement (handheld, slider, gimbal, tilt, pan, etc.) for a super impactful shot. After all, who doesn’t love to see the steam rising off a freshly cooked dish in slow-mo?
Add Sound Effects
Adding some high-quality sound effects, or simply increasing the volume of your native sound in post, will make the viewer feel like they’re in the kitchen with you. It’s such a simple idea, but the results on the viewer’s end are immense.
Check out these COMPLETELY FREE cooking sound effects on our blog and take your sound design to the next level.
This should help lay the foundation for creating your very own cooking show, or help you to film someone else’s. Feel free to follow these tips for recreating some of the most legendary cooking aesthetics. Or, throw them all out the window and create something distinctly you!
Cover image via Ailisa.
Find our curated food blog collections here:
Want even more tips on shooting irresistible images and video of food? Check these out: