Want to amp up your cooking videos? Try these ten tricks for capturing incredible videos of favorite foods with tips from pro stock photographers.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Buddha Bowl

Video by bitt24

Food almost always looks better in commercials than it does in real life. Whether it’s a batch of pretzels falling into a vat of chocolate, or a picture-perfect piece of zucchini flipping on the grill, the food we see on screen captures our imaginations and makes our mouths water. Think back to all the times you’ve found yourself watching a television ad and thought to yourself, “Wow, I’m suddenly ​very​ hungry.”

These craving-inducing videos are a relatively new phenomenon. Up until the 1970s, in fact, food ads were pretty stationary. In the last few decades, technological innovations have led to an explosion of creativity, and cinematographers now use everything from programmed motor rigs to lasers to whet our appetites with moving food.

As it turns out, behind every seemingly simple clip we see, there’s a whole lot of consideration that goes on behind the scenes. Believe it or not, most TV ads take at least several days to film. We asked a group of talented cinematographers to tell us their secrets for making food look stunning. Read on for ten of their best tips.

1. Tell a larger story.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Tell a Story

Video by Gorodenkoff

The magic of video, as opposed to still photography, is that you have the power to tell a larger narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Shutterstock Contributor ​Aleksei Gorodenkoff stresses the importance of capturing not only the food itself but also its surroundings. “​We don’t shoot food per se,” he admits. “We shoot cooking, preparation, and serving.”

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Shoot More Than Food

Video by Gorodenkoff

While the food will be your main focus, consider including contextual clues that help establish a mood. For example, are you at a family picnic in a beautiful park, or are you at a fancy, romantic restaurant? Provide a frame of reference to evoke sensations and memories within your audience.

2. Pick the right ingredients.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Choose Ingredients Carefully

Video by Steve Gadomski

As with still photography involving food, the ingredients you choose matter. ​Steve Gadomski and ​Sergiy Bykhunenko​ both advocate for choosing the freshest specimens, even if they’re a tad pricier. Put some thought into color harmonies, and spend time browsing the aisles for ripe and unblemished fruits and veggies.

For the most part, try to stick to real, natural ingredients, but remember that there are artificial alternatives too, especially when it comes to cold items that melt quickly. Instead of regular ice cubes, for example, you can opt for fake acrylic ones, and believe it or not, well-styled and prepared mashed potatoes work as a good substitute for ice cream in some cases.

3. Select your lights with care.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Select Lights with Care

Video by ​Michael Drogomyretsky

Your lighting scheme will change based on your subject, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. ​Gadomski​, for example, usually opts for LED light as his main light source, placed low behind the food. “​I often have an array of small makeup type mirrors in front near the camera to reflect the key light back onto the front of the food for fill,” he tells us. “Depending upon the type of food, I might use a couple flashlights from the rear of the set to just skim a bit of harder light on the surface of the food to add highlights.”

According to ​Michael Drogomyretsky​, it all comes down to atmosphere and mood. ​“For example, for a fresh salad, you could pick white light with strong backlight,” he tells us. “But for an evening steak, you might choose warm, soft light with a backlight.”

Bykhunenko also suggests using some backlight to give thinly sliced food a glowing appearance, and he reminds us to use a diffuser anytime we’re working with harsh light and shadows. Petrunine world studio​ uses a ​minimum​ of three light sources during a shoot, explaining, “​Otherwise, I do not achieve separation from the background.”

4. Slow down.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Slow Down

Video by Sergiy Bykhunenko

We can trace the use of slow motion in food commercials back to the 1970s, when a director named ​Elbert Budin​ revolutionized the industry. Today, it still serves its purpose. ​“In my work, I prefer to use a slow-motion shooting technique,” Bykhunenko says. “It helps to open up another [way of looking] at familiar things.” When captured in slow-motion, even ordinary veggies seem juicier and more decadent.

5. Experiment with movement.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Experiment with Movement

Video by GoSlow

“Try to create a little movement,” the team at ​GoSlow​ tells us. That doesn’t necessarily mean your food has to soar through the air, though it certainly can. Even just a panning motion can be enough to add dynamism and spark emotions. ​As ​Drogomyretsky​ reminds us, the position of your camera and the angle of your shot are key.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Angle is Key

Video by ​Petrunine world studio

As you grow your sea legs, you’ll find out what kinds of rigs work best for you. ​Petrunine world studio​ uses a simple DIY rotating disc (you can even try a gymnastic disc!) to capture a subject from as many angles as possible.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Try Out Different Rigs

Video by ​Michael Drogomyretsky

6. Mind the details.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Mind the Details

Video by bitt24

As ​Tatjana Baibakova (bitt24)​ explains, it’s much harder to edit footage than it is to edit still photos. For that reason, she explains, it’s crucial to get everything right before your shoot. Before getting started, she makes sure she’s removed any and all scraps of garbage or leftovers from the frame, ensures there are no flaws on the food itself, and double-checks the white balance.

7. Focus on texture.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Focus on Texture

Video by Petrunine world studio

“I ​tend to capture foods with a lot of texture,” Gadomski​ tells us. To add shine and visual interest, Petrunine world studio recommends liberally applying olive oil to your food surfaces. If you’re working on a barbecue theme, go for those textured grill marks, and if you’re working with produce, create the illusion of freshness with some strategically-placed droplets. ​“I like to shoot on a black background, because it emphasizes the brightness of my subjects,” Bykhunenko says. “The presence of water and splashes in the shot animates the picture even more.”

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Depth and Dimension

Video by GoSlow

Lighting is your best friend when it comes to adding depth and dimension to your food. “Always try to [arrange] the lighting in such a way as to emphasize the texture of your product,” GoSlow advises.

8. Keep it simple.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Keep it Simple

Video by Steve Gadomski

You’re likely to have multiple elements in your videos, but remember that, in most cases, you’ll have only one “star.” It could be an elaborate dish or a single piece of fruit, but the important thing is that it attracts the most attention. Once you select your “main character,” GoSlow suggests avoiding any extraneous elements that might be distracting.

In a similar vein, your video should look as effortless as possible. “Giving the appearance of simplicity is my goal,” Gadomski says. “There might be a lot going on outside of camera view with various types of lighting gear and reflectors and flashlights, but the viewer will never see behind-the-scenes work. In my image making, I have always believed that what you don’t see is as important as what you do see.”

9. Watch for trends.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Watch for Trends

Video by bitt24

Follow brands and restaurants on social media, and study how they use footage to advertise their food. What angles, subjects, and themes do you notice? “​Keep trends in mind,” Baibakova advises. “The food market today is more dynamic than ever, so you need to constantly monitor trends and use them in your work.”

10. Find a partner.

Explore 10 Pro Tips for Taking Better Videos of Food — Find a Partner

Video by Sergiy Bykhunenko

All hands on deck! ​“When shooting food in motion, I cannot do without my wife,” Bykhunenko tells us. Working in a team, with one person playing the role of the assistant and another working behind the camera, can open up a whole new world of possibilities, from tossing veggies into the air to pouring a cup of warm tea from an interesting angle. The more people you have working by your side, the freer you’ll be to focus on capturing the moment.

Top Video by Sergiy Bykhunenko


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