What to Bring to an Off-Site Food Photography Shoot

A checklist is the only way to remember absolutely everything you'll need for a big off-site food photo shoot. When writing your checklist, try to consider every aspect of the upcoming shoot. The more comprehensive the list, the better.

Remembering the basics for your food styling and photography

Don't forget the set basics for your photo shoot, such as backdrops and linens. And extra linens, backgrounds, and props provide a variety of alternative looks you can try with the food dishes. Also, remember to jot down the lights, stands, scrims, lenses, reflectors, diffusers, and anything extra you may need for a photo shoot. The following figure shows a sample checklist.

Example checklist for a food styling photo shoot.
Example checklist for a food styling photo shoot.

For each photo shoot, you may need to bring along some unique props. For example, some shoots may call for antique silverware or utensils, worn pots or pans, and specific plates or items, like the well-used cookie sheet shown in the following figure.

A well-used cookie sheet is a nice touch for a more rustic look. [Credit: Focal length: 66mm, Shutt
Credit: Focal length: 66mm, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec., Aperture: f/4.0, ISO value: 200
A well-used cookie sheet is a nice touch for a more rustic look.

You may even want to bring a series of glass bottles and jars to a photo shoot to try to create a unique background for a shot. Breakable items like the bottles in the following figure require some careful packaging for transport, though.

Glass bottles can create a unique background. [Credit: Focal length: 46mm, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec.
Credit: Focal length: 46mm, Shutter speed: 1/60 sec., Aperture: f/5.3, ISO value: 400
Glass bottles can create a unique background.

Bringing extra supplies for your food photography

A great way to leave no doubt in your mind that you’re truly prepared for an off-site shoot is to bring extras of all the little things you may need. Having the redundancy of lenses, batteries, memory cards, and bulbs allows a photographer to feel confident about being able to handle most any technical issue. And after the technical issues are under control, the creative aspects can move to the forefront.

Here are a few items you’ll want to make sure you have extras of as you prepare for a shoot:

  • Batteries: Wherever and whenever you’re shooting food, you should always have extra batteries with you. Always. Being smack-dab in the middle of a great shoot and suddenly having absolutely no juice for your camera is rather embarrassing! This situation can be easily prevented by charging a couple of batteries beforehand and tucking them in your camera case.

    If you’re planning a particularly long shoot, you may find it handy to bring a battery charger along for the ride. Just in case you burn through a couple of batteries, you can be secure in knowing that your charger is nearby.

  • Lenses: Having that extra camera lens handy is a must. If a sudden problem occurs with the lens you’re shooting with, you need to have a backup close at hand.

  • Light bulbs: It’s a fact of life that bulbs burn out. And they usually burn out when it’s most inconvenient. So to pack a few extras of each type of bulb when going to an off-site shoot.

  • Memory cards: When on a shoot, taking a lot of photos is helpful because you want to approach the food from every angle and switch up the backgrounds and settings. You’ll likely need a couple of memory cards to hold all the images. Bringing extras is always a good idea anyway so you have a backup just in case you encounter a problem with a card.

Bringing along a white tablecloth or surface to a shoot is always a great option. If you’ve cycled through all your looks and nothing strikes your fancy, opt for the white background. A white tablecloth or other surface is a fresh, clean look that takes the focus off the background and puts it smack-dab on the food.

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