If you are a food photographer, then you know the complexities of a food shoot. From making sure the food looks fresh and that it’s captured in the best light possible. To the set and the props- making sure they look good and complement your dish. Then the styling of the food and choosing a composition that is suitable. There are so many things to think about and plan for! If you are new to food photography, then take a seat.

Imagine having to make all the above decisions plus more when you have to shoot say 30 different dishes in a day. I think now you get my drift, it gets super complicated really fast! A pre-production meeting essentially helps you to plan for the shoot day. You are able to anticipate how you need to shoot, what props you will need during the shoot and the equipment & man power needed for the day.

Pre-production meetings  have always been held by filmakers due to the complexity of their shoots and the many moving elements they need to coordinate. However, these come in handy in photography too!

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Who should be in a Pre-Production Meeting?

It’s important to have the client or a representative from the client side to ensure all they want captured is discussed during the meeting. The key members of your team should also be present, for instance, if you are working with a food stylist or an assistant.

Another person that can’t be overlooked is the chef as they will be very important to the process and making sure the food is prepared just like it should be. The chef will be working closely with the food stylist so it’s important to brief him/her on how the food should be handled and cooked for photography purposes.

What to discuss during a Pre-Production Meeting

Dominos Pizza Kenya - Pan Pizza

1. Final clarification of all dishes to be shot

By the time you get to a PPM, you should already have the shot list. This means you had already discussed with the client what they need to be shot and they are in agreement. This preferably should be confirmed via email. During the PPM, you will just be confirming all the dishes and at this point you can start thinking about the order in which the shoot will take place.

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2. Have your mood board in place

Essentially, the mood board should be shared out even earlier. During the PPM, the discussion should be around how to achieve what is on the mood board. Once all parties see it, they will have a visual goal of what needs to be achieved.
Pinterest, Behance & Instagram are great places to get ideas and help you firm up your plans for the shoot. With all these platforms, you can save boards or posts that may help you in future.

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3. Cook time for the dishes and how they will be styled

Food cooked for photography is slightly different from food cooked for eating. A lot of times, the food is under cooked so it remain looking fresh and tasty. So when discussing with the chef, all these factors need to be discussed. Maybe you are to shoot some vegetables and they normally cook them for 10min but in this instance, you may only need them to be steamed for 2 minutes.

Go through the dishes with the chef and make sure to explain to them what they should expect. Make sure to cover the most difficult dishes to shoot like burgers & sandwiches and discuss a game plan which you will refer to on the day of the shoot. The stylist will have a crucial role in this.

4. Identify the exact spot where the shoot will take place

Food especially if there are a lot of dishes that need to be captured, will be shot on location. This is because when you are shooting it, it needs to look appetizing. If it needs to be transported from one location to another, then the biggest likelihood is it will look deflated and unappetizing.

If you will be shooting on location, you will need to identify the exact location where the shoot will take place. Is there enough space for the equipment, props and people who will be part of the shoot? Does the client need to make space or plan ahead to make sure some things are available? Make sure this is covered in the discussion.

Jumla Cuts - goat leg
5. All items needed during the shoot including ingredients & props.

Now that you have your list of dishes and everything that should be captured, what do you need to make sure everything goes as planned? List down the list of equipment and props you will need. Note down the ones you don’t have and plan for purchase or hire of the items you don’t have. Regarding any additional ingredients, will the client be providing these or will you be the one to purchase them? Do you know everything that you will need?

If you will be taking care of the ingredients, make sure all that’s needed is captured. Normally, the food stylist will handle this including the purchase of the ingredients. Though as the photographer, you need to make sure the list is accurate and the food stylist has enough money for purchase.

Remember, depending on the complexity of the shoot, you may at times have more than one PPM. You may initially have a meeting with only your team members before you have another with the client and other parties. Sometimes you may have more than one meeting even with the client. Just make sure that from the meeting time to shoot day, you have time to execute any additional plans be it purchases, hiring of equipment etc. All the best in your food photography journey!

Here’s the free PPM checklist you can take with you on your next meeting.

Let us know in the comments if you have any additional points or if you have any topics you would like us to cover.

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