Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grub Shots: Behind the Scenes of a Food Photo Shoot

During my rotation at USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), I had the opportunity to assist with the One Ingredient, Five Different Ways blog and social media series. This mini-campaign promotes healthy recipes from the USDA’s What’s Cooking website. The focus of this series is to share five different recipes centering around a single ingredient to keep healthy eating interesting. Recipes were selected and prepared by  CNPP staff and interns. Five pictures with a pumpkin theme were needed, and I was asked to help set up the food and backgrounds for the photos.

Behind the scenes of the pumpkin photo shoot.

I got to be a Food Stylist for the day! Basically, I was in charge of making the food look pretty whether that meant meticulously placing apple slices on a plate next to a pancake, sprinkling cinnamon over pudding or making the backgrounds look inviting.  I ensured each prop leaf was placed in the perfect spot and that the napkins were wrinkled with precision. I learned a lot both from my work as a food stylist and from watching the other members of the team during the shoot. It took us longer than I thought it would to create those five photos, with a lot of care, creativity, and planning from the whole team. The result? Five beautiful photographs that are sure to get readers cooking.   

The three things that seemed most important for the photo shoot were the presentation of the food, the background, and the lighting. CNPP uses professional equipment such as soft box lights and reflectors. Soft box lights are used to imitate the soft, directional lighting that is produced by window light. The light goes through two pieces of material, which spreads out and produces a narrow beam of light. The reflector was used to control shadows and redirect the light given off by the soft boxes. Creating quality photos is important because the pictures inspire others to try these healthy recipes in their own homes.

Being a part of a food photo shoot was an activity that wasn’t even on my radar as a dietetic intern. It was interesting to see the different elements that go into social media. I know that creating images and posts that are aesthetically appealing are important to having an engaging social media presence, and now I have some real life experience doing it on a professional level. I really enjoyed this unique experience and have a newfound appreciation for all the pretty food pictures I see online.

Pumpkin muffins featured on CNPP’s One Ingredient, Five Different Ways: Pumpkin Month blog. (

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