Food Photography Tips for Advertising and Product Packaging

When taking photos that will be used in advertising, you aim for perfection in every aspect of the shot. Advertising pictures are designed to depict the product in an ideal state to entice people to buy a product. These pictures can be placed in a wide range of media, such as magazines, newspapers, TV, posters, and the Internet. These images also can be found in many other kinds of media, such as product brochures, restaurant menu boards, and retail point-of-purchase displays.

Food manufacturers invest a great deal of money to generate customer loyalty and establish an emotional bond with the consumer. There is far less creative freedom in advertising photography than in shooting for media or public relations. Advertising photographs, as well as photos used for product packaging, must explicitly reflect the art director's vision and layout, without deviation.

Art directors create the concept of the shoot, after which a photographer is selected and the creative process begins. Food and prop stylists create the perfect look that will grab the audience's attention. In especially large or high-budget projects, the stylists might in turn hire additional staff members.

Advertising involves far more intense attention to every aspect of the food, props, and lighting than any other area of food photography, and is by far the most labor and time intensive. The art director and client are almost always present, and provide nearly continuous input and feedback during the shoot. The food stylist and prop stylist constantly adjust and fine tune the food and set to ensure perfection in every detail.

Note: Although advertisements must always show the real food, it can be tweaked and accentuated in appearance. Following are some specific examples of photographs used in advertising media.

Magazine Ads

Table Tents

Restaurant Menu Boards


Web Sites

Product Packaging
Packaging is designed to convey the "personality" of the brand, and food-product packaging is an art form unto itself. The package is what you face at the point of purchase. It is the hard sell. The image and brand awareness have to shine brightly. Imagery, color, logos, words, and graphics all work together to create a selling package.

Note: Photos on food packages have been steadily increasing in size to increase the "saliva factor" and grab the consumer's attention.

Taking photographs for packaging requires strict adherence to a very precise layout, because space needs to be reserved for type and other graphics. When shooting for packaging, the contrast range is lower than normal in order to ensure that proper detail is maintained when the image is reproduced on a variety of surfaces, such as plastic, paper, or cardboard.

Generally, the package photo is a close-up view of the product, and is in sharp focus. Props are kept to a bare minimum so attention is on the product itself, but sometimes a little garnish will be added to give the product more appetite appealing. In addition, the food stylist always works from the actual product to bring out the best of what the consumer will find in the package. Often, the stylist will open many packages to find the best examples of the product, and then will carefully enhance and arrange the various elements so the food looks its best.

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