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8 Steps for Photographing Professional Food Advertisements

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Have you ever started to crave a hamburger because you saw it on a billboard? Or scrolled through your Instagram feed, and an amazing picture of a cake appeared? This is because the food industry uses visual elements to attract customers.

The food industry is quite saturated. You need to stand out from the crowd to get clients. And how do you do that? With delicious food advertisements.

Read our 8 tips to get started with food advertisements!

Food advertising image of a hamburger[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]

8. Use Tricks to Make the Food Look Mouth-Watering

If you don’t have a professional food stylist at the photoshoot, you have to be the one who designs the scene. You will need some food styling tips.

A photoshoot for food advertisements can last for hours. Your ice cream subject will melt, and your burger might collapse. A fluffy sponge cake may deflate.

A stack of pancakes for food advertising

To avoid all this, you need to apply the tricks of food stylists.

You don’t have to use only fake ingredients. But adding some colouring to the creme soup to make it more vivid can change your photos for better. Or painting the top of the grilled chicken to give it a golden skin.

Fake ice cubes are cheap and easy replacements of real ice. They won’t melt in your drink and look realistic.

And there are some more extreme methods. A frosty milkshake with sugar sprinkles and chocolate sauce on top will be a mess after 15 minutes. You can whip up some instant mashed potatoes, add some colouring and you have your milkshake. The delicious-looking jar will last until the end of the photo session.

Pancake towers often get drenched in motor oil instead of maple syrup. It doesn’t help the taste but works better during a photoshoot.

Ever wondered how burger commercials are made? The food stylist positions the ingredients to their places with extreme precision. The cheese is hanging over the edges. The tomato comes in three thick layers. Often, there are extra layers hiding in the middle of the burger to make it look bigger.

If you want to shoot food advertisements, you need to learn a few food styling tricks. Check out this video to learn more of them.

A delicious milkshake for a food commercial
Milkshake or mashed potatoes?

7. Convey a Message with Your Food Advertisements

Every brand and business has a clear brand image and a message they want to convey to their audience. Maybe it is saying that their milk chocolate is the silkiest. Or that they have the best vegan hot dog that tastes like real meat.

Often, food advertisements go beyond satisfying hunger. The consumer wants to buy that bottle of expensive whiskey not only to drink it. But because it will make him attractive, as the commercial promises.

Coca-cola is a great example of messages in food advertisements. When the company came up with coke light, they wanted to target anyone who wanted to avoid sugar in their drink.

But the words “light” and “diet” made it seem like a feminine drink. It was associated with women. And guys didn’t buy it because their masculinity would have suffered.

So the company came up with Coke Zero, which is almost the same beverage. But it targets men, and that’s why they used masculine commercials and the black colour on the label. They even made the font look more macho.

Find out what the message is so you can convey it through your food photography.

A food commercial photo of a hand holding a coca cola against a floral background
Masculine coke, even with a floral background

6. Use Storytelling to Give Context to the Food Advertisements

We live in a world where our life is full of stimuli. We see advertisements, pop-ups, banners everywhere. It is hard to get over the consumers’ threshold and make them notice you.

Use visual storytelling in your food advertisements to gain attention. You can do this by applying consistent elements that reappear again and again in your photos.

You might want to create a scene in your food advertisement. Show the product when it is served or being eaten. Create an appealing attractive which has the food product in focus.

You can tell a story by showing behind-the-scenes shots. Show people how the final product gets prepared and include progress photos.

Someone drinking hot chocolate and reading under a warm blanket
Someone drinking hot chocolate and reading under a warm blanket

5. Choose the Right Platform

Choose only the relevant platforms for your food advertisements. Some brands don’t even have websites anymore. They operate a Facebook or Instagram page.

Know your audience and their favoured platform. Whichever medium you choose, it’s good to have a menu to attract clients. I find it annoying when I look up a restaurant and it doesn’t have a menu. If they don’t have an online presence, I don’t even want to go there.

Including photos in the online menus can make you gain your consumers’ interest and trust.

In the past, if we saw a menu with food photos in a restaurant, we knew it’s a low-quality place. But in the digital era, ordering food or looking up the menu online is common. Make sure that your clients like what they see.

Certain platforms have limited formats or sizes for photographs. For example, Instagram only allows square-shaped photos.

Know your platform when you are shooting food advertisements.

A person looking through a restaurant menu

4. Focus on Emotions to Connect with Viewers

We all know that commercials try to pull our heartstrings. Food advertisements are no exceptions. Think about the famous chocolate that claims to be the perfect way to say “thank you” to someone you love.

Or a product that says it is plant-based and fair-trade. These statements use emotional factors to convince us for buying them.

You can convey these emotions through your food product photography. A heart-shaped chocolate bonbon can say more than a paragraph about love.

Heart shaped chocolates
The perfect way to say ‘merci’

3. Highlight the True Benefits of the Product

If your product or brand has a unique feature, highlight it in your food advertisements! Is it suitable for people with allergies? Or is it vegan? Be creative and show in the food photos.

Never lie about the benefits people might gain from choosing your product. There were so many scandals about companies promising special bacteria in their yoghurt. And then it turned out to be something that every fermented dairy product has.

A soup with noodle spelling the word vegan

2. Make Your Food Advertisements Creative and Funny

Humour and creativity are great ways to get your consumers’ attention. Try to come up with new ideas or check out the portfolios of professional food photographers.

Make sure you are up-to-date on food and lifestyle trends. A good food advertisement is something people can relate to. It’s even better if you can become a trendsetter and come up with something new. Then everyone associates the trend with your product or brand.

Tropical themed food advertising flat lay

1. Include Humans in Your Food Advertisements

Having a human touch in your food advertisements makes them more relatable. You can also express more emotions and tell a better story if you include people.

It’s a popular method to take overhead shots of the food product while many hands are trying to grab it. It shows how irresistible the food is.

Another reason to include humans is to create a dream that sells the product. You see a woman drinking a fresh smoothie on the beach, and you think: “I want to be like her”. And it’s easy to trick the human brain and believe that if you drink that specific milk, you will be like her.

A girl holding a tropical cocktail by a pool

A modern way to involve people in your food advertisements is using influencers. It is a very common practice to send samples to influencers with lots of followers. Then you ask them to show your product or sometimes even to review it.

The only drawback of using influencers is that you don’t have total control over the creative process or the message. They might make your food product appear in a way you don’t like it. It is something to consider, even if you gain a bigger audience with influencers.

A flat lay of a busy lunch table

Conclusion

Food advertisements can include food photography, filming and different marketing activities. Whether you have a food business or you are the one creating the shots, you have to know how to sell the product.

This starts with knowing your audience and finding the right platform. It also includes applying food stylist techniques and sending the right message.

The list of food advertisement techniques is endless. It keeps evolving as our eating habits change. Be up-to-date and tailor your food ads to the current trends!

For all the best tips on food photography, check out our eBook – Edible Images

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