Working with Food

Film-makers learn from film-makers. We are here to offer a few free tips for filmmakers, built upon our own experiences. For everyone that holds a camera the truth is that the work we’re able to produce today is possible in part because of the trails others have blazed before us. The film-making community has been good to us so, we’ve decided that it’s about time that we start giving back on a more regular basis ourselves.

We’re happy to introduce “Filmmaking tips from Lumehouse!”  For our inaugural post we bring you “Tips for Working with Food (On a Budget).”


For starters, if you’re ever going to shoot food, you’re going to need to hire a food stylist. Trust us. You can’t do it on your own.

Overall, working with a food stylist (and with food as your star) is really not too different than working with an actor. And like an actor needs a trailer or dressing room, a food stylist needs a kitchen, stocked with all the right ingredients and as close to the set as possible.

The day rate for a good stylist can cost upwards of $1500, so make sure your factor that into your budget.


During the shoot, you’ll need to give very specific direction to coax the best “performance” out of your stylist and food.  Make sure your stylist fully understands your “Creative.”  A storyboard helps in this regard.  Only if they understand the shots and camera movements planned will they will be able to effectively collaborate with you.


Have them by your side at the monitor when the cameras roll. Ask their opinion about whats happening in the frame. After all, your image is their resume! Even so, don’t be afraid to ask for garnishes, steam, or grill marks. The stylist has the skills, but you have the cinematographer’s eye.


Time is always of the essence on a shoot, as every filmmaker knows, but it’s especially easy to lose track of time when filming food.  Fear not, though; we’ve come up with some time-saving tricks!  The first thing you need to do before the shoot is develop several lighting plots, test them, and have them ready for the shoot date.  On the shoot date itself, build your lighting and dial everything in using stand-in food.  Do this before or while the food stylist is preparing everything, so that when the food(your star) is ready, the cameras can roll.  The worst thing you can do is to miss the food’s window of camera-readiness.


One of the biggest and most expensive issues can arise when needing to build sets.  The first thing you need to do is figure out what materials are required, and how much needs to be shown on camera.  This will allow you to build just enough to fill your frame and remain within your budget.

For our most recent food commercial shoot, we needed a 6’x4′ rustic wooden table. A table from a furniture store with a similar surface would have cost between $600 and $1000.  We were able to create a beautiful looking surface a out of snap together flooring and a plywood base for around $250.  Remember as well, that a great way to save time is to have your sets ready and/or built well ahead of call time.


Saving money throughout a production is important, and finding the right props is no different.  We recommend finding props that can either be rented or even borrowed, and items that can be reused or re-purposed for future endeavors.  But make sure you stick within the budget. Most the time that requires a bit of creative ingenuity.


Our creative called for a dolly shot 6 feet above the surface of our display of food. To accomplish these shots we could have rented a Dana Dolly or equivalent device.  But to stay within our budget, we decided to build a rig ourselves.  In the end we built a 10 foot tall 6 foot wide overhead housing for one of our two 4 foot Rhino sliders.  All it took were 4 C-stands, 4 knuckles, and two 6 foot pieces of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe.  We leveled the pipes with the stands, and made sure to center the weight of the camera by attaching it to the slider with a cheese plate dead center. This was to make sure the slider did not dip or sway as it moved along the rail. We also attached the slider with large pony clamps to keep it secure. Both of these sliders ended up being the heroes of the day. 90% of our shots took place on them.


Our last piece of advice is may seem obvious, but is still worth mentioning. Working with food and a food stylist will only go smoothly if if each crew member has a specific job to do.  Sometimes, especially with smaller crews, everyone on set takes on whatever roles are available with positions constantly changing.  Fight the temptation to shoot this way; preassigned jobs make everyone’s lives easier (and the food stylist will take your crew much more seriously).

Have you filmed food before?  What tips can you share?  Feel free to comment, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.  Thanks for reading!

Look out for more tips coming soon!