Shooting a Cooking Show / by Kristen DiLiello

Shooting cooking shows are a lot of fun and an opportunity for me to combine two of my favorite passions, cinematography and eating!  This show was an internet promo for food pairings with Stella Artois.  Because we ran the segment a few times I got to eat some amazing bocadillos pequenos! 

  1. LIGHTING: Making the show hosts and their food look appealing are equally important. This show was meant to look bright and cheery so we kept the lighting soft and natural. We used two HMI's into a bounce and one just into a wall then filtered the bounce through diffusion to light the the interior.  It was great to have all of this light to fill the room indoors so that we did not lose any exposure as the sun started to set outside.  Outside we put some daylight Kino's coming through the windows to emulate the daylight coming from outside and also to overpower some of the green spill we were getting on the white interior walls from the greenery outside.  In order to make the food look appetizing it was important that the color was saturated, the food was exposed properly, and the depth of field was appropriate. There is a lot of advice out there on how to light food properly. Some people will suggest creating a jungle of lights so everything is just perfect, some say a single source and a bounce is the best approach. I think for a cooking show, there is often not a lot of time to treat the close-ups as if it is table-top photography and a nice, simple overall lighting approach is best. Every situation is different and the most important factors to consider are brightness and contrast (does the food look inviting?), saturation (does the food look fresh and vibrant?) and presentation (hopefully there is a food stylist on set, but if not make sure to arrange the food and if adding specks of water or reflection can help when photographing vegetables). On this shoot the only adjustment we made between the hosts coverage and the food coverage was moving the HMI in the back and aiming it to hit the ceiling above the food to fill it in.  As far as depth of field goes, a mentor of mine once said to make sure to keep all of the food entirely in focus because no one wants to eat blurry food.  After shooting a few cooking shows I have realized occasionally throwing the backgrounds out of focus can help the food look even nicer, especially when it comes to getting close-ups of baked goods. 
  2. CAMERA:  This was a two camera shoot. I have done other food shows where we have three cameras, which provided coverage of the food while also getting a wide and a close-up of the host. This made it more possible to do the entire show in one take.  With the two camera set up we did the first pass framing for the wide shot and the host and the second pass with both cameras getting inserts of the food, often talking the host through the shots and repositioning as we went. On this shoot we used two Canon C500's. 

This shoot was great! I ate a lot of good food (even got to steal some Stella afterwards) and worked with a lot of cool people. We filmed a series of three episodes that received half a million views on Facebook.