9 Critical People You Absolutely Need for an Outstanding Food Photo Shoot

Photography Team

Photo Credit: juhansonin

That’s right… there are 9 people without whom your food photos will never make a great impact. If you do commercial work, you must know them and work with them. If you are a food blogger looking to create an amazing food photo, you absolutely have to learn to work with them.

Yes food bloggers!! you read it right. Read on..

Each one of these people have a specific job in a photo shoot. If any one of these individual doesn’t come to the party, your food photo is toasted. If all of them are at the photo shoot, and one of them does a sloppy job, your photo is in the tank.

It’s just like the rock band, if Ringo misses a beat, the song is toast… if Richards touches a wrong string the performance is over and the folks down the stage are not happy…

If you are a one-man (or a one-woman for that matter) band, you still need those drums and the guitar and perhaps harmonica. So even if you are taking photographs in your own house, understanding who are these people will help you improve your workflow. More on that later.

9 People or 9 Roles?

Reading this post, food bloggers are thinking, how can I afford to hire 9 people to make my photos beautiful? So, what are we really talking about here?

There are 9 critical roles or areas that every food photo shoot needs to focus on.  If you think about these areas before your photo shoot, you may miss something and may have to deal with chaos… while your loved ones are waiting for their dinner because you are photographing it.

So What if you are a food blogger? Do you still need these 9 people (or 9 roles to focus on)?

Yes. Even if you are a food blogger, you also need these 9 people. The difference is that you play all these nine roles.

So let’s look at the 9 people…

The 9 People You Need To Make a Great Food Photo

So who are these people? I am sure you have guessed at least 3 – the food photographer, the food stylist and prop stylist. But there is more… in fact there is a lot more to the story. Let’s get started

Food Photographer

The obvious One. If this person is not around, there is no photo. She needs to be at the top of her game. She should understand the technical aspect of creating a photo and needs to know what levers she can pull, or buttons she can press to change things.

She needs to understand what the other seven band members are planning to do to make a great photo. Food photography is not an individual “sport”. This is not a solo singing competition. You absolutely need to work with other team members.

Food Stylist

The second obvious. Here’s the real secret to a great food photo – the magic really happens before the camera button is pressed. Food stylist need to put some thought on how they plan to style the food way before the button is pressed.

She needs to know every little detail about the subject dish. Best food stylists know a lot about cooking. She can tell you how long to cook those greens so that their color is as green as possible and much more to get the most from your subject.

Again, being part of the band, she also works with the other 7 members to know details about photography. For instance, what angle will the food be shot from, is there a specific requirement from the client that she needs to accommodate.

Prop Stylist

You probably guessed this too. We have talked about the importance of background, or picking the right color for the shoot. We have also discussed how to select props and where to buy them from.

Prop stylist is another crucial person on the set. If someone absolutely needs to master of color theory, its her. She needs to understand what color will work best with this subject. She is searching for the best background that will go with this dish or what texture should we use on the table.

She knows the best secrets to shop for props and has a great collection of props.

The Chef

Some of you may have guessed this one. The Chef, the main person who creates and cooks the subject dish. Needless to say, he is the expert in cooking. In many cases, he also has training in plating the food. He is close partner of food stylist. He certainly needs to know some details about the photo shoot.

More importantly, working with food stylist, they come up with specific details on how to cook the dish to create the best presentation. He may have some have training in plating the food from his culinary training, but working with food stylist is important. The food stylist has expertise on how to make food look good on camera.

Without knowing how to cook the dish, you can be certain that there will be no food for photography.


Producer is the lifeline of any photo shoot. She ties everything together from working with clients to distributing the final work. She has a broad role, often changing from assignment to assignment.

Her goal is to help everyone else stay focused on what they are best at – for a photographer that’s photography, for a stylist that’s styling food.

In many cases, she does everything from finding models (for hand modeling) to finding locations, accommodations for outside parties. She also manages photo shoot budget and expenses.

Studio Manager

If you have your own studio, even if its in your basement or that extra bedroom, you need a studio manager. They say, behind every successful photographer, there is an outstanding studio manager.

Studio Manager keeps track of what’s where. He helps keep things organized in the studio. From lighting umbrellas to soft boxes, camera gear and props, organizing everything can quickly get overwhelming for someone without these skills. He oversees and manages equipment, workflow and  flow of projects and assignments.

As you may have noticed, there is certainly some overlap between Studio Manager and Producer. The main difference, in most cases, studio manager focuses on everything that happens in the studio,  producer, on the other hand works on both inside studio as well as outside studio. Producer may work with studio manager to make sure things are in order in the studio.

From a job role perspective, studio manager is a full time position with the studio, while producer mostly is for a specific project role.

If studio is well organized, photographer and stylists can be more efficient in what they do.

Digital Specialist or Tech

Digital Artist or Specialist or Tech… The magician behind the computer screen who is an expert in photo editing and organizing digital content.

With digital photography now in the mainstream, organizing, naming files correctly, backing up data and any other post production work is specially important. In many cases, photographer herself does post production and digital work. If there is a special expertize required for photo editing, digital artist can be a huge asset.

Art Director

Art Director ensures that the photograph matches the expectation of her clients. She is responsible for visual aspects of a photography assignment. So for her to be successful, being visual design skills is a must.

She also needs to communicate her vision and ideas clearly so that photographer and stylists and rest of the team and execute the idea clearly.

After communicating her vision, she oversees the creative output of a food photo shoot. She helps the team to develop concepts for the assignment, select final set of images and collaboratively influences photo editing process.

In addition to creative aspects of the photo shoot, she is also a project manager who ensure deadlines are met.

Number 9?

Who else should we add here? What other person is critical to getting beautiful photos? Add you comment below.

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