If you’re anything like most red blooded humans with access to social media and various other forms of vlogging video content on the internet, you’ve probably spent a good deal of time watching cooking videos on someone’s YouTube channel or, or recipe videos on a creator’s TikTok page, salivating at the endless stream of delicious-looking dishes, and hopefully spurring you to break out your own cookware…or at the very least order from an enticing restaurant. Or maybe you found your inner Iron Chef with all that extra time during the pandemic and are ready to capitalize on those newfound skills with a cooking channel of your own! Whether you’re trying to make a name for yourself on TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, there’s a few key ingredients you’ll need to make sure your cinematic souffle doesn’t deflate before it hits the table. Let’s dive into a quick tutorial with some tasty tips to turn your foodie video clips into a true network-worthy video production. This is “Lights! Camera! Snack-tion!”
We Gotta Get The Gear
The absolute most important first piece of gear you’ll need is a camera. It’s an old adage that we eat first with our eyes, and then our mouths, and it’s absolutely true! Think about the last video you watched with a close-up of someone crunching through hot fried chicken, or the slow motion steam of a hot chocolate bomb melting into warm milk. Without even a taste, your body is already craving what it sees. The most basic way to shoot would just be using your phone camera. Most modern iPhones and Androids are more than capable of capturing usable video, especially when paired with the rest of the tips in this article. But if you’re truly ready to let your chef flag fly, you’ll want to invest in a quality DSLR camera for professional footage. Beginners and professional videographers and filmmakers alike swear by these handy, portable and relatively inexpensive options for a variety of shoots.
There are many entry level cameras from Sony and Canon that will fit the bill for all types of food photography, if you can find one with a flip screen, it’s very helpful when filming yourself. It’s a good idea to pair this with a great zoom lens, allowing you to quickly grab detailed shots of the food, process, and anything else you want to draw attention to. Next you’ll need camera support, either a tripod, or flexible mount that you can stick in the kitchen to keep your shot steady. A tripod with a swing arm is great for getting those overhead shots that are ubiquitous with food videos. Next up is lighting, you want to make sure that food you’re spending all this time on looks as good as it tastes! or, if you want to add some smooth movement into your shots, it would be worthwhile looking into a gimbal system.
Additionally, a small lighting setup from Amazon will do wonders for your video quality, but make sure and add diffusion by using either a soft box, or even a thin sheet will suffice. If you’re not ready to make that leap, try and use natural light near a window, but again, add a curtain to help diffuse the light and keep your action looking right.
Remember, you’re telling the story of the food, and how you light it will affect how people perceive it. Last but not least is audio. Now you may opt for just covering your video with music, but to truly bring the stew together, it helps to add the sounds of cooking and your own personal voice through voice-over. A Zoom H1 audio recorder paired with a lavalier mic is a great, inexpensive way to add quality sound to your video.
It’s All About The Content
Before you hit ‘record’, you should spend some time thinking about what you want the final product to look like. How much of the process do you want your audience to see? Will you have everything pre-portioned, chopped, measured, and ready to mix? Or will we be seeing your knife skills live? There’s no wrong answer, but you should find what makes you most excited. The mise en scène of mise en place is visually very appealing, allowing you to focus on the cooking process itself while connecting with the audience. But showing each step of the process can be seen as more instructional, informative, and elevates you as a teacher. There’s also a closeness that comes with focusing on the minutiae of each ingredient, especially when paired with high quality audio. The process of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), or a tingling sensation, gets triggered in some viewers while listening to specific, intense, high-quality audio.
As we briefly discussed before, it’s important to know what you want your look to be. Will it be an overhead/top-down shot solely focused on the food, its preparation, and process? Or will the camera be focused on you, inherently making you the star of the scene? Again, no wrong answer, but you’ll want to decide beforehand where you want to draw the eye of the audience. After you’ve shot your video, you’ll then need to use an editing program to clean up all the footage into something fast, visually pleasing, and digestible for a large audience. Trust me, no one wants to watch you make your delicious coq au vin in real time.
When cutting, on the computer in an editing software, you’ll want to decide if your edits will be fast and kinetic, keeping the viewers salivating on the edge of their screen, or slow and sensual, building up the tension until the final big reveal, and bite, of the finished dish. Color is also very important at this stage and will have a huge impact on how your video looks next to the thousands others floating around online. Since you’ve used good lighting you’ll already have a leg up, but spend some time thinking about how saturated and colorful you want your video to be. Also, be very mindful of aspect ratios when staging your scene. It’s easier if you’re posting on YouTube and can just shoot a 16x9 widescreen, but if you’re primarily going to be on TikTok, make sure the elements of your frame fit in a vertical window. If you’re looking to Instagram, it’s all the more confusing allowing for widescreen and vertical options.
When In Doubt, Hire Out
This list, while not exhaustive, is a great starting point for anyone looking to get a taste of filming in the food world. But for businesses with specific brand guidelines, it's essential to hand this process off to the pros with the breadth of knowledge and expertise to make food come alive off the screen. A production company like 7 Wonders uses top level cinematic lighting, cameras, ideation, and post production to make your product look big, bold, and enticing. Call us today to help make your product shine.