Food in motion: making the move into food videography

Content creator Jessie Bakes Cakes shares her tips for shooting mouthwatering food videos.
A Canon EOS R8 camera and a selection of Canon RF lenses are displayed in a flatlay image surrounded by cakes, cookies and ingredients.

Food has the power to unite people from all walks of life, and food photography and videography have long captivated audiences, especially with the rise of social media. It isn't easy to capture food in motion though – something content creator Jessica Marsden-Urquhart knows all too well.

On her social media account, Jessie Bakes Cakes, where she has more than 100k followers, Jessie creates short-form videos which emphasise the creative process and the hours of labour that go into making food. Her food photography journey started during lockdown. "I've always loved baking, and I remember taking terrible photos on my phone in 2013," Jessie laughs. "In 2020, I started thinking about it more seriously by asking myself, 'What do I love doing?'. I began improving my recipes but also started focusing more on the photography side of it."

Here, Jessie describes her journey from food photography to video, and shares practical tips and tricks for others thinking about shooting videos of food.

Transitioning from still food photography to video

A woman stands behind a Canon EOS R8 camera set up on a tripod for filming food.

You don't have to use video to convey motion in your food photography. Photographing cinnamon rolls being drizzled with cream cheese frosting is enough to change how the viewer perceives the images. However, transitioning to video adds a whole new dimension to your content. Our enjoyment of food is hugely influenced by what it looks like, and emphasising texture and scale is so much easier with video. Essentially, we love watching images of food because we want to eat it, and video makes us want to eat it even more.

It's also vital for content creators to adapt to the changing social media landscape. "What really sparked my interest in moving from photography to videography was the shift in trends," Jessie says. "I knew I had to learn how to use video in order for my career and business to thrive."

Get the right kit to make the food the star

A pair of hands attaches a Canon lens to a Canon EOS R8 camera.

"I can't get over how lightweight Canon's RF lenses feel in comparison to the EF lenses," says Jessie. "Not to mention the improvement in the quality of the footage, focusing capabilities and aperture range."

A woman sits on a sofa, smiling and holding a fork up to a cupcake on a plate in front of her.

Trial and error is a large part of improving your skill and learning what works for both you and your followers, says Jessie. And if things go wrong, you're left with plenty of delicious food to enjoy.

The kit you use for food videography can have a large impact on your work, but you don't have to spend a lot of money to get great results. Jessie believes that your lens choice matters more than the camera, and recommends a 50mm lens with a wide aperture such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM. "This gives me the resolution and quality I'm after," she says. The narrow depth of field also makes the food stand out and ensures it's the centre of attention.

Jessie also used the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens on this shoot and says she immediately fell in love with it. "It's ideal for getting close to the food, and the sharpness of the footage is amazing," she says. "I like to use it to showcase the delicious textures of a bake. The AF/MF toggle makes it super easy to switch between manual focus, when I want to maintain focus on the subject, and autofocus, when I want to track movement in a scene." Additionally, using a low aperture enables Jessie to emphasise the food and create a dreamy, blurred background. The lens boasts 5.5-stops of Optical IS for shake-free footage, but can deliver up to 8-stops when working in conjunction with a camera with In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), such as the Canon EOS R6 Mark II. Dual Nano USM motors also ensure accurate and high-speed autofocus in near silence so the lens noise doesn't interfere with your subject.

The versatile Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is a compact and lightweight option. "The wide focal length enables me to capture long shots to show the entire subject, and then zoom in for close-ups without the need to change the lens or move the tripod, and without losing resolution," says Jessie. "It also responds quickly to movement and focuses on the subject without making a noise – perfect when recording video with sound." This lens features up to 5-stops of Optical IS and if you pan your lens with IS activated, it switches automatically from Standard IS to Panning IS. This means you can shoot videos handheld and move your camera about to capture every detail.

As for her camera, until the start of 2023, Jessie used an APS-C DSLR before upgrading to the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R8. "I use artificial lighting so you have to match it with the colour on your camera, otherwise you end up with green or pink tones," she says. "More so with food, as you don't want white cream to look yellow. The EOS R8 has really helped as it enables me to set a custom white balance so I can get the exact colours I'm looking for."

The EOS R8 is especially good for video as it records 4K at up to 60p oversampled from the sensor's 6K data, resulting in higher quality 4K video compared with that recorded natively at 4K resolution. Also, you don’t have to worry about missing a sequence as the EOS R8 has a pre-recording feature which captures 3-5 seconds of footage before you press the record button.

Streamline your food videography workflow

A Canon EOS R8 camera is arranged on a tripod at a 90° angle to record in portrait rather than landscape.

Jessie generally shoots in portrait orientation, as she's aware much of her content is viewed on smartphones. To save time, she plans the shots she wants to capture. "Write a shot list, thinking about the story you want to tell," she advises. "I write down camera angles, the lens I want to use and the settings I think will work well. Getting organised has really helped me."

A photograph of a hand swirling frosting on a cake, open in the Canon EOS Utility software on a laptop screen.

"Think of how you can add texture to a shot, something that would make your viewers want to reach through the screen and grab the food," says Jessie. "Whether it's using a palette knife to swirl frosting on a cupcake, or piping with a specific nozzle." Jessie uses the Canon EOS Utility software to look at the texture of her images in more detail on her laptop.

It's important to find a solution that works for you. When you're coming up with recipes, baking or cooking, and then recording, it can be challenging and time-consuming, which is why Jessie is always multitasking. "When I'm developing a recipe, I'm already thinking about how it's going to translate into video," she says. "For instance, when I'm writing a brownie recipe, I'm thinking, 'This is where the chocolate chips go in, that's a shot'. You're probably going to shoot 30 minutes which you'll later trim to 30 seconds, so it's important to note which bits are the most important."

Jessie's content is social first – it's shot in portrait to be viewed on a smartphone, and she believes it is good practice to edit on your phone. "I don't use fancy photo editing software," she explains. "I transfer my videos to my phone using the Canon Camera Connect app and edit there. There are many free apps that you can use; you don't have to splurge on a big subscription."

She also uses Canon's EOS Utility software to show in real time what the camera is seeing on her laptop. "Seeing what the camera sees on a much larger screen is really helpful when setting up the scene, and when I'm mid-shoot and capturing the food in motion," says Jessie. "I use the grid markers on the software to help with the accurate placing of items in the scene. It also gives me full control over the colour temperature, which is important when using artificial lights to get the best colour accuracy."

Both the EOS R8 and EOS R50 can also display aspect markers in-camera, so you can frame your scene correctly depending on which social media platform you are shooting for. The whole frame is still visible, but the guides show where it will be cropped.

Best settings and techniques for food videography

A woman arranges a cake in front of a softbox light, a laptop on a table nearby and a Canon EOS R8 camera positioned on a tripod to film from above.

"Think about ways you can keep someone engaged throughout your video," says Jessie. "A great trick for that is to switch up the way you film something. Don't have the camera facing the food the entire time. Take a shot like that, then take a flatlay, then a three-quarter angle shot from the side. Changing angles will also emphasise the movement aspect."

A woman aims her Canon EOS R8 towards a bowl of different types of chocolate as she sprinkles white chocolate chunks on top.

When drizzling icing, sprinkling toppings or slicing a knife through a cake sponge, the speed of the video can make a huge difference. Jessie suggests experimenting with different effects to see what you can achieve.

Jessie says that one of the most common mistakes in shooting video is not knowing when to switch between Manual and AF modes. "If you're taking something out of the shot and you want the focus to pull into the item behind it, use autofocus," she explains. "However, I mostly shoot in Manual to avoid the focus bouncing, as it can be distracting."

It is also important to experiment with different angles when capturing a cooking video. "For example, a flatlay would be perfect for a shot of mixing cake batter in a bowl because you can illustrate movement and draw the viewer in," she says. "Switching between close-ups and wide angles is useful too, as you can show the different textures in the food or the size of it."

While you may post many of your videos in real-time speed, experimenting with slowing them down or making them faster can have a huge impact on the end result. When editing, you might even speed up certain sections of a social media post and slow down others. "You can shoot a shot in slow motion and use it as the opening because slow-mo makes everything look luxurious!" says Jessie. In contrast, she says, "speeding videos up adds a lot of energy to them." When you have time constraints on posts, speeding up your video can also help get more content into a shorter time limit: "Fast motion is also handy when you need to fit a shot within a five- or 10-second window," Jessie says.

Make trends work for you – and trust your instincts

A Canon EOS R8 set up to film a hand swirling frosting on the top of a cake.

"A lot of food videography is about trial and error, so don't be afraid to take risks," says Jessie. "If a reel doesn't do well, that's OK. Try again."

Social trends change all the time. One week people are obsessed with videos of banana bread, and the next fondant and icing, which can feel overwhelming for content creators. "Trends come and go," says Jessie. "It's about taking what you enjoy from that trend and thinking, 'How can I put this into my own work?' Not, 'I need to do the same thing'."

Jessie also emphasises the importance of retaining your own style and approach to food videography. "That's what the brands or clients you work with like; they chose you for your individuality," she explains. "It's easy to feel intimidated by people with more followers, but trying to emulate them and their numbers is not the best way to succeed. Focus on why you're doing what you're doing. Do what you're passionate about because that passion will shine through in your work. When I secured my first client, I only had 2,000 followers, so you don't need a big audience. You can still have a thriving business with a small following.

"It's OK to question yourself," she continues. "There's so much inspiration out there, and you might try to replicate something and think, 'This is not quite suited to my style' or 'Is this what I really like?'. Go with your gut instinct. More often than not, it pays off."

So next time you're baking a cake or cooking dinner, why not experiment with your camera's video capabilities and the tips in this article to see what you can achieve.

Written by Nikita Achanta

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