Cooking Up A Storm: How to use Gen AI for Food Photography

James Dow

Rethinking Advertising: Delicious Food

From the sizzle of a juicy steak to the decadence of a creamy dessert, food imagery has the power to evoke emotions, stir cravings, and ultimately get us to put that order in or step out for dinner. Orchestrating a successful food photoshoot used to be time-consuming, costly and generally pretty daunting. It would require meticulous planning, precise timing, and a whole lot of patience. With AI, you can now get a customer’s mouth watering without even turning the oven on.

The Creative Challenge

One of the greatest challenges in food photography is capturing the essence of a dish in a way that is both visually appealing and true to life. Historically, achieving this balance has required a delicate dance of lighting, staging, and camera tricks. Food is notoriously difficult to get right, and it’s meant photographers have had to think outside the box. We’ve heard of everything from using mashed potato to represent ice cream, or motor oil to portray mellifluous maple syrup on a stack of pancakes.

We wanted to see if creatives could trade in strings, mirrors and motor oil for a much more flexible way of shooting food, using AI. If AI could take on in-person food photography, then teams are looking at an infinitely more accessible and efficient way of capturing those delicious dishes. No longer constrained by the limitations of traditional photoshoots, advertisers can experiment with different settings, lighting conditions, and compositions to find the perfect backdrop for their culinary creations.

The Outcome

Today, there are so many different ways to consume food, from food delivery services, to meal kits to restaurants. Each scenario requires slightly different nuances to the photography. When you’re speaking to consumers about cooking at home, including movement in a shot is a great way to bring excitement into the process. The playful toss of a stir fry, or the flick of a whisk can encourage home cooks to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. It can be tricky to get the senses going just from an image, but that’s where the details matter. The light spots serve to represent the spices and flavours being tossed up, giving flavour to what could otherwise be a static or boring shot.

The atmosphere that surrounds the food is often just as important as the dish itself. Putting a toad in the hole on a wooden board is evocative of hearty pub food, whilst a white tablecloth suggests fine dining. AI, it turns out, can do both. The lighting, here, does a lot of the heavylifting, with bright whites and greys giving the sense of a formal meal. You can imagine going to the restaurant with colleagues or clients, while the warm lighting around the sausages creates a far more cosy vibe.

Achieving realistic food was no problem for Pencil’s AI. The textures and details make the food true to life. The flecks of ice on a scoop of ice cream or the cracks in a pizza crust not only make the food look realistic, they get customers to really imagine devouring the food.

This one is a little different to the usual tutorials because I have designed a GPT to create gorgeous food photography for you. Simply follow the link to the custom ChatGPT and hit LETS BEGIN to start your journey to perfect food photography:

The Methodology

Made by @JamesD0w (Creative Director, Brandtech Consulting). Here’s how he did it:

Step 1: Head to the Custom GPT and hit LETS BEGIN

Step 2: Answer the questions it asks you. Be as detailed as you like.

Step 3: Copy the (very long) prompt it generates and paste in your favourite model.

Step 4: Scale it up with Magnific AI

The Conclusion

Pencil’s AI allowed us to explore new creative possibilities that were previously headache-inducing for photographers: from adding movement to a stir-fry to capturing swirls of steam. We’ve seen the generative AI take on details like tiny crumbs of flecks of ice, to the atmospheres of cosy pubs and fine dining restaurants. Generative AI can turn mundane product shots into culinary works of art that send the senses into overdrive.