Capturing the essence: Food photography 101


Food photography has come a long way since the questionable recipes and muted color palettes of vintage cookbooks. Today’s photos are creative and fresh, using lighting and backgrounds to showcase the wide variety of textures and details that make food naturally appealing.

At Ingredient, we do all our photography in-house; over the years, we’ve honed our skills to create simple, eye-catching images that resonate with consumers. Here are some of our go-to approaches for successful food photography:

Don’t over-style things.

We like to call it “perfectly imperfect.” We gently style the food, keeping it fresh, natural, and timeless. It’s all about being relatable and attainable—not overly difficult or pretentious. We want people to feel as if they can reach into the image and taste the food themselves.

Keep the background neutral.

We use natural lighting and neutral backgrounds to help the food’s organic beauty shine through. Busy backgrounds and unnecessary props can feel cluttered and distracting; when we’re shooting, the food is the focus.

No fake food.

Unlike some food photographers out there, all our food is completely edible. We don’t use any crazy styling techniques like paint, oils, shaving cream or glue (insert horrified screaming emoji here). Everything we shoot is real, cooked fresh in our kitchen, and ready to go. And then we eat it!

Keep a single focus.

We typically use selective focus, or a shallow depth of field, to feature one item, versus an entire tablescape. This allows us to bring full attention to the food and create some drama.

Choose composition that’s best for the food.

With the rise of Instagram comes an increase in top-down food photography. However, we don’t get hung up on any one angle or type of shot. We typically take pictures from a variety of angles—and then simply choose which one makes the food look best.

Recipe shots vs. product shots.

Beautifully styled recipes are easy to photograph, with so many ingredients and textures to draw the consumer in. However, in the case of a single product or ingredient, we need to get creative with the composition! Our team uses design elements to come up with an image that’s engaging and graphically interesting.

These are just a few of the rules we live by—for now. Instagram, iPhones and food bloggers continue to have a huge impact on the evolution of food photography, and our team is always on the lookout for new and upcoming trends!



Candy Talk Podcast

Movie Theater Candy reese's peanut butter cups Peeps muji

That’s right. In our spare time, we do a podcast entirely about candy. As one of our employees calls it, “America’s second-favorite candy podcast.”

It all started as a lunchtime conversation, brought up as a joke, and it turned into an amazing side project where we get a sugar rush AND learn random facts about our favorite candies. (Win-win!)

Each podcast is centered on a single topic and features a rotating host. That person chooses their favorite candy, does a little research and brings lots of samples. Then the rest of the Candy Talk crew joins them in our podcast room, tons of candy is eaten…and things start to get real. We take this very seriously; to ensure that all reactions are completely off-the-cuff, we’re not even allowed to talk about it before the show.

The hardest part? Eating candy on audio without sounding gross.

The best part? We get to sample all kinds of candy! It’s a fun exercise that gets people out of their work zones and allows them to be creative in a different way.

We don’t stick to a hard-and-fast production schedule; we only produce the shows when we have time. We design the cover art ourselves. We take all the photos. The theme music was written by a friend of a friend. We even have an employee who does all the voiceover work. And in case you were wondering, we don’t make any money off these podcasts. (BUT if you’re interested in advertising, let us know…)

Over the past couple of years, we’ve racked up quite a library of episodes. Check them out for yourself! Oh, and if you have any suggestions for future Candy Talk topics, give us a shout.

Episode 20: Is It Candy?

Episode 18: Custom Candy Bars

Episode 12: The Blizzard

Episode 6: Peeps

Episode 1: Salted Nut Roll

MPLS Dog: Behind the Scenes

One of the great things about working at Ingredient is getting to see the behind-the-scenes of how the recipe and content development sausage is made.  

And in the case of the MPLS Dog, here we’re talking literal sausage. (Tee-hee.)

Coming up with the idea is only half the battle; we then have to bring that idea to life and put our money where our mouth is (sorry, that’s the last bad food pun, promise) to create something that is both fun and delicious.

Luckily, fun and delicious is Ingredient’s specialty. So we rolled up our sleeves and hit the Ingredient kitchen in full mad scientist/Doc Brown mode.

Every component of the MPLS Dog went through rigorous testing:

What’s the perfect consistency of the hotdish?

 mpls dog hotdish

Which cheese will make it through our intensive Cheese Trials? (Sometimes you just gotta blow torch things.)

mpls dog cheese trials mpls dog blow torch

Just how many tots should adorn this bad boy? (The correct answer is *all* the tots. Whatever you got, pack it on.)

mpls dog tater tots mpls dog ketchup

Once we’d perfected the recipe, it was time to get the MPLS Dog styled for its close up. Because sometimes, looks actually do matter.

mpls dog styling mpls dog pedestal

The end result? We nailed it.

mpls dog beauty

Our reward? The whole company gathered and we ate. We ate our work, and it was delicious.

mpls dog team lunch

At Ingredient, this is what we’re all about – we love food, we love food culture, and we want to create and share those experiences.

We won’t share tots, though. So don’t even ask.

MPLS Dog: The New King in the North

Step aside, Jon Snow.

Sometimes ideas are too good not to share. And when it comes to food, we love to share. (Are you going to finish that? Ok, ok, never mind.)

We were recently at popular Minneapolis hot dog joint Uncle Franky’s, enjoying good weather and slamming Chicago Dogs, Coney Island Dogs and the like. In between bites, we contemplated what made those dogs representative of their namesakes. Then came the million dollar question: what kind of dog could represent Minneapolis?

We looked to our Minnesotan culinary legacy for inspiration, donned our goofy chef hats and headed for our kitchen. When the mist cleared, MPLS Dog was born.

IS THAT…HOT DISH?  Oh yes it is. And it’s time for its moment in the sun.
We spent an unseemly amount of time crafting this baby. We perfected the consistency of the sauce. We obsessed over that cheese. We toasted that bun. Topping the whole thing with crispy tater tots means the MPLS Dog pretty much takes care of all major Minnesotan food groups.

Here’s the thing, though. Yes, this dog screams Minnesota (in a measured, non-threatening tone.) But the reason we’re sharing it with you is because it’s a damn good dog.

Try it and see for yourself why the MPLS Dog is the new King in the North.



Pizza as the key to happiness

heggies pizza squaresNot being from Minnesota originally, I have to admit I was not familiar with Heggies Pizza. Then we started working with them and I realized there are two types of people: Those who love Heggies Pizza and those who’ve never tried Heggies Pizza.

While working on this project, I learned that there are a lot of people at Ingredient who love Heggies. Also that square cut is superior to triangular cut (at least when it comes to pizza with thinner crusts). Oh, and that Heggies has one of those qualities all brands crave: Deeply ingrained authenticity. Heggies is more than pizza, it’s a companion to some of life’s best times. It’s simple and good and made with a ridiculous attention to detail and quality.

Find out more about our work with Heggies on their case study page.

World’s best food

sweet me creamery vanilla ice creamBeing part of a new brand launch is always exciting, especially when the brand is also quite easily my favorite food in the world: Ice cream.

Sweet Me Creamery is a brand new label in the crowded ice cream category. The photoshoot we did for them was one of the most interesting I’ve been involved with if only because it involved playing with liquid nitrogen (not something I’d advise you try at home) and, of course, SO MUCH ice cream. I mean, not all of it was manhandled during the shoot.

Besides the shoot, we’re doing a ton more stuff for Sweet Me. Check out the case study page for more details.


How now, brown cow?

sweet meadows farms jersey cowsWalking in a biting cold wind on a farm path squishy with mud to meet some brown cows is not how most days start for those in marketing, but when you’re very lucky, they do.

That was the scene as we visited one of three dairy farms that supply milk for our new client, Sweet Meadows Farms. Sweet Meadows is different than typical milk in that it’s from cows who are pasture-grazed. As much as possible (seasons and weather permitting), these girls hang out with their hooves planted in sweet green goodness, walking and chewing and being the very image of what you think of when you imagine a dairy cow.

The most rewarding part of the trip for us, though, was meeting the dairy farmers whose lives are dedicated to a type of dairy farming that’s more about animal welfare and land stewardship than it is a drive towards the greatest efficiency and lowest costs. These are people whose jobs and lives are integrated in ways those of us who depend on their efforts for our food too often fail to appreciate.

You can find out what we did for Sweet Meadows on their case study page. We’ll be a heading back to the farms later this year to capture photography and start the process of developing content that, like their milk, is fresh from the lives of the farmers.

Welcome to Ingredient

The idea that eventually became Ingredient was conceived, like a lot of good ideas and perhaps quite fittingly, over a meal. Specifically, a lunchtime pitstop with Ken and Emily at Hello Pizza following a meeting with our client Lunds & Byerlys. We’d been working with food clients for years, but L&B was an opportunity for us to branch out in ways that we really enjoyed but were also, it turns out, pretty good at.

I remember saying, this is what we need to do more of. Not eat pizza (but that’s OK, too). Market food and food culture. Brands and companies involved with making, eating, talking about, living with, or selling food. We had a passion and a talent and a unique team capable of so much more than the work in front of us to that point gave us opportunity to do. So we all agreed to set a course on that day that leads us to this one. A path that allows us to exercise our enthusiasm more fully.

The thing about food that makes it so exciting to us is that it’s such an intimate thing. Of the handful of actions we all do every day as humans that are central to our survival (go ahead, count them – four things? five?) preparing and eating food is the only one we routinely do communally. The one that’s not only socially acceptable to happen with and in front of your friends, family, and loved ones, it’s actually enhanced by doing so. And the lenses though which people perceive and value their ever more numerous food options are more complex than ever before. That creates an incredible opportunity for those willing to dig into it. We relish that challenge.

The path to Ingredient wasn’t straight and it wasn’t short, but it finds us here, today. We launch Ingredient with a great deal of hope and excitement and passion. We strive to tell the stories of similarly passionate creators of food products or the culture that surrounds them.