I shoot real food, real drinks, and real venues. No camera tricks, just a bit keen eye composition, and a few extra lights. So the best way to prepare is to do what you normally do and do it really well.
Generally I would allow 15 minutes for each key shot (a dish, a cocktail, an area). So over four hours we would be looking to create around 16 key shots. I am happy to plan this out on the day but feel free to send over a shot list if you would like to plan things out ahead of time.
Front of House
The camera captures more detail than your average customer would notice, so pay extra attention to little details like polished glasses and tableware.
Serve dishes hot and fresh exactly as they are served to customers
Photographed food is going to be shown in much more detail and looked at far more critically than anything which is served to a guest. It can be tempting to cut corners as this food isn’t meant to be eaten, but it’s very hard to recreate the look of the real thing, the safest bet is to just make the real thing.
Allow 15 minuites to photograph each dish before sending the next fresh plate
It is especially important that food is served just in time for each shot. Any food left waiting to be photographed will lose its vibrancy and not photograph well. Generally, I would say to allow 15 minutes between each dish so they can each be photographed properly.
Serve real cocktals
Like in the kitchen, it can be hard to recreate the look of a real cocktail using cheaper ingredients. Safest bet is to make the real drink.
Allow 20 minuites to photograph each drink
Glassware and liquids are nutritiously difficult to light for a photograph because of their transparency and reflectiveness. So do allow plenty of time to photograph each drink.
Create a dummy drink
Before making the actual cocktail that is being photographed, create a dummy version. Use the same glass with some ice, make the liquid roughly a similar colour and add a similar but basic garnish. This can be used to prepare the shot and the lighting so the actual drink can be photographed quickly when it is ready.
Polish your glasses
I know you polish your glassware, but really polish the glassware which is being used for a photo. Any speck or smudge will show up.
It really brings shots to life when we can capture dishes being garnished by a chef and cocktails being poured by bartenders. So those fingernails need to be on point.