How to Photograph Ice Cream

food photographer

ice cream photography

Food photography can seem like an easy thing, until you try to do it.  Especially with frozen foods.

I selected a recent shoot I did involving ice cream to illustrate the problems with frozen food.  The most obvious problem is that it melts… and it does so a lot faster than you can set up the shot!

One of the tricks professional food photographers use is to create fake ice cream using mashed potatoes and food coloring.   Then the scoops are styled using a tool like the dentist uses to clean your teeth to put the natural looking and ridges in.

This gives you the time you need to make adjustments to the composition, lighting and props without the ice cream melting on you.  However, it won’t work with all frozen foods.  For example, popsicles.  I don’t know of a way to make a fake popsicle.

The other solution pro photographers use is to use fake food to compose the shot, adjust the lighting and style the set.  Then when all the details are just perfect, swap it out with the real food to be photographed.  We do this with hot foods too.  Somehow you can tell in the photos if the food was fresh out of the oven/pan or has been sitting on the plate too long!

In this ice cream shot, I worked with styling the set using a bowl with crumpled up paper.  When I had it how I wanted, I swapped out the paper for some “stand in food”, that is real ice cream but not intended for the final, or the “hero shot”.  I made some final adjustments and then put out a fresh bowl to take the final photograph.

I kept the ice cream in the freezer until the very last minute and used a scoop that had been sitting in warm water so I could get the scoops to release easily and hold their shape.   Unfortunately, the freezer wasn’t working quite right that day and the ice cream was too much on the soft side for my liking.  But the client thought it was exactly right, that the softness gave it a real life, authentic feel.

For the photographers reading this post, I shot this with my Nikon D750. It’s a 24 megapixel full frame DSLR that provides great dynamic range and depth of field control. The price on these has come down dramatically since I bought mine.  Though it’s an older model, it’s still one of the best cameras Nikon has ever made. I’m posting a link to some of the gear I used on Amazon below:


Be sure to contact us for info on professional food photography for your restaurant menu, website and ad campaigns.  We also do food videography.

This site does contain some affiliate ad links from various companies including Amazon and I do earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.  I try to only recommend products and services I believe are of good value.

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