How To Film a Culinary Class: A Comprehensive Guide

You don’t need to be a Food Network star to show off your coveted recipes. You can create your very own cooking channel here on Skillshare. With a few inexpensive tools and a handful of filming best practices, you can create your own series of culinary classes for our millions of students. Let’s get cooking!


GATHER A BASIC TOOLKIT

You need just a few basic tools to capture a high quality class. Overall, you want to be sure you have clear audio and a well-lit and focused demonstration, so students can see what you’re making. Here are three tools that will help you do that:

Camera
You can use any camera you have on hand, whether it’s an smartphone, a point-and-shoot, or a DSLR. You may even be able to finagle your webcam to capture your physical demonstration. Just be sure that whatever you use can capture a clear visual. It should also have enough storage and a full battery before you record! 

If you don’t have any equipment of your own and aren’t ready to invest in something new, try renting a camera from a site like Lumoid or asking a friend to borrow their gear for a day to record.

Tripod
Having a tripod is essential when you’re filming on your own. It helps you get steady shots of you speaking to the camera and can be used to get overhead, above-the-table shots of your cooking. You don’t need to spend a lot of money for a tripod, you can purchase an inexpensive one like this.

If you’re feeling crafty, you can hack together your own tripod solution. If you’re a musician or just happen to have a microphone stand on hand, you can purchase a camera attachment so you can use it as a tripod. This setup is incredibly useful for setting up the overhead shot discussed below! You can also use two stacks of books and a piece of plywood to rest your smartphone on, as seen in this class.

Microphone
Noise- and echo-free audio can take your class from average to amazing. Crisp, clear audio is an important component in class-making and it doesn’t take much to achieve it.

Most cameras may have a built-in microphone, but since you’re filming a cooking demonstration it will help to have a clip-on microphone to avoid the excessive sounds of frying and blending. A simple lavalier microphone is all that you need. If you’re using a DSLR, you can try a mic like this. If you’re using a smartphone, we recommend this microphone. It may also help to pick up a cable extender, especially if you’re going to use your tripod.

The links we have referenced above are just to give you an example of the types of tools you can use. You should choose the tools that fit your budget and needs. For more specific toolkit recommendations, check out this helpful blog post on how to build your at home setup


PREPARE TO FILM 

Preparation is key when it comes to filming your Skillshare class. After you’ve gathered your equipment, be sure to set a film date and come up with a game plan for how you want to film your class. Going into your film day with a clear idea of what you want your class to look like, will help you record your class without any hiccups. Here are a few things to consider as you plan:

Establish your shots
Knowing what you want your class to look like and knowing what kind of shots you want will make your film day a lot easier. We recommend having part of your opening and closing video lessons be talking head shots aka you speaking directly to the camera. The rest of your video lessons should focus on your food preparation and cooking, filmed straight on from the talking head angle or from a bird’s eye view.

A talking head shot is when you are speaking directly to the camera. We know it can be a bit intimidating to be on camera, but it helps to show students the face behind the name as it allows them to establish trust with you as a teacher. Because of that, we think it’s important to have at least a few minutes of on-camera time in the beginning and at the end of your class. For tips on perfecting the talking head angle, check out this tutorial.

A bird’s eye view or overhead shot is when the camera is placed directly above whatever you’re filming. This is a popular technique found it many types of classes on Skillshare and is particularly useful for culinary classes. It allows students to clearly see everything that’s happening on the surface you’re working on. This is where a tripod helps! For more tips on filming an overhead shot, check out this resource.

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to try more advanced videography techniques, you can setup two cameras to capture both talking head and overhead angles at once. This is by no means necessary but something to try if you have the equipment to use.

We think the best way to plan and decide what you want your class to look like is by watching other classes! Here are just a few we recommend: Crafting Infused Tea: Herb, Flower, and Fruit Iced Teas, Brunch Worthy Biscuits in 30 Minutes and How to Make French Macarons.

Practice before you film
Before your film day, be sure to record a few test videos. Check to make sure the audio is clear, the lighting is balanced, and the camera is angled just right. We’ve heard from first-time teachers that they were so eager to record their class they jumped right into filming without realizing their equipment wasn’t properly set up. Some teachers found the the camera wasn’t focused on them as they were speaking, others realized the camera wasn’t angled on their demonstration. It pays off to practice and know what works and what doesn’t!

Make your space work
You can work with any space and setup you have. Don’t feel like you need a kitchen you’d find on Pinterest to film your cooking class. If you’re worried about your space, there are ways you can get the most out of it!

If you have a small space, try using a wide angle lens to capture more and make your space feel bigger. You can rent one that fits with your DSLR from Lumoid (or purchase, up to you!). You can also get a wide-angle lens for your smartphone or tablet from a site like Photojojo

If you have a dark kitchen, try working in a different room. You can film your food prep in a space that has more light -- all you need is a table to work on. Or you can purchase an inexpensive light setup that will give you a daylight glow in your kitchen.

We encourage you to be resourceful! We are firm believers in maximizing what you have to work with and know that with a bit of creativity, you can create an amazing class.


MAKE PRODUCTION EASIER 

With the right preparation and planning, you can spend just a few hours filming your ideal class. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best class you can in one take: 

Gather your ingredients
Be sure to have all of the necessary ingredients for your recipe ready to go on film day. You wouldn’t want to have to pause the camera to run out to the grocery store! To make the recording of your demonstration even easier, have your ingredients measured out and all of the required tools ready. This visually looks better, makes it easier for students to understand, and it helps quash any mistakes since you won’t be measuring on the fly. It also helps to have extra ingredients on hand, in case you do need to redo a step for whatever reason.

Prepare your recipe in stages
If possible or if your recipe requires more than a day’s work, prepare parts of your dish ahead of time. For example, if you’re teaching a macaron-making class, you’ll need to let your egg whites sit for a couple of days. You are the expert on your recipe and if you know that there are time-consuming or time-sensitive parts of your recipe, take that into account for film day. It’s important to show students every aspect of your recipe, but there’s no need to wait around for steps that can be prepared in advance. Having certain stages of your recipe prepped and ready to capture on camera, will allow you to film your class in a single day.

Show the entire process
It’s important to film the entire demonstration of your recipe -- the slicing, simmering, and sautéing. This helps students visualize what the process should look like when they try the recipe on their own. You don’t need to capture the entire time rice is simmering however, just a quick look into each step of the process will do the trick. Capturing all of the steps of your recipe is also helpful if you want to include any b-roll in your class introduction. 

And it may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s also important to show the end result! Plating the complete dish and showing students what they can expect to see at the end is a great motivator to get students to hop in their own kitchens and try it out. Be sure to snap a few photos of the finished plate as well, as you can use this in your class and for marketing purposes. 


HELP STUDENTS LEARN

A successful class isn’t just about the production. Your teaching matters most and there are tactics you can use that will help students get the most out of your class. Here are a few teaching best practices:

Ensure accessibility
Consider the global audience watching your class and offer solutions so that they can partake in the class project. For example, if you know of an alternative to a certain ingredient that would help those with dietary restrictions or limited access to that ingredient, let students know what that is and how they can find it. Or if you’re teaching a baking class, think about how students may need to alter the bake time if they’re in a higher altitude. 

Of course you can’t account for every possible student scenario, but if you have readily available tips that make it easy for more students to participate in your class, be sure to share them.

Provide solutions
As with all Skillshare classes, think through the most challenging aspects of your recipe and coach students through any possible frustration they may run into. For example, hand whipping egg whites for macarons is no easy task and is certainly not recommended, so encourage students to use or invest in an electric mixer. Whatever the case may be, it helps to give students the information they need to be successful and proud to share their project with you. 

Emphasize with text
When you’re editing your class, add text on screen to call out the names of ingredients, exact measurements, and any crucial steps you don’t want students to miss. This helps students follow along and remember what’s needed to complete the recipe alongside you. If you’re not sure how to add text to your videos, check out some editing classes on Skillshare or just simply add the information in your class project description or attached as a file. 


These are just some things to consider as you plan and prepare to film your culinary class. We can’t wait to see what you create! If you have other tips to share with the teacher community, let us know in the comments below.