Best Shot

Take Your Best Shot

Make your meals camera-ready.

Consider food photography being worth not only a thousand words, but a thousand dollars in revenue for your restaurant brand. In a digital world that’s easily influenced by visual storytelling, this is the impact that high quality styled food images can have in attracting new business to your restaurant.

According to the 2018 TripAdvisor “Influences on Diner Decision-Making” survey from 9,500 international diners, 60% of respondents from the US reported that online photos influence their dining decisions. The impact of online photos proved even higher in Spain at 72%, followed by Italy with 67%, France with 64%, and the UK with 52%. This is definitely something to keep in mind when trying to attract tourist (and other) diners.

INCLUDING A PHOTO NEXT TO AN ITEM ON A RESTAURANT MENU INCREASES ITS ORDERS BY 30%

For restaurant brands large and small, the importance of capturing high quality, well-planned menu photography remains the same – HIGHLY IMPORTANT! 

So, when is using a phone to take your restaurant brand’s photography a good idea?

For chefs or restaurateurs, if you have basic photography knowledge and understand lighting, angles, product positioning, shot styling, and are tech-savvy with the latest editing applications, then go for it! 

TIP: Scroll through Instagram to find inspiration and shot examples to guide your photoshoot.

However, if you are like most of us, with little photography expertise beyond selfies, and even less time to spend in this area, and if you want to put your best visual face forward, here are some other solutions to create a professional profile at reasonable cost:

1. HIRE NEW TALENT

Aspiring photographers or recent photography graduates are a great place to start as they need projects to build their portfolios and often have very affordable rates. Try posting a free ad on jobsites like Indeed.com and on your restaurant's social media pages to attract résumés. 

2. FIND THE FOOD INFLUENCERS

A food influencer is an Instagram user with an above average following who focuses on curating and sharing food and restaurant-related content that produces user engagement to influence consumers' decision-making. 

These are savvy photographers and editors who are always on the lookout for new content to curate! 

TIPS:

  • Find and follow Instagram influencers whose content relates to your restaurant brand. For example, pizza places should find influencers who curate and post content about pizza.
  • Invite influencers to your restaurant to taste the menu and enjoy the overall brand experience. If you put on a great show, they will likely take LOTS of photos!
  • Get the photos! Discuss if you can use their photos to post on your digital platforms. NOTE: Some may request a fee per image.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Social media etiquette is always giving photographers or curators credit for their photos by tagging them in the post. This helps to promote their skillsets and personal brand in return for photo use, which sometimes is enough to eliminate fees. 

Whether you choose to take your own photos, or use a trained photographer, understanding how to make your food look its best from the kitchen preparation to the final shot can help to achieve your desired look. 

Your website and social media channels might be the first experience and interaction potential guests have with your brand. You have one chance to attract business from that first impression.

This is why it is so important to put your best shot forward!

Menu shoot TIPS:

  • Select menu items that are unique to your brand and also present well.
  • Decide on a consistent element to your brand photography. Whether it’s a backdrop, tabletop surface, or prop, this helps to define your brand.
  • Go for natural lighting. This means shooting near windows. If your restaurant interior is dark, then rent lighting and reflectors to achieve a natural lighting affect to avoid the “flash.”
  • Develop a shoot schedule and shot list. This should outline:
    • The item details, or combination of items. Consider the kitchen and bar prep time when arranging the shot list.
    • Which dishware and glassware the items will be in the shot.
    • The angle of the shot and lighting details.
    • What props or people will be featured in the shot.
    • An example image of the final look you are trying to achieve.

Consumers will search your website and scroll through your social media channels to read reviews and look at photos of your menus and space before deciding whether or not to book a reservation or dine at your restaurant. Those visuals may mean the difference between choosing your place...or the eatery down the street.

NEVER ZOOM MANUALLY, TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS, USE NATURAL LIGHT, AND HAVE FUN

  • USE YOUR PHONE'S GRID SETTING - There's a tool on almost all smartphone devices that allows you to overlay a grid onto every photo you're taking. That way you can make sure that your lines are straight, or you can easily divide your frame into thirds.
  • USE THE EXPOSURE SLIDER - You can control the exposure on your phone much like on a DSLR camera. When you open the camera app, focus on your subject manually with the touch of your finger. You should see a little image of a sun appear. If you slide your finger up and down the small bar that appears, you can control the amount of light in your photo even before you take the picture.
  • KNOW YOUR ANGLES - There are two angles that are best for taking dynamic photos: shooting at eye-level or slightly underneath your subject, and shooting from a bird's eye view. Taking a photo from above is an easy way to get an entire tablescape in one photo. However, a close-up shot can reveal details like moisture, texture, and colour.
  • USE NATURAL LIGHTING - One simple light source is ideal. You want to aim for having shadows because they create contrast and texture to the subject. No matter what you do, avoid the flash! The best light sources come from the side instead of above or behind your subject. Use small mirrors to reflect light into specific areas to add drama.
  • USE NEGATIVE SPACE - Don't feel like your subject has to take up the entire frame. Detail shots are great, but don't be afraid to let your food only take up a third of the frame. Use a simple backdrop that reflects the style of your restaurant and its brand.
  • PLAY WITH PROPS - Don't be afraid to use napkins, condiments, and simple table decorations to make your composition more interesting. Even something as easy as angling your plates or playing with garnishes can bring a photo to life.
  • DON'T BE AFRAID TO USE PEOPLE - Something as simple as a person's hand grasping a glass, or even just people interacting with and enjoying food can sometimes make a food photo more lively. Make sure they are wearing dark, muted colors, particularly black or grey.
  • EDIT PHOTOS AFTERWARDS - Third-party apps can more easily fine-tune colour, brightness, and contrast, like Snapseed, VSCO, Afterlight 2, Enlight and TouchRetouch. Editing is where you can have fun and really make your images pop! Create your own personal look that represents your restaurants brand.


Kate Engineer is the Director of Communications for Fervid Communications, a full-service agency specialized in restaurant, food and beverage, and travel marketing and public relations.

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