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The impact of great food photography for your restaurant

I’ve been a food photographer for a long time, so long that I experienced the “Jurassic period ” when we used transparency film (slide film), along with bulky square format cameras that had names like Hasselblad and Bronica. It was nail bitingly impossible to see the results until the lab called to say “come and get them”. The shoot was nearly always in an expensive studio, normally reserved for magazines or large chain restaurants.

Everything has changed. Welcome to the digital age.  Now, your food can be shot at your location, You can see the results instantly and the shots can be drastically enhanced by photoshop. Despite all of your technical advancements, a question still lingers, “why does a restaurant need to bother having a good looking photographer like me come over and methodically work his way through much of the menu producing mouth watering beautiful shots of the food?”

You’ll Stand Out

It’s estimated that well over 80% of people have or have access to a mobile device.  Between 60 and 70%  decide whether to go to a  restaurant for the first time, make the decision after looking up and finding a selection of restaurants in a preferred area. If, for example, three  Italian restaurants show up nearby and two of them show a long list of items, however one is accompanied withe enticing pictures, reminding you what a mouthwatering lasagna should look like out of the three, which one will  encourage more visits?

Show the Goods

More often now, If someone is going to drop $100 plus on a meal for two, they prefer to see the goods. In fact, its becoming mandatory if you want to be taken seriously.

Make Your Menu Visual

Another important and very logical reason for professional photography is that people don’t always know what a menu item is. They may understand it has chicken in it but often thats about it. Its a scary thing ordering something that might sound good and then hoping it looks better than Klingon road kill.

Here’s an example; I was shooting for a Taiwanese restaurant and the owner said, “we’ll do the Thai salad next”. “Ok”, I thought. Salads are normally colouful but who doesn’t know what a salad looks like. Then it turned up, OMG! I like salads at home but I would not normally order a salad in a restaurant. However, I would absolutely consider the ‘Thai salad’ after seeing it. Certainly, seeing menu items help people be more adventurous with confidence. Sometimes, to their delight, discovering a taste they would never before have ventured to try. Hows that for creating good word of mouth?

Reassure Your Guests

Proudly displaying the food (notice the word proud), places the restaurant in the next bracket up in peoples minds. It gives a sense of confidence and reassurance. There are only two reasons we, the people, look at a menu even before being at the restaurant. 1. can we afford it?. 2. Do they have something I might like?. Do you think pictures might help there?

Go Pro

The cost of a food photographer is so much lower than it was 10 years ago. However, a good one is still not cheap. But what you get in return is a portfolio of photos that you can use forever in hundreds of different ways for marketing and promotion. You and everyone else can easily spot food pics that have not been done professionally, it’s in the lighting and composition. What does it say to customers when they see short cut pictures? The restaurant cuts corners. Hands up all those people who want to go to a restaurant who openly display; they cut corners. Not all food pics are born equal too. Some say ‘come in, the food looks like this’. Others say; Don’t come here, the food looks like this’.


This article is a guest post by Christopher Lloyd-Baron. You can check his work at 24hourmedia and follow his quips and observations on his Twitter feed.

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This article was originally posted in Modern Restaurant Management Food and politics is not a ...
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