Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been asked a number of times why a restaurant should pay for professional food photos instead of using the dimly lit, pixelated, poorly staged, sopping-wet photos currently being used for advertising. Yes, I know, I’m already coming off as biased. But I have set out to compare my photos to those of most cell phone photographers out there, and while they get the message across, it’s something like using a selfie for a corporate headshot. Yes, it’s a photo of you, but is it the version of you that you want representing your professional qualities, your attention to detail, and your passion for what you do?
I wanted to provide a couple examples before we get started on a demonstration as to the type of photos we can provide as a professional service. These include food where the customer wanted syrup running down the food items (without it looking like a sopping mess), staged photos of a food product in a scene, and a nice macro (close-up) shot to get into the good, yummy qualities we know and love about foods. For the syrup shot, sure, you can pour some Aunt Jemima over pancakes and call it good. But we take a baseline photo, do multiple pours, and only include the details from any number of shots that best compliment the look desired. To do this yourself, you would need to use probably 30 pancakes and a bottle of syrup (we often composite somewhere around 10 different shots to make the “final pour). Staged photos can be done by anyone, but lighting them is the challenge. Think about soup – how do you provide complimentary side lighting while still being able to see those delicious noodles? And for macro… Well… You just can’t capture the detail like we can.
Alright, now that you’re hungry, grab a muffin, maybe a cup of coffee, and let’s get to business. Before you get too excited, we aren’t using some fancy dishes or scrumptious muffins this time. I decided to use something different – my Greyhound’s birthday cake chew toy (happy 6th birthday, Gracie!).
Let’s start with some shot’s you’d usually see on a restaurant social media account – the famous “food in the hand” shot and the “I’m trying to stage this shot in an artistic manner, but don’t have the lighting or the background.” Before anyone takes offense to this, I get it. I really do. You have to get by with what you’ve got on hand. And sometimes when you’ve got a new dish, or an out-of-the-blue special, go for it. Or call us and we will rush over and get the mouth-watering shot you’re hoping for with your iPhone. Any photo is better than no photo.
That said, getting a firm baseline of your “greatest hits” or even a couple high-priced specials are a great way to go. It will drum up attention, bring in new clientele, and often get those taste buds going and the mouth watering just looking at the photos (like mine is doing looking at the muffin above). We have specials for multiple dishes, drink add-ons, and hero shots (the set-table or collage of delicious look). The great thing about our service is not only do we take the high-quality photos, but we work with your back-of-house to ensure the food is prepped well for photography, plated for the most attractive look, and for layered items like cheeseburgers, we will even melt the cheese for you to control that runny mess that can happen. In the end, you may even see dishes coming out of the kitchen styled a little more aesthetically pleasing when we leave as well.
Ok, I think you get the point. Here are the “homemade” shots:
When you look at these, I’m sure some of you are nodding, or maybe cringing. Why? Because everyone has a plate held up to their brushed stainless kitchen prep table or staged in front of something relevant-ish. And that’s fine. We will sometimes incorporate that into a shoot, and that’s not a bad thing. But the lighting, shading, staging, placement, and items in the background are less-than-ideal in most cases. We’ll do this with a nice cold beer that we’ve added some faux-condensation to, some bar peanuts, or for those of you cake sellers, we may put a slice of cake, which I’m sure looks better than this, in front of a tea set or some steaming hot coffee, or something of the like. But it looks like it came out of a cell phone. And that’s often the difference between “oh that looks like someone’s meal” and “mmm that looks like MY next meal.”
Again, this is a dog toy. And I wasn’t going to go all-out on staging – you get the idea. But in the below images, I used some of my faux-surfaces (I’ve got several to choose from), a studio light (AD200 if anyone is interested), and my Canon EOS R camera (this set was with my 24-105mm lens for any camera nerds out there like myself). I took the photos, balanced the colors, shadows, highlights, and level of detail I felt was appropriate for the item. I then put it in Photoshop and gave it some love. Yes, it’s still a dirty toy. Yes, I cleaned my surfaces after I removed the dirty toy. But if you notice, there was a thread hanging down off the toy in the first images. I expertly removed that from the photo. I balanced a bit of color where the shading was off-taste. I did a few more touch-ups, and this was the end result.
Ultimately, while this was a dog toy, there are comparisons to be had. Think of the string as a hair, or a piece of lettuce, or even sauce dribbled in the wrong spot on the plate… Do you need to re-shoot with that wiped away or picked off? No way. We can get rid of that with a few clicks.
I hope this was informative, helped answer some questions on why you should give us the opportunity to display the pride you put into your work, and we hope to hear from you soon!