Great food photos move the needle. If your photos are poorly taken or don’t let the food’s colors pop, customers are that much more likely not to order and try someone else. Food photos done correctly are an immediate ROI producer. Here are tips to take great ones, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional.
First, if you can hire a professional, do it. GREAT PHOTOS PAY FOR THEMSELVES. Go all out with a $1,000.00 budget if you can. Hire a photographer who has worked with food before. Hire them when you have seen their portfolio, and you trust their insight.
A food photoshoot should take about two hours with a half-hour of prep beforehand. Don’t make all the food at the same time. Have each item ready to be baked off and then have one come out every two to five minutes or so and keep pounding through items like an assembly line.
A good photographer should be around $300.00 to $500.00 for two hours of work. A great photographer not only knows how to frame a great picture, but they also know how to edit it properly. It’s also wise to get a food prepper, i.e., someone who helps elevate the food to be camera-ready for each picture. This job is different than a photographer who is skilled at capturing the image. A food prepper is like a makeup artist for food; they might apply pan spray to pizzas for a glisten or keep sauce moving, so it never looks dry. They ensure all beer photos have a full foam and other things that our minds pick up on. These people are also worth their fee and ensure that you get great photos and the shoot is worth the effort. Their price can run from $300.00 to $500.00 as well.
If you have ZERO budget to spend on anything, and I mean ZERO money (I’ve been there, I get it), it is doable to pull this off on a solid smartphone.
• Camera. If you don’t have a DSLR camera, make sure you have the best smartphone you can get access to. The portrait mode on newer iPhones can take incredible pictures when used correctly.
• Lighting. Lightboxes and lighting kits are great, but if you don’t have all that, use a table near a window. The best photos are taken during the daytime with natural light. Avoid direct sunlight, but an overcast day is great for photos. If your windows are blacked out, this will be harder, and you might need to go to a different location.
• Set up. The primary focus of a shoot like this is getting great food photos for your online ordering and third-party delivery apps. So shoot sideways and never take tall pictures with the phone upright. Have the base photo of everything you’re framing stay the same for each image. Also, make sure the photos actually look like your food inside your restaurant. That means don’t show off white linens if your restaurant uses wood tables. Don’t take pictures with clichéd props like a massive clove of garlic and a Chianti bottle. Unless you give a whole unpeeled bulb of garlic with each order, your photos will be inauthentic. This practice does your photos and your pizzeria no favors. These types of set dressings are antiquated and very 90’s, and not in a good 90’s sort of way like the MTV beach house.
Other Tips for great photos:
- Use a tripod so your photos are clearer and have the same angle for each item.
- Don’t cut pizzas when photographing them.
- Don’t put Romano as a finisher because more white isn’t good for photos. More white saturates the light of a food photo and dilutes the pops of color like the gold, brown and red you want to see.
- Don’t buy stock photos, it’s lazy and a lie to your customer. Don’t let menu designers use pictures of someone else’s pizza to represent your brand.
These are tips for a food photoshoot explicitly designed for showing off your menu items. Set up for customers and staff photos, and action food photos — such as a cheese pull — are created differently. Those are different styles of photos that require various photoshoots.
For this photoshoot, you’re purely documenting all the pizzas and menu items, in the most enticing way possible. The goal is to visually inform the online customer why they should order from you. Creating great photos this way will enhance customer purchase pride and increase online sales the first day you put them online.
MIKE BAUSCH is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch