We all have that memory of when we saw that first “dream item” in a magazine or a photo. We bet you can remember the first time you saw your dream car in a magazine. It looked gorgeous, right? You really wanted it, right? As a society, we have developed our visual senses to become the primary way we judge whether something is pleasant or unpleasant first.
With the advent of social media, sources like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have taken the role of quick and easy advertising that printed magazines used to hold. In many cases, the clientele you wish to have may judge whether or not they want to come to you based solely on a picture of your food on a social media post.
Having great photos of your food is important. People eat with their eyes and if they have never experienced a product in person, this could be all they have. Photos of your food can be used in signage, advertisements, menus, social media, articles etc.. Making sure you have viable product pictures is just another step in being a success.
Here are some good tips and important things to remember when it comes to getting professional and inviting pictures of your product:
Pick what you want to showcase. Everyone knows you are probably going to sell pepperoni pizza. If you have a unique product that no one else has, use that as the star. Your food signature food is the representation of yourself. If you have a star dish, let it shine!
Less is more. Focus on one product at a time, keep it simple and small. Don’t make the shot too busy. Showing your whole menu in one shot may not allow your viewer a chance to see the single item that you want them to order.
THIS ISN’T A STUDIO SESSION
There are many objects that require multiple fancy light sources and angles and food usually isn’t one of them. Typically one light source is all that’s needed and natural light tends to work best. If you can take the picture outdoors, even the better!
Take lots of pics. Arrange everything the way you think it will be good in your mind and take as many shots as you think you will need. Then take a break and come back and do that many again. There’s no such thing as wasting film anymore.
THE DUMMY SHOT vs. THE HOT SHOT
A pro tip is to set up your shot with “dummy food”. Set up the shot with whatever product you’re going to use and get everything just right. Then get a fresh hot one from the oven and replace the dummy. Hot food photographs best when it is hot.
Another pro tip is that food that tastes good doesn’t always look good. A white clam pizza may be delicious (trust us) but it’s not going to make for the best photo. In this case, it is possible to deconstruct the dish and take a photo showcasing the individual ingredients and products that go into it. A grouping of fresh clams on a bed of arugula next to a bulb of garlic and a ball of fresh dough sprinkled in flour would get the idea of what is on the pizza and look more attractive than the pizza itself.
WHAT’S BACK THERE?
Vary the background. Many items you may have on your oven, trailer or prep area can be used as backgrounds. Wood chopping blocks, old seasoned pizza peels, stainless steel counters or even the flames from the oven can be great backgrounds.
You have to remember that one of the main goals for you is to be profitable. After you take all of your pictures, editing the finer points of the photos in Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom is part of your marketing strategy. The better your photo looks, the more likely someone will want to visit you and make purchases.
In the end, you may not have the wherewithal to take these pictures. Maybe you don’t have the latest camera or your smartphone isn’t “smart” enough to take professional-style photos. One of the best ways to get good photos is to hire someone else to do it. This can be expensive if they are a professional, but the results could be worth it. However, you are also putting the creative aspect into someone else’s hands. You may want to look to friends and relatives who have experience in this area and pay them in pizza to save a few bucks.
If you are interested in a good jumping off point in food photography, Nicolas Doretti has some extra tips for beginners and advanced photographers here.