It is fair to say that for many in the food business (including start-ups and established restaurants, chefs, manufacturers & producers etc) food photography is not always at the top of the list when it comes to allocating marketing budget for the year ahead. Whilst this is understandable, as budgets are constantly under pressure and competing against other areas of the business expenditure for priority, a consistent approach and high standards of photography are essential. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing hard earned budget at the problem, but just making sure you invest the time, effort and thought into the visuals you use to promote and communicate the quality, provenance and down-right deliciousness of your food or drink!
The rise of the internet and social media means that we are becoming even more visual as a society, so what you choose to share will have a dramatic impact on how you are perceived. Your food is your brand, your website is your shop window and the food photography you choose to upload provides a customer with their first impression. And as we all know, you only get one chance to make that first impression so its essential to make sure it a good one. Here is just a few stats to highlight the importance of good photography:
We all have a smartphone in our pockets nowadays that enable us to take good quality photo’s wherever we are. This democratisation of technology is amazing, but it can also be a double edge sword, as it means there is an awful lot of bad photography out there by people who think that all they have to do is point and click to produce amazing images. But the technology is only one factor to consider…….and in my opinion, for the aspiring food photographer, its not even the most important. The question to ask is how to separate yourself from the crowd and smartphone photography by itself will NOT cut through the vast amount of image noise that is out there.
The best advice I can offer about how to take advantage of the powerful technology in your pocket is to dedicate more time and thought to what your brand is trying to communicate. You can then use the following tips to vastly improve the outcome of the image:
1. Think about your lighting.
Even with pro photography gear, my first thought on any shoot is lighting, because if you get this wrong, no amount of money spent on a camera will save your shot. This is true in any form of photography but perhaps even more so in food photography…..but as luck would have it, the best lighting (in my humble opinion) is daylight. Not only is it the best, its also FREE!
However, not all daylight is equal - many people assume if its a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky, then I should place my subject directly in this light. This is a bad idea as it tends to be too harsh, creating dark distracting shadows and colours that are too bright and wash away much of the texture and detail. What you are looking for is indirect daylight, or in English, some shade! It gives your food wonderful bright light with an even coverage that makes the food look at its delicious best. Check out the set up from a recent restaurant photoshoot where I turned off all internal electric lighting and just used window light that was shaded by another building outside
To put it simply, composition is the term used to describe the arrangement of stuff in your photograph. A well composed photograph will direct your eye to look at a specific place, this should not be an accident and requires a lot of prior thought e.g. the hero ingredient, your brand/ logo or person using a variety of techniques.
The rule of thirds is shown in the images below and is a classic photography technique of putting the main point of interest on the intersection of horizontal and vertical lines. The egg photo is also a good example to show how the eye is also naturally drawn to the brightest item in the photograph and what is most in focus i.e. the egg & truffle
However, framing your subject and deciding where and what the camera should focus on, are not the only aspects to consider. You also need to think about the best angle from which to shoot from .e.g overhead for a pizza, 45° for a cocktail (so you can see the top and centre of the glass) or down low for a burger (so you can see all the ingredients)
How you prop or accessorise a food photograph is a very creative part of a shoot and can elevate your image to the next level. It can also be tricky, as sourcing the knives, forks, plates/ bowls, linens, wooden boards, glassware, ceramic surfaces etc can add a lot of extra cost to your shoot (unless you are very lucky to have a well stocked supply at home). A well propped image will add to the story you are trying to convey, but it needs to be well balanced, otherwise it will look messy and cluttered. Some things to think about are
I hope these tips will help to improve your food/ drink photography whilst you are growing your start-up food business. At the very least you will now be able to shoot a better photograph than the vast majority of images shared on Twitter or Instagram ;-) However, if you realise that your business is growing to the next level and professional food imagery is essential to represent your brand/ product to investors, wholesalers or to further stand out from the crowd, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat
You can find some otters tips on my blog: