Food Porn, Fluorescent Lights, Mystery Meat & Glamour “DON’Ts”

I LOVE working with locally owned restaurants. Not surprising, since I have a hospitality background and nothing makes me happier than finding cool new eateries, especially the ones that are a well-kept secret.

The good ones are really dynamic – they have a vibe, a personality and a community around them. With so much going on, I have tons of great material to work with for social media and email marketing campaigns. Besides – who doesn’t like to eat and drink?

One the most fun pieces of restaurant work is the opportunity to create mouthwatering food porn. An incredible photo is still the best way to catch your customer’s eye in a crowded Facebook feed, and Instagram and Pinterest have exploded in popularity. You would think every restaurant would jump at the opportunity to showcase their delicious creations, right?

Photo courtesy of Christina Marie Photography
Photo courtesy of Christina Marie Photography

Surprisingly, no. As I was collecting photos for this post, I was shocked at how many restaurants don’t post ANY food pics (including a few of my favorites). What a giant missed opportunity… then again, after you see some of these examples you might come to the conclusion that it’s just as well.

Please note – all these pics come from restaurants I dine in regularly and like a lot. They all have terrific food, but…..not so much on the photos. The idea here is not to shame the “DON’Ts”, but to illustrate the difference that a great photo can make. And we’re not naming names. 😉

Bad Burgers

There are soooooo many bad burger pictures floating around the internet. I’m sure all of them are delicious….but they sure don’t look it.

Burgers are tough to shoot sometimes…they don’t always have a lot of color to them and the fluorescent lighting in commercial kitchens doesn’t help much. But take a look at this gorgeous shot of a vegan burger:

Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY
Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY

StrongHearts is vegetarian restaurant in Syracuse that does a consistently awesome job of photographing their food. This burger is bright, colorful and appetizing and it pops right off the page. YUM!

Black & White???

I can’t think of one good reason to publish black & white photos of food….can you? Which one of these wraps would you like to eat?

 Mystery Meat

 I’m not quite sure what either of these dishes are….and I’m not inclined to find out. Simply shooting from a different angle would make a big difference.

WHY?

Fruit Display This fruit display looks like someone took a lot of time to set it up nicely, but it’s tough to appreciate it since the photo is blurry, the color is off and it features a background of empty coat hangers. I bet it was gorgeous in person, but it’s tough to visualize if this shot is all you have to go on.

Clam Shell Not sure where to start with this one, but there is NOTHING appetizing about a take-out Styrofoam clam shell.

Blah Bread

Fluorescent lighting strikes again…

The rolls and the focaccia bread are washed out and unappetizing, and the stainless steel hotel pans are not helping the cause. Think how much better the focaccia would look if it was cut up and arranged on a pretty plate or placed in a rustic basket and shot close up to show the cheese, the texture and delicious seasonings. The basket of rolls would have been fine with a tighter shot in different lighting.

On the other end of the spectrum, these garlic knots make you want to dive right into the plate.

Photo courtesy of Christina Maria Photography
Photo courtesy of Christina Marie Photography

Okay…so you’re convinced you need fabulous photos of your food, right? There are a couple of ways to make that happen.

Option 1 – HIRE A PROFESSIONAL Yes, you’ll have to spend a few bucks. But if you hire the right person you’ll end up with lots of great shots you can use across all your marketing channels. One thing to keep in mind – most photographers are not awesome at ALL types of photography. I’m friendly with at least a dozen, and I’ve noticed that some are exceptional with landscapes and nature shots, others prefer shooting children and families, commercial products or weddings, or nudes or bands….or whatever. Look for the one who is a genius with FOOD.

Option 2 – WHIP OUT THAT iPHONE It’s easier than ever to get great shots on your phone, but there are definitely a few tricks that will improve your results:

  1. Lighting – Never, NEVER take pics in your restaurant’s kitchen. The color will be washed out and/or have a greenish-yellow tinge – and neither option is good when you’re trying to capture food. Take the dish out to a table with natural lighting and turn off your flash.
  2. Come closer – Get right up on your food, don’t be shy. Up close and intimate is almost always better.
  3. Stage the shot – Pay attention to the plate, the side dishes, the background and general composition. Add some color if necessary.
  4. Be choosy – Don’t love any of your shots? DON’T POST THEM

If you only follow rules 1 & 2, your photos will improve immensely. I totally get that it’s tough to stage a creative food shot when table 12 is looking around impatiently, the ice machine has stopped working and the dishwasher is suddenly MIA – so you probably want a combination of hiring a professional and filling in with cell phone photos when it’s feasible.

Need more inspiration?

Bet you didn’t know scallops could be so sexy….

Photo from BC Restaurant Syracuse, NY
Photo from BC Restaurant Syracuse, NY

Even a simple iced coffee could be just the thing that draws a potential customer into your shop on a hot day:

Photo from Broadway Cafe & Arctic Island Syracuse, NY
Photo from Broadway Cafe & Arctic Island Syracuse, NY

More goodness from StrongHearts:

Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY
Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY

And let’s not forget dessert:

Photo from Broadway Cafe & Arctic Island Syracuse, NY
Photo from Broadway Cafe & Arctic Island Syracuse, NY

This restaurant is actually on my list of “Top 3 Places I need to Try ASAP”, solely based on this photo, which popped up in my Facebook feed recently. Key Lime ice cream with graham cracker crumbs and white chocolate chips….are you kidding me??!?

Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY
Photo from StrongHearts Cafe Syracuse, NY

When I was a young teenager back in the early 80’s, I used to read Glamour magazine religiously, and I always cracked up at the back page featuring  “Glamour DON’Ts”. For the uninformed, the magazine captured tragic, crazy outfits on the street, blacked out the face of the model and explained why the ensemble was not a smart fashion choice.

I realized as I was writing this post that I have created the food version of “Glamour DON’Ts”.

My 13-year old self is laughing hysterically.

Julie Briggs

Need more help?

“How to take drool-worthy food photos with your iPhone”

“The Pro Guide to taking better Instagram food photos”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *