For many startups, including restaurants, social media is the great equalizer, allowing new players to compete in the same stage with more established companies. This applies to restaurants and similar establishments.
And to gain an online advantage over the competition, you need to have high-quality pictures to entice potential customers to try your food.
True, a well-thought-out menu, an inviting ambiance, and topnotch service will keep diners coming back for more. But only if customers do come and try your offerings.
And the first step to attracting new customers is appealing to their senses of sight even before they set foot in your restaurant.
But why should you invest in the services of a seasoned food photographer? Can’t you just take your own photos and run a couple of filters before posting these on your social media accounts?
What a food photographer brings to the table
Having a high-powered smartphone or even a DSLR isn’t enough for taking great quality food photos; skills, knowhow, and experience are important, too. Professional photographers, especially those that specialize in food photography, bring much to the proverbial table.
For starters, you can easily see the discrepancy in the quality of the pictures taken by a real pro and someone who merely dabbles in photography. A professional knows how to highlight the best qualities of the subject, in this case, your restaurant’s offerings.
A professional photographer knows exactly how to draw out the best from his subjects through the deft use of the right lighting, composition, styling, angles, and color.
What you’ll end up having are useful tools that can be used to promote your restaurant, coaxing diners to try your establishment. You can post these pictures on your website, social media, online and offline ads. Plus, you can add these to your menu to highlight dishes that you want to push.
The initial costs may be higher. But in the end, you get more value from your initial investment over the long term.
Hiring a food photographer
To a great extent, the benefits of having outstanding food photographs for your restaurant hinges upon finding the right person for the job. Here are a few essential things to ask when interviewing for a food photographer.
Years of experience
Although there are prodigies in virtually all art forms who seem to have the knack for doing quality work despite lack of experience, the consensus is that the more years of specialization you have tucked under your belt, the more adept you are in your niche.
Take note that a portrait or commercial photographer may not be able to produce outstanding culinary photos. Like any other photography niche, culinary photography requires the mastery of a different set of skills. And the last thing that you want is someone who’ll be practicing with your food pictures.
Often, it takes a team to produce outstanding work. In food photography, that sometimes means teaming up with a food stylist who will oversee the plating and styling of your dishes.
Some photographers have honed their skills in food styling and bundle that service along with their photography. In other cases, a photographer may bring in a food stylist he has already worked with.
During the interview, it is vital to ask the photographer if he is bringing a food stylist. If the answer is yes, you have to know ahead how much you will need to pay for the service of the stylist or if the service is bundled with the cost of the culinary photos.
Venue, lighting, and props
How will the photoshoot be set up? Generally, food photographers like to use natural light. That entails having sufficient natural light coming into your restaurant.
However, if your establishment does not have enough natural light, you may either have to move the photoshoot to a different location or use artificial lights.
Another critical thing to consider is the use of props. Props can add another layer of appeal to the final output. Some photographers bring their props at no extra cost for their clients while others charge a fee. In other instances, clients can provide the accessories for the shoot. In the latter case, you can ask the photographer what items will work best for the photoshoot.
Who’s going to cook for the photoshoot? The answer to that question is not always straightforward.
If the photoshoot is going to be done at your resto’s kitchen, the task can be assigned either to you or one of the kitchen staff. However, if you or someone from your kitchen isn’t available, the responsibility may fall on the shoulders of the photographer or stylist. If you opt for the second option, expect the total cost for the shoot to increase.
If the photoshoot is going to be done in another location, the photographer and his team may take upon themselves the responsibility of cooking the dishes.
It is customary for photographers to own the pictures they have taken. The clients, on the other hand, can use the images for different purposes based upon their agreement with their photographers.
Early on, you should make it clear where you can use the photographs as well as the timeframe involved.
Will the photographer charge you with a flat fee, or will he charge extra for add-ons? You will need to know this early on so you can better compare the professionals on your shortlist and calculate a reasonable set a budget for the photoshoot.
When it comes to your restaurant’s food photos, do not gamble and rely on luck. Find the right professionals who can achieve your desired results the first time.
Stefanie Descheemaecker is the Studio Manager at Stu Williamson Photography at The Palm Jumeirah – Fairmont Hotel in Dubai. She has been with the company for almost 3 years and is the driving force behind the success of the business. A keen amateur photographer, Stef combines her natural creative eye with a strong business acumen to help Stu Williamson Photography become the most trusted and successful photography business in the UAE.