I was on the phone with one of my coaching clients the other day and she is getting ready to launch her updated brand. As we were looking at her website and figuring out what needed to change, we realized that she didn’t have enough professional photos of her food. How many of you can relate to that? You find stock photos online that look mediocre, put it on your website and call it good. Back in the day when I first started my personal chef business, I used to take photos with my phone that always ended up being too dark and not doing my food justice at all! In fact, it probably hurt my brand more than helped it.
As culinary business owners, I think we often overlook the importance of getting professional food photos done. We want those high-end clients who will pay us big bucks, but somehow we forget that people eat with their eyes first. Like the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and in today’s visually-driven society I would say that’s the case more than ever. I will share real quickly that one day I posted a pretty picture of this gorgeous charcuterie platter my team of chefs put together. About 5 minutes after posting it, I got a private message from a lady inquiring about our catering services. That person specifically commented on how beautiful our platter was and that’s why she was interested. See the power of a picture? It can lead to more business for you!
Now I am not saying that every picture you post has to be professionally shot and styled. That would be expensive and excessive. However, I think it is good to be more mindful about the pictures we post and think twice before posting one that makes our food look a little less than appetizing.
If you want better photos of your food, then I have a few suggestions:
Hire a professional – I know this sounds costly, but it doesn’t have to be! Maybe someone on your team (like your admin) already has photography skills and you don’t know it. I knew that my admin could take great photos before hiring her, but you never know your staffs’ hidden talents if you don’t ask. If none of your team members can take photos, then look on Thumbtack or simply Google “food photographers” in your area. You might be surprised to know that you can find someone to do a whole day of shooting for about $250 to produce about 10 photos. At least that has been my experience. That might sound expensive now, but that’s actually very affordable when it comes to photography.
Make sure you establish what shots you’d like – If you decide to hire a professional, they will most likely want you to style it yourself or at least share the overall look and feel you want for the finished product. Do you want a shot of just the entree, or the entree with the two sides? Should you put some of the ingredients around it? Should you plate it or have it in a pan on the stove? Should you include an arm in the photo garnishing the dish? The possibilities are endless and you can get as creative as you want with it, or keep it super simple. Just make sure you write up exactly what shots you’d like for each dish so you and the photographer are on the same page and you get what you want.
Look for inspiration – Sometimes I will create a secret board on Pinterest and pin a bunch of food photos that inspire me. Otherwise, I sometimes have NO CLUE what I want the pictures to look like! Of course, it’s never a good idea to copy someone’s work, but seeing other food photos can certainly get the creative juices flowing and be a point of reference for the photographer.
Keep the photos looking consistent – Make sure the photos you do take look like they come from the same brand. What I mean is if you shoot some photos that look much darker and have darker backgrounds but then you shoot a bunch of dishes with a white background, this could create some brand inconsistency on your website particularly. Establish beforehand, what you want people to feel when they see it and if it “looks” like you and your brand.
Make sure you shoot a variety of dishes – This might sound obvious, but if you are going to the trouble of planning a whole day of shooting (which I suggest you do so you can get all of your photos done at once for the month) then it should really showcase the variety you offer. Of course, it completely depends on what the photoshoot is for, but if you’re needing more photos for social media, then the more variety the better! When I plan one of my monthly photoshoots, I will plan on making a couple of breakfast dishes, a snack and dinners to showcase the fact that we not only deliver dinner but also breakfast, lunch, and snacks too! If you are having a photoshoot to get specific photos for your website like my coaching client, then you probably will need specific dishes.
If you can’t afford to hire a professional right now, you might consider checking out stock photo sites. Buying stock photos can quickly add up, but can be a great temporary fix if you can’t hire a photographer at the moment or you need a quick photo for a blog post you’re doing. Check out my blog post, 5 of the Best Photo Sites for Chefs.
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