Food Photography For Social Media

Photos – yes, of course you understand that pictures of food are an important part of any restaurant’s promotional campaign, whenever tweeting or posting an update about the menu, wine, or even a new cocktail, it should always be accompanied by a picture.  But you would be amazed at the number of restaurant owners that pay photographers for print ads and website layouts – and then post out-of-focus, badly lit, poorly framed photos of their menu on their social media sites for thousands of people to see.  There are famous restaurants in NYC, with chef-owners that are household names, that regularly post pictures of their offerings that are almost unidentifiable as food.

Here are several basic tips on food photography. Invest in an inexpensive point and shoot camera, just make sure it has a macro setting.    Shoot at the highest resolution from at least eighteen inches away – any closer and the autofocus is going to be useless.

  • Keep the Background Clean

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Make sure there is a color contrast between the background and the food; avoid using the same color or similar shade for both. Keep the background simple and uncluttered. If unsure, stick to a plain white background.

  • Adjust the White Balance

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Adjust the white balance on your camera according to what you’re shooting. Meat should always be shot in warm tones – a blue-ish tinge caused by fluorescent lights can make the dish look less appetizing.

  • Use Natural Lighting

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When you can, try to shoot with natural lighting. Shoot during the day near a window where you would get plenty of natural sunlight. If you must shoot at night, avoid using flash directly on the food as it is too harsh. Instead, use a flash diffuser or have the flash bounce off a ceiling or wall.

  • Use a Tripod When Possible

Most food photography will be done indoors, where there might not be enough lighting. Use a tripod whenever you can as it beats trying to hold very still for a long amount of time.

  • Small Details Make a Big Difference

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Don’t disregard the small stuff. Keep in mind that using nice cutlery and a clean serving plate/bowl could make all the difference in transforming a nice photo into a fantastic one.

  • Get Up Close

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Instead of only taking photos of a full plate of food, take some macro shots too. Getting up close to your subject will bring out the textures and finer details, making it more interesting and intriguing.

  • Cut it, Slice it, Dice it!

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As with anything, you shouldn’t just take something for face value. With food, sometimes it’s what’s inside that can create a great shot.

  • Take Photos from All Angles

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Don’t just take a photo from a bird’s eye view, try different angles. Left, right, top, bottom. Feel free to even move the food around and come up with different compositions.

  • Use Props

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Don’t be afraid to jazz up the set. Maybe a bottle of wine in the background with your steak? Just remember to keep it simple – too many props can cause a distractions.

For post production editing I’ve found a great tool called Irfanview.  It features simple, intuitive tools for brightening and balancing the colors – and it’s free.  Remember – with a little attention to detail food photography isn’t difficult to do well, it is, however, all too easy to do poorly.

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Going Mobile – Why Your Restaurant Needs To Be Smartphone Accessible

OTTO_with_IPHONE4(1)Mobile – Easily the most important trend this year – it is also the one that offers the biggest opportunity.  Here’s the skinny – mobile internet use in the U.S. is set to overtake wired use this year – and this shift is happening even faster for social media.   To quote Facebook in last month’s quarterly SEC filing: “[We] anticipate that the rate of growth in mobile usage will exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the foreseeable future.”  What does this portend for the hospitality industry?  Think it’s an accident that Google lists restaurants and bars on their smartphone browser and not on their desktop version?  It is now estimated that 65% of all restaurant website traffic is mobile generated – and that number is not only growing, but also skews upward for a younger demographic with a relatively large discretionary income.

This means that if your site is not mobile ready at least three out of ten visitors will find it useless – and that’s not even the worst part.  If someone is browsing from their smartphone and cannot access your site they are going to go to the next option – which is guaranteed to be a review site, such as Yelp or Zagat.  Besides the fact that there is no surety that the info those sites provide will be correct or up to date, you are also subject to the whims of your restaurant’s latest reviewer.  Not an attractive scenario – but one that is, happily, easy to remedy.

There are many online services that can easily create a mobile version of your site.  With the addition of a few lines of code to your existing website it will then be automatically loaded when your site is displayed on a small screen device.  These services range in price from free (ad driven) to a monthly fee structure that can be scaled to a single store or restaurant group.  Consult with your IT provider to determine which service is best for you – it may even be included in your web hosting plan.   Minimally the mobile page should include: Hours of operation, contact info, map link, menu link, click-to-call button, Open Table link and social connectivity.

A small investment in time and money can leap-frog you ahead of the competition – especially the restaurant sites with the extensive Flash-based slideshow of Venice and the Tony Bennett soundtrack that takes ten minutes to load.

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