You always eat first with your eyes. Emotional and visceral responses are triggered by visual information. When shown pictures of food, people make links with things such as past meals, personal memories and life experiences. Food photography, when used effectively, has the power to connect an audience to your menu and restaurant before they have even sat down.
Why Photos Are Important
Food photography can strongly influence potential customers. Visual imagery connects the present to past experiences; inviting people to relive delicious past food experiences and will anticipate future emotional states through your photos.
Behavioural scientists and psychologists call this emotional reaction to images the "affect transfer effect". When a customer is contemplating a future decision, these physical sensations (or biases) can guide them toward or away from certain actions.
Leveraging these emotions through images can help tip decision-making in one direction. A meat lover, for instance, can be reminded of family summer barbecues at the sight of a rack of baby back ribs that appear to be fresh-off-the grill. In contrast, a gorgeous photo posted of an elegant table setting and a glass of champagne may sway another to book a wedding reception.
Where are pictures important?
A foodservice operation can utilize photography in a number of different ways to appeal to potential customers. Here are some of the best mediums to leverage your photos.
- It seems like a no-brainer, but it is of the utmost importance that quality images show up in visual advertisements. Billboards, print ads, television ads, and even digital ads should all feature images of signature dishes in some way.
- Depending on your business's concept, it can pay off to put pictures of dishes on your menu. While this may not suit higher end establishments, it can be a wonderful tool to help servers upsell customers on appetizers or pricier entrées.
- Food Trucks
- Food trucks traditionally brand their vehicles, and depending on your vehicle's concept, adding high-resolution pictures of dishes to the truck wrap can win customers over. By tapping into customers' memories of neighborhood ice cream trucks or just striking the right chord when they are hungry, you may be able to drive extra revenue to your mobile foodservice operation.
- If your operation has a website, it is imperative that you host images of at least some of your dishes. People that have never eaten at your establishment that are visiting your site will expect to see visual examples of menu items. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
- Social Media
- For the most part, it is important for businesses to maintain some continuity when it comes to their online presence. Many businesses choose similar styles when designing their web page and their social media accounts, and it is commonplace to use the same images from your website on social platforms like Facebook or Yelp. In addition to posting beautiful pictures of your dishes, social media channels like Instagram or Pinterest can be used to share images of daily specials, coupons, or events.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Pictures
There is a lot more that goes into creating an alluring photograph of a signature dish than meets the eye, and a lot more your business can do to leverage these photographs. We've compiled a few pointers to get the most out of your photos.
- Odds are, just an image of a plate on a flat color background won't do (unless that is part of your brand image, i.e. Hardee's / Carl Jr.). Frame the shot in a way that not only makes the food seem as appealing as possible, but also highlights your business's concept. These photos can be taken in or out of your establishment. However, it should be noted that it is important to make sure that your dish is still the centerpiece of the image and anything in the background accentuate the food rather than distract from it.
- It's important to properly light any image, but this is especially true for food photography. When dealing with food, a subject that will deteriorate over time, proper lighting is essential. Utilizing soft lighting to help balance the flash, or using natural light to bring out the colors of the food are common ways to optimize the appeal of your images.
- Dining Room & Concept
- In addition to photos of your menu items, your business should also have shots that adequately depict your dining room, signage, and concept. These can be powerful supporting images for your website, social channels, and ads.
- Hire Professionals
- Let's face it, sometimes it is just hard to find the time to perfect a new craft when you are opening or running a business. Employing the assistance of professional photographers and food stylists could help produce top notch photographs of your food, and spare you time to work on more important endeavors. Often times, chefs can double as food stylists, however the use of in-house chefs is traditionally limited to when photographers are shooting in your establishment. Once you have your images, work with a graphic designer to create continuity between your concept and your website to ensure you are making the most of your online presence as well.
- If you put out attractive food, social media (especially Instagram) can be your restaurant's best friend. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of foodies and gastronomes in recent years, and many of them are snapping pictures before they dig in at restaurants. Send every plate out looking its best and be prepared to take advantage of the free publicity if someone starts taking pictures of your food. We suggest having an easily usable hashtag that ties your food to your restaurant, or making your Instagram username available to diners for maximum exposure and attribution on Instagram.
Though great food photography is an important part of the equation, there are many other things business owners can leverage to increase foot traffic. Want to put your new photos to good use? Learn more about the best places to show them off and how your restaurant can reach customers online.