This year’s National Restaurant Association Show featured the new Foodamental Studio, an interactive event space with hands-on demonstrations on topics like cheese pairings and kimchi pickling. One of the most popular Foodamental workshops was titled “#foodselfie,” hosted by photographer and James Beard nominee Jeff Kauck.
This demo was a great experience for restaurant owners and operators looking to improve the quality of their marketing photos without spending a fortune on a professional photo shoot or relying on the dreaded stock photos. Kauck emphasized restaurants should only publish the best images, choose quality over quantity and use photos to tell a unique visual story.
Here are some other great tips from Kauck’s workshop from the 2014 National Restaurant Association Show that will help you take better photos in your restaurant, whether they’re for your website, social media, menus or other marketing strategies:
Surprisingly, Kauck said that you don’t need an expensive professional camera to get good quality photos. Whether it’s a Smartphone or a DSLR, just use whatever you love or whatever you have. He does, however, recommend you use a camera capable taking both stills and video. You should also have the capability to post work instantly through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, plus editing software or apps like CameraBag or VSCO Cam.
Kauck recommended investing in a wide angle lens because it makes the viewer feel like they’re in the photo, while a telephoto lens gives a flat field. Also important is the position of the camera. “Seated eye level” angles are most appetizing because diners can relate to the food more, while shooting up gives big impact with drama. Shoot down to get a contemporary feel or at eye level to convey comfort. You can activate the senses with close-ups that show sizzle in the pan, steam and condensation, gooey cheese or melting butter. “Let the food be real!” said Kauck.
Daylight is the easiest light source to work with, but you can shoot at a different time of day to convey tone like breakfast with morning light. Never use the camera flash, but control the direction of the light and simultaneously think about the light’s direction and reflection. Aim directly at the light to make the food pop and adjust the camera angle to make the light bounce off the food for sheen.
You’ll also need inexpensive foamcore cards (black on one side and white on the other) to manipulate the direction of the light—white reflects and black absorbs. Use the white side as a glossy food photo’s backdrop or set up one white card on either side of a shot to reflect light towards the food with the restaurant as the background.
Although the workshop was called “#foodselfie,” Kauck did give some pointers on taking shots of chefs and restaurant spaces. The personality of your chefs reflects in their food, so it’s important to let that personality shine while giving a face to your restaurant through photos of your chef. Figure out what you want the image to say about the chef, like an edgy trailblazer or classically-trained perfectionist, and how that will reflect your restaurant’s mission. Close-ups are great for showing introspective and contemplative chefs, and catching a chef in an action shot while they’re explaining something portrays an intellectual innovator.
Similarly, photos of your restaurant should capture the mood of the room, from a lively setting with colorful accents to a refined atmosphere with elegant table settings. You put a lot of thought and work into every painstaking detail of your decor in order to give your restaurant your desired ambiance. So, you need to show off those details with close-ups, as well as wider angle shots to show the depth of the space.