Ordering food online from a website boasting mouth watering photos is like grocery shopping when you’re hungry—you’re going to purchase more than you originally intended to. This is the goal of food photography on an online ordering website.
It’s common to overlook the importance of online menu item images when it sounds like a huge investment in time, money and effort—luxuries that most pizzeria owners don’t have to spare. Fortunately, creating strong images of your food doesn’t have to mean hiring a professional food photographer or setting up a studio in your restaurant. All you need is your phone, a big open window, your best prepared delicious looking pizzas, and 8 helpful tips.
According to research, items that have an image next to them have an average increase of 6.5% in sales, compared to those without. The following simple tips will help you capture and upload delicious looking images to your site, and increase your online sales as a direct result.
1. Know Your Camera
No matter what kind of camera you end up using, it’s important to know how to use it. An expensive camera won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to adjust the settings. This includes phone cameras—using unfamiliar settings on your phone can present problems. For example, in portrait mode, it can be a common mistake to blur out parts of the photo you don’t mean to, instead of just blurring the background.
If you are limited to the camera built into your phone, don’t worry. Modern phone cameras have proven themselves to be exceptional! Just take some time to experiment ahead of your planned photo shoot, so you know the effect of the various settings. With the technology we have today, you’ll be able to take a professional-looking photo on your phone by simply using the right settings, lighting, and angles.
2. Lighting is Key
Expensive lighting equipment isn’t necessary when you have access to a bright open window. In fact, natural light is often best. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything. Simply find a nice spot outside your restaurant, or a counter close to a big window, and wait for a cloudy day. Contrary to popular belief, a sunny day isn’t actually the perfect day for photos. Shooting when it’s cloudy will eliminate harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight, and result in beautiful, evenly lit images.
3. Choose a Neutral Background
Neutral is best! Keep it simple, and make sure the area is clear and free of distractions. Ideal options to choose from are a light background, a dark background, or wood. Remember, these photos will be on your online ordering site, so the background you pick will affect your entire website. Think about your brand, and choose whether a light, dark, or wood background is the best fit.
4. Keep it Consistent
Consistency matters. When a customer browses through menu items, they should have an easy time reviewing and comparing options, if the only major aspect that changes are the pizza toppings. However, if the background, angles, and lighting vary in every image, your customers are going to have to concentrate harder to pick out their favorite pizza.
It helps to think about final use. What will your images look like once uploaded to your online ordering website? What do you want them to look like as a group? Here are some more helpful things to think about:
- Once the image is uploaded, will you be cropping it into the shape of a square? Will they all be cropped to a certain dimension? It’s frustrating to compose the perfect shot on camera and then realize once uploaded that half the dish will be cropped out! Keep the final crop in mind when composing your shots, and if you’re unsure, zoom out a little to give yourself some cropping options later.
- Decide from the beginning what angle you want to shoot from. Shooting from a side angle instead of from directly above can add overall interest to the image. However, if you shoot from this angle for the first dish, you should continue to take photos from the same angle to maintain consistency. Using an inexpensive tripod can help with this immensely.
- Once you’ve chosen a background, stick to it. It will be pleasing to the eye if the background stays relatively the same. If you are unhappy with the counters in your restaurant, put a wooden cutting board or peel under your dish. The wood tones will look warm and natural without becoming distracting.
The same goes for the lighting. Pick a spot, and stick to it! Try to shoot at the same time of day and with similar sky conditions to make the lighting look consistent. When you see the finished product, you'll be glad you paid attention to this.
Need tips for writing menu descriptions to pair with your images? Download "6 Steps to Creating the Perfect Menu Description."
5. Details Make The Difference
A small detail that may not seem consequential in person may actually be a distraction in the photo. Here are a few elements to keep in mind when arranging food for the shot:
- Only use the best looking ingredients. This dish is meant to be eaten visually, and using vibrant color varieties in your dish can make it really pop.
- Is the food at its best? A pizza that is pulled fresh out of the oven with the cheese melted and glistening and the steam rising off of it will look much more appetizing than one that’s been sitting out for a few hours and gone cold.
- Make sure both the background and the plate are clean. Trust me, you will notice that smudge on the plate and the dirty napkin in the background later.
- Garnish your dishes. This can range from adding a sprinkle of green parsley or green onions to the top of a dish, an edible flower to a dessert, or even a piece of freshly toasted, home-baked bread on the side. But this leads us to our next rule.
6. Be Authentic
There’s nothing worse for a customer than being served a meal that looks nothing like the menu photo. When you plate your dishes for a photo, think about elevating the meal’s appearance without actually altering the dish itself. Adding an extra food item to the photo that won’t be served is a sure way to disappoint your customers. Make it look delicious, but keep it authentic.
7. Edit for the Best Results
It’s cheaper and easier than ever to download a free editing app to your phone to touch up your photos. After editing, you want your menu photos to look bright, colorful, and sharp.
If you’re not sure where to start when editing, begin by boosting the vibrance a bit, slowly sharpen the image by increasing the clarity and contrast, and decrease dark shadows. Remember: a small adjustment goes a long way. Dragging a slider to an extreme will almost certainly make your photo look over-edited—subtlety is key.
There are a couple of free editing apps we recommend that can be downloaded to your phone, and are easy to use:
- Lightroom Mobile
- For a great video tutorial on editing food photography on lightroom mobile, check out The Bite Shot on YouTube.
- Like Lightroom Mobile, VSCO allows you to quickly import photos and use sliders to adjust lighting, contrast, color and more.
8. Use Placeholders in the Short Term
Don’t have time to take quality photos, but you need your site up and running? There’s a lot of that going around these days. Although well presented food photos will sell better than anything else, if you have to postpone taking them for now, use a placeholder image that represents your brand. That will look better than leaving the image blank, or using a generic “image coming soon” placeholder. Some creative placeholder photo ideas:
- Take a nice photo of a box lid, a plate, a menu, or another object showing your logo.
- Take a shot of a pizza pan, peel, or an object in your store that represents your brand, and use an editing app to put “image coming soon” text over it (in your brand colors, of course).
That’s it! If you’re looking to save money and capture some delicious images of your food for your online ordering website using just your phone, you can absolutely do it. Adhere to the tips outlined here and you could be surprised at the quality of images you end up with. Most importantly, your customers will love seeing a visual representation of their order. You may just see your sales start to take off.
If it feels like taking photos just isn’t for you, professional food photographers can help! Simply explain your vision to them, supply them with delicious looking dishes, and let them do the rest. This can be an investment, but again, having quality images under the nose of hungry customers can mean the difference between modest and jaw-dropping online sales.
Losing orders online? Take this online ordering site audit to find your weak spots.
Posted on Thu, Apr 09, 2020 @ 07:04 AM.
Updated on May 3, 2021 @ 7:55 PM PST.