How To Prep Your Restaurant for a Photoshoot

Posted by Brandon Tucker

Brandon was the Marketing Content Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2019 to 2022. He ensured the content we provided was the top-notch quality we are known for by staying up to date on industry trends, tips, tricks, and best practices to help our customers' businesses grow.

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Your ordering website is probably a major source of revenue, or it will be, if you don’t have one yet. Good photos are a big part of why websites sell, so it makes sense to hire a professional photographer and arrange a photoshoot. 

If you’ve never done this before, or even if it’s been a few years since your last one, you might not know exactly what to expect. That’s why we’ve put together this detailed explanation of everything you will need to do before and during the photoshoot to ensure you get top-quality photos from your photographer.


Ask Your Photographer the Right Questions

Completing a photoshoot is a team effort between you and whatever photographer you have chosen. Therefore, communication is of the utmost importance, which means asking them several key questions before the date of the shoot. 


What Lighting Equipment Do You Use?

The first of these questions should be what kind of equipment the person has available. In any type of photography, but especially with images of food and beverages, the lighting is absolutely crucial. If your restaurant doesn’t have a lot of natural light, there are still effective lighting alternatives available, but these are going to require your photographer to provide lighting equipment. Some must-have lighting features include strobes, wireless flashes, reflectors, and diffusers.


Are You Going to Bring Your Own Props?

You should also ask them what props they are going to bring along. Do they have nice white plates or beautiful wooden cutting boards to bring along? If not, you might need to provide your own. The backdrop is another important prop that you’ll need to discuss beforehand. Even if you like how your tables look, they might not photograph well with your dishes, which means you or the photographer will need some kind of plain cloth backdrop during the photoshoot. 


What Services Are Included In Your Pricing?

You need to know what services you are paying for, and more importantly, which ones you aren’t. The original price quoted by the photographer may not be the final price when everything is said and done. That’s why you need to ask what is included in the price. Does that include prop use? Photo editing? Potential overtime in a longer shoot? These are things you need to know before signing an agreement. 

You also need to ensure you have the right to use the images the way you’re planning. Some photographers include usage rights in their contracts, so if you plan to use the images in multiple ways, make sure you have the right permissions. 


How Long Will It Take to Get the Finished Photos?

As a restaurant, every day that goes by where you don’t have photos of your food on your website and/or menu is going to hurt your business. 

Speedy Tip

Putting an image next to a dish explanation boosts the sales of that item by an average of 6.5%.

So you can’t afford to wait too long to get your finished photos from the photographer. Ask your photographer what the turnaround is going to be, and try to find someone who can get the photos back to you within a week of the shoot.


Are You Properly Insured?

Photography is a business, and like any good businessperson, your photographer needs to be properly insured before doing any work for you. Otherwise, liability can fall on your shoulders if an accident were to occur. Considering how dangerous a restaurant environment can be, you definitely don’t want an uninsured photographer on the premises. 

These are the four types of insurance your photographer should have before entering your restaurant:

  • Professional liability
  • General liability
  • Business property insurance
  • Electronic data loss insurance


Create a Shot List

While the photographer is going to be responsible for deciding on a lot of the finer details of each shot (i.e. lighting, angle, backdrop), you are going to need to decide the subject of your photos. This requires creating a shot list that includes what dishes and drinks are going to be photographed, and any exterior or interior shots of the restaurant you would like. Remember to include a description of who is in the shot, if some will include employees. Distribute this list to the photographer beforehand, so that they have time to prepare.


Decide What the Photos Will Be Used For

It is important to tell the photographer exactly where you will be publishing the photos. Depending on whether they are going on your menu, website, brochures, or wherever else you might put them, it will affect how the photographer takes the images. 

For example, photos to be used on your website are typically going to be shot in landscape mode. However, the photos on your menu will be better in portrait mode due to the limited horizontal space of a physical menu or phone screen (in the case of digital QR code menus). Images on things like menus or coupons will also require a higher resolution. 

If you need some content for social media, then you should request that the photographer capture images involving various members of your team and have “customers” sitting at tables, looking at menus, and being served by employees. For Instagram sizing, these images are going to need to be between 1080 X 608 pixels and 1080 X 1350 pixels. Otherwise, you risk cutting off crucial parts of the photos and ruining what was originally a beautiful shot. 

Scrolling through Instagram on an iPhone

Before getting any photos taken specifically for your online ordering site, you will need to first check with your online ordering provider to get the required specifications. Oftentimes, online ordering images will need to be a certain file type and size. So if you don’t check these requirements beforehand, you risk none of the photoshoot images being usable on your online ordering site.

Speedy Tip

Custom SpeedDine ordering site images must be available in both 280x237 and 280x327 pixels, and then be converted to a web-optimized JPG with a high or medium-high compression.


Book a Time That You Aren’t Busy

When it comes time to book your photoshoot, you’ll need to be strategic about the day and time that you select. You obviously don’t want a photographer trying to arrange a bunch of props and equipment in the middle of a lunch rush. If there’s a day where the restaurant is closed, this may be the best option. Otherwise, try to pick a time where you are less busy to make the entire process go more smoothly.


Coordinate Food Preparation With Your Photographer

Once you’ve developed a shot list, you’ll know the various dishes that are going to be photographed. From there, you can put your intimate familiarity with these dishes to good use and plan out the order in which they should be prepared. 

While it’s not uncommon for food to sit in a pass-through for several minutes before being given to the customer, you can’t do this during a photoshoot. Every second that goes by will drastically impact the visual quality of the food, which means you have to transition the food from the kitchen to the staging area as quickly as possible. By openly communicating with your photographer during the shoot, you’ll know how long it will be until they are ready for the next dish. 


"I actually hired someone that was a food photographer, specializing in food. And I got to tell you, he was picky. The first shot when he had to get the first pizza shot, he made me make that pizza about four or five times, the first pizza. He's like, "Remake it. Remake it." He was trying to get that perfect angle and positioning the toppings exactly right.

"They're doing that because they're emphasizing everything that that burger has. They have to show the lettuce, tomatoes, the onions, all that stuff. So even on a pizza, the way you serve a pizza to your customer ... This is a big tip for everyone:

"The way you serve a pizza, you can't photograph that pizza because everything looks mixed in. The cheese on top of all the toppings. You can't even tell what kind of toppings it is. That's when you serve a pizza. So you're not going to grab that and say, "Okay, let me photograph this," and it's going to look good. Because you won't even be able to tell what kind of toppings that item has, you know?

"So a food photographer specializes in that, so they'll make sure that you put a little bit of cheese under at first. Sauce, cheese, and then a little bit of toppings. They move the toppings around to emphasize and it shows each topping. You have to do those kinds of things."

- Domenick Colandrea, King's Pizza Pronto in Building Your Brand Experience: Online Ordering



Consider Getting Additional Photos Taken

As a restaurant, there are plenty of opportunities to use photos of your food, as well as your staff and building too. So rather than having to get a photographer to come back at another time, it can be convenient to include these other types of photos as part of your food photoshoot. 

But don’t just drop this detail on your photographer last minute. They need to account for the time it takes to capture the additional photos, and it might also cause the total price to increase from what you were originally quoted. And if you’re going to involve your staff in the photoshoot, then make sure to warn them ahead of time so that they can look their best, and ask them to sign a photo release (there are plenty of free examples online). 


"We do a lot of lifestyle and ingredients shots as well so we can use that on our social media, so that all the branding and all the pictures are consistent with what we're using for our branding and for our online ordering."

- Todd Vierra, Spinato's Pizzeria in Building Your Brand Experience: Online Ordering


The bottom line is that you and your photographer are a team, and should work together as one during a photoshoot. By asking the right questions beforehand, keeping open communication about what is going to be photographed, and coordinating everything on shoot day, you can ensure that you get the best final product from your food photoshoot. 

Once you have your photos, you should consider putting them on your ordering site to improve the online ordering experience for your customers. And while you’re at it, why not use our online ordering audit to identify other ways you can improve your site?

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Posted on Wed, May 05, 2021 @ 08:05 AM.
Updated on April 27, 2023 @ 6:49 PM PST.

Tags: Restaurant Marketing, Food Photography, Menu Photography

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