All Articles Food Picturing the perfect meal: Trends in food marketing

Picturing the perfect meal: Trends in food marketing

4 min read


This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.

Chefs understand the importance of touching more senses than just taste with each dish. Perfecting the art of presentation is a vital part of the culinary learning process, and it’s an art that will never go out of style. When it comes to photographic presentation, though, styles seem to be changing even as food photography moves from magazine pages and menus to websites and foodie blogs.

One restaurant chain is going completely au natural in its new campaign. Domino’s is forgoing photo styling in favor of real pizza pictures, and the chain has even launched a contest asking customers to send in their own pizza photos for the chance to win $500 and a spot in a future advertisement. The pizza chain sees the switch as a move toward greater authenticity in its advertising, one that illustrates its “What you see is what you get” philosophy when it comes to the food.

Even on big-budget food photo shoots, stylists, photographers and food journalists are focused on creating art that’s more realistic and less perfect than in days past, according to last week’s Wall Street Journal. Tricks such as using Vaseline to hold perfectly molded dishes in place have largely fallen by the wayside in favor of realistic — but still mouth-watering — shots that aren’t afraid to show a few crumbs. The shift comes as consumers crave more authenticity in their meals, a greater understanding of where their food comes from, and a deeper desire to find organic produce and artisan meats and cheeses on their plates, one expert told the Journal.

Serious food bloggers know the power of depicting delicious-looking dishes in all their glory, and they’ve been perfecting their own digital food photography with varying degrees of success for several years. Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perelman’s passion for food comes through in the luscious shots that accompany each recipe, and the successful site even includes a section on her approach to food photography, complete with specifics on lighting and the types of cameras used.

Photos showing at least a few mouth-watering dishes are a must on any restaurant website, to give potential guests a sense of both the eatery’s atmosphere and the type of food they’ll find there, says Denver photographer Jessica Grenier, whose portfolio includes a sizable section of food and restaurant shots.

“Quality photos always differentiate people from any competition,” Grenier says. “Anyone can take a photo of food, but to make the food look juicy and delicious, and to make viewers hungry is a different beast. Viewers recognize when they see a beautiful photo of food and it therefore sells the food.”

More from Grenier on the art of shooting food:

On changing styles
There has been a definite change in the style of food photography clients want lately. It is less propping and what I would call “over styling.” Styling is still an essential part of the process though. A food stylist is an absolute necessity on most food shoots. They bring an asset to the table that makes the photos transform from a beautiful photo to beautiful food in a beautiful photo. I’d say, even though the shots take the same amount of time to produce, the style is going a bit more editorial and less contrived.

Amateurs vs. pros
The market for food photography for professionals is always out there. As far as it growing for amateurs, I’m sure it is, especially with all of the technology in camera equipment. However, there is a big difference between a quick shot of food and a stylized photo.

On the difference between photographing food and people
It’s completely different. I wouldn’t say one is harder than the other. In my opinion, food photography is more meticulous and patient work and people photography is more whimsical and storytelling.

For more examples of the essential role pictures play in restaurants’ online marketing efforts, take a look at Inspiration Time’s Delicious Showcase of 30 Restaurant Websites.

Have you found new ways to use food photos in your restaurant marketing efforts? Let us know about it!

Vasko via iStock