There are many reasons you might decide not to hire a professional to take pictures of your hospitality business, but also many reasons why you should.
Moreover, you should not hire a professional photographer but rather a professional food photographer. The image is the most important part of a business and should, therefore, be treated with the highest care. A chef would agree that presentation is an integral part of the job. A great presentation will convince your current customers, but what about those who aren't seating within your premises? Sure, Instagram will already be full of flattering pictures of your dishes. You might think you are able to reproduce something similar for your website and social media accounts.
Here's the catch; you will produce something similar, but nothing special. You do not want your dishes to look like any other Instagram post tagged #foodporn. Your business deserves a style of photography that represents the business and shows your venue and dishes at its best.
However, if you are still inclined on taking your own pictures or very keen on learning about food photography, here are five mistakes you are susceptible to make:
1. Choosing the wrong ingredients & taking photos of the actual dish
This might be considered cheating, but it really means to save you some time and bring up the charm of your dishes. For instance, let's imagine for a second you are taking pictures of a dessert with a scoop of ice-cream. That perfectly scooped ice-cream will only keep its shape the instance of a camera click. One of the oldest tricks for this type of shot is to use mash potato with colourant instead of ice-cream.
Many other tricks include dark shoe polish to give a nice grilled effect to a steak and motor oil combined with spray fabric protector for a perfect looking sauce that will stay put. I personally had to once add olive oil into a glass of champagne for an exaggerated bubbly effect!
Taking pictures of the actual hot dish will not give you that desired steamy effect. Instead, it is best to take pictures of a cold dish and add steam - be it with powder or incense.
2. No concern about the lighting
Lighting is literally what gives meaning to photography- at least in greek. As such, it is also the hardest part. Not having a basic knowledge will definitely ruin what could potentially turn into a beautiful picture. You may prefer natural or artificial lighting and both are viable options, so long as one knows what the desired result is. Planning your photos ahead will save you a lot of time and provide you with better results.
3. Unoriginal angles
Straight back to the Instagram reference: you will certainly be tempted to take your pictures from the front or from the top, placing the subject in the middle. You need your pictures to tell a story, be inviting and be different. You want that lovely blurry background to be an insinuation of the premises. Remember you need no more show off your plates than you do your brand. Professional photographers will often offer you some pictures with a large amount of empty space on either side for you to include texts. This is recommended if you need to use these pictures on your website or for the creation of menus.
4. Ignoring picture quality and potential
Mobile phones have come a long way and undoubtedly offer better cameras than what the first digital cameras could offer. On the other hand, professional and semi-professional cameras are more affordable than ever. The secret to the latter? The quality of the picture will not come so much from your camera as it will from the lens. You will need a very specific type of lens for food photography. Secondly, you will notice that your mobile cameras, or the included lens in your camera kit, will stretch the image on the sides. This is due to the angular nature of included lenses and is definitely not recommended for food photography.
5. Not sticking to a style and omitting picture editing
This is comparable to the filming and editing of a movie. There is a thing in cinematography called colour grading. Colour graders will spend hours on end making sure that every single frame of a film shows continuity, no matter if they were shot at day, dawn, dusk or night. We could be talking about what most people call "cinematographic effect". Colour grading requires very specific skills and experience that only a professional can offer. You will want to make sure that your pictures provide a continuous story: your brand's story. Think of someone seeing your picture and automatically associating it with your brand. That is the main purpose of marketing and what your business needs so do not omit the editing and colour grading.