I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the food delivery app represents a true wonder of our digital age. Who doesn’t love the almost magical power to have something delicious arrive, hassle free, on their doorstep? Those old enough to remember the awkward phone calls of yesteryear, tinged with the fear of mispronouncing anything more adventurous than a chicken korma, will sigh with relief as they tap seamlessly through the checkout of Deliveroo.
Now, instead of shivering outside the chippy, or waiting in the fluorescent glare of the kebab shop, customers lounge at home, scrolling through seemingly endless options for feasts, treats and healthy feeds. But how does a food and drink business, selling online, make their offering stand out from the rest? In this brave new world of takeout, it’s good to remember the old saying: “You eat with your eyes first.”
By creating photography that inspires the senses, food businesses can express their individuality in a busy marketplace. They can tempt customers to stop the scroll and engage with their menu, while allowing them to feel confident trying something new. In a competitive home delivery scene it is very important to accurately and attractively represent the dishes being served. Resist the urge to use generic or stock imagery as this may undermine customer’s trust and will certainly lead to some confusion. Instead follow our simple guide to putting together an enticing food shoot, and let your best dishes speak for themselves!
1. Look at what everyone else is doing
Browse the other businesses who appear in your category. This will give you a good idea of how they’re styling and presenting their food. Make a note of what works (and what doesn’t). A few things to consider would be:
2. Check the guidelines
Each platform has its own photography guidelines and it’s useful to get familiar with them while planning your shoot. Most agree on a few basics such as:
- Include a ‘hero’ image showing a range of your most popular or photogenic dishes
- Try to use natural or soft lighting – avoid dark shadows and reflections
- Top down shots work best for plates and bowls, while a 45 degree angle is better for tall food like burgers or cakes
- Take photos of each dish individually, and other shots showing dishes grouped for set meals, bundles etc.
- Be careful to avoid messy food and drips
Check out the advice for the platform you are using, as it’s important to consider the formatting and aspect ratios required. Some apps use a header style hero image, while individual dish shots may need to be 1:1 (square) ratio. We’ve included links to the guidelines for the big three, to make your life easier!
- JustEat Restaurant Menu Photography
- Deliveroo Restaurant Photography
- Uber Eats Menu Photography Guidelines
Deliveroo uses 3 different aspect ratios depending on where you are viewing an item
For best results, be sure to shoot with plenty of room around your dish. For Deliveroo it is best to upload high quality images at 16:9 ratio keeping the dish within the center third of the frame
3. Get organised
Set aside plenty of time for your shoot. There are a few factors that will affect how long it takes. Think about the size of your menu, and whether you will have assistance in the kitchen or in styling and photography. Try to give yourself enough hours outside of normal service that you won't have to rush. It might be a good idea to schedule the shoot for a day when the kitchen will be closed in case things overrun.
Make a checklist of every image you need to represent your menu. Think about the staging and whether these dishes (or groups of dishes) will look best in top down or 45 degree angles. If you need any header images or long crops, make sure to note this down too. Knowing exactly what you need and being as organized as possible will help things flow on photoshoot day.
Plan to shoot any ‘tall’ food, like burgers or cakes, from a side angle
4. Set the scene
The images you choose to represent your business should show what makes it unique. When photographing for online delivery apps, of course it is important that the food takes center stage. However, very simple styling touches can do a lot to reflect the personality of your restaurant. Here are a few ideas for showing your flavour to the world:
- Gather a selection of tableware to compliment your dishes. It’s good to have an interesting range of plates, bowls and boards that work well together, even if they don’t strictly match. For example, a selection of earthenware plates in varying muted tones, or plain white crockery in many different shapes
- Pay special attention to the styling of your ‘hero shot’ as this is both the first thing customers will see, and a real chance to get creative
- Surfaces and backdrops can do a huge amount to enhance a basic image of a dish. By choosing a few vinyl backdrops in complementary styles, you have the option to easily switch things about as you shoot. This keeps the visual of the menu fresh and exciting
- If you have uniquely designed, branded packaging, this could be included, especially for fast food offerings
- Try to collect a few options for glassware, napkins, cruet & serveware; Anything that might come in useful on the day to add a subtle hint of individuality to your shots
- For a consistently on-brand look, consider custom backdrops. Either choose your colours, or upload a logo to create a repeating design
Tableware and backdrops can be used to add eyecatching color and personality to a shoot
5. Make it happen
On the day of the shoot, you should spend some time making sure that the lighting is just right. Once this is sorted it should be a simple case of following your very organized plan! Some extra tips would be:
- When setting up, be sure to have an area where you can lay out any props, extra crockery and styling items. Having everything visible and on-hand makes it easy to reach for when the shot is lacking that ‘little something’
- Try to work as quickly as possible when photographing hot food. Dishes left hanging around too long may start to look tired and sad, so factor this in when shooting your hero and multiple dish shots
- It can be beneficial to divide individual dish shots into ‘top downs’ and ‘side on’s’, especially if you are using a variety of light sources
- Keep some sheets of white card or foam core on hand. These can be placed out of shot to reflect light back into the scene, combatting dark shadows or unsightly reflections in glassware and cutlery
Use reflectors, silver card or white foam core to reflect natural light and soften shadows
6. The Edit
Now the shoot is complete, it’s time to go through the files and pick your winners. Food photography for online delivery apps is intended to be clear and descriptive. This means that too much moody editing is probably not a great idea. Instead keep things simple with a few tweaks to bring out the best qualities of your images.
Subtle adjustments to the brightness, colour balance, levels and shadows of a light background shot can make it cleaner and fresher, without becoming unnatural
- During the editing process, it can be difficult to judge how your shots will look on the app, and how the hero shot will compare to others. When adjusting exposure, it is handy to keep a good example (from the competition) open in another window. This way you can correct to a similar level. Even slight variations in brightness and vibrance can make some food images look dull and others appealing
- The contrast slider is tempting, but you will get a more subtle ‘pop’ by adjusting the colour balance. Move the shadows slightly towards blue and cyan, and the highlights further towards yellow and red
- If your shot includes a wooden tabletop (or wood style backdrop) it may benefit from a warming filter for added richness
- Keep an eye out for harsh, dark shadows, especially in bright or light background shots. Use the shadow/highlights adjustment to soften anything too distracting
- Don’t crop too close. For individual dishes it is good to keep at least a border of tabletop/backdrop in shot
The Final Takeaway
We hope these tips will help you create some mouthwatering images for your online food delivery business. Take a look at our range of textured and coloured vinyl backdrops for a bit of inspiration in setting your table scene. Plus, don’t forget that preparation and simplicity are the essential ingredients for a really successful menu photoshoot.
Now let’s get cooking!