“A Picture tells 1000 words” This is a phrase used so very often but have you ever considered it in any depth. We tend to all agree with the phrase and it is so so true. Images tell stories, if you are in food & hospitality then you need to ensure that your images are telling the right story!
One image can tell you so much, it can convey
- show emotion,
- cause us to actually feel emotion,
- it describes the scene
- it portrays the subject
- it shows whether what we are seeing is a scene of riches, poverty or somewhere in between
- it can show relationships and bonds or distance between people
- it can tell us whether what is in the scene is looked after or neglected
- it can show youth or age
- it can show nature at its most gentle or at its most ferocious
- it can depict relationships
- The list goes on, and on.
Basically one picture really does tell a story, sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes to tempt us, sometimes to inform, sometimes to entertain ….
Rhys Faulkner-Walford – Head Chef very much in charge. We love to see the people involved, it helps us get to know the business, the brand and is so so important. Are you telling the right story about the people behind your brand?
Why the story is important.
Actually the story isn’t just important, it’s crucial.
Think for a moment about a restaurant in need of a promotional image for a new menu. As with anything else there are choices to make. You can ask a professional food photographer or you can take a quick snap. Let’s explore those options.
With the professional food photographer (aka professional story teller too!) your final image shows a beautiful dish, perfectly presented, in a smart location where people are obviously enjoying themselves in what looks like a great environment.
Equally you could just take a quick photo. That image could have been taken without regard to the situation, after all you are in the middle of service and its busy. Without the knowledge of how to deal with light, angles and composition then the resulting image may be one steeped in that awful yellow light that causes the food to look totally unappetising, the background could be cluttered and messy because the story and the composition of the story weren’t considered and the enjoyment could be missing, because it wasnt’ staged correctly. Believe me even the most natural photographs are ‘staged’ to an extent, even if they are candid shots, the photographer knows what they are looking for and how to set them up.
Given the choice which image would you want to use? Guess which one your audience will enjoy seeing? Hint … it won’t be the DIY one!
Telling the right story
It’s crucial in business and especially in food & hospitality to tell stories. Stories that showcase what you, how you do it, what your USP is, your history, your future plans, how good an experience you offer and more. The key is in telling the right story aimed at the right audience.
Get it right and you’ll see a transformation take place, you’ll get a great ROI in terms of sales, audience perception and reputation. Get it wrong and you’ll miss out on sales, that audience perception will be missing and it will hurt your reputation, like a bundle of bad reviews! Who wants or needs that?
Goat Burger Stack with fresh goat mince from The Goat Company, served in a Brioche bun, with lettuce, mayo, cheese, bacon, tomato and gherkin with a basket of chips and a glass of lager. What’s nicer than sitting down with a great burger, chips and a beer? Food imagery has to make you hungry, the right food image and the right story does just that.
How to tell the story
You can take images and something may come out that is useful. But professional images don’t just happen they are created, after lots of planning and thought has gone into it. It may look as if we just turn up and shoot (indeed sometimes we have too – then we rely on our experience) but mostly its pre-meditated after discussions with the client, a brief for the shoot and some research. Planning is so important.
To tell the ‘right’ story rather than just ‘any’ story, you need some background.
- What are the images about to be used for? Website, marketing, specific campaign ….
- What is the purpose of them? To showcase a new menu, a new product, fantastic service, the experience of staying at your hotel …..
- What are the key points that you need to convey?
- What is your brand all about? What is the vision?
- Who is your ideal audience?
- What feelings need to be conveyed? What do you need to get across (basically – what the story about?)
- Do they need to be a particular format – portrait, landscape, square?
- Do they need white space for words?
This could have been just the cake on the counter, but it deserved so much more. The cake itself was amazing, but how about suggesting stopping for coffee? The extra time to set this up made a huge difference and gave an additional story (or few)
That might sound like a lot of information and it is but that all feeds into getting the right images to fit what you need for the job in hand – and sometimes you need images for several reasons, if that isn’t all laid out then the chances of getting what you need is much reduced.
Let me give you an example. If you need imagery for a new menu and the graphic designer is planning on showcasing a quarter of a plate, but the photographer doesn’t know this, then you aren’t going to get the images you need because how will the photographer know that the key ingredients and story have to be conveyed in that quarter of a plate or that the image needs to be flatlay? Frankly they won’t, we tend not to be mind readers. But if they aware of this then they’ll be able to produce what you need. This is why we ask so many questions!
Whilst a writer sits down at the typewriter and waits for the words to come and constructs, sentences and paragraphs into a chapter which later forms a book. The photographer takes the requirements, their knowledge and expertise, a chunk of research and constructs a scene, then moving things about in the scene as needed, adjusting the light, checking the image off on a laptop – I always shoot tethered – where the camera is connected directly to the laptop – so that you can check intricate parts of the scene there and then. Next a few amends in post, careful post production, tweaking of the lighting and then the story is done.
The image story has to get across elements such as great service, an ultimate experience of luxury, a romantic meal, a fast meal, a great menu option, people absorbed in and enjoying their work, if it’s going to provide that much needed ROI.
That’s a lot of work for one image but so important because if you get it wrong and you tell the wrong story that hurts your brand and your bottom line. Getting it right and doing so consistently is the key to success.