Going In-Depth on a Menu Shoot

What goes into a menu shoot? Let’s take a look at the menu shoot I did for the Depot Grille in Staunton for an example.

Every restaurant is different, but there are some guidelines we can go over so that you can plan a menu shoot. The biggest question I get is what should we photograph? I have found that colorful dishes with different textures make for my favorite photographs, but it’s important that we show your potential customers some varying items on your menu. Here is what I ask when going over the shot list at every restaurant:

1. What are your best sellers? The description on the menu might sell itself, but we will want shots of dishes that everyone loves and will get you guaranteed customers.

2. What makes your restaurant unique? Is it your brunch
that’s available all day? A signature cocktail? Your take on a best
seller from another region? (Like Nashville hot chicken, but in
Charlottesville.) If you have something that sets you apart from every
other dinner experience, then that’s what we want to showcase. For the Depot, their chicken and waffles brunch option is definitely something you don’t find everywhere, and I also intentionally shot the lanterns into as many scenes as possible since they sit on every table and give some soft, romantic lighting to the scene.

Are there any dishes that might confuse diners? This is more common for
the restaurants in the area that serve food from other locales, like
Turkish or Afghan dishes, because the ingredients or preparation methods
are not common here, but could apply to anyone. If you have dishes on
your menu that don’t sell well, maybe it’s because diners don’t
understand what it might taste like. In that case, let’s photograph it
so customers can make a more informed decision.

What can we shoot to increase existing sales? Specialty drinks,
desserts, and appetizers are indulgent, and definitely deserve a spot in
the shoot lineup. Customers may not know what they want for dinner, but
seeing a drool worthy appetizer or dessert they can’t live without can
sway their decision from dining elsewhere to dining with you.
(Personally, I prefer restaurants where I can dive into crab dip, my
favorite appetizer. So I seek those out!) For the Depot, we shot a few desserts, but this shot of the ultimate brownie being drizzled with chocolate is tempting and will definitely be a popular up sell.

Once we
have a solid shot list of drinks, appetizers, entrées, and desserts, we
are almost done. But what else makes a dining experience amazing? Is it
your attentive waitstaff? Is it your candlelit tables? Is it your
outdoor patio? The dining space, ambiance, decor, and waitstaff all make
your restaurant the best place in town. So let’s add some shots of
these to your shoot as well. For the Depot, we had to get shots of their amazing bar. The intricate wood work, the exposed beams..you just want to sit down and have a drink there.

Now that we have a
solid shot list, we plan a date and time for the shoot so that we are
not shooting during your busy times. Everything will be done in your
down time, so that diners are not inconvenienced. If needed, I have
linens and non-reflective silverware that I can bring along to the shoot
so that every detail is attended to. Then, we do the shoot!

Blue Mountain Brewery Photoshoot

If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail, fly fishing the Moorman’s River, digging through antiques in Crozet, or taking in all the sights and spirits of the Brew Ridge Trail on 151, what’s the best place to stop and have a beer and a meal? Blue Mountain Brewery, of course!

I’ve had the pleasure of taking in more than one sunset out there. The mountain views are just breathtaking and the beer is officially among the best of the whole South. Blue Mountain Brewery was chosen as one of the “South’s Best Breweries” in Southern Living magazine and in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine 2020 “Best of the Blue Ridge” edition, they were voted by the public as Best Restaurant and Best Post-Adventure Hangout.  You’ll catch lots of people there grabbing a beer and a bite after hiking, many bringing their dogs along for the trip.

Full Nelson and Greek Grilled Cheese | Food Photography Charlottesville, VA | Shenandoah Imagery

So, which beer is their best? While they are known for their flagship beer, the Full Nelson, which is a Virginia Pale Ale that’s citrusy and floral, my favorite is the Red Zeppelin. It’s a Red IPA that’s malty, hoppy, and absolutely delicious. You can find the Full Nelson on tap all year long, but the Red Zeppelin is only on tap during the transitional period between winter and spring, giving you something to look forward to after the long holiday season is over.

Other notable brews are the fruity Simcoe Single Hop, the light and crisp Kölsch 151, and the perfect beer for stout drinkers, the Dark Hollow. If you’re the adventurous type, you can choose to get a flight and try them all. At Blue Mountain Brewery, the flight is a 2.5oz sample of each of the ten beers that are on tap. Perfect for someone who wants to try a lot of beer styles in one sitting. 

Blue Mountain Beer Flight and Kölsch 151 Beer | Brewery Photography Charlottesville, VA | Shenandoah Imagery

If you’re looking for a great choice for lunch, dinner, or Sunday Brunch, Blue Mountain is your new favorite spot. One of my favorite things about the brewery is their commitment to being a sustainable business that uses as many local ingredients as possible. They use organic chicken breast, local produce, meats, and breads, and they grow 1/4 acre of their own hops right on the premises.

For this shoot, I had the pleasure of photographing a glass each of the Full Nelson, the Red Zeppelin, and the Kölsch 151 beers, a flight, the greek grilled cheese sandwich with beer battered french fries, and the Dark Hollow Bundt Cake made from Paris Cake Co, here in Staunton. Food photography is easy when you have such good looking (and tasting) food to shoot.

Red Zeppelin Beer and Dark Hollow Bundt Cake | Commercial Photography Charlottesville Va | Shenandoah Imagery

Who is behind Shenandoah Imagery, anyway?

Hey guys! I’m Brittany. :) I’m thinking that it would be more fun for me to share extra photos in blog posts so that I can keep my portfolio page really diverse, and because I’d love to share all of the photos that I take. You already knew that I take really awesome photos of food, but did you know that I also love landscape photography or that I photographed my friends after they eloped? Now you do! In fact, over the years, I’ve photographed motocross, newborns, models, portraits, weddings, metal shows, hip hop nights, basically, if you could put a camera to it, I’ve probably photographed it and loved every minute doing it.

I’d always wanted to have my own photography business, but I was always convinced there was more for me to learn or do before I would be at that level. I think I have some clarity after all this time, though. I realized (finally) that there is no better time than now to do what you’ve always wanted, so here I am. I started doing food photography a year ago. My first images were of Valentine’s Day cupcakes from Paris Cake Co here in Staunton. I was so excited about the images I was creating that I went upstairs to show my fiancé the back of my camera, and our dog ate all of the cupcakes right off the table! 

So, why food? I think it was always in me to do commercial photography, because I really love advertising images, but I never really knew it because I was trying my hand at all the other photographic subjects. Once I got an off camera flash set up, and some backdrops, I was hooked! And food is just such a lovely subject. Food is colorful and you can make such dynamic compositions with it. It’s the perfect subject for me. And, if I’m lucky, I can eat it when I’m done! So, here I am, camera in hand, ready to make some beautiful, colorful, energetic, lively images of all of the best food in Virginia - from Staunton, my hometown, to Charlottesville, to Richmond, to Virginia Beach!

As you’ll see, my favorite thing to photograph is desserts (I have quite the sweet tooth!) but I am equally excited to photograph organic, local, sustainable, and/or healthy foods as well. My family and I eat as much organic food as we can, and we make a lot of vegetarian meals. Gotta start my toddler off on the right foot! 

If you see me around, feel free to say hi! :)

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