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!

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