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Food Photography in the Age of Social Media



John Yuccas’ photo of the fall line-up of drinks at Bar Lurcat.

Diners eat with their eyes before the food ever touches their lips. No news here, but what makes this sentiment especially challenging for restaurants these days is that the convenient and “cheap” way isn’t going to help win the social media battle. Which is why having your bartender snap pictures of his or her new fall lineup of drinks may not be the best marketing idea. 

In this social media feeding frenzy, restaurants should be posting at least once a day, says photographer John Yuccas of The Culinary Portfolio. And if you post that often you need not just constant content, but constant compelling content. 

Social media, along with the rise in popularity of culinary TV, have made how food looks as important as how it tastes. Baby boomers can remember when a sprig of parsley or an orange slice was a cook’s only concession to artistic plating. Now we’re seeing food that is so beautiful, you want to spray it with acrylic and take it home to put on a shelf (the culinary version of taxidermy).

 At the same time, smart phones have turned us all into photographers. But there’s a difference between the snapped picture in a poorly lit dining room and one a professional photographer takes. That’s why you’ll see Instagram influencers taking their food over to a window to get more flattering light. And then there’s manipulation with the filters that turn a stagnant shot into a mouth-watering image. 

Social media, especially websites and Instagram, is about telling a story, Yuccas says. People from out of town looking for a restaurant or locals seeking new options are researching your offerings online before they darken your door. 

John Yuccas

What you’re putting out on the web needs to be fine-tuned “or you’re giving up your greatest opportunity,” he says. But not every image has to be professional. “Cellphone pictures can be compelling as well,” he adds. It’s all a matter of “taking control rather than relying on in-the-moment snapshots.”

Katherine Roepke, president of Roepke Public Relations, handles social media accounts for numerous clients, including D’Amico & Partners. “Because quality photography can help bring life, depth and value to a brand, we work with many different photographers.” They hired Yuccas to shoot client Bar Lurcat’s fall lineup of drinks. “He has a great eye for detail and framing, and for light, using striking colors,” she says. 

In today’s crowded-content culture, attention spans are shorter than ever, which means quality photography is important. “We love that John specializes in food-and-beverage photography, and also is experienced in working with restaurants,” Roepke says. 

If you are asking staff to take pictures for social media, Yuccas says, you may want to protect your content by getting signed releases for their pictures. Sometimes it’s part of a server’s job description, but if you’re just randomly asking staff to post on the company’s social media platforms, you could have a problem down the road when they leave, he adds, especially if it’s on bad terms. 

We felt the same way  about quality photography with the Charlies—our iPhone snapshots aren’t always the most compelling images and don’t get us started on stock photography—which is why we were thrilled when Yuccas offered his photography services for the awards ceremony slide show and other photo shoots as may be assigned. 

You’ll notice a difference, but since he’s in demand, you’ll still be seeing the results from our cellphone, although we did upgrade our phone’s camera. 

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