Increasing the shelf life (or service life) of your food photography can dramatically reduce its cost.
You don’t need a calculator to compare the cost of a shot that lasts one year, to the cost of a shot that lasts 5-10 years. If you’re a regional QSR, that can make big difference to your bottom line.
Here are 4 easy ways to make sure your shots have a long shelf life:
1. Shoot big—at least 40 to 60 megapixels.
You need a lot of resolution to make food look good on a 3’ or 4’ window poster—even more for a 6’ or 8’ truck wrap. While you may not have plans for such large printing when you shoot, it costs much less to get it now than have to reshoot later.
As a rule, ask for the largest image size you can shoot. Somewhere in the range 40-60 megapixels is great.
What you want to avoid are images below 30 megapixels. Here’s why:
Photo 1: A 22-30 megapixel resolution image (what you get from a DSLR/35 millimeter) will pixelate when enlarged to common QSR POP sizes. This resolution is good for printing up to 16” x 20”. Maybe 20” x 24”. But only for a full image reproduction, meaning you can’t crop in. If you crop in and enlarge the image as shown above, resolution will degrade. And, so will your taste appeal.
Photo 2: By contrast, a 40 to 60 megapixel photograph stays sharp even when cropped in and enlarged up to a 6’-8’ truck wrap (as shown). This resolution can be obtained by a Medium Format Camera which has a much larger light sensor than 35 millimeter/DSLR.
In addition to not limiting your future print size, the ability to crop in and enlarge areas for various taste appeal shots effectively gives you multiple images from one photograph. So shoot big.
2. Avoid in-camera focus effects and contrast lighting.
In-camera effects, like shooting a burger in a dark shadowy environment or a soft focus, remove information from your photography. This limits the lifespan of your imagery because you are stuck with using them pretty much as-is.
You can, however, add these effects easily in retouching. So, shoot your images in even light. Capture all the information you’ll need. Add effects after the shoot with retouching.
3. Avoid trendy props/colors.
Trendy props or set colors will date your photographs. How do you spot a trendy color? If your set background matches your Art Director’s scarf, it’s trendy. Instead, stick to classic looks that will remain relevant for at least five years.
Classic sets and colors tend to be the most familiar and natural. They don’t distract. A minimalist set, for example, is appealing for its clean, white and airy look.
Another approach is to stick with brand colors, or versions of your brand palette, as you will be unlikely to change them.
4. Get unlimited image use.
Last, but certainly not least, make it clear from the start: when the shoot is done, you own the images.
The cost to properly document and track royalty photo assets alone will more than cover any upcharge you pay a photographer for full rights. Not to mention penalty fees for any image you accidentally run without paying a royalty.
Good food photographers know you will need to use the images for everything from Internet ads and billboards to coupons and menus, and are usually happy to accommodate you.
In short: make sure the following sentence appears on any photography estimate/contract you sign: CLIENT RETAINS FULL AND UNLIMITED RIGHTS TO ALL IMAGES SHOT IN PERPETUITY.
Hope you find these thoughts useful in your efforts to get the most out of your food photography.