Customized Photography for Catering Business Website

Find out how I worked with Renee's Bistro & Catering with their website designer to create photos for their new website.
charcuterie board catering by Renee's Catering

Renee's Bistro & Catering Website Photography

This is a long overdue post, but I wanted to share how I worked with local business Renee’s Bistro & Catering of Putnam, Connecticut, to create a set of images that didn’t look like stock photos, but would also serve as their own library of images for their website designer, Road to Success Web Design

Sometimes iPhone photos just don’t do it, and especially if you’re a catering company, you know that getting food photos from your clients’ wedding or event photographers is hit or miss. There is a good chance that they might not even take pictures of the food. 

But anyone working in catering or hospitality needs to have images that showcase the food dishes in the best way possible. 

screen capture of entire website homepage of renee's catering website

Planning the Food Shoot with the Business

Renee reached out to me, knowing that they needed quality photos for their new website. I then met on Zoom with Renee and one of her managers to share examples of photos and websites that aligned with their vision for Renee’s Bistro & Catering re-brand. 

Previously, photos they had didn’t have a consistent look, or they were outdated and lacked technical quality. Their goal was to bring that vintage French bistro look & feel to their website. They also wanted the website to have similar casual elements as experienced in their bistro and office: touches of black wrought iron chairs, red linens, bistro lights, and eating comfort food. 

While my “default” food style is vibrant & fun, we felt that Renee’s Bistro & Catering needed photos that looked like they could have been taken with a film camera. So the style of these photos were a little bit more dark, moody, and mellow with film grain added. 

They shared with me a Pinterest Board. My meeting with them at the bistro & office was helpful, where we looked at various linens, dishes, and props that could be used. We also came up with a list of various dishes that would be representative of the food they serve to their customers, in the catering business as well as in person at the bistro. 

Because this project did not involve collaboration with any creative director or marketing agency, I worked with their team in planning out the look and feel for each plate. They had a huge variety of plates, bowls, and different things. I also brought a few fabrics and linens, too. I planned out the various surfaces and props we would use for each arrangement, so on the shoot day we just spent most of the time styling the food and shooting. 

A Styled Food Presentation for Photos

If you’re a food business, getting quick snapshots of food isn’t ideal because most often, there might be just a few visual things about the food that wouldn’t make it “picture perfect”. Here are some things that my assistant and I adjust with tools during a styled food shoot: 

  • The COMPOSITION: evaluating and adjusting the alignment and spacing of pieces or elements ensures that nothing’s out of place or looking wonky. Every leaf, steam, piece, and everything that has structure. 
  • APPEAL: if it’s supposed to be a piping hot dish, we make sure it looks hot in the photo by either adding steam, heat, or brushes with oil or water. We make sure sauces don’t look crusty. Or if there are fresh vegetables or herbs involved, we make sure each sprig looks perky and happy.
  • COLORS & PATTERNS: We modify the size or placement of props so that it doesn’t take away from the food itself. 

When I photograph food that needs to be styled, depending on the type of food, how many dishes, and the client budget, I could easily spend 30 minutes or more on each arrangement. I’ve even photographed a salad for a couple hours, because each needed to be placed with tweezers, to make sure every component was showing.

Cameras can capture so much detail, and like photographing people, so much can be revealed in an image, especially when enlarged!

Food Photos with People

I planned a separate shoot with non-professional models. I reached out to a family that were past clients of mine. I was looking for two couples in their 50’s, and one younger couple. To make sure that nobody “stood out” in the photos, I had them wear darker-colored casual clothing.

If you’re not sure what outfits your models can wear, you can give them a color palette, or tell them what colors to NOT wear. 

This is important, as it only takes one person to wear a color that doesn’t fit with the overall look & style of the shoot. 

During the shoot, I helped them feel comfortable and casual by encouraging them to smile as they talk. Since they all knew eachother, that was helpful! Without interrupting them too much (!) I would suggest them to position their arms or hands in certain ways so that I could get the the right natural food shots. 

Factors to Consider when Doing Website Photography

Usually website designers will create a mock-up design. If the mock-up design can be reviewed prior to taking photos, that is awesome! It is really great to keep in mind where the subject and focal point needs to be. Here’s a short list of things I love to know when doing photography for business websites:

  • primary messages to communicate to customers
  • the look, feel, and experience. aka “vibe”
  • the focal point of images. What should the focus be on?
  • negative space needed. Negative space are “empty” areas with minimal contrast in photos, typically to allow for text to “pop”. 
  • mood of human or pet models
  • vibrance of food or objects captured

If you love photography that looks different from Renee’s Bistro’s brand, check out my other work posted on my other pages!

headshot of ling messer commercial photographer

Meet Ling, the photographer

Connecticut native. Idaho graduate. Previous Oregon resident. Cowgirl-turned-photographer.

Story-telling photography business owner since 2013. Videographer since 2018. Photography with artificial studio lighting or God’s sunshine.

Wife, dog owner, and friend of many dogs and people.

Have an upcoming project for a client? Let’s chat. Whether it’s Zoom, phone, email, or in person over wine or coffee, I’m game. 


Ling Messer


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