A diner encountering an unflattering photo of a dish is the digital equivalent of finding a hair in your food these days. So much so that the dining industry’s keepers—public relations professionals—are taking steps to educate chefs and managers about how to snap pics that’ll lure diners to their restaurants mid-drool.
“I’m not going to name names, but chefs and managers do things like post a bad photo of something taken under yellow kitchen light,” says Farrah Skeiky, the founder and creative director of Dim Sum Media. Her public relations and social media marketing clients include Room 11, Anxo Cidery & Pintxos Bar, Daikaya, and other area restaurants. “There will be dishrags in the background of the photo, and I’m like, how many things are wrong with this picture?”
Skeiky is leading an Aug.1 Instagram photography class, aptly dubbed “Standing on Chairs,” at Little Red Fox. The shop’s baker, Kandis Smith, is a co-host. The pair are targeting an audience of both front-of-house staff, like managers and bartenders, as well as chefs eager to post their creations. Smith and Skeiky will cover how to take an attractive iPhone photo, free apps that can improve images, understanding Instagram analytics, and more. The class costs $65, runs from 2-4:30 p.m., and is limited to 12 participants.
Since nearly every diner is an amateur food photographer, Skeiky offers a window into her class with three tips:
1. Always use natural light. Your phone will do best if you snap a photo on a table next to a window. The resulting photo will be much easier to edit, and it’ll look much, much better than the yellow kitchen light.
2. Avoid vague hashtags. #Cocktail could be used by anyone, but someone who’s part of the industry should be aware of tags that major publications use—like #imbibegram (which could help you land a repost on Imbibe Magazine’s page), or #talesofthecocktail.
3. Your posting time is crucial. A great photo of tonight’s dinner special isn’t going to do you any favors if it’s posted at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday. Pay attention to which times of day your posts have the strongest performance.
The class comes at a time when some restaurants are doing away with Twitter to allocate more time to Instagram, arguing that they see more results from visually driven platforms. Columbia Room opened without a Twitter presence, and is only active on Instagram. But Drink Company CEO Angie Fetherston says they’ll soon open a Twitter account to respond to customer queries. Radiator, the new restaurant inside Kimpton’s Mason & Rook Hotel, also skips Twitter, opting for a lively Instagram account instead.
Full disclosure: Skeiky sometimes photographs concerts for City Paper.