Is food photography important?

We all know first impressions count.
And we all know that we eat with our eyes first.

So thinking about these two statements, it’s straightforward to assume that photography can play an important role in restaurant marketing.

But how important is it, really? And what type of value can we place on photography? Can a restaurant justify spending $1k, $2k, $5k on a photoshoot? And would it make a difference?

To answer those questions, it will depend upon the intended use and placement. We’ll take a look at some common marketing channels and try to quantify the value using standard digital marketing metrics.

Press Releases

In the extremely competitive world of public relations, where editors are bombarded with amazing concepts, new openings and quirky ideas, submitting press releases with bad images simply won’t do.

Renae Smith of The Atticism, a Sydney-based PR Agency says, “When consulting with businesses, we almost always include budget for a professional shoot, even if we’re told they have some ‘pretty good images.’  We work with photographers who submit images to the media almost daily so we know what sort of images work and which images get the right sort of attention.”

Great photos can make all the difference and unlike other forms of media, PR is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You either get the editorial piece or you don’t.

For this example we’ll say the editorial piece will have a reach of 10k views.


Bad Photo: 0
Amazing photo: 10,000

Click through rate:

Bad Photo: N/A
Amazing Photo: 5%

Visitors to website:

Bad Photo: 0
Amazing Photo: 5% of 10,000 = 500

Social Media

Social Media algorithms are complex, even more difficult to explain and impossible to give accurate numbers to but we’re going to detail what sounds reasonable. It’s more than a guess – having run hundreds of ad campaigns – we’re able to give indicative figures.

Great photos get more engagement. We all know that. But did you know that the more engagement a post gets, the more ‘followers’ the content is sent to. How many followers does your content get sent to? Well, it varies. It could be as little as 1% or as much as 1000% – depending on how people interact with it. If a post gets minimal engagement, the algorithm responds by sending it to less people. The opposite is also true.

This also occurs across multiple posts. So if your last 3 or 4 posts have all had high engagement, the next posts will probably be sent to more people. 3 or 4 bad posts in a row, and the next one will have lower reach. Momentum is important. There’s more to consider than the quality of the photo though. The content is crucial.


Bad Photo: 400
Amazing photo: 1500

Click through rate:

Bad Photo: 5%
Amazing Photo: 15%

Visitors to website:

Bad Photo: 20
Amazing Photo: 225

Website Conversions

Now let’s take a look at what happens on the website.

We’ve always believed in the mantra, “Words tell and pictures sell”.

Let’s look at a visitor who’s arrived at a restaurant website. There are a lot of factors which influence the booking decision; cost, location, menu, availability and of course, how good does it look.

Again, for simplicity and consistency, let’s assume that this particular website has 10,000 views / month.

Baseline stats:

They convert 5% of that traffic: 500 bookings
The average bookings size is 3 guests
The average spend per head is $50
The total revenue generated by the website = 500 x 3 x $50 = $75,000

How might that figure change with good or bad photography?

Bad Photo: 4% conversion rate or $60,000
Amazing Photo: 6% conversion rate or $90,000

…That equates to over $350k per year!

Obviously this is an over simplified model. It’s unlikely that badly marketed websites will get 10,000 users / month. But, what this does show is that any asset that affects the conversion %, even a little, can have an enormous effect on revenue. Here, a 2% swing in conversions is worth $30k per month.

Let’s now take a look at how traffic from the PR campaign, and social media, can impact revenue when using good or bad photos:


PR Campaign

Editorial and using good photos:
500 (website visits) x 6% (conversion rate) x 3 (average booking size) x  $50 (average spend) = $4500

PR using bad photos: 
A big fat zero – we didn’t get the editorial piece.

Social media:

Bad Photo:
20 (website visits) x 4% (conversion rate) x 3 (average booking size) x  $50 (average spend) = $120

Good Photo:
225 (website visits) x 6% (conversion rate) x 3 (average booking size) x  $50 (average spend) = $2025


For the purpose of this analysis, we can conclude that photography certainly does look like an investment worth making.

More importantly, this article shows how understanding your data and finding ways to improve reach, click through rate, website traffic and conversions, can be fundamental to a business success.

The larger the audience, the more justified one can be in investing in great photos. The more channels the photos will be used for, the easier it is to demonstrate the need for the best photos possible. If the goal of a website is to convert more traffic, then serious thought must be given to the photography and value proposition as a whole. Even the slightest change in conversion % can have an enormous impact on profitability.

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