Uber is proof that new technology and innovative thinking can take an entire industry by storm. Obviously they aren’t the only ride-sharing company but they certainly are the largest. Launching in 2009, they are currently valued at over $50 billion. It’s an amazing company that created an infrastructure of millions of drivers in metropolitan cities around the world. It should come as no surprise that Uber decided to utilize this network in other areas and now they have with UberEATS.
Delivery drivers for food is nothing new. It’s almost hard to imagine eating a pizza without having it brought to my home, to the studio on a photo shoot, or during a meeting with fellow photographers. For my wife, it’s Chinese food…The driver for our local Chinese restaurant knows us so well that every time he drops off our General Tso’s Chicken, he remembers the names of our dogs. Taking it another step further, there are other third party food delivery services who can bring you meals from restaurants who don’t have food delivery themselves. It’s a great concept and proof that entrepreneurial ideas can really create success stories. Companies like Postmakes, Grubhub, Caviar, and others have been doing 3rd party food delivery for a while now in larger cities. The biggest problem all of them have though is having a network of drivers in areas that can pick up the food and get it to the customer in a timely manner. It’s always been this inustry’s Achilles heel.
UberEATS solves that problem. Their massive system of drivers and their already well-designed phone app made food delivery a no brainer concept for them. Living in Las Vegas, I had never heard of UberEATS upon their initial launch because they were only starting with a handful of cities. As they started to expand into new areas, Las Vegas made the list. It made perfect sense too, as Las Vegas has a huge variety of restaurants ranging from family owned bistros to chain restaurants, fine dining restaurants with the “old Vegas” feel up to high-energy restaurants with celebrity chefs, and everything in between. My wife and I love eating out and experimenting with new restaurants and I’m lucky that most of my friends do too.
Before UberEATS launches into a new city, they want to have a huge menu of restaurants (no pun intended) already loaded in the app. As such, they needed photographers to shoot food for a LOT of restaurants prior to them going online. That’s where I come in…I was contracted to be one of the few local photographers in Las Vegas to work with local restaurants in their network to capture great looking food photos to represent them in the UberEATS app. I was excited to get this contract for several reasons; first, because I love the creativity that you can add to food photo shoots, but second, because I knew I would be introduced to restaurants all over Las Vegas for the first time. Best of all, I was getting paid for this…it was a win/win/win!
UberEATS’ goal was to photograph 100 restaurants in 30 days between three photographers. It was an ambitious venture, no doubt. As I’m writing this, I was a bit curious how many I actually shot for them in that first month and I was amazed to discover my count was 48. All my friends and family pretty much never saw me for the month of August of this year. Because we had so many different restaurants to shoot, the staff at UberEATS gave me a pretty organized schedule, keeping me shooting an average of 3-4 restaurants a day in geographically close locations. The only downside was that they needed the photos immediately after I shot them, so I had to rush home that night and do all the post-processing on the images within hours after shooting them. Their requirements were that I only shoot 3-5 dishes and what we call in the industry, a “Hero Shot”, meaning a masthead image that they will use to represent the restaurant as a whole. The shoots themselves were generally very quick. Unlike many of my other food shoots I do for restaurant menus, billboards, etc., I had little time to actually prep or light the dishes. These weren’t complex photo shoots where lots of staging could be done to make the items look perfect, so instead I had to do the best I could in a very short amount of time with minimal lighting effects at my disposal. Once in a while I could setup lights in the restaurant to get a desired effect, like I did with this shoot I did for Holsteins’s inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel, but most of the time I was using natural light with a reflector or two on the table using very low-tech methods to get the desired effect.
One thing I can say is that this assignment gave me a lifetime of education in a few weeks of shooting. I couldn’t rely on the ability to take a lot of time to do these shoots, so I had to provide high quality photos in a very short amount of time. My average amount of time I would spend shooting an entire restaurant was less than 45 minutes. On my normal food shoots, I could easily spend that much time (or more) shooting just one dish.
Aside from the crazy shooting schedule, the immediate retouching needs that were required, and the many miles of driving from one restaurant to another, this has been a really awesome project to be involved with. Shooting food is a lot of fun and granted, there are only so many ways you can photograph a pizza to make it look better than the last pizza you shot, the variety of restaurants I worked with was fantastic. I remember one day I shot lox and bagels at the Bagel Café, Shrimp Pad Thai at Ocha Cuisine, Pesto Turkey Sandwiches at PublicUS, frozen smoothies at Pineapple Park, and wrapped it all up shooting sushi wraps at SoHo Sushi Burrito.
Of course one of the benefits of all this networking is occasionally some restaurants call me back and book me to do more shoots for them. One such client is Soulfish Poke, who now has several restaurants around Las Vegas. Not only does their food taste incredible but their chefs put in a huge amount of effort to make their bowls look amazing too. As someone who works in the visual arts I can appreciate that how your meal is presented can be just as important as how it tastes and these guys do a great job at both!
So, if you haven’t loaded UberEATS on your phone yet, I highly encourage you to do so. Their drivers can get food to you super-fast and I can attest that for the majority of restaurants I worked with, the food tastes as good as it looks. Special thanks to UberEATS and the cooperation of all the restaurants I have worked with over the last three months in their amazing food preparations, wonderful staff, and making the process of photographing their signature dishes such a pleasant experience!
If you are a a restaurant, catering company, private chef, or mobile food truck and want to get some amazing photos of your food items, please give me a call today to get you the high-quality photos you are looking for. We can do food shoots for your menus, menu boards, social media, website, marketing materials, and more!