Bird's-Eye View Photography Spreads from Food Blogs to Brand Imagery


By Julie Beall, Associate Creative Director at Propac 

 

If social media platforms like Instagram and tutorials from Tasty have proven anything, it’s that America has become a nation of visual eaters.

We’re also photographing and sharing pictures of our food like never before because, well, if our friends didn’t see the triple-layer tiramisu we had for dessert, did we really enjoy it?

And there’s a particular design style that’s become the go-to method for showcasing everything from home-cooked creations to quick recipes to fine dining. It’s the bird’s-eye view, and its influence is reaching beyond the plate and into media, marketing, packaging and retail. Haven’t piled onto the trend yet? Read on for ways to catch up.

Overhead photography isn’t a completely new phenomenon. The advertising industry has taken the so-called “god’s-eye view” for years, liberally using the shooting style for a variety of products, as have beauty and fashion magazine layouts. In the TV cooking realm, overhead shots go all the way back to Julia Child and Graham Kerr.

But the trend has modernized, adding a millennial-targeted twist and spreading at the breakneck speed of social media. And further, it’s become democratized, made ubiquitous by a smartphone in every pocket.

Examples are easy to find. Foodie bible Bon Appetit and lifestyle publication Thrive are packed with overhead shots, while renowned chefs like Daniel Watkins and restaurant chains such as Pei Wei Asian Diner are taking the view from above in their ads, social media feeds and promotions.

              

It was just a matter of time, then, that consumer packaged goods joined the fray. Some, like Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Quaker Oats, Campbell’s Soup, Frito-Lay and Kellogg’s, have incorporated overhead photography into their ads, websites, packaging and point-of-sale materials.

But the majority of brands have been slow to react to this buzzworthy development. In fact, they’ve remained on the sidelines, missing out on their chance to speak to millennial consumers largely responsible for reviving the craze around this visual aesthetic.

That coveted demographic has been flocking to recipe videos shot in this style, with studies showing that 68 percent of them buy food products they see featured there, according to research from Millward Brown Digital/Firefly/Google. Nearly 70 percent of millennial moms watch food videos every week, and 68 percent of them watch videos while cooking. 

Three out of four millennial women are open to watching branded food content, but close to half (43 percent) haven’t done so, representing an untapped market for brands, the Millward study shows. 

These are just a few top-line reasons to invest in this design sensibility, which sheds the overly composed, manufactured images of the past for a more authentic, honest, up-close-and-personal result.

But what if you, as a packaged goods brand, aren’t using overhead photography? Should you? The definitive answer is yes, especially if you’re targeting millennial consumers. Is it too late to catch up? The good news is it’s not.

Here are some tips for getting started, from researching the area to avoiding the pitfalls of interpreting the trend badly:

  • Follow trendsetters on social media, like well-known chefs, prominent bloggers, food photographers and stylists, and other CPG companies
  • Watch Tasty videos to see how consumers interact with that content and read the comments they leave. What do they criticize? What do they value?
  • Study the craft of overhead photography and its qualities, like the importance of natural light and the benefits of negative/passive space
  • Invest in professional photography. Just because this trend was born on smartphones doesn’t mean that today’s discerning consumer will respond to down-and-dirty, amateur-looking shots
  • At the same time, use the opportunity to be authentic and unfiltered (crumbs or flour on the table, for instance). The influence, after all, comes from the accessibility and democratic aesthetic of the iPhone shot
  • Consider using typography along with food shots to tell the story, showcasing ingredients or flavor cues or highlighting other trends like sustainability or better for you. Make the visual connection between benefit and product
  • Keep it simple. Think about capturing the attention of media-saturated consumers, whether scrolling online or strolling in store. Go for the hero visual

Attention spans are short and competition is fierce, so brands need every advantage to stand out. That will increasingly mean full-scale revamps of packages, ads and in-store displays, mimicking the digital world and driving appetite appeal. It’s art imitating life, and it’s here to stay. So take that view from above and see what it does for your sales.

 

Julie Beall, Associate Creative Director at Propac 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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