July 24, 2017

Breaking Through The Crickets With Food Videos (PODCAST)

You already know that pictures tell a thousand words – especially when it comes to your food products – but what about video? We talk with Brooke Lark about how and why food entrepreneurs should be adding food videos to their marketing strategy as well as how to actually make it happen on a tight budget.


Brooke Lark has worked as a professional food photographer and videographer for 10+ years. Her clients include General Mills, Nature Nates, Good Cook and KitchenAid, and she’s become one of the most well-connected and trusted foodies in the industry. Her work has appeared in dozens of cookbooks, magazines and digital publications. When she’s not playing with her food, you’ll find her mountain biking steep canyon trails in stunning Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jennifer: Brooke, thank you so much for joining us today.

Brooke: Thank you for having me Jennifer. I’m so glad to be here.

Jennifer: I’m so excited to be talking about the video side of the food world, because that’s just one way that we can all make our food products look amazing. I’m going to be really upfront at the beginning here and let you, and let all the listeners know that I am an absolute total neophyte when it comes to video. Just, again, start at the ground level. For a long time food entrepreneurs, we know that food photography’s really important, but what about this added component of video. Why should we be thinking about adding this to our marketing bag of tricks?

Brooke: Good question and I’m so glad that you’re a neophyte, because those are my favorite kinds of videographers to talk to. The first and foremost answer to that is that you should be thinking, you shouldn’t even be thinking about adding food video. You should be adding food video period is the single most powerful way to get your brand in front of people, because every single algorithm on every single channel is designed to capture the attention economy. The algorithm is weighted more heavily to benefit food videos, or videos in general, but, of course, we’re in the market, the business of food. So, adding food video to every single one of your social channels is not only a way to expand the messaging to your audience, but it’s a way to beat the algorithm that sometimes feel like they’re working against us.

Jennifer: This sounds so obvious, but now in my head I’m like, “Oh, so that’s when I go on Facebook now all I see are videos coming up.”

Brooke: Yes.

Jennifer: That seems so obvious, but, okay. That makes sense.

Brooke: There are so many food videos in the Facebook feed, because people love them. I always tell students of my classes that food video is the ultimate opportunity to give people both an escape from their regular work-a-day lives and a voyeuristic experience of being in our kitchen and having this experience that they are not having, because they’re sitting in a cubicle. We know that most food video, well that most video is watched with the sound turned off. The assumption is that most people are sitting at work, wiling time away. You’ll see a lot of videos on Facebook particularly will have the lower thirds, they’ll run captions so that you never have to turn up the sound. Food is such an obvious way to peek into another world without ever needing to turn on any kind of sound. It’s become just a hugely popular format, but it’s also a hugely successful way to boost your metrics, to boost your reach and to really get people, your brand in front of people in a way that food photography doesn’t even touch.

Jennifer: I can see also how food video, and again, based on your experiences, correct me if I’m wrong, but how food video would, could also make let’s say that your food product used in a recipe, if you’re showcasing that in a video it makes it more approachable than … I mean, food photography, don’t get me wrong done well is absolutely gorgeous, but is sometimes doesn’t look like I could ever attain that when I make it at home for my toddler versus some of the food videos that I’ve seen, it makes it look tangible. Like, “Okay, there’s basically six steps and I can do this too.”

Brooke: Yes. I think as brands too there’s this extension of what you’re saying, which is as a brand almost always one of the most important things that you are trying to do with your brand is educate people. How do you use it? Why do you need it? How do you work it into your life? Conveying that in a photo is often significantly more tricky than just inviting people into an idea that suddenly becomes incredibly accessible, because like you said, “I am sitting here watching it, in 30 to 60 seconds there is this meal.” Now, what’s at the front of your brain is this idea that was made with your brand. Instead of this picture with your brand popped up next to it and that tends to feel a little more advertisey than video.

So, video is a really organic way to say, “Hey, look at how approachable this is. Look at how much you need this in your life. Look at how fun this,” and you’re entertaining along the way. Lots of buckets are being checked from a marketing standpoint, from a social media, and a conversation standpoint, and from an education standpoint for your brand as well.

Jennifer: It’s like the trifecta for brands. It’s like what we all-

Brooke: It is.

Jennifer: … aspire for.

Brooke: Yes. It really is.

Jennifer: I’d love to know a little bit from you, about how did you get into doing video and when did you realize that this was something that you needed to add to your repertoire?

Brooke: Great question. I have been a food photographer for nine years and I work with a variety of brands and about a year and a half ago I kept noticing, in several food photography forums that food photographers would pop in and say, “I have a food video going viral.” In the world of photography and content creation virality is really what we use to educate and drive our creative and editorial decisions. It became really interesting to me that it was turning less and less about just posts going viral and more and more about video going viral. About the same time Facebook had updated their algorithm and it was clear that video was really the way to start reaching a mass number of your page fan. I panicked, because I am not, I mean, I can wield a camera, but I am not, I do not consider myself a filmographer or a video person. Tech just absolutely, I’d rather be laying catatonic on the floor than learn new tech.

I said, “Okay, I know that I have to do this. It feels scary and impossible and overwhelming. My life was already so busy with a full client list.” I just did not know how I was going to do it, but I actually have a 19 year old son who had taken several Adobe courses and become certified in them during high school. He was actually leaving for his job in 15 minutes and I said, and I knew that I would not have the attention span to actually pick this up if I had to sit down for a long course, because those workshops can be two, or three, or four weeks and I just, I cannot learn that way.

I said, “Go get your uniform on and I want you to teach me everything I need to know to film this video.” So we did in 15 minutes, we shot 2 videos, we pulled them onto my laptop. He said, “Click here, click here, click here.” Just unlocking the basics made it feel at least accessible. From there, I really fell in love. It ended up being just an even more profound form of creative control and being able to create messaging and a story.

Then, of course, you put it on your social media channels and people respond to it. So, it’s so much more satisfying to get a video up than a post or photo up. So, there we go. Now, every single post that I put in my own site and on the majority of client’s sites are combined photography and video, because it’s almost a waste to just do photos anymore. If we are going to do a recipe, or run a new product, or a new idea, or if we are trying to educate we will always consider video first over just photography.

Jennifer: That leads me to my next question. It sounds like, obviously if you’re considering them both in tandem at the very least that there are some real results with this. For example, when you put a video up on social media, you’re seeing likes and eyeballs on it more so than potentially just your average photo-

Brooke: Yes and it’s not just likes. You’re going to see immediate increase in reach. You’re going to see an immediate increase in shares. Video naturally, again it beats the algorithm, so you’re naturally going to get in front of more people, but the question that I find a lot of people ask is, “Then what does it do for my brand and is there even click through?” And yes, there is. From every single video that I have posted on my own site and on client sites that has gone viral, the attrition rate of click throughs has remained steady for up to two years.

Jennifer: Wow.

Brooke: For instance, last year for one of the brands that I work for we created one pot pasta. We knew that one pot pastas were trending. They wanted to feature a pan, so I said, “Let’s take this pot that you guys want to feature, we’ll throw it together, we’ll create an Amazon link to this product, and a link to your blog so that people can come and get the recipe.” We created the food video so that it would say, “Chicken,” but it wouldn’t say how much. We encouraged people in the way that the video was created to need to click through to print the recipe. That post to, was bringing in so before this time their blog would maybe have 1,200 to 1,800 views a day and as soon as that video went viral, we were seeing anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 click throughs for a week straight.

Jennifer: Wow.

Brooke: Then, that number has paired down about a week and a half in to somewhere around 5,000 and that 5,000 stayed strong for another month. From one video, right?

Jennifer: Yeah.

Brooke: To this day it’s still the top viewed post every single day. I’ve seen those same numbers on my own site where I’ll see 3,000% increase in numbers of views and those numbers will remain steady for several days if not several weeks depending on how I’m sharing it and where I’m sharing it. It’s almost like you can’t afford not to do video. It’s such a profoundly more accessible way to get your ideas and your product in front of people’s eyes. The results are phenomenal.

Jennifer: Honestly, perfect segue into my next question, because the listeners for this podcast series, most are smaller food entrepreneurs who don’t have millions in marketing budget and when we hear video we automatically think dollar signs and even if you’re saying we can’t afford not to do, but the reality is we’re also constrained by our budgets. Somebody might be wondering, how are we going to afford to pay a team to create this video for us? Is this something that we have to outsource to an expert? I mean, once I have the money I’d love to outsource it to an expert who can do this for me, but in the short term if the budget isn’t there, is this something that food entrepreneurs can learn to do themselves?

Brooke: Yes, really good questions. I would say that the first thing is yes, video can feel really terrifying and the going industry rate, budget wise is about $2,000 per minute of video. You’ll see that most video, food videos, if you’re running them on social media than the need to be under 60 seconds. Maybe you would assume that you have a $2,000 budget; however, one of the best things about food video is it doesn’t require a team. It doesn’t require a significantly high level of after effects or special effects. The actual base cost of most food video is quite affordable and you can find food photographers and food bloggers and I would never hire someone to shoot a recipe video that is not recipe centric in their art. That is the first thing, do not Craig’s List this. Do not just look for a film graduate down the road that has a fancy camera. That’s not what you need. You need someone who can style food, who understands the metrics behind the kinds of recipes that are worth developing, that are typically assumed to be going viral. There is a little bit of an art to it.

You can actually outsource for anywhere from $500 to $1,200 for just a standard tasty style video. It’s not as inaccessible, I think price wise as you might guess, especially considering that you can share and share and share across multiple channels and it will work for you. Now, with that said, if you want to do it yourself it’s surprisingly possible. You need a table. You need a really beautiful source of diffused directional light from a window and you need at least one camera. The Cannon, lower end T2is, and T3is, and T5is, and T6is. Those you can actually purchase at Costco for under $1,000 with a standard lens and you’re going to come away with great video.

I actually run a food photography group where several people have come up with some beautiful iPhone videography. It is possible to make it incredibly accessible. I think that there’s always a learning curve. That’s the benefit of outsourcing, is someone can walk you through and hold your hand and make it go away. If you have time for a learning curve and you don’t have time to hire someone to do your video for you, oh yeah, it’s a totally doable learning curve.

Jennifer: So, actually, something back for a second for the outsource piece. Question about, because you had mentioned the, both the importance of photography and the videos. If you were looking to hire somebody to do a video for you, would you also, and assuming you had the budget for it, would you also look for somebody to do photographs of that same-

Brooke: Yes.

Jennifer: … recipe, plate, whatever you’re doing and combine it all into one afternoon.

Brooke: Yes. Absolutely. I am a huge fan of cycling and recycling through content. I feel like if you were going to pay someone to go into the studio for you, you get video and you get photo and you have them get all of the angles. I can actually send you a list if you’d like of the specific angles that I think are really important in a shoot. Maybe you’re going to pay $100 or $200 more, but you are then going to have enough content to run ads, to run, excuse me, images on a variety of different social channels from Pinterest to Instagram. All of these tools that we have that are really, if not free, they’re very, very low cost ways to start building a visual image for your brand and interacting with fans and getting your brand and again, the education of your brand in front of people. Yes, I think that combining … If you are going to pay someone to create a food video, then make sure that you also get photography from that shoot.

Jennifer: Perfect. I’ll just make a note for folks who are listening, I’ll include, when you go to the transcript for today’s podcast, which you can find at smallfoodbiz.com, I’ll include that information that Brooke just mentioned about the different angles. I’ll also make a call out for, some of the cameras that she just mentioned. You’ll be able to find it in the transcript, but if you’re just looking for real quick, “I just need to get this info.” Obviously, there will also be a link to her website as well.

Because I did want to mention, speaking of learning curve and trying to learn something well, but learn it within a manageable time period, because most of us as food entrepreneurs don’t have weeks to dedicate to learning an entirely new craft. I did want to mention that you offer a 90 minute, I love that you call it a crash course, it just seems like … Again, the listeners know this, it’s like I’m a mom. I have a toddler. I’m running a business. I do not have hours, 90 minutes.

Brooke: I know. That was the whole thing is when I started, I managed this food photography group. It is growing so quickly. The only way that people had, they had all of these questions in food videography and food photography can feel so hard, so confusing and far off. Like you said, when you’re a neophyte it’s, it feels so far away. Just, again, going back to my own learning curve it’s like, “I am a busy person. I don’t have weeks to dedicate.” I was like, Let’s just create this really, really accessible way where it is the hot, quick, and dirty guide to get up and running and it is created for brand new videographers and food photographers. If you have never purchased a camera, I will walk you through. You are welcome to come in and talk to me on my, in my Facebook group, because it’s … If I didn’t have someone to hold my hand I would have not been able to even access this skill. It really is surprisingly accessible. Yeah, 90 minutes, done.

Jennifer: Perfect. Again, there’ll be a link to that course on this site. As always, I just want to make it clear that this is not an affiliate link and I’m not getting compensated for this. I just think this is a really good resource for food entrepreneurs, especially those who are looking to include food video into their marketing repertoire, but may not yet be at the point where you can afford to outsource it to somebody else. They’ll also be a coupon code. That coupon code is SmallFoodBiz with the S, the F, and the B all capitalized and then the number 50 after it. I’ll include that in the transcript as well.

Brooke: That’s $50 off, so …

Jennifer: Great. Thank you.

Brooke: Pop through.

Jennifer: Thank you. Brooke, you talked a little bit about obviously, you had your 19 year old son help you, but again going back to this learning curve, was there one or two mistakes when you started in the video piece that still stand out to you as great lessons learned?

Brooke: Oh, yeah. Those are some great questions. Yeah, I would say that I did not realize how much of, I had to learn how much of the video needed to be fixed in post. Once you video it, I would pull it in and then go through all of the process of editing it and exporting it and then I would say, “Well, I pushed it live and it’s not very clear, or it’s not very bright.” Learning that there is actually a significant amount of post processing required and just like you would filter a picture to get the right look or to pop the colors that you need popped or whatever. Video is the very, very same. Learning that process and learning what I needed to apply to make my videos look really high quality, I would say that that was one of the mistakes that I made from the beginning just because I didn’t know.

The other mistake is filming in the winter is just a pain in the head, because you have the cloudy day and the light will come in and come out. I had to learn … how to either … check the, my exposure, so that the shots were the same from shot to shot to shot and/or set up an artificial light setting, which I tend to shoot only natural light. I really recommend it. The coloring is just so much more beautiful, but finally saying, “Okay, I need an artificial light thing,” was the answer to the winter shooting mistakes.

Jennifer: I’m thinking as you talk about cloudy days, I’m based in Seattle, that gives us maybe two and a half months where we can shoot anything here.

Brooke: I know. Well, you might be okay, because diffused is okay as long as it stays diffused, but it’s when the sun will start blinking in and out. Your shots, you know, you’ll be pouring milk and all of a sudden the sun will come out as you’re pouring and all of a sudden you can’t see anything, but a totally bright screen, because the exposure just gone. Diffused stays good you may be-

Jennifer: I’m golden.

Brooke: … in the best place ever.

Jennifer: Yeah, we never see the sun. We’ll be fine.

Brooke: Okay, good. You’re stoked.

Jennifer: Brooke, I really want to thank you. For me personally, you’ve made this seem a little less scary and a little bit more approachable. Also, I think just reinforced for me the importance of doing this, because you’re right, this is all I’m seeing when I’m going on social media so shouldn’t I be doing something similar if I want those same type of results?

Brooke: Yes, for sure. I think that that’s one of those things too where you see it. You always see the front side of things coming through your feed, but you don’t necessarily see the backside. For instance, there are a couple of bloggers last year who just started adding video to their pages on Facebook. So, this is Facebook specific, but again, every single social media platform is designed to support video and to boost your video. Anyway, several of them who just started adding video last year grew their multitudes of stories where they grew from 10,000 followers to more than 1,000,000 followers in less than year. The results are quick and fast. The results are generally, fairly sustainable, especially compared to that feeling of sometimes you put so much out into the void and you just never hear crickets back. Through video’s one of the fastest ways to really break through the crickets.

Jennifer: That’s perfect. I love that, breaking through the crickets. That’s what the folks … that I talk to that’s our struggle, because as smaller food producers who don’t have the millions of dollars it’s, how do we break through the crickets and how do we get noticed by our target audiences? Thank you for sharing this.

Brooke: Yes, absolutely. Please you or your listeners, I am always available. It is a passion of mine to get people up and running to help answer questions. I’m an open book. I will send you a link to my food photography group, so if someone does want to get started and need help, I’m absolutely here to support.

Jennifer: Great and you know I will say, I personally joined that group, just because I wanted to see what was going on and I found it, I have found it really interesting to read about what folks are doing on the food photography world. It’s just giving me, even though I don’t ever plan to go out and professionally photograph food, it’s just given me some really interesting insight into things to be thinking about and how to do it and different ways to do it.

Brooke: Good. I think that anything that gives you more fluency in a topic helps you understand better what to ask for, what you really need, what you don’t need. I’m glad. I’m glad that you’re finding it useful.

Jennifer: Yeah, so thank you Brooke. I appreciate it. Again, to the folks listening, I’ll have it broken out on the transcript where we’ll have the transcript for this podcast, but then I’ll also breakout some of these resources that Brooke was talking about and call them out so they’re really obvious if you just want to go over there and quickly click on those and get that information.

Brooke: Wonderful.

Jennifer: Brooke, thank you for your time today.

Brooke: Thank you. I look so forward to continuing to work with you guys. This is so fun.

Jennifer: Great, thank you Brooke.


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