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Commonwealth Games necessitates tough love for Gold Coast food businesses


Sitting here at the Gold Coast airport waiting for my flight, I’m reminded of the broad spectrum of business types that many foreigners have been exposed to – and the importance that Gold Coast f&b businesses recognise this of their coming Commonwealth Games customers.

During my 14 years working overseas, it became apparent to me how insular Australia is in many respects. Some people will refute this statement, but it’s just how it is. As a graphic designer working in London, I recognised that Australia is many years behind the times when it comes to branding, for instance. Some cities have more progressive branding scenes (such as Sydney and Melbourne), but the majority of high street brands that we’re exposed to as Aussies are frankly, woefully outdated and often, just plain bad. Income has stagnated for so many years in Australia now that decent marketing budgets are considered a luxury by most business operators, though paradoxically, marketing is invariably the only thing that will give a business the exposure required for success.

Restaurants, cafes and other food & beverage businesses that are preparing to welcome Commonwealth Games visitors, must represent themselves with contemporary professional photography and branding. This is absolutely imperative. Business owners who are emotionally attached to their brand and it’s marketing collateral must audit their brand in an honest way, or have a qualified person do this for them.

As Aussies, we sometimes like to think of ourselves as the most progressive nation in the region, when in fact, this is simply not the case. Affluent Commonwealth Games tourists from neighbouring countries will have had plenty of exposure to food businesses with strong interior design, branding and food photography. On the Gold Coast and to a lesser extent in Brisbane, I still see f&b brands that consider their branding and marketing to be passable while their prospective Comm Games customers will view them as laughable. As the title of this article states, ‘tough love’ is what Gold Coast/Brisbane businesses require if they are to attract customers as hosts of the #GC2018! It’s only once you’ve removed yourself from this market for an extended period then return to it that you can see it objectively.

The good news is, the large number of poorly-marketed food businesses in the Gold Coast and Brisbane, make it easy to stand out and excel. This can be capitalised upon quickly by restaurants, cafes and hotels hoping to reap the benefits of being a Commonwealth Games host city. Over 650,000 visitors are expected for the games. This potentially represents massive revenue for the businesses that are prepared to entice foodies to their venue. The marketing spend to grab this opportunity is fractional and a no-brainer!

Get in touch today if your f&b business is preparing for the Commonwealth Games – there’s still time to see your investment returned many-fold, just as THIS recent client of mine did. #GC2018 – game on, Gold Coast foodies!   🙂


A fine dining dish of scallops atop pork belly squares, presented beautifully on a white plate with garden salad.

How this Gold Coast restaurant grew their online bookings 40-fold in 4 weeks

An image of the bar at The Lazy Lobster restaurant, Gold Coast. Food venue photography by Gold Coast Food Photography - Gold Coast and Brisbane


Here’s a very good example of how great marketing can benefit Gold Coast restaurants.
The Lazy Lobster is a seafood restaurant in Labrador. A large venue with a modern, fresh interior, it offers lunch and dinner guests a range of areas to enjoy – their cosy interior, bar area or sun-drenched (and air conditioned) window-frontage dining area that overlooks a stunning view of the Gold Coast’s Broadwater and it’s esplanade.

While the waterfront scenery alone is offered by only several other seafood restaurants along the whole Gold Coast, coupled with truly great food, The Lazy Lobster’s offering is very strong. Testimony to this is the almost 20 years that they’ve been in business (the equivalent of about 6 lifetimes in the restaurant game)!

Even so, an out-dated website and sub-standard food photography was letting the owners down for too long – an issue that they recently addressed by getting in touch with a good food photographer (moi!) and a good web designer, to get themselves quality image content that’s not repeated on their pages – plus free them of Google’s SEO penalisation for having a site that’s not mobile-friendly.

Take a look at the old food image they had been previously using across multiple website pages:


An example of poor food photography (NOT shot by me)!

NOTE: The above is NOT my shot!  😉


Wisely, the owners recognised that it was time to invest in imagery that did their fantastic food justice…

An image of a cooked salmon fillet on a black rustic timber restaurant table

An image of a plate of seafood pasta

An image of a cooked King Prawns served onto a black rustic timber restaurant table

An image of seafood platter served on a contemporary black stone restaurant table

An image of dessert served on a contemporary black stone table in a fine restaurant

Together with the owners, myself and my food stylist met to discuss a more contemporary art direction to showcase their food, it’s beautiful presentation and the generous portions that they still serve. The results speak for themselves and within four weeks, this Gold Coast restaurant’s online bookings went from one per month to 10 per week and still rapidly climbing.
Get in touch today if your Gold Coast or Brisbane restaurant’s reservations could use a boost like this.   😉

New ‘Pods’ cookbook completed!

Pod essence olive-infused ice cubes
A few weeks ago I was approached by a Sydney food publisher to photograph a cookbook for Lisa Bryant, titled ‘Pods’. Lisa has created a wide range of frozen ‘pods’, which are essentially ice cube infusions. They range from curry starters consisting of herbs and spices to throw into a curry pot, to alcoholic ice cube pods for cocktails and fruit-infused dessert pod treats.

They’re a great idea for busy people who want a frozen stash of meal starters, ready to go. Of the 120 recipes featuring in the book, I was asked to photograph 40 of Lisa Bryant’s creations for the image content.
For this food shoot, I enlisted the talents of Pete May – a very skilled food stylist who works in the the Gold Coast & Brisbane region. It was going to take a man of Pete’s talent to devise 40 different ways to shoot ice cubes and make all of them interesting and unique food shots!

During pre-production discussions, I suggested that we fill a baking tray with water and freeze it. This provided an excellent small ‘table surface’ to shoot a number of the shots on, which also allowed me to light an additional glass tray from underneath, giving a dynamic, illuminated texture to sit the pods on, while also keeping them cold.
Pete’s terrifyingly vast range of food photography props and textiles provided relevance and character to the art direction and our client’s were immensely grateful and happy with the work – which is always so nice to hear!

The book looks excellent (from all reports) and has been bumped-up from national release to international release for Christmas 2015. A great result.

For more info about what’s being touted by some as the next food revolution, you can check out www.ThePodEssence.com

Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 1. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 2. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 3. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer


Pod Essence Brown ice cubes with olives and serving knife. Wide hero shot by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer


'Pods' cookbook cover image showing frozen ice-cube creations and drinks from above on a black ice tabletop.

The cover of the new book


Gold Coast Food Photography’s new partnerships

Gold Coast Food Photography by Paul Williams-New clients and partnerships
It’s been a lonnng time between blog entries for Gold Coast Food Photography because I’ve been swamped with shoots these past few months – yikes! Plenty of material has been shot for upcoming blog entries though and the food scene on both the Gold Coast and Brisbane is looking very healthy! Some sample food images to follow very soon…

I’m very happy to announce that I recently won the Zarraffa’s Coffee account to do their food and drink photography, after a very successful food shoot together, showcasing their delicious new menu. By the time I had photographed the menu, I’d also eaten most items as they came off the table – some self-control issues there, so it’s back to the gym for me! Many thanks to Pete May, for his excellent food styling work for Zarraffa’s – full credit to you, Sir!

On the new business front, I’ve also secured a partnership with Burleigh Tourism, as their exclusive food photographer, so will be shooting food and drinks for the various fantastic cafe’s and restaurants around the Burleigh area. Burleigh Tourism is enjoying an exceptionally proactive new chapter in engaging local Burleigh businesses in helping them succeed. This is also great news for visitors to Burleigh and the Gold Coast’s development as a travel destination and lifestyle choice.

Another bit of great news for Gold Coast Food Photography is the new partnership with Gold Coast Food & Wine Tours. This is an excellent business model that’s had great success in the Brisbane market and is now coming to the Gold Coast. The concept is in the name and the info you need is here. So grab some friends, make sure one of them is a non-drinker so you can get into the wine and discover some of the great food and eateries that the Gold Coast has to offer!

A food shoot inspired by nature and shot in-studio

A beef hamburger/burger with fries sitting on a table ready to eat - Photographed by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams
Here’s some insight into how I like to approach my food photography, in the form of a recent example while shooting for new Gold Coast client, Jack’s Creek.

Jack’s Creek produce exceptionally high quality Wagyu and Black Angus beef. Because they’re an Australian company with true Aussie heritage, I’d sourced some native timber slabs that I wanted to shoot their cooked meat products on. While sanding these slabs down the weekend before the food shoot, I noticed that the tree canopy above me was casting beautiful shadows across the timber and I set about figuring out how I could recreate this light in the photography studio.

2 hours later, I had created some custom tools that faithfully mimmicked a complex gumtree canopy light that’s available to me any time of day in the studio. Once the lights were in place, this took the Jack’s Creek food shoot to the next level, by casting a distinctively Australian dappled light across the food products, giving their brand’s photography styling a completely unique and ownable look.
This is photography lighting that no other brand is doing in their industry, which is dominated by beef and other meat produce which has been shot against white, to make it look ‘clean’ – when in my opinion, this kind of art direction only makes meat look like it’s for sale on eBay.

Art direction and pre-production like this is one of the things that keep me busy with new business enquiries from clients looking for quality food photography – which is great. But greater still, are the Brand Managers for clients like Jack’s Creek, who recognise opportunity to do something new when it’s suggested – something special and then put their faith in us to still deliver on their brief. This is how not only brands, but creativity itself can improve, evolve and inspire everyone on the project.

Below are some of the results from the 2 day food shoot and I must credit the incomparable Pete May for his exceptional food styling, management, prep and cooking. Enjoy!

Nature's light canopy inspiration!

Nature’s light canopy inspiration!


A food photography studio table-top setup by Paul Williams of Gold Coast Food Photography, Australia

Reproduced in-studio.

Cooked beef ribs sitting on a table by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams Cooked beef rump roast sitting on a table by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams A raw cut of beef sitting on a table with herbs and spices by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams

Billie McKay wins MasterChef Australia 2015!

MasterChef Australia 2015 winner, Billie McKay



An ENORMOUS congratulations to MasterChef Australia 2015 winner, Billie McKay!

Billie was a Chef who I tipped as ‘one to watch’ from very early in the contest and she grew from strength to strength with each cook. Easily the most composed in the kitchen, she is a Chef who thrives rather than folds under pressure and has phenomenal skills right through to plating. Heston promptly (and wisely) offered Billie a job as she was crowned, and in doing so, a collective ‘Doh’ could be heard from restauranteurs all around Australia!

Even with some favouritism being shown by the MasterChef judges towards Georgia in the last 2 weeks of the contest, Billie managed to push on and show Australia that she is, as Gary Mehigan himself put it, the best Chef that has ever set foot in the MasterChef kitchen! Was this a tad awkward, given that last years winner, Brent was standing four people down from him as he spoke?! Perhaps, but who cares?! BILLIE FOR THE WIN! Wooohoooo!

Now, about that cookbook food photography, Billie….    😉

Gold Coast bar & cafe interiors photography for Scoot Airlines, by Paul Williams

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Scoot Airlines recently needed photographs of the Gold Coast and since I moved here in October and have shot for them before in Beijing and Tianjin, I got the call-up.

The brief was to shoot a feature for their in-flight magazine, which aimed to dispel the Gold Coast’s reputation as a wasteland of cafe culture. Sydney and particularly Melbourne, have very vibrant cafe cultures and tired of weathering judgement and assumption, Queenslanders are finally rising and proclaiming “We’re tired of being latte losers! I’ve just smashed 3 long blacks and I’m angry”! And so has begun a growing collection of groovy cafes around the Gold Coast, to satisfy even interstate and international coffee snobs. For Gold Coast locals, the scene has never bean brighter.
* Paul Williams issues no apologies for the above pun.

I really enjoyed photographing the various venues and chatting with the friendly owners. As a photographer, I’ve come to rely on caffeine as a post-production partner, so it was great to find out where I can get a good coffee on the Gold Coast and shoot some nice images for an old client and new contacts. You can check out the Scoot magazine feature right here.


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Dairy farm photography, Queensland, Australia

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There is sometimes a belief that farming photography in Australia is necessarily dull, due to the industrial subjects and rural locations being photographed. Recently I was asked to photograph a robotic dairy farmer in Queensland, for client Bauer Trader Media. Excited at the prospect of futuristic cow-droids with laser teats that this subject matter conjured for me, I accepted the brief. I was also excited by the challenge of getting some striking images from a subject that many may be tempted to shoot without much thought for art direction.

Rising at shit-o-clock for sunrise over the escarpment was well worth it, to catch that magic hour and get some beautiful landscape photography of a cloak of frost rising from the valley floor.
After briefly becoming the only man in history to be bullied by a cow, I was greeted by Farmer Greg, who was very welcoming and enthusiastic to see the “National Geo-style” shots that I’d taken (thanks, Greg)!

You can read all about Greg’s state-of-the-art robotic dairy farm here and if you are in the Gold Coast or Brisbane region, drop by for a guided tour. It’s an awesome way to spend a morning. Enjoy the shots – I hope they make you see farming, rural and industrial photography in a more interesting light than you’re used to…

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Deliciosa! Food photography for Mena Delights, Gold Coast

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Here are the results of a food shoot, taken a week ago for another new client on the Gold Coast.
The brief called for vibrant, descriptive shots of their delicious slices and bread loaves – and I’m happy to say that the clients are ecstatic with all 70 shots.

Mena Delights use quality natural ingredients in their gluten-free products, so I decided to photograph them using natural props such as lightly-oiled slate stone, native timber and hessian. These surface textures beautifully complement the textures of the food, caught the play of light that was crafted and when coupled with the talented presentation of Chef Eric, produced these excellent results.

And yes, I ate virtually everything as it came off the product table – and it was awesome! Food photography has it’s benefits!

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