Domino’s – We Don’t Need All Those Silly Tricks They Use In Fancy Photoshoots

Domino’s pizza recently launched Show Us Your Pizza, a website where consumers can upload photos of Domino’s pizza for a chance to win $500 and “the possibility of getting your photo in an ad.” The pizza chain is in the midst of a heavy image remake and this new campaign is a along the lines of the previous one where they issued a mea culpa for years of selling cardboard tasting pizzas. Now they claim to uncover the secret tricks used to make food look good in fancy photoshoots.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the agency behind the makeover that is surprisingly unoriginal and similar to the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty created by Ogilvy & Mather that claimed to reveal the hidden side of beauty shoots.

And, while I believe the rules for the contest and offer of $500 for an advertising photo are particularly heinous, nothing here strikes me as dangerous to the profession of advertising food photography. This is a gimmick plain and simple. Careful editing of the submissions allow only the most delicious looking shots to get in and the whole thing is slickly produced by CP+B to make it look like the consumer is now in control.

Because I tend to look on the bright side of things I chalk this up to the ebb and flow of styles in advertising photography and I see an opportunity for photographers who can shoot highly produced images that look off-the-cuff.

There Are 49 Comments On This Article.

  1. I particularly like that they are comparing a snapshot to a Cheese Pull shot

    Apples and Oranges

    I haven’t eaten Domino’s in Decades and not going to start now

    • @Von R Buzard, I thought that was exactly their point–that instead of giving you an expensively styled shoot, they’re showing you a real pizza shot in a straightforward way by a real person (ie, the cheese pull shot is an apple, and the snapshot is an orange).

      • @Jim Newberry, the original commercial shows the HUGE production behind what is the cheese pull shot of a TV spot. Which takes a lot more crew then a simple food shot. Hand Model, Screwing the pizza down so it doesn’t move during the pull, and so on.

        What I think they are really trying to say is that their pizza looks so good when delivered, that you don’t need a food stylist.

  2. That’s it? that’s the ad campaign? After a few months of seeing the cr*p joe scho is gonna shoot, i see there being a big recall of those food photographers. It’s just the youtube-isation of the world, but you know what, it looks cr*p.

  3. I’ve hated this “campaign” since the first day I saw it.
    My sister told me I should enter, but as a serious amateur (with some paid gigs) I would never enter any of these photography “contests” that are just fronts to avoid paying a professional photographer.

  4. Personally, I think it’s smart. Consumers are tired of the over-produced (and inherently dishonest) aspects of food advertising.

    It is my belief that more campaigns can be born out of this concept. Maybe instead of being mad about this (although I agree about the $500 thing being kind of sh*tty), we should embrace the idea and think of new and creative ways to produce work. Maybe it doesn’t have to be super slick and overproduced. That doesn’t stop the creative process (and in fact this can lead to even more creative advertising ideas).

    I’m sorry if I’m offending the food photographers out there, but honestly an ad with a good ‘cheese pull’ is about the least exciting thing I can think of. Let’s collectively try to be a little more original and creative.

    • An Observer

      @David Strohl,

      Where is the data that say’s consumers are tired of over-produced food images and advertising?

      Next time I go into a store and see some horribly composed and straight on flash image of a food product you can bet I’ll pass it on by.

      Give me a break! I don’t want to see poorly photographed food and if I am going to be enticed to buy a product it beter look fresh and tasty!

      • @An Observer,

        You’re missing my point. Yes this contest is stupid and won’t yield a decent photograph. But the philosophy behind it is good, which is that they don’t need to have a major production with 50 people working on it to get a good photo of some pizza. Say dominoes decides to do a print campaign featuring photography that is less produced and more “real”.. maybe something more lifestyle, naturally lit, etc (or whatever).. don’t you think consumers see that as refreshing? Aren’t you yourself tired of what is considered the norm in food advertising? Why can’t we mix it up a little???

        I don’t care to see a picture of some pizza (or whatever) that is so dolled up by stylists and lighting, that it’s not accurately representing what I’m actually going to get. How about some authenticity for a change? This philosophy does not have to equal bad pictures.

  5. There is a floor to this “The REAL Real” style of marketing & advertising. You strip away all the artifice and what’s left? Price, and how the food tastes? I don’t think Dominos wants to compete solely at that level — because there isn’t much differentiation. It is just delivery pizza.

    (Off topic a bit, their new recipe is actually quite a lot better than the cardboard they sold which I stopped eating after college. I just recently happened to pick one up & it was quite good…for delivery pizza.)

    Food photography is similar to fashion in that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that the image is going to look like what’s the box or the bag (or on you.) It’s about the — and I hate using this word — fantasy. The expectation or the potential. I know what the pie’s going to look like. The ad should show me what it COULD look like.

    Again, back to the “Really Real” meme. M’eh…. I don’t mind a little bit of something-something in my life as long as Mr. Advertiser or Ms. Marketer doesn’t mislead or insult my intelligence.

    CP+B is all in with this sort of campaigning & good for them, but I just think it has a short shelf life before it become boring an predictable. My neighbors pizza looks just like mine, it’s boring. Show me something cool.

  6. Enough of this Agency “honesty” horseshit.

    They’re the ones who pushed for extensive retouching in the first place, starting years ago, because nothing and nobody looked good enough in real life.

    Now they all drive a Prius, shop at Eddie Bauer and Whole Foods and think they’ve found Jesus by being “natural and honest”.

    This is as fake as Al Gore’s environmental credentials.

    • @Andrew Ptak, Of course it’s disingenuous for an ad to pretend that, ok, before we were trying to pull one over on you, but this time we’re giving it to you straight. Advertising isn’t about facts and reason, it’s about psychology and selling a product, even when–as is the norm these days–the ad pretends it’s not trying to sell you anything, and might even “mock” the product.

      But have any people from ad agencies claimed this is a more honest approach (sincere, not rhetorical question)? If so, it seems that that would be an admission that all the other ads have been dishonest.

      • @Jim Newberry, That’s sort of my point Jim.

        Whether they realize it or not, this type of thing infers that the previous work was BS, but this is the “real thing” . It’s like saying “we tried to fool you before, but now we’re not. Trust us.”

        It also lacks any kind of originality.

        I think that even the Dove thing was exposed for not being entirely truthful, wasn’t it?

        I agree with Rob, this is not dangerous to professional photographers, it’s just totally insincere – and I’m sure people will fall for it.


  7. Finally someone mentions this campaign… I thought Domino’s was missing the point from the first time I saw the ad. In the commercials they complain about over styling of the food for a photo shoot… Last time I checked styling and photography were 2 different things.

    If you want to minimize the styling on your pizzas because they are so beautiful straight out of the oven, great, don’t style them… but at least hire a professional to shoot the photos.

    I won’t even comment on a national company & advertising agency paying only $500 for national advertising use of a photo…

  8. That Dove video is popular among non traditional beautiful women on the web, but I doubt that it has impacted the sell of beauty products. Likewise, this Dominoes campaign might be popular for pseudo photographers who will have the temporary thrill of winning $500 and seeing their picture used all over the place. But, the question boils down to, will this sell more pizzas? If this is a successful campaign, measured by Dominoes increasing its share in the market, then we might see Pizza Hut and Papa John’s come up with something similar. I honestly doubt that will be the case.

    All advertising and gimmicks are for one purpose, selling more products. I see a lot of very entertaining commercials on TV. But, as entertaining as they are, they don’t make me run out to buy the product. Sometimes, the entertainment value of the ad outweighs the product itself, i.e., the ad is so funny, that I don’t pay attention to what product its trying to sell.

    I’m not an advertising photographer, but that’s just my little take on it.

    • @Lincoln Barbour, It will be really interesting to see how this campaign pans out. If nothing else, it’s way more interesting than seeing more “beauty” shots of the product.

      • @Guess the Lighting, Agreed. I myself am a big natural light fan and those overlit shots of food don’t do much for me. It would be awesome if Domino’s went for a more natural look to their food shots.

        But, you still have to know some basics before you can create that look.

  9. Sure it’s a gimmick. There is no serious attempt to identify new talent. No real focus on artistic merit. This is purely an amateur deal. I guarantee the winning shot will be a kid, or a dog, or a kid and dog eating a slice of pizza. I took a quick look through the entries, they all look like P&S digicam or phone shots.

    This campaign capitalizes on the fact that virtually everyone has some kind of digital camera and photo contests are very popular. I don’t think the emphasis is really on image quality, just getting a lot of pictures of pizza. I’m going to guess if you did your own professional pizza shoot and entered it, it would be overlooked. The winning shot has to be glaringly amateur.

    Sure $500 for an advertising shot is insulting — to a professional. Most of the people entering this contest are doing it for fun. So winning a $500 prize (I haven’t read the rules but I’m sure it’s a total rights grab for all entries) would be an unexpected windfall.

    I don’ think this is a threat to the profession.

  10. If anyone thinks for a second Domino’s did this to save on shoot costs, you’re sorely mistaken. Their profit from one store on a Sunday afternoon during NFL football season more than covers for the most elaborate photo shoot.

    From a business stand point, this is brilliant. They will make millions from selling pizzas to amateur photographers who are trying to get their thrill. I’m sure many will order over and over to keep trying for that perfect shot. Money in the bank!

    Making a serious profit in this depression gets my blessing. I only wish I could come up with a similar tactic to boost my profits!

    Beside the point, Domino’s freshly renovated pizza is awesome. Two medium two topping pizzas for $13.03 after tax. The garlic buttered crust is the best part. Just saying.

  11. I think it is more about creating a dialog that wasn’t there before with the customers. It’s usually pretty hard to get people to take the time an submit an image. To me it looks like a clever way to get peoples information. look at the information you have to submit in order to upload an image. It’s a gimmick that collects a lot of information about the people who buy their products.

    As a photographer though, I don’t like it. I guess I can throw out my 6000 dollar camera and buy a 300 point and shoot. I am not going to ask the cook how to photography my images.

  12. I believe this development to be significantly more important than a simple “show us your pizza” campaign. Its genius speaks to an industry insight now observed by the clientele base hiring photographers as well as the content creators’ in our midst.

    As mentioned in this post, backing up a bit, Domino’s recently took the general public into their pizza test kitchens to show a behind-the-scenes professional photo shoot/TV commercial in progress. The director, stylist, chef, and team were interviewed. This was done before the $500 snapshot contest.

    Let’s compare this to what we are observing in the commercial photography industry. An industry volatile for sustainability has seen a rapid growth in the training of its own competition. There are more educational photography blogs, lighting videos on YouTube, and self-help starter books for photographic education; let alone the booming photo contest industry, all pointing as backup evidence that a significant shift has occurred. An industry infatuated with making money as a professional career does not set out to train its competition to take business out from under it. Commercial photography is seeing a developmental shift of where money is made. One could theorize that there is more money in training other photographers than there is in being a photographer oneself.

    Domino’s pizza may not be training the next generation of pizza chefs, but it is training into the hearts and minds of Americans, that low-level crowd sourced imagery is acceptable for high exposure advertising. This is a trend that has been developing for years and shows no signs of abatement. The intellectual prowess of this campaign is not the $500 award awaiting the best incoming iPhone pizza shot, but rather the conceptual take to turn an industry trend for photography in on itself to further assist its exacerbation.

    • Is it me, or is that “Behind the Scenes” bit so over-the-top that it is obvious it was created just to poke the everyman into thinking how ludicrous the whole process is. I mean, you’ve got Joe Chef, who participates in the process but thinks it is all bunk. He’s on your side. You’ve got Missy Hand Model, giving little sneak peaks at how things work. I’m surprised they didn’t rivet the pizza to the table with a huge hydralic gun or something. I mean, I don’t really think that was meant to be taken as anything more than an introduction to the campaign.

  13. I will be hosting a three day, intensive “How to Shoot a Pizza and win $500” workshop in my studio. Reserve your spot now. Featuring:

    1. How to bend an iPhone for a cool Tilt Shift effect.
    2. The challenges of P&S cameras… how to conquer and win!
    3. Keeping the Steam from fogging up your Android camera phone while waiting for the damn thing to focus.
    4. Anchovies… a ‘scaly’ challenge or a competitive edge?
    5. Are a few extra olives really ‘cheating’?
    6. Lights? We don’t Need No Stinking Lights!
    7. Solving the dilemma of full pizza versus slice. A personal journey of insight (will involve a Native American Sweat lodge, lots of moaning and a guy named Floyd.)
    8. You call that a pepperoni. DO YOU!!! DO YOU REALLY?
    9. Zen and the Art of Pizza Snappin’
    10. Dealing with loss… not of the contest, but of a sense of having any use in the world for you other than to soil clothes.

    Prices are unbelievably expensive and limited to 1100 attendees. Hey, maybe we can make a video and sell it online afterwards!

    • @Donald E Giannatti, LOL good one! I can bring the heat gun for the I-phone. Oh is the price for the intensive the Same as Dominos promo of 5 buck pizza?

  14. Who’s going to follow up on the image that ends up being used by Domino’s? Get the general public to think they’re involved & sell a lot more product, then hire a photographer to shoot the ad images in his own down-home kitchen.

    Good point there about the degeneration of ‘acceptable’ photography, Shannon.

  15. Let’s assume this campaign is effective in selling more pizza (anyone know if it is or not?). From the ad agency’s view, what’s wrong with paying $500? Is it unethical? Why? If amateur photography is effective in selling pizza, and amateur photographers are happy to comply for free or for cheap, where it the ethical problem?

    As a photographer, of course I want clients to pay much more than that. I have a lot of overhead as a working photographer and often find it challenging to keep the business afloat. But ad agencies don’t exist to support photographers. They exist to make profit, for themselves, and for their clients. Or am I missing something?

    • @Jim Newberry,
      I think they’ve got a bait and switch going on with the advertising end of the deal. They are implying that an image shot by a consumer will be used for advertising but I saw in the rules a 2MB limit on image size. I’d be willing to bet they hire a professional to create real looking advertising images.

      It’s impossible to know if it works because they are spending a ton on advertising and they have some crazy cheap pizza offers out there as well. So any increase in sales cannot be directly attributed.

      Regarding the $500. From my POV it doesn’t behoove CP+B to convince any clients that national advertising images can be obtained for that price. I think it’s just a gimmick.

      • @A Photo Editor, thanks for the reply Rob. Maybe you’re right about the bait and switch, but at the site (, it says, “show us your pizza and be awarded $500 if your photo wins.” Farther down, “and the possibility of getting your photo in an ad.”

        Maybe it is highly unlikely that a real snapshot will end up in an ad, but I would think the $500 prizes alone would be enough to get people to want to participate, or even, sad to say, simply the chance of getting their pic on the Dominos site for no money. A lot of amateurs seem to get a thrill from having their photos used even if they don’t get paid a cent.

        I do agree this is a gimmick, but it wouldn’t shock me if it’s effective. These days most people are very skeptical of advertising, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they fall for this “we’re not advertising to you” ploy. Maybe the uglier the photos the better–makes the ads seem less like they’re trying to use slick advertising to sell pizza, even though that’s exactly what they’re doing.

        • @Jim Newberry,
          Just chiming in here because it just so happens, Domino’s have just used my photo entry in their commercial. I’m not the winner, but they show a selection of photos on cards that are being handed around a conference table by ‘marketing execs’ and the photo I took of my daughter eating pizza is on the last photo card shown. I’m a total amateur, I have only had my Canon Rebel since February, but I’m trying hard to learn everything I can about my newest hobby and I’ve entered quite a few contests now.

          I was thrilled to see my photo displayed in the commercial, I think from a marketing perspective, it’s very clever. In addition to saving money on photo shoots (sorry to professional photographers, that part really does stink), they are probably selling a lot more pizzas, since you presumably have to buy one to shoot it and enter. And then there is the grass roots level of marketing it incurs when each contest finalist tells their circle of friends to watch the commercial.

          I hope you don’t think my photo was chosen because it’s ‘ugly’ – the colors in it might be a bit warm, but like I said, I’m still learning (and having a great time with it).

      • @A Photo Editor,

        I think it depends on the ad. The winning image might appear in an ad, but not at a huge size. Suppose you publish the $500 winner and a couple of runner-up images, leave lots of room for copy and some other background images (oh, I don’t know, of pizza maybe?). I think 2M images could work in the right design.

        I think it’s a mistake to think about this contest as a being an alternative to a professional food shoot. It would be a PR nightmare if they pull a bait/switch and do an ad with images shot by a pro. I’ll bet the winning entries will be decidedly amateur — but they will be used in context with a professional ad design and maybe some professional background images.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Exactly… I don’t really get the big deal. It’s a gimmick to promote their new recipe for pizza. I’m sure at some point a passable image will appear then be used in some web campaign and possibly on a few tv spots.

        Then in a few months the campaign is stale and they move on…

        It’s not exactly in an agency’s best interest to sell their client on “oh $500 from joe blow can do your marketing job…” as a continued way of doing business.

  16. This trend has been evolving… or rather, devolving, for several years now. It began in the food editorial world with the arrival of Saveur and it’s photo editors bucking the stylized food photography trend for a more gritty, some would argue more “realistic”, snap-shot look. That’s not to say that the work featured in Saveur is not well-executed. It is. But, by & large, the food photography there, from the beginning, was un-styled, often shot in available light, but always very well executed.

    Then, a couple of years ago, Bon Appetit abandoned the beautiful, heavily styled work of food photographers like Brian Leatart and went for a rougher, edgier(?) look by employing the talents of Craig Cutler to shoot many of their recent covers & feature stories.

    Times-are-a-changing… someone pointed out above that in this ad, Domino’s is giving the illusion of the consumer having more control, even involvement the the making & marketing of the product. I think it wreaks of small genius… from a psychological marketing perspective. That said, I’m taking bets now that none of the snapshots submitted via this campaign ever see advertising print. Skilled food photographers will always be in demand, as long as they roll with the changes of visual aesthetic/taste and challenges of the future.

    Can you imagine for one minute that MacDonald’s or even Dominos will be using amateur submitted snap-shots at the point of purchase on their menu signage? Not gonna happen…

  17. Personally it is a gimmick to sell pizza! It’s reallyt not about getting a good shot. The average person these days would like invest 20 to get 500 for a decent profit.

    I have to agree with Rob on the bait and switch. I don’t think Dominos is the only one doing it.

      • More than likely their image is a flash in the moment of an ad if is not print media. Things change when it is being put together.

        A family member was in a commercial shoot for party land. Her place in the commercial was going to be his visibility yet you didn’t see her, it ended up on the cutting room floor. It is part of the games ad agencies play.

        What real notoriety is going to be achieved by the contestant? More than likely none. The reality of this is it is a good pubicity event with those in the photography world disliking it because it is cheesy.

  18. The submitted photo’s on Dominos website remind me of when I go to a mexican or chinese restaurant, I make sure to never look at their images in the menu because they are usually done with a P&S and make me lose my appetite.