this is how we


trusted, long-term partners

Sonic Drive-In

One of the best thank-you's we can get in our industry is when clients come back to us with more work, ideas, concepts and problems to solve. Even better, when those relationships grow together over many years. We've worked with Sonic and one of their creative agencies, Signal Theory, for the last decade helping establish food photography for their menu boards, passenger-side promotional displays and lifestyle photography showing those slice-of-life moments with friends and family at their local drive-in.

Over the years we've established a set of protocols that allow us to pick back up where we left off... a day, a week, or 6 months later. Creating and expanding a brand's visual identity, lighting style, food styling are just a few of the things we obsess over. We understand product offerings are always changing and expanding to meet the customer's demand and those new products need to family up with the existing library. And yes, the newest burger is going to look just as craveable as the first one (maybe even better with those crispy pickle fries)!

Keep reading to see samples of our work for Sonic and get into some of the nuts and bolts that keep us organized and on-track for each new project coming our way.

Scroll on to find:
Menu Food Photography Approach

Food In-Situ Problem Solving

Creating an Ownable Lifestyle Library

Social Video Content

  • Food Photographer Jake Potts
  • Lifestyle Photographer Brandon Voges
  • Director Dustie Carter
  • Producer Matt Siemer
  • Producer Jen Croghan
  • Food Boss Cathy Chipley
  • Agency Signal Theory
  • Client Sonic Drive-In

Menu Assets

the bread and butter

Food Is Hero

And consistency is king. Camera angle, lighting, food styling all matter. The smallest details go into successful menu shots: bun color, burger patty char, bacon shape, pickle ridges, condiment visibility. With so many details you better have good notes (and boy do we). There are efficiencies learned and applied later down the road. There's no need to re-invent the wheel twice right? Not exactly, but have you seen how many wheels are out there?

1 / 3
rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Notes Notes Notes

The ability to easily duplicate a shot always comes back to good note taking. We can barely remember what we had for dinner last night so without our cheat sheets we'd be wasting valuable time. We mark and measure everything from the camera, surface, lights, light modifiers and fill cards. Not only heights but distances, power ratios and software settings. It's important to us to ensure consistency across the entire library.

Those notes get stored in folders. Then in binders. Then in bigger binders. We love big binders.

Menu Examples

Passenger Promos - "PBAEs"

time to shine

Food In-Situ

When you pull into a stall at your local Sonic, the menu boards are on the driver's side and across from them on the passenger's side are promotional offerings that are changed seasonally. These displays are a mix of menu items and limited-time offerings that are shown in-situ around a common creative concept.

dream it up

Sketch it up

We love translating a sketched concept into photography. Go ahead and include that '66 Bronco with a removable top... we'll find one.

During the pre-production process we make sure to address a multitude of questions so when shoot day arrives we're focused on execution. If the Bronco's color isn't quite right, we can quickly address that in post.. But if the Bronco is the wrong body style that's a problem. We'll send multiple options to choose from before getting started, and that goes for a lot of stuff: cars, surfaces, backgrounds, sunglasses, totes, beach towels, whatever. We love options and you'll love peace of mind.

Sonic Lifestyle

Let's be real. One of the best parts of Sonic is rolling up in a car full of family or friends for that late night slush or a weekend lunch and hang. We knew Sonic would want an extensive lifestyle library (they do have THOUSANDS of drink combinations, you know!) and delivering a huge range of cohesive, ownable images was a must.

Here's what we did to meet those needs...

1 / 7
live in the moments

Set the scene, and flow

Scene Flow™ is what we've coined it. It goes like this: setup a hero scenario and once the action starts we flow through capturing a breadth of images from wide angles to tight and from any angle we can come up with. Shoot it from high, low, shoot past something, shoot through something. Shuffle the talent around and do it again.

Doing this with cameras firing off 10 frames every second (sometimes with two shooters and two cameras), and that impactful gaze, that connection, that I've gotta have it moment in time is found. And it's found in 35 scenarios over 3 days and it didn't take quite as many captures as their number of drink combos.

1 / 5
big and small

Decisions, just a few.

You read that right. 35 scenarios in 3 days. Time to hustle: structured shot lists but with room to play in the margins. This library deserved a photographic style that was unique for Sonic. When we hear SONIC, we think colorful, optimistic, fun, authentic. Comfortable, surrounded with friends and family.

Those feelings get translated into the choices made for talent, wardrobe, lighting, software color styles and finally polished in post production with our in-house retouchers who work directly with the photographer to ensure the finals are translated as intended.

there's more where these came from

The Results

New in 2023, Moving pictures too!

Social, Digital & Stop Motion

behind the cameras

Sonic BTS