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6 Tips for DIY Restaurant Food Photography

Craven NYC

Maybe hiring a professional photographer isn’t in your budget right now. Maybe you already had professional pictures taken but your chef just created a spectacular new dish that you want to share right away on your social media. While it is my personal opinion that restaurants’ website photographs should be done professionally, you can still capture stunning images for social media with any smartphone that has a high resolution camera. Here’s how:

  1. Set the scene – Don’t just plunk the dish on a table and take a picture. You must beautifully arrange the shot. If you have a tablecloth get rid of any wrinkles. Include a drink. Try to incorporate something from your restaurant’s décor, such as a small vase with a flower. If your restaurant serves food from a particular culture, try to incorporate a staple from that cuisine that as well. For example, if you are a Mexican restaurant, add chips and guacamole. If you are an Italian restaurant, add bread and olive oil. Just make sure the dish you want to exhibit takes up the majority of the picture and any additional items are in the background. If you include silverware, make sure there are no stains or scratches.

  2. Lighting – DO NOT USE YOUR CAMERA’S FLASH! Yes, you need light, but a flash pointed directly at a subject makes a horrible Shot. The standard for food photography is to have the light source behind the dish, so set a table in front of a window (but not if the sun is beaming directly in that window). Don’t worry if its cloudy or raining – those conditions actually create better images because you will have less dark shadows versus direct sunlight.

  3. Camera angle – Different foods require different angles. You wouldn’t shoot a hamburger from a bird’s eye view because all you would see is the top of the bun; you would shoot it directly from the side to see all of the layers. On the contrary, you wouldn’t shoot a salad in a bowl from the side because you would only see the bowl and maybe the top of the salad. For that you would do a bird’s eye view. Many food photographs are shot at a 45 degree angle, but be sure to experiment to see what works best.

  4. Add an action – If you really want to get daring and creative, add an “action” to your photograph. For example, show black pepper getting added to the top of a salad or steak sauce being poured on a steak. A popular trend lately has been having people’s hands in shots reaching for foods, such as small appetizers. (I think it’s cute, but I wouldn’t use this particular trend for elegant restaurants.)

  5. Clean clean clean! If you want to present interior shots of your restaurant, do a thorough cleaning first. What is not visible to the naked eye will stand out in photographs. Wipe down that bar, mop up the dust bunnies, and clear anything off surfaces that should not be there when a customer sits down.

  6. Post-production - use your camera's photo editing capabilities, or download a free app such as PhotoShop Express, to finalize the shot. Lighten shadows, increase color saturation, etc. Experiment! Be careful with pre-made filters, however, they can be a bit of an overkill by making the shot unrepresentative of what the subject really looks like.

Please comment below if you have any questions, or share your own ideas!

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