How to Take Better Photos of Your Restaurant’s Food

Charlette Beasley

Charlette is a writer and content strategist in Florida. She writes payroll content for Fit Small Business and helps her own clients create industry-specific copy for their business. In addition, she loves “beaching” with her two kids.

Food photos are some of the best marketing tools for restaurants looking to attract new customers. They can be used across numerous mediums, including social media, websites, restaurant menus, and so on. Some restaurant owners opt to hire professional photographers to capture images of their restaurant’s best dishes, but others want to save money and take the photos themselves.

Nice food photography of a traditional Mexican taco plate in the Mexican Caribbean in a restaurant with beautiful setting

Here are eight tips to help you capture the best photos of your restaurant’s food and improve your food photography game:

Focus on lighting 

Aside from choosing a delicious dish to shoot, lighting should be your number one priority, because it can make or break a photo. Consider setting up your photoshoot by a window, if possible. Natural light is one of the best light forms of lighting for food photos and requires less effort to use. Take advantage of cloudy days; natural light tends to be much softer and easier to work with. You can also opt to sit outside in a shaded area.

Use a simple background

It can be tempting to add numerous props to enhance your background, but it’s not a good idea. Too many props can distract attention from the food item on which you want your audience to focus. It’s okay to use props; it’s just best to stick to one or two. Consider using a spoon on a solid white plate for pictures of soup. Avoid using props with excessive designs, because too many colors can clash and make the photo unappealing. 

Select visually appealing ingredients

Ensure the ingredients you use are the most visually appealing to which you have access. If you’re shooting a sandwich with some type of bread, like hamburger buns, be sure that the bread is full of color, fluffy (not flattened), and fresh. The photo will capture the essence of each item you use, so always use the highest quality ingredients.

Shoot the photo from the best angle

The angle from which you shoot the photo matters. Avoid always shooting from the front; personalize your approach by considering the type of food you’re working with. Flat foods, like pizza, should be shot from the top, because side angles won’t capture many details. Foods that are layered with a heightened appearance, like burgers, should be shot from the side. This helps the audience see the ingredients that were used versus just the bun on the top.

High angle shot of people's hands each grabbing a slice of pizza

Add a human element

Strive to create an intimate relationship between your food and your audience. The more people connect to pictures of your recipes, the more likely they are to take further action, such as visiting or ordering from your restaurant. Ask some of your waitstaff or even a chef, if available, to assist you in creating the perfect shot. Simply adding a pair of hands, for instance, holding a dish or spoon, can make pictures more personal.

Choose a creative setting

Keeping the background simple is important but so is creativity. Shooting inside of your restaurant is easiest, but consider using other locations as well. Take your most colorful and tastiest dish, place it on a glass plate, and set it on the beach, using the ocean as a background. Integrating unique backgrounds into your photos can make your food stand out even more and also create a different ambiance that more common settings do not.

Perfect your presentation

Be mindful of how you arrange the food you are shooting. Certain items, like salads and soups, can stand to look a bit messy, but even still need to be set up with purpose. In the case of a salad, place each vegetable in a way that creates a balanced appearance — don’t stack vegetables unnecessarily; spread them evenly throughout the dish. Use tools, like tweezers, to help you precisely place ingredients.

Use sauce as a decoration

If your dish comes with a special sauce, apply it as an artist would use paint on a canvas. Spread it carefully on the dish and around the plate to make it look more interesting. Consider spreading it into a creative design, and ensure it doesn’t make the photo appear uneven or awkward. Use a squeeze bottle for clean lines, dots, and swirls. 

Beautiful elegant colorful dessert on a plate

Finishing touches

Once you finish taking pictures of your restaurant’s food, use photo editing software to apply any finishing touches. You can adjust the lighting to look more natural, by making it brighter or darker. You might also need to crop the image if you notice any unnecessary elements in the photo that don’t quite fit. Don’t be afraid to play around with different types of software— there’s free and paid software— until your photo reflects the essence you want. 

In the end, make sure the food photos on your menu are achievable when it comes down to expediting dishes. You don’t want your customers expecting the fancifully prepared dish they saw on the menu only to be served a haphazardly-prepared meal.

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