3 Quick Food Photography Tips for Restaurants

Looking for easy-to-implement tips to up your food photography game?  Today I’m sharing three quick tips on how to better showcase your amazing food offerings!

I don’t know if there’s a more fast-paced setting to shoot for content than a restaurant.  To keep the food costs down, most chefs would prefer you take pictures of actual, plated food as it goes out the window.  You don’t really have a lot of time to set up the composition without slowing down ticket times and you just have to get what you can get, right?

I definitely agree that you’re working with what you’re working with.  I don’t stand in the way of ticket times in an active restaurant setting for anything!  But that doesn’t mean you can’t get great scroll-stopping food photography on the go.  One caveat, I would absolutely suggest investing in a larger, more professional shoot for anything that’s going into print or for larger website and digital menu work.  But for an Instagram story about specials, or just a quick Facebook post about tonight’s amazing offerings, it’s the iPhone all the way!

Here are three quick tips (with more to come!) to elevate your iPhone food photography:

Tip #1:  Take As Many Pictures As You Can

This is one of the really fun — and really frustrating! — things about photography, iPhone or otherwise.  Sometimes you just can’t tell what you’ve gotten until you see it on the screen.  This is why so many professional photographers shoot tethered (cord attached to a laptop so you can review as you shoot) from a DSLR — there’s no surprises with something you didn’t see initially but that shows up onscreen.

This is one area where the iPhone has a great advantage:  you can easily review your pictures in real time.   I had about 10 minutes (which is a lot in the restaurant world!) to grab this creme brulee shot and I grabbed about 30 pictures.  I wasn’t even honestly sure if I’d gotten what I was looking for until I went in to review and there was this one perfect shot.

iphone make good photos great

I once heard that Kim Kardashian will shoot up to 600 pictures of the same pose just to find that one that checks all the boxes.  I’ve never gotten up to 600 (yet!), but never be afraid to just snap as many as you have time for!

Tip #2:  A Word on Using Hands

Don’t get me wrong, I love using hands in food photography.  It gives you another angle or take on the same shot and just makes the viewer feel even more a part of the scene.  Like they could totally imagine themselves reaching out and grabbing that cotton candy/wine slushie/kebab too.  But this is one area where you have to slow down and get a little awkward with your hand model.   Watch for chipped or cracked nail polish and make sure nails are clean and 100% presentable.  If you’re working with a chef or line cook, make sure they don’t have food splattered on their coat cuffs if they’ll be in the shot and watch out for watches or jewelry that don’t look clean and gleaming.  Or ones that just distract from the shot in general.

This may sound obvious, but when I first started shooting food, I set up a shot where I was dipping a strawberry in brie and I didn’t notice at all that my nail polish was very chipped.  I gave it a quickie glance in the moment for composition and didn’t notice a thing, but when I went to edit it, it was seriously all I could focus on and I’m sure my audience would have felt the same way.

If this happens to you, you can definitely give it a go fixing it in Photoshop, but don’t pin your hopes on it.  I tried for honestly forever to fix that nail polish snafu and it just made my finger look like I’d contracted a terribly horrible nail fungus!  Nothing’s worse than having an otherwise perfect shot that you just can’t use for a preventable reason. Hands can be a big asset or a big downfall!

Tip #3:  It’s Hard To Totally Repair Bad Lighting

I get it — sometimes you snap a pic under a heat lamp or you don’t snap a pic at all.  While you can’t make every lighting situation perfect, you can make the most of the light you have.  If you’re under the heat lamp, grab a couple of angles and make sure it’s not throwing super hard shadows (super hard to fix) or completely washing out the detail of your food (also super hard to fix).  The photo below was taken under a heat lamp and I grabbed a lot of angles, corrected the color in my favorite photo editor, Snapseed, and turned up that brightness!

If you have a little wiggle room and can move the food around a bit, take it right to a window.  There is absolutely no substitute in food photography for natural light.  Make sure it’s not coming in too directly (deep shadows again), but natural light will just make your picture a million times more appealing and it will require way less editing.  If you can’t?  Know that’s your goal and shoot where you can!  The picture below was taken in a banquet kitchen as these gorgeous arancinis were on their way out to tables.

food photography

That’s it for today’s tips and I’ll definitely be back with more soon!

Are there any food photography questions you’re struggling with?  I’d love to hear in the comments!

Posted by carissa@spoonfulofeasy.com

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