MONIQUE SOURINHO - food photographer, stylist, recipe developer, and professional taste tester. Nothing fills my cup more than connecting with visionaries (especially over a great meal). To learn more click here.
Getting Started in Restaurant Photography
As a professional food photographer, I’ve picked up a thing or two about restaurant photography.
Although I believe that everyone—no matter their skill level—should always continue learning, including myself, I want to share with you the lessons I’ve learned thus far, in an effort to share my perspective and better equip anyone just starting out!
My approach to restaurant photography is a philosophical one, and it continues to serve me well over the years. Keep reading for my best tips on restaurant food photography (featuring one of my all time favorite restaurants: Huck’s Filling Station)!
What is the objective of Restaurant Photography?
First things first, you’ll need to think about the objective of the photoshoot. What is the chef trying to convey? How about the restaurant owner, or marketing manager? Think about how you can bridge the gap between what the client wants, and what will engage the customer.
Additionally, you will also need to consider how the content is gearing up for. Is it for social media? Is it for marketing or ads? Or is it for or banners or to promote the food or the space? How about both in one image? Thinking about the layout of the final goal will be helpful to you in covering your bases.
TIP: I encourage keeping in mind negative space for photos so clients have the option to layer text.
One of the best ways to capture a great shot inside a restaurant is to pay attention to movement. This helps you bring your photos to life, and effortlessly illustrate the vibe of the environment while still focusing on the food as the main subject.
Here are a few ideas for capturing movement:
- Food making its way over to the table
- Plates or drinks being shuffling or moving aside to allow space for another dish to accompany the table
- A fork or a spoon diving into a meal
- A cheesy pull or a drip from a dip
- A stirring of a soup, when all the garnishes swirl in with a spoon
- Breaking bread and steam releasing
- The sharing of dishes and passing them amongst the table
Pay Attention to Moments
What a lot of people don’t realize about food photography is that it’s actually about a lot more than just a beautiful photo of food. You’ll need to consider which emotions that food evokes, and how people feel when they look at your photos. Think about what the goal is for the shoot, and then capture moments that perfectly complement them.
Here are a few ideas for capturing moments:
- The reactions of something tasting good
- The excitement of food arriving to the table
- The overwhelming joy from how grateful people are
- Perhaps even a food coma moment
- Honest laughter from conversations at the table
Don’t Forget The Kitchen
Though, while you might focus on photographing plates inside the main dining room of the restaurant, it’s important to consider what’s going on in the kitchen. This is where the true magic happens, and you’re sure to capture some beautiful moments and movements here.
Here are a few ideas for photos you can take in the kitchen:
Keep The Staff In Mind for Restaurant Photography
Every person in a restaurant plays a role in helping the whole show run smoother, no matter how big or small. Pay attention and notice the details—as a photographer, you get the chance to help them tell that story. And don’t be shy to ask what that story IS: what is their becoming? How can you translate that through imagery?
Sometimes it can be fun insider knowledge to capture staff members enjoying good company subtly in the background! Every bit counts!
Capture The Food (Duh)
Now, for the main event: the food. Here’s a quick shot list to help you get the best photos:
- The overall dish
- The details of what makes that dish
- Think about textures
- Get angles from above, profile, and 45 degrees (as many angles as possible)
- Think about composition
- Think about pairings and what makes enough sense. What would someone likely order together? Ask the chef and bartender what they recommend.
TIP: ask the staff what their most-loved dishes are! This could be a good opportunity to feature their favorites on social media.
Be Mindful Of Your Attire
When you’re planning for your restaurant shoot, think about your attire. Always wear close-toed, non-skid shoes, pants, and bring a hair tie if applicable.
You want to be respectful of the health codes and not be the reason why there is hair in someone’s food, or make the restaurant liable for something hot spilling on your skin, or you slipping on the surface (or off tall ladders trying to get that overhead shot and laughing a little too hard) from inappropriate shoes!
(It helps if you have your serve-safe certification, but is not necessary for the photography job.)
Opt for wearing white or black, so when you photograph you don’t reflect funky colors onto the food, dishes, or surfaces.
Speaking of attire, ask to see if there is merchandise that the restaurant wants to promote. It is an added bonus to photograph a staff member showcasing the goodies!
[Questions to ask yourself]
Finally, my last tip: BE PRESENT! Observe and appreciate as much as you can. Take in the moments—each and everyone one of them. Translate that gratitude through your imagery the best you can, and be excited that you get to play such a vital part in telling and showcasing someone’s story!
When you care about what you do and the role you play, your passion will reflect in the photos.
I hope you found this post helpful! And if you’re reading this, stressing over your first-ever restaurant shoot: don’t worry—you’ve got this. For more tips you can visit the Resources Page. For a peek at my restaurant imagery you can visit the Restaurant Portfolio.
Want more? Make sure you following along on Instagram to see the behind-the-scenes of my photoshoots.
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