February 5, 2022

How To Get Started in Restaurant Photography

Tips for beginners hoping to learn restaurant photography, how to take better photos in restaurants, and what to know about restaurant photography techniques.

Getting Started in Restaurant Photography

As a professional food photographer, I 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 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!

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. Is it for social media? Is it for marketing or ads? Or is it for banners or to promote the food or the space? How about both in one image? Thinking about the layout of the final goal will help cover your bases.

TIP: I encourage keeping in mind negative space for photos so clients have the option to layer text.

Restaurant Photography

Capture Movements

One of the best ways to capture a great shot inside a restaurant is to pay attention to movement. This helps bring your photos to life, and effortlessly illustrate the atmosphere 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 shuffled or pushed 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 sauce
  • 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
  • Cheersing

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 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!

Restaurant Photography

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 or what they want to promote. 

TIP: ask the staff what their most-loved dishes are! This could be a good opportunity to feature their favorites on social media. 

Restaurant Photography
Huck's Filling Station

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!

Restaurant Photography
Restaurant Photography

[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. 

Huck's Filling Station

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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