How Do Restaurants Take Food Pictures?

Unless you regularly eat at 5-star restaurants, you’d have noticed the big disparity between the food image on the menu, and what’s actually served. And what a big difference it is. These images always come out looking stupendously good, it’s practically impossible not to drool over them. But there isn’t always a disparity, meaning images can be exact representations without being altered. If 5-star restaurants are able to replicate the exact image in their menus – no shadows, with the meals still look bright and edible – one must conclude that the sheer genius of their photography is responsible for such epic imagery.

Sadly, while food porn’s become a thing, thanks to social media, not everyone’s blessed with the ingenious photography skills restaurants seem to have at their disposal. So, we’ve dug deep and \compiled some helpful tips for taking food photography so you don’t end up blubbering away with your camera like an idiot at a restaurant, and have images that look close to the original inspiration.

Food Photography Tips Restaurants Use for Their Menus

#1. Don’t Use Camera Flash. The lightening might not be all that great within the walls of the restaurant, but nothing looks worse than beef beneath flash. Plus, nothing makes a gourmet experience awful for other diners than someone with a flash. A phone flash no less. Diners will probably tolerate a professional photographer with their equipment, but they’d just be pissed off when a phone goes off close to them. Don’t be the reason restaurants start kicking out, and limiting food images on the net.

#2. Shoot in Natural Light. Sunlight’s always better, especially with an umbrella behind to reduce the sun’s glaring effect. Just try to avoid taking photos when the sun’s extremely bright, otherwise you might end up casting shadows over your meal. If you’re wondering how restaurant shadows almost never have shadows, this is one of the tricks. Bear in mind that not all shadows are doom and gloomy. When you strategically allow the shadow to fall on your object, it can add a level of depth and interest ordinary bright lights wouldn’t, with dominating the photo.

#3. Neutral backgrounds are important. The thing about restaurant menus is that you’ll always find dishes shot on either plain white, or dark backgrounds. This isn’t coincidental. The idea is to ensure the background doesn’t distract the viewer from the focus of the image – which is the food. We’re not saying you must use white, black or brown backgrounds. Wood and some table clothes are fine too, as long as they’re subtle and won’t take the emphasis away from the food.

#4. Think about the angle. Most menu pictures are taken from the top because you get a lot more detail covered from the top. That’s ideal but not always best. A drink, like a smoothie, or pancake with multiple layers and fillings designed to make you drool will look better taken from the side, than from the top. The idea is to first understand the emotion you’re trying to provoke (drool, obviously), then photograph in a position that emphasizes a meal’s drool-worthiness. Be aesthetic with your arrangement, otherwise all your effort will be in vain.