8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

Restaurant photography is one of my favorite things. Shooting gorgeous food in an ambient setting, I mean, what more could a food photographer ask for?

But time and time again, I see photographers new to the restaurant scene struggling: how do I get the best light? How do I shoot so many dishes? How do I make it all look cohesive?

Well, that’s what this post is for. Below you’ll find 8 tips that will instantly improve your restaurant photography. Enjoy! 

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

1. Go to the light

The #1 rule in restaurant photography? GO TO THE LIGHT. I will do almost anything to shoot next to a window, including sectioning off a set of tables ahead of time, asking the restaurant to open/close blinds, and even moving tables closer to a window. Because to be honest, if you aren’t shooting in good light, it’s incredibly hard to take good photos.

For this shoot at Republic, I moved 4 chairs, pulled 2 tables together, and pushed them all the way up to a window. My point is: don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make the shot work– your job is to get the best photos possible, so if it means moving things around, that’s OK. Good, even!

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

2. Work within a color scheme

In order to fully capture the “essence” of the restaurant you’re shooting at, shoot dishes that work within that restaurant’s color scheme. For shooting in this restaurant, I chose dishes in the warmer color range to balance the cooler navy blue tones around the room. In addition, to keep things bright and fresh, I pulled green and white flowers from a few of the tables around me. The navy-green-white-orange combo worked beautifully for this space.

When selecting a color scheme, use the restaurant’s decor for inspiration. Is it a neutral space? Then pops of color on your plates might be gorgeous. Is it all-white? Opt for richer, deeper colors to contrast.

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

3. Work in triangles

To make the most of multiple dishes, shoot items in groups of three, creating triangles. Triangles naturally create dynamic photos, as triangles have the minimum amount of sides needed to form a complete shape. So grouping things in triangles creates both structure and simplicity. When done right, triangles create a harmonious balance in a photograph.

For example, in the photo below, I used the flowers, the charcuterie board, and the steak to create a triangle. Your eye bounces between each of these three elements equally, and without one of them, the other two would be… off. That’s the power of the triangle.

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

4. Use hands in frame

Restaurants mean eating communally around a table. They are synonymous with togetherness and intimacy. As such, adding the human element of a hand within your frame brings out this sense of communal eating.

As long as they aren’t busy, don’t hesitate to ask servers if they can lend a hand for your shot. So you get the most out of their time, set up the shot entirely first, so you use them only for a quick snap. Some easy ideas: ask them to hold a drink, a dish, or reach for an app.

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

5. Take away unneccessary clutter

Salt shakers, water glasses, menus… though they don’t bother us when we’re eating, they have no place in restaurant photography. Be sure to remove any items that are unnecessary to your shot, as they will only make the table look messy and cluttered.

In addition, the fewer items on your table, the more your eye will be drawn to the things that matter: the dishes themselves. After all, you want the food to stand out!

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

6. Take a bomb table scape shot

One of my favorite parts of restaurant photography is getting that perfect table scape shot. In order to capture a killer table scape, I start by making groups of triangles. Here you’ll see the rose, the pink drink, and the yellow drink form a triangle up top. The three hands coming into the frame form another triangle. And the three dishes on the bottom half of the photo make up a third triangle. Layering these triads on top of each other is what gets you a dynamic but balanced table scape.

If you’re struggling with a table scape at first, start from scratch. Move everything off of the table and place elements in one by one. That way, each element is brought in purposefully.

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

7. Shoot it all on a killer camera

When I’m shooting in another city or don’t feel like lugging my big DSLR camera around, I opt to shoot with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III. It’s compact, stylish, and packs all the punch of a big dSLR without the hassle or the price tag.

The OM-D E-M10 Mark III is perfect for anyone looking to make a seamless transition from their smartphone camera to a high-quality, easy-to-use camera. It captures depth beautifully, and makes for professional-quality restaurant photos with a simple click. 

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

8. Balance single dish shots with full table shots

To get the most out of your shoot, get a combination of single-dish shots and broader, full table shots. As a restaurant photographer, you want to deliver photos that can be used in as many ways as possible– on the client’s website, on their social channels, in the press… so the more varied your shots can be, the better.

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

8 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Restaurant Photography

And above all, have fun with it. If you’re having a good time, staying relaxed, and trusting in your abilities, it will show through in your photos.

XO!

This post is sponsored by Olympus USA. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Broma possible!

10 comments

Reply

These are great tips!! I shoot a lot of restaurant photos for my social media business, so I’ll definitely give these a try with my next client!

Jamie Kamber

Reply

Thank you for this post! I am ready to use some of your tips!

Reply

Such a pain shooting in restaurants sometimes, thanks for this!

Reply

Thanks for these awesome tips!

Reply

Ok, that triangle tip is one I need to remember!!

Reply

Hi! I’m just starting to dip my toes into photography and these tips are fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

Reply

I love these tips! I can’t wait to give restaurant photography a try soon (with my confidence from Foodtography School)!

Reply

That triangle tip is gold, and I’d so be the person dragging a table closer to the window (insert crying laughing emoji here!).

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