If you own a restaurant or a food court and you want to use pictures to advertise your food, you should get professional pictures to use in your restaurant, menu or website. Whether you are using DSLRs, smartphone or a compact camera, there are factors you should consider to do it right.
Most people spend time preparing a dish but when photographing the food, it does not turn out to be as expected making it look less tasty and less inviting to your prospects. When using photos to attract customers, you should understand that they cannot feel the tastes but they savour your food through the quality of picture taken.
Food pictures plays a key role when advertising food or displaying the types of food your restaurant offers in your menu. Pictures can also be used on the internet especially if you offer delivery to your customers.
Unless you are a professional photographer, you need to understand some basic factors which will make your pictures great and attractive to look at. The quality of your pictures may attract or discourage customers from ordering, eating or visiting your restaurant.
How to photograph food: 8 things to consider
Here are 8 tips you should consider when taking photograph pictures:
1. DON’T USE BUILT-IN FLASH
You are not supposed to use the built in flash from your camera or smart phone instead, you should exploit the natural light. To do it right, it is recommended you open the windows of your restaurant or find a well-lit place where you don’t need to use the in-built flash.
Using the flash creates unpleasant shadows that are difficult to manage making the scenes unappreciable. In addition, if you are taking pictures of moist food, the flash makes the food look greasy rather than wet! Most people do not like greasy food and hence this could not be good when advertising your food.
2. THE LIGHTING
The quality of light is one of the factors that determine the quality of food photographs. Most professional photographers prefer using natural lighting that comes through the windows because its softness and dispersion gives a good perspective of the food.
The best position to take food pictures in a restaurant is from the front side from over your shoulder although you can use the corners as well.
In case you want to disperse light or reduce shadows, you can use a panel light reflector to have good lighting. You can use light coloured material e.g. white paper or cloth or a reflective material e.g. aluminium foil to disperse natural light.
Depending with your location or the time you are taking the picture, you may not have enough natural light and the only alternative is to get artificial illumination. It is possible to use artificial illumination and have quality food pictures but the lights used as well as flashes varies depending with the type of food you are picturing.
Therefore, carry out a thorough research and get ideas from experts to do it right.
3. USE THE TRIPOD
The best food pictures need to be taken from above with an angle of 90⁰ and hence the use of a tripod if you cannot use the flash is recommended. There are different models of tripods that can allow you take shots from different positions especially the top without any problem.
When you are using a tripod, your hands are usually free helping you focus on the composition. You can easily try to do other things to perfect your photography since your hands are free. Even though you are not a professional photographer, the use of a tripod is highly recommended.
In addition, you are advised not to use low ISO sensitivity because you will end up having low resolutions! You can use high ISO sensitivity although they have increased noise in the image you get but you can manage the noise in a post-production process to suit your requirements.
4. CHOOSE THE ANGLE
In food photography, you can compose the image in any of the two ways:
- You can take the picture from above the food
- you can take the picture from the side including the close-up i.e. the subject and the background.
If you take the picture from above, it lacks its three dimensions making the food appear flat. However, taking the picture at an angle of 45⁰ (where you photograph the plate on a table while you are still sitting in front of it though not very close) is the best approach.
To choose the best angle, you should analyse the dish you want to photograph to know the best angle for the food.
5. PREPARE THE PHOTOSHOOT AND COMPOSITION
When taking the picture, you will not only focus on the food only but also the surroundings. Therefore, you need to prepare everything i.e. the pot that contains the food, the surface, cutlery or any other small decorative elements.
When preparing for the photoshoot, remember that simplicity is very important and for this reason, match the colours of food to those of the plate but avoid elaborately decorative dishes.
Your towels, tablecloths and napkins should also look simple to avoid having exaggerated decorations.
6. DON’T WAIT FOR TOO LONG
As discussed above, you need to plan your photoshoot in advance to have quality pictures and avoid wasting time when taking pictures. Herbs especially salads wither fast especially in hot environments or when kept under studio lights.
To have your food photographed in its perfect condition, avoid wasting time preparing or thinking of the right composition. Plan in advance! Since you will be planning and trying different angles, you are recommended to use another subject only to use the dish at the end.
This will help you prepare well and have the right approaches when you have the dish you want to photograph. Finally, you can have a spray bottle of water or oil to reinvigorate the dishes from time to time to avoid the meat drying out or the herbs withering before you are through taking pictures.
7. RESPECT THE PROPORTIONS
When taking pictures, you need to respect the proportions of different elements that are represented e.g. dish, decorative element, portion etc. for instance, if you want to photograph pasta, you are not supposed to overfill the plate but make the plate beautiful to behold.
On the other hand, if you want to photograph only a single slice of the cake, do not put the slice on a bigger plate because it will look isolated. Finally, if you are photographing an egg, piece of cheese or a slice of meat, make sure you surround it with other decorative ingredients e.g. vegetables, sauces, fresh herbs, bread etc.
8. THE DISTANCE
Another important factor is the distance between the photographer and the dish. Never get too close because the risk of blurring is always lurking. You may lose the whole sight, showing only a couple of macaroni, some salad leaves, or just a corner of a steak.
Try to make the viewers understand how the dish was composed but without framing the entire table, especially if the mise en place is not particularly accurate.
The distance between the photographer and the dish should also be considered because it may cause blurring. In addition, when you get too close to the dish, you may lose the whole sight only to show a couple of macaroni, a corner of the steak or some salad leaves making the picture incomplete.
Therefore, you need to practice in advance to know the right distance that you are required to take the picture from.
How to photograph food quickly
If you don’t have enough time to prepare, here are some food photography tips to improve your pictures:
- To take the advantage of natural lighting, prepare the photo shooting in front of a window
- Limit depth of field by using a wide aperture (f/1.8 – f/5.6) and then focus near the front edge of the food
- If you did not have enough time to prepare the background, zoom onto the food to cut off as much background as possible
- Use something colourful to garnish the food you are photographing. Using bright colours e.g. green (chives), white (parmesan) or red (chilli)
- Don’t waste a lot of time when photographing the food. Take photographs when the food is fresh
How to photograph food with a smartphone
If you don’t have a camera, you can still use your smartphone to take pictures. Smartphone cameras are adjusted in such a way that they can take pictures under all circumstances i.e. during the day, night, when there is a shade and even using a backlight.
However, these smartphones have some limitations which you are required to know to take high quality photographs.
Here is how you use your smartphone to photograph food:
1. Set the camera for photography
Although smartphone cameras have settings, they are very limited to take professional photography. Therefore, you need to download applications that control your phone like a real camera. If you are using an iPhone, get a manual while for an android phone, Android FV-5 camera is recommended.
These two applications enable you manage balance colour and ISO when taking food pictures. ISO is a parameter that is used to indicate the sensitivity of a photograph to light. The lower the ISO, the more light the picture will take but with a higher ISO, the less light the picture will need.
Therefore, if the ISO of your phone camera can be adjusted manually, you will end up with good quality image.
2. Use both hands to prevent blurring
Blurring results when a camera or smartphone is not steadily e.g. with one hand or in an unsteady motion. Pictures taken with smartphones usually have a blur especially when taken in low light.
You are required to be steady to avoid blurring and one technique of doing this is to hold your phone using both hands. In addition, your legs and body should be steady when taking the pictures.
3. Shoot as close as possible
When using a smartphone, you are required to take the pictures from a close range. This is unlike using a digital SLR. The two cameras have different features and hence their shooting range is different.
To get all the food details, shoot as close as possible but make sure you don’t cut the dish from the photo. You can take several photos to compare and take the best to use in your website, menu etc.
4. Do not use filters
Using filters in food photography is not recommended because the pictures should be real to have an effect on your customers and potential customers. The ‘porn’ effect of food is usually related to the emotion of having seen a picture of a particular dish.
The impulse starts from the eyes, to the brain and then to the palate only after recognising what is in the picture. Therefore, using filters might hinder potential customers from recognising the food you’ve pictured.
However, with advanced technology, some people are using filters to make their pictures outstanding. If you consider using filters, you need the help of an expert and the use of professional editing programs like Photoshop or Light room.
These programs can balance the colour, light, saturation, hue etc. for you to make your pictures look great. If you don’t know how to use either of them, relying on an expert to edit the pictures for you could be the best option.
Food photography is a vast subject that cannot be exhausted in a single article. However, there are numerous food photography tutorials that you can learn from to improve your skills. In addition, there are numerous articles explaining different techniques you can use, cameras, set up etc.
You just need to spend more time researching and you will end up having great pictures. Alternatively, if you have friends who are involved in professional photography or own restaurants, food courts etc. you can inquire from them how they photograph food to get some ideas on how you can do it yourself.
Food photographs are used to create menus which appeal to customers of all ages, preference and gender. In addition, these pictures can also be used to create appealing websites providing details of the services provided, its location and menu among other important details.
Most people own smartphones and laptops and they usually look for restaurants or food courts to have their meal. Therefore, if you’ve professional food photographs, you will increase traffic to your restaurant because you will be advertising what you have.