Introduction to Restaurant Photography

Rating: 5.00 based on 2 Ratings
  By Jonathan Ma
Introduction to Restaurant Photography

If you are a new photographer looking for a niche market to get into, look no further! Restaurant photography has great potential for professional photographers. In the modern day and age of computers and technology, every restaurant should have an online presence, whether it’d be through a Facebook account or an official website. Restaurants need high-quality professional photos for marketing purposes such as for their printed materials and online storefronts. We’ll discuss the types of photos that businesses are looking for when they hire a restaurant photographer.

Capturing the Ambiance

When taking restaurant photos, it is good to include shots of the restaurant filled with people. This helps people to see what the atmosphere and character of the restaurant is like. It also subconsciously gives the impression that the restaurant is popular and busy. Capturing the customers in a restaurant provides a down-to-earth feel to the restaurant and eases the minds of potential customers. They will feel more comfortable visiting the restaurant for the first time, knowing what kind of ambiance and customers dine at that restaurant. This technique is especially advantageous when the restaurant features unique architecture, lighting, or mood. Vintage or styled furniture is great to feature in restaurant photography to attract customers. Many customers choose restaurants not only based on the type of food that the restaurant serves or the quality of the food. Some people will favor a restaurant with decent food but a great ambiance over a restaurant with great food but is too crowded, cramped, and terribly lit.

Highlighting the Food

Food photography is at the core of restaurant photography. When it comes down to it, customers come to a restaurant to enjoy the food/drinks there. This means that when you are hired by a restaurant manager to do some photography, you should expect to be asked to take some photos of food also. Depending on the needs of the business, they may ask you to just take general photos of food to scatter around their marketing materials or they may ask you to take photos of individual items. If you are asked to do the latter, it probably means that these photos will end up going on their menu. Online menus generally can support more photos than printed menus, so the number of photos depends on where the photos will end up.

If asked to take photos of individual food items for a menu, follow these tips: 1) Use a clean background, 2) Isolate the item, 3) Fill the frame and 4) Find a creative angle, such as top-down. Following these tips will help your photos look great on a food menu. Because restaurant menus contain so many items, it is important to make it clear what item is each photo. If a customer gets confused when looking at the photos on a food menu, it decreases the chances that they’ll actually order and eat at the restaurant. This lowers the restaurant manager’s profits and affects your reputation as a professional restaurant photographer. On the other hand, clean and professional food photography on a restaurant menu can boost sales, which is a good reflection on your work as a professional at restaurant photography.

Inside the Kitchen

Sometimes the restaurant owner will request that you take a few photos inside the kitchen also. Although certainly not as common of a request, it is still good to be prepared for this scenario. Of course, only restaurants with clean and organized kitchens will make this request. High-end restaurants and restaurants located in high-profile locations such as hotels are more likely to ask for photos of their kitchen. If you are asked to take photos of a restaurant kitchen, do not fret! It is much easier than you may be expecting. The key is to make sure you arrive at a time when the kitchen isn’t very busy. By coming at a time between meals, you maximize the chances that the kitchen staff will be relaxed and easy to work with. For the most part kitchen photography consists of candid photos, but if you see an opportunity for a posed photo than go ahead and take it! Or sometimes you’ll need to re-position some items or people around the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen staff to help you.

Happy shooting!


Rating: 5.00 based on 2 Ratings
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Jonathan Ma

Jonathan Ma is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. The natural beauty that surrounds this area has helped him to learn to appreciate art and photography. Jonathan's favorite styles of photography are nature and sports photography. He enjoys learning and teaching others what he knows.

Comments (1)

  1. Jason Guest

    Hi Jonathan. Very nice, concise article. Do you know what the responsibilties of the business owner are, as far as customers and the image release arena, for using these photos for social media and promotional materials? Is posting a sign or notice somewhere visible enough? Is anything required at all?