Updated: Apr 29
If you are a restaurant owner, or chef and want to show off your culinary creations, you can actually use your cell phone to take decent photos of your food. However, you need to follow some basic tips to make your food look appetizing and and your photographs professionally done.
Here are some not so secret tips from a professional photographer (me):
Good lighting is essential in food photography. Using diffused natural light whenever possible can give your food wonderful color and texture. Develop your understanding of the subtle interplay between light and shadows, hard and soft light, direction and color of your light so you can intuitively place your food and props to grab attention.
To take the best advantage of natural light, you will need to fill in shadows, add controlled highlights to shiny surfaces like tomatoes, dishes and flatware. The most common and budget friendly way to do this is with white reflecting surfaces (bounce cards, white napkins, maybe even a clean and ironed apron or table cloth.)
You need to take your photographs with intention. Simply slapping a cheeseburger or salad on a plate, throwing it next to a window and grabbing a quick shot with your cell phone might be good for some social media posts, but if you want tantalizing food shots, you need to put in the time and effort.
Quickly experiment with different angles, perspectives, and compositions. You should be trying to capture the texture, color, and shape of your food, which is all directly related to lighting. Remember, within minutes freshly prepared food does not look freshly prepared. The last thing you want is to present images that imply your food is not fresh.
Not editing and enhancing your food photographs is a trap that inexperienced photographers regularly fall into. As good as any camera may be, out of the box photos rarely look as compelling as they could or should, particularly when you are trying to attract customers.
If you want your food photographs taken to the next level, consider hiring a professional photographer.
“Why, you might ask, should anyone hire a professional photographer when even cell phones do a nice job?
A valid question for sure. The most compelling reason is that, unless you are completely strapped for cash, hiring a professional will make you more money in the long run. Don’t believe me, consider the following:
Your core business activities, making delicious food, training staff, engaging customers, monitoring food safety, and so on, may suffer from neglect while you’re spending valuable time developing photography skills. Professional photographers bring with them the skills, experience, and equipment to produce high-quality photos that showcase your food in the best possible way. They have learned over the years the best lighting, composition, styling, and editing techniques to create stunning images that make your food irresistible.
While your professional photographer is working out the lighting details and image concepts and taking test shots, you can focus on styling the food. The better your food presentation, the more your photographer has to work with. And, because they know how to think through typical or unusual problems that come up, skilled photographers can quickly adjust and get the shot while the food is at its best.
A professional photographer can help you build your brand and reputation! By having consistent and professional photos of your food, you build anticipation and excitement. You will also stand out from your competitors and attract more followers that just want to see your beautiful food.
So, whether you choose to shoot your food with a cell phone or hire a professional photographer, remember that food photography is an art and a science that requires creativity and skill. With practice, time and patience, you'll be able to create amazing photos that showcase your food and make people hungry for more. The question you need to answer for yourself is if food photography is the best use of your (or your staff’s) time.