If your business is purely a restaurant (as opposed to a Café, Bar or otherwise), highlighting food through photography is a must. The problem is that food can quickly look “wrong” or “off” when colors, contrast and lighting are incorrectly represented:
Food photography doesn’t require a food stylist or studio lighting (for the average local restaurant), but it does need to look fresh and vibrant. Sometimes it’s helpful to compare your images with professional pictures of similar dishes on flickr (side by side), this will help you understand the subtle differences that really bring out the best in an image.
Here is our list of what you can do to present awesome photography to your online visitors:
Use Natural Light
Try to use sun light where you can. You won’t want to place your food directly in the sun, but diffuse it by means of a softbox or alternatively, window light. You want to avoid exaggerated specularity or light that “shines” off your food; the more natural the better (hence pointing a flash directly at your food is a bad idea too).
Shoot low or directly above, but not in-between. Create more engaging pictures by taking the images from angles that best represent your food. Here’s an example using the same plate seconds apart:
Try it out for yourself and see what works. You can also mix it up a bit by slightly tilting your camera.
Shallow Depth of Field
This is a great way to bring out the textures and create a tighter focus. Anything around an aperture of 2.8 is a nice place to begin, depending on the size of the food on the plate this will you’ll increase or decrease the value.
Unless you’re controlling all the variables in a studio with 30 lights, you’ll probably need to do some touching up after the shots have been taken.
- If you can only fix one issue in post-processing, make that the white balance. If parts of your image that are meant to be white aren’t, your food will reflect that and may not display the same colors people are expecting.
- Use subtle HDR processing to bring out some of that vibrancy, helping the food look more fresh & authentic.
secret tip: Let your Customers do the shooting
This goes against everything we said above, but brings an additional bonus, the pictures are real! By connecting to an API that allows guests to upload their own photos (such as Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.) you are providing social proof of the actual food you put out. This is instant validation of professional images you may have on your website too. It’s also a great way to convey portion size, seasonal specials (without having to hire a photographer each month) and more:
If you have this opportunity and your customers are active enough (uploading new pictures regularly), definitely make use of this to compliment your own images!