Restaurant Photography Tips & Tricks: great food photography can also be done with a phone
by Andreea Dobrila

How to take food photos for restaurant menu: simple restaurant photography ideas

We are all foodies, in one way or another. And ever since humans first walked this earth, we’ve always searched for food to survive. Truth be told, food is something that we’ll always need… but it’s also something that we’ll always crave and want. There’s no doubt about it.

That’s a discussion we could have for hours on end, but right now, let’s focus on the “wanting” bit & how you can turn your clients hungry just by having them look at pictures of your food.

Remember the seafood joke: I see food and I eat it? Well, there’s a grain of truth to that. And it’s all related to a little something called visual hunger. Using a few food photography tips is the key to triggering this particular type of hunger.

You need to remember the following: your restaurant food may be delicious; however, your restaurant menu pictures may not convey to your clients just how delicious your foods may be. Your menu pictures have to look appealing and persuade your customers into buying them.

Read more: Why Food Photography Is Important

Hungry Eyes, Hungry Minds, Hungry Mouths

We’re not only eating with our mouths; we’re also eating with our eyes.

You see, your eyes are the first thing that comes into contact with food (or images of food). And according to researchers at the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science:

“the mere sight of food stimulates your appetite”

And all this leads to a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” type of situation. Because when you’re hungry, you’re actually getting them. You’re buying the foods that you see and which seem most appealing.

That’s why most doctors – predominantly nutritionists – advise you not to go the supermarket when you’re hungry. Because simply taking a look at the foods can act as a behavioral trigger.

Here’s the conclusion of the study conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute:

The amount of the neurosecretory protein hormone ghrelin in the blood increases as a result of visual stimulation through images of food.

As a main regulator, ghrelin controls both eating behaviour and the physical processes involved in food metabolism.

Thus, the pervasive presence of appetizing food in the media could contribute to weight increase in Western populations.

So what you need to remember is that you should also use the power of visual stimulation in the form of food photography to push your clients towards ordering that expensive dish that looks so yummy. Or more dishes for that matter.

But I feel the need to highlight one very impressive aspect of all this: the fact that you can make your clients “feel the hunger”, even if they’re not really hungry. So how to photograph food to capture its deliciousness in all of its glory… and make your clients order more than they can eat?

Well, the easiest way you can go about it is by hiring a professional photographer. I’m not joking. And so, the food photographer enters the stage. He’ll handle all of the “dirty work” for you.

For most restaurant owners out there, hell will probably freeze over before they’ll have the time to find the best shooting settings. However, hiring an expert to deal with your food photography is the easiest way you can go about this. And don’t think about the money you’re spending on these professional photo shoots.

Just think of how much money you will be making because of them.

Benefits of Hiring a Food Photographer:

  • Utility: He’ll be using the art of food photography to make your foods look so good, and appealing to your clients. People will choose to order even the most expensive dishes just because of the pictures. And even better, you can publish those pictures everywhere. What do I mean by that? Well, you’ll be able to include those professional photos on your menu or flyers. Or you can use them to create tasty promotions or online advertisements. It’s your call. The world is your oyster.
  • Maximum of impact with a minimum of effort: You’ll be able to maximize your profits and post those unique and stunning pictures on all of your social media accounts, for all of your clients to see.
  • A lot of gain with no pain: That will get you out of the hellish nightmare of having to find the ideal settings for shooting your menu photos, like the best ISO (sensitivity to light) feature.
  • Feasibility and low cost in the long run: You’ll only be paying for the professional photo shoot once.

However, for those of you who DO want to dip your toes into the art of photography, don’t worry. You can also learn how to take good food pictures and edit photos, so they look irresistible.

Or you can access our vast collection of food images instead For free. Simply create an account to get started

In fact, you’re about to discover how to take some great DIY food photography tips and tricks that will make your menu more appealing and push your customers to order more food. And you won’t even need to use sophisticated equipment. You’ll learn what food photography tricks to use and how to take good food photos with your iPhone (that’s right!).

Food Photography Tip #1: Only Use The Best-looking Ingredients

It might seem like an understatement, but when it comes down to the art of food photography, the devil is in the details. That’s a fact. When food stylists have to take a picture of a burger, they spend a lot of time searching through dozens or hundreds of buns, looking for that one perfect bun.

For instance, they choose a fluffy, full and pumped up bun with sesame seeds spread equally, instead of using one that was clearly at the bottom of the pile, all seedless and trampled. Sorry bottom buns, but in food photography appearance is everything.

So search for ripe and vividly colored fruits, for instance, if you’re trying to take a picture of your famous apple tart or your delicious Caesar salad.

The food photography at its best, when fresh ingredients are used

Food Photography Tip #2: Use Natural Sunlight

Make sure that you’re shooting all of your dishes next to the window. According to Shaw Academy:

Lighting is a key factor in creating a successful image. It determines not only brightness and darkness, but also tone, mood and the atmosphere.
Lighting can be the difference between a breath-taking photo and a poor one.”

That’s why you’re always seeing reflectors used by all photographers during their photoshoots. So shoot in good light to achieve the best possible results.

Tip: Try shooting your food photos when it’s cloudy because clouds help create a soft light with more subtle shadows.

Food photography taken on an outcast day

Food Photography Tip #3: Wear A White T-shirt

I can see why this might confuse you. However, this is one of those food photography techniques which is quite interesting: you can use the T-shirt you wear as a reflector.

This is a great photography tool that helps redirect the existing light to your plate of food; so the light that gets projected from your t-shirt onto your food plate is nice and soft.

Food Photography Tip #4: Don’t Use Flash

Whatever you do, don’t use flash. Since you’ll already be shooting at close range, turning on your flash won’t actually do anything to help you create some food photography masterpieces.

You can do that much better actually without turning on the flash.

Food Photography Tip #5: Use a Neutral Background

The purpose of using a neutral background is that so it can highlight the vivid colors of your food plate. Choosing to use a cluttered and very colored background will actually steal the focus from your food and will make it seem bland and tasteless.

If it turns out that you need to embellish the background a little, you can always use Lightroom food presets free collections.

So with that being said, you should use one of the following types of backgrounds:

  • Light
Food photography: bowl of rice on a light background

Food photography: bowl of rice on a light background

  • Dark

food photography tips: dark food on a dark background

  • & Wooden

food photography tips: placing a pizza on a wooden tableAs a rule of thumb, dark backgrounds are a great match for dark foods, whereas light backgrounds best emphasize light-colored foods. Wooden backgrounds (like tables or chopping boards) work great with any type of food.

Other backgrounds ideas you can use:

  • Newspapers
  • Carpet or rug
  • Black chalkboard
  • Tiles
  • Parchment paper
  • A baking tray
  • Tea towels and tablecloths with different patterns (floral, geometric, etc.)

food photography tips: table cloth background

Food Photography Tip #6: Don’t Be Afraid To Zoom In And Highlight Dimensions

A simple rule in food photography is that at times, there is simply no point in trying to show too many elements in a particular image. For example, don’t do your best to include cutlery or glasses, if they don’t add value to your picture.

In fact, let’s take a look at the image below:

pizza plus glass of cokeThat’s a great image for emphasizing a combo of pizza and coke for one. However, there’s no point in actually using this image if you’re not giving that cola for free to them, or using it to highlight a combo promotion.

You can just highlight a part of it and use it as a great picture for a vegetarian pizza, like in the example below:

food photography tips: pizza - cropped photoRelated: Menu Engineering Trilogy (Part 1): Secret Menu Design Tips To Boost Your Sales

Think about what you’re trying to convey and show only the relevant parts of the image. Because less is more.

So the easiest way to impress your clients is by using these simple food photography tips to achieve some truly incredible pictures. The more realistic and delicious they look, the better. Remember that out of sight means out of mind. In sight means in mind.

And when the images of your foods are in the minds of your clients… then that can only mean one thing: higher profits for you.

If you’d like to know more about camera angles, pro-level tips, styling, and staging, then you can read more amazing food photography tips here.

P.S. If you don’t have to shoot these restaurant menu pictures yourself, and you’re searching for a restaurant menu with pictures template, then it might be worth checking out the free for lifetime and already-done-for-you GloriaFood menu template, which will give you access to hundreds of mouth-watering and high-resolution food images that you can insert in your online menu.

Related: Online restaurant menu – now with pictures

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Andreea Dobrila
Andreea Dobrila

Andreea Dobrila is a proven web copywriter & marketing strategist. She pushes online restaurants on the fast-track to quickly growing their online sales. Win more business by using her bulletproof tips & secrets.

Download’s Andreea’s free report:

**Food Descriptions That Make You Hungry: Hypnotic Menu Writing Tips & Secrets**

Why should you go through all this hassle? ... when your free GloriaFood account gives you access to hundreds of mouth-watering food images?