Marketing your business is about more than just building your email list, creating ads, or posting on social media. It’s also more than just the words of the content you craft. While copywriting might be a skill that benefits your business, it’s important to remember that pictures are worth 1000 words. 

When you’re looking to take your restaurant food photography to the next level, there are considerations to be made. You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional photographer to get beautiful photos. If you can learn a few tips and tricks, your photos can be just as mouthwatering as the food itself. Below, you’ll learn how to do just that. 

Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.

Restaurant food photography that makes their mouth water

Think about your advertising, social media posts, and other marketing campaigns. They all involve imagery, and it can be hard to get restaurant photography just right. But it’s not just your external marketing that needs a good photo; your menu does, too. You want the best pictures to represent your food, especially when you don’t have a lot of space to describe the dish. But showcasing your fabulous food items doesn’t require a degree — just a little skill.

General restaurant photography tips

Not every tip for getting the best photo comes down to the food. Some of them are basic photography tips you should master for taking any picture. These three tips are the most critical when taking professional-looking photos.

1. Depth of field

Depth of field relates to how much of the image is in focus. It specifically refers to the range of distance that is actually in focus in a photo. Using this technique can draw the eye to the part of the picture you want a person to concentrate on, such as one specific area of the photo that might be the most important. An example is if you had a tray of cookies and wanted to focus on the one with the bite in it. 

2. Lighting

Most photos look better when they are taken in natural light and without flash. Without using natural light, you’re more apt to deal with dark patches, shadows, hard reflections, and other factors that diminish the photo’s beauty. Look for the windows and try to have your light come from the back or side to get the best illumination for the food. 

3. Rule of thirds

Items are more appealing to the eye when they are not front and center or evenly placed within the photo. If you think of the picture as being divided into thirds, you want the item of focus to be in one of the thirds, but not directly in the center. 

Another way to think of the rule of thirds is by dividing the picture into three horizontal and three vertical sections. The item of focus should fall within one of the intersections that are outside of the center of the photo area. 

Equipment matters

Not everyone has a professional camera, and most people use their cell phones now to capture memories. But you may want to consider other options for your restaurant photography. Professional cameras do more than just point and shoot and can give your photos extra pizazz. 

If you don’t have access to a good camera and must use your smartphone, there are options to make your photos stand out. Play with the settings, different apps, an attachable ring light, and other options to ensure you get quality photos. 

Tips to improve your restaurant food photography

When it comes to more food-specific photography tricks, the following tips can boost the “wow” factor of your photos. 

1. Consider color schemes

Remember to consider the aesthetics of your restaurant before shooting photos of food. Balance the warm colors of your restaurant with foods that have cool tones. Add in natural decor, such as flowers and greenery, to boost the color scheme. If it’s a neutral space, you’ll want pops of color on your plate. If it’s a busy, colorful place, opt for muted food tones. 

2. Consider the shape

Shape plays an important role in your photography. The human eye doesn’t tend to like even-numbered groups. Shooting things in groups of three is a good combination because it’s not too much at once. Think of it like creating a triangle of objects, where you are providing structure, simplicity, and a recognizable shape. It helps the eyes see and absorb the photo in a pleasing way. 

3. Add a human touch

At most restaurants, your guests will be dining around a table in an intimate setting. They’ve gathered to eat together, be together, and you can provide that sense of togetherness through your restaurant food photography. Include a human touch in your photo: simply adding a hand into the picture can warm up the shot. Ask someone to hold a drink, plate, or other item and then take the photo. You can even have someone reaching across the table or handing someone something. 

great restaurant photography like this image of food being topped with sauce as it's being handed to a customer makes it personal
The use of human touch in this food photo adds an element of yum.

4. Focus on the food

You want the food to be the focus, so removing clutter surrounding the shot is important. This includes things that aren’t necessary to the photo, such as salt shakers, menus, water pitchers, etc. Keeping these items in the shot adds clutter and ruins the mood of the picture. The fewer things you have on the table equals fewer items distracting from the item you want viewers to focus on. 

5. Include lots of variety

It’s not just about one shot, but all the shots. In this case, variety is key. You want multiple shots, combinations of shots, different angles, different dishes, etc., to make the most of your photo session. You need a variety of photos to use in as many ways as possible so that you don’t need to spend a lot of time redoing them for ones you might have missed. Think about where these images will go: your website, social media, your menus, the press, and so on, and then make sure to get enough photos to cover all the possibilities. 

6. Keep things simple

While the color scheme and groups of three are important, so is keeping it simple. When in doubt, less is more. Utilize close up shots of the food itself. Choose plain backgrounds and table settings over patterns and colors. Create less clutter and mess within your photos. In the end, the background shouldn’t take away from the food itself. 

7. Add some spritz

Sometimes, your food photos might need a little sprucing up. After sitting out, even with fresh ingredients, salads can begin to wilt, vegetables lose their zest, or ingredients mess together a bit too much. You can remedy this with a spritz of water or oil. Doing this will liven up the dish, give it a new glow, and showcase the freshness in the photo. So add some shine to your food to give it a little extra pop. 

8. Find the right angle

Some food can be challenging to capture on camera. How you position it makes a difference; certain angles work better depending on the food itself. Try looking down from above the table or shooting from right in front of the food. For example, burgers look better from the side so you can experience the layers, while pizza looks great from above so you can see more depth. Photographing drinks? Try a 45-degree angle. And when you’ve got a mix of things on the table, play around with your shots to get the best one. 

When it comes to restaurant photography, angles matter -- a straight on shot of a burger feels like your about to take a bite
Here, you can see the details of the hamburger thanks to the angle, making it even more drool-worthy.

9. Cleanliness matters

Yes, there are times when there will be a stray ingredient, something lying just a bit off, or even a smudge on the plate. These can all be detractors from showing how delicious the dish is, so be sure to have a hand ready to clean your plate before each shot. 

10. Work with layers

Layers can significantly improve your food photos. You can achieve this by adding props, such as a spoon, to a dish, which will direct the viewer’s eyes to the dish itself. You can also set your photo up with various lines and shapes to create a layered look. Use shadows to your advantage with props that help create depth and focus on the star of the photo, the food. 

Marketing your restaurant with Constant Contact

No matter which tips you put into practice, the food should be the star of the show. If photography isn’t your only marketing struggle, Constant Contact can help you make sense of your online marketing. We’ve got all the tools you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more. Our comprehensive guide, The Download, is full of tips for restaurant marketing. Or, reach out online to learn more about how we can help.