Take Your Best Shot

Alluring food photography is an important marketing tool for restaurants, and there are easy strategies to implement that will make it quite simple to capture the best image.
Alluring food photography is an important marketing tool for restaurants, and there are easy strategies to implement that will make it quite simple to capture the best image. Jenny Wheat

Photographs of food and beverage abound, thanks to social media and smartphones, presenting ample opportunities to market a restaurant. To capture the best photos of food and beverages, here are some tips from the pros:

Food Focus

Try to fill the frame with food, when giving context to the surrounding environment is inconsequential, advises Jason Wessel, in-house photographer for Gracie’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island.

When in doubt, there are three great angles to shoot from, says Jenna Benty, art director at Crier Communications, a Los Angeles–based PR and advertising firm. Shooting from a bird’s eye view helps viewers feel as if they’re in the environment with the subject. For another perspective, use a 45-degree angle or shoot level with the subject, either of which will highlight the beauty and texture of the subject, she says.

Invest in a good camera is the advice from many. “Professional equipment makes a huge difference in food photography,” says Peggy Farren, a commercial photographer in Naples, Florida, who also teaches a food photography class. She suggests a Canon 6D or a Nikon D750, both of which cost less than $2,000. She also advises buying a professional lens, such as a macro F/2.8 100mm, which retails around $1,000.

“Your lens is the most important piece of equipment in photography,” Farren adds. “With a good lens, you’ll be able to blur out backgrounds, make food items look like they’re close together, and the color and clarity will be much better.” She also uses small lights in her photography, and suggests: “Purchase several small, strong flashlights to light up different parts of the food.”

However, natural lighting is preferable. Use natural light wherever possible but not direct sunlight, which causes harsh shadows. “So if the sun’s not shining directly through the window, that’s good,” says Wessel. “And it will produce a softer, more even, diffused light.”

Another recommendation is to use reflectors—a white source—across from the light source being used, to further soften shadows.

Backdrops are also important, and the pros say almost anything can serve the purpose. For a simple backdrop, Jenny Wheat, a commercial photographer who works with food and beverages, suggests a shiny white piece of coated flexible heavy paper. She also uses rustic wooden tabletops or the blurred background of a restaurant.

Marble surfaces are great for producing beautiful reflections of a product, Benty says, and Wessel likes to incorporate a theme into his backdrop. But don’t overdo it, he says. “You need only a hint to understand the story behind the picture.”

Food Photography Tricks

  • Spritz food with water or brush it with oil to keep it looking lively and moist.
  • Use toothpicks to prop up food.
  • Slightly undercook food for the most vibrant colors in vegetables and moistness in meats.
  • To create long-lasting steam, soak cotton balls in water and microwave them. Place them behind and/or inside the food.
  • Pour sauces while they are being photographed to show them running, dripping, or pooling around the dish.
  • Sprinkle finely chopped parsley or greens over monochromatic dishes to break up the color.
  • Use a 50/50 mix of glycerin and water for droplets on salads and cold vegetables.

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