When running a restaurant, one of the essential aspects of promoting and marketing the business involves choosing what photographs to use. A high-impact image can engage the senses, making the viewer see, smell, feel and even taste the food without having been able to try it yet.
A professional food photographer can accomplish these, and more. Hiring the top experts in food styling and photography is key to generating appetizing images for your restaurant website and other marketing materials.
It takes years of experience to produce quality food images. To help you understand how the experts pull it off, here are a few steps detailing how they create tantalizing restaurant food photography.
1. Gather the equipment
The tools used vary depending on the project. More often than not, you may find food stylists and photographers armed with more than just cameras and the dishes themselves.
When it comes to food photography, the aim is to make the dish as irresistible as possible. This often involves using techniques that focus on making the dish look good and deliciously tempting even when the food prop has been sitting out for an hour because of the shoot.
For instance, stylists may brush oil over the ingredients to make them glisten. Scoops of ice cream are replaced by mashed potatoes or shortening as they don’t melt under the light. As such, you may notice food stylists armed with brushes, toothpicks and other tools designed to make the dish look fuller and fresh.
2. Use natural light
Natural light has a way of making dishes look fresh and appetizing. As such, photographers will often schedule the shoot during the day. Plates, silver and other dining elements are shot outdoors or near a window to make the most of the natural light available.
At times, photographers will use flash and reflectors. When bounced off a wall or the ceiling, the light from the flash will provide additional light and soften any harsh shadows.
3. Use props
Although the dish should be the focus of any image, at times, stylists and food photographers will add additional relevant elements to put the dish into context.
For instance, an image of a slice of cheesecake may include a fork and may be accompanied with a cup of tea or coffee and some small condiments. Peppercorns and herbs may be sprinkled all over a chopping board that features a large slab of grilled meat.
It is important to strike a balance between context and clutter. A few extra elements may help but there is no need to fill the photo with food or other objects.
Stylists and photographers also need to be aware of the colors and textures of the elements and props being included in the image. Contrasting colors and textures can help make ingredients pop out more.
Props need to be carefully inspected before being used in the image because the slightest imperfection will be magnified in the photo. Plates and utensils need to be spotlessly clean while the ingredients should look fresh and devoid of any blemishes.
4. Shoot from different angles
Perspective can change how the viewer may feel about the dish. Professional photographers will often try to take as many shots from different angles as they can for a single shoot.
A shot taken from directly above the dish can be used to include ingredients and other relevant elements. This type of shot illustrates what goes into the dish.
On the other hand, a shot taken from the side can show how the dish would look when served. For instance, a shot of a slice of cake taken from an angle can show the different layers inside.
5. Shoot quickly
Stylists and photographers need to plan, experiment and practice the shots days before the actual day of the shoot. Unlike studio lighting, natural light changes depending on the time of the day and weather.
The look of ingredients and even entire dishes can also change in just a few hours, minutes or even seconds. Vegetables are an example. To make them look fresher, they are often undercooked.
When it comes to salads, the dressing can be put in a small bowl on the side. This is to prevent the dressing from covering the ingredients or making them look limp.
By practicing and experimenting with different angles outside the shoot, the team can also determine what they need to bring and how to set up the shot quickly. This is especially important in cases where several dishes need to be styled and photographed in one session.
If you’re taking a specialty burger photo, taking an angle shot from the side would be preferable to one taken from above as the side shot would highlight the burger patty itself while a shot from the top would have to accommodate other elements such as the sides, utensils, etc., else, you’ll be left only with the image of the top (sesame seed) bun.
6. Add steam
With the exception of desserts and other dishes served cold, steam is a popular element that can be added to an image. Steam emanating from the food gives it the impression that it just came off the stove, oven or grill.
Natural steam is difficult to produce. Most foods do not produce enough steam to be captured by the camera. Plus, food can get cold quickly, reducing the amount of time when the photographer can take the shot.
Food photographers and stylists need to be creative with steam, with some resorting to using garment steamers and microwaved sponges or cotton balls, or devising even more inventive ways to create it for their shoots.
Experienced stylists and photographers have several other techniques that they use to produce stunning food images. With this guide, you have a basic idea of the amount of work and effort it takes to create stunning and delectable food photographs.
Barry Morgan is the creative force behind Barry Morgan Photography. His passions are photography, food and family, although not always in that order. He believes you should love what you do, to do exceptional work. Cooking was always a family affair in his home so naturally, once his passion for photography took root, he was drawn to food photography. Barry Morgan Photography now works with hundreds of clients, turning their tasty dishes into mouthwatering visuals.