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What You Need To Know For a Successful Photo Shoot in a Restaurant

If you want to become a culinary photographer, you are likely to start a career in restaurant photography – this is how most food photographers begin. Restaurants have lower budgets, so they are open to newcomers.

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What you need to know for a successful photo shoot in a restaurant

However, taking pictures for restaurants is not so simple. You should not only be able to shoot food, but also the interiors, portraits of the chef and other employees. Taking pictures in a restaurant can be a very time-consuming process, you need to know a lot of details to be sure that you will not get burned by this specific type of shooting, and professional photographer Darina will share her tips.

Agree a list of photos

Before you can give a potential customer an estimate, you need to know what you will be photographing in order to calculate how long the survey will take. For example, it may take longer to take pictures of drinks than to take a plate of food, as it will be necessary, among other things, to control reflections in the glass. Base your estimates on the scope of the project. If you cannot calculate how long the survey will take, you will not be able to evaluate your services accordingly. Find out as much information as possible about how many food images, how many drinks, etc.

Some restaurants may want you to use your own surfaces, utensils, fabrics, etc. for a greater sense of the pictures from the magazine. Keep in mind that such a survey will take longer than photographing dishes on tables in a restaurant.

Explore location and light

Check the location in advance so that you know what you will encounter in terms of lighting. You also need to figure out where to set up your equipment and workspace. This should be done with the consent of the manager or owner of the establishment.

Discuss food style

What you need to know for a successful photo shoot in a restaurant. When shooting in restaurants from the very beginning, clearly indicate that you are not a food stylist and, therefore, are not responsible for how the food itself looks. Food design is another activity. This requires a separate skill set that is not related to photography. Your job is lighting and image capture. Of course, you always need to know about side dishes and other things, and in general, make sure that the food looks as photogenic as possible. Darina, for example, sent back a casually looking hamburger or even two. The fact is that customers must make sure that their chef will cope with their task. Otherwise, they should hire a stylist to help. However, food stylist services can be expensive and therefore not feasible for a limited budget. If the client does not intend to hire him, he should know that the responsibility for the appearance of the food on the plate ultimately rests with them. Be sure to include this in your contract. You’re signing a contract, right?

Bring a food folding kit and basic props

Despite the fact that you will not deal with the layout of food, you should still have with you a basic set for folding and styling food. It includes items such as tweezers, cotton buds and small brushes to tame the side dish or remove unnecessary crumbs and drops from the plate. You need to do the best job of what is given to you. It’s a good idea to come prepared with some kind of props just in case. Bring pieces of fabric of various shapes, sizes and colors and there may be some pretty cutlery. Sometimes customers want their tables, cutlery and plates to be removed as regular visitors see them, but many of them take into account the branding direction, which requires a special look and atmosphere. For example, when customers wanted her to create gloomy photos for them, Darina used small dark dishes and vintage cutlery – the opposite of large white dishes in most restaurants.

Use a tripod

If you shoot only in natural light, keep in mind that in most restaurants it will be too dark to take pictures of food. You will need to take pictures by the window and use a tripod to reduce exposure and increase exposure. However, this will not work for photographing people, as they will be blurry at a slow shutter speed. If the images will be published only on the Internet and social networks, you can check the ISO and eliminate noise in images in post-processing. When Darina studies the location, she takes a few test shots and see how they look in Lightroom before deciding on lighting.

Shoot horizontally

Talk with the client about how he would like the pictures to be taken. Most restaurants need purely images for their site. And interactive web design often requires images to be shot in landscape orientation.

What you need to know for a successful photo shoot in a restaurant

If the client will print some images in the restaurant menu, this may require a vertical format (and higher resolution). Be sure to discuss image orientation with the client. Keep in mind that if the customer wants both options, you may need twice as much time to shoot the images, because you will need to not only configure the camera, but also rebuild the composition for each image.

Shoot on the wire

Darina always connects her camera to a laptop so that the client can view the captured images. This shooting process allows you to see a clearer and more accurate image display than on the screen on the back of the camera. You can use Lightroom or Capture One Pro.

What you need to know for a successful photo shoot in a restaurant

Customer service

For a quality result, the client must be involved in the process. Ideally, he should be present on the set to refine creative details and approve captured images, guiding you. Thus, the option is cut off when the customer then returns and tells you that he does not like something or that the pictures do not correspond to the branding or aesthetics necessary initially.

Darina’s contract, for example, contains a clause which says that she won’t start filming if there isn’t a person who would represent the restaurant. And also, that the client will lose the deposit, if she needs to collect things and leave. Believe me, you do not want to get into such a situation.

Collaborate with the chef

Get the chef involved in the process as much as possible. When you make an appointment to inspect the location, ask if you can meet with the chef.

What you need to know for a successful photo shoot in a restaurant

If you make the chef feel like an important part of the process, it can significantly affect the result of your shooting. Pictures that turn out to be the easiest and funniest are those where the chef enthusiastically works with you and makes the dishes look their best at any given time.


  • Before stepping into a restaurant with a camera, make sure you have liability insurance. Many restaurants do not always think about it, but larger customers often ask for confirmation. If someone trips on an extension cord or wire and decides to sue the restaurant, you may be included in this lawsuit.
  • Look for suitable insurance and carefully read the fine print. You need insurance specific to the photography industry so you can be sure that it takes into account the types of situations that you will encounter. It is also good to insure your equipment against theft, loss and damage, including from fire or flood.
  • Shooting in a restaurant can be a great way to create a professional portfolio . Do it right to avoid headaches along the way, and have your customers hire you as a regular photographer whenever they update their menu.

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