Photographing Your Restaurant: Tips to Capturing the Food and Ambiance

Dining Area of the Building With No People

Crowds are gathering and restaurants are opening their doors again to welcome both new and familiar customers back into their dining rooms. Now is the chance to up your restaurant marketing with the help of photography to capture the art and ambiance of your spot. A survey revealed that 77% of customers will first review photos of the food at a restaurant before visiting. As the economy begins to open up and more locals and tourists begin venturing out of their homes again, ramping up your promotion efforts is vital. Find a photographer that will help capture exactly what you want to convey via food imagery and will help accomplish this by understanding your branding and story. Here are a few things to keep in mind for your restaurant photographer.

Create a Shot List

Young female photographer with photo camera sitting in cafe

This is something photographers are familiar with, but create a list of what items you want shot. A planned agenda will help your photographer accomplish your wants and helps to maximize everyone’s time. Consider creating your own agenda that puts a plan of action in place to focus on the priorities. Your shot list might look something as simple as:

  1. Menu items: 5 of the most popular dishes – what keeps your doors open
  2. Cocktails: mimosas at brunch, anyone? Or maybe you have a full bar you want to highlight – with a bartender(s) mixing up libations
  3. Dining area: create the setting that your guests will be able to see themselves in
  4. Patio: really, who doesn’t love a patio when the sun is shining?
  5. Staff: add the faces that keep your operations running – they’re the most important pieces to your restaurant!

What’s Your Story?

Woman Pouring Juice on Glass

Does your restaurant or ambiance capture a particular mood when customers walk in? How does the food present itself to your patrons? Know your brand to help your photographer set the tone. Brief your photographer on what your restaurant is all about and make a story out of it. If you don’t have one, get creative and have some fun! You may be surprised by the outcome of what your photographer was able to accomplish. Consider why you opened your restaurant in the first place and where you were when it all started.

  • What inspired you to open it?
  • What were some of the goals you had?
  • What family or friends were involved with the opening? 
  • How did you imagine your dream restaurant looking like?

Help your restaurant photographer understand their purpose at your location to give them a better direction. 

Tidy Up the Background

Empty Tables and Chairs

This one is a given when capturing the ambiance of your restaurant. Clear out any clutter that will distract diners from the interior. It’ll be difficult for your visitors to focus on the trendy dining room when there are still dirty plates sitting on one of the tables. Get some photos of each area of the restaurant. Cover the dining area to give your customers an idea of what their setting looks like and help them imagine themselves at your location. Your photographer may want a tabletop shot with some well-crafted dishes. Set aside the salt and pepper and utensils to clear out any angles at which the photographer is looking through.

The kitchen is where the magic happens and gathering some shots to see some of the masters at work will add some identity to the food you serve. See what the photographer can do and coordinate with your staff to set the scene. Depending on how busy your restaurant gets, either scheduling a time before, during or after might be the best so that the photographer doesn’t get in the way of the shuffling that goes on. 

Exterior shots of the front and a patio if you have one gives visitors a chance to scope your location out. If you live in an area where there is a prime patio season, absolutely remember to add this to your shot list. Work with your setting and include a backdrop of the street, the string lights hanging above or any piece that makes your patio enjoyable.

Food Presentation

Man Taking Picture of Food on Top of Table Inside Restaurant

Ah, yes. The quintessential ingredient that encourages patrons to whip out their smartphones and capture the beauty of your dishes. Without food presentation, there may never have been a trend started on Instagram. Knowing that customers will first look at food imagery before visiting your restaurant, make the presentation and plating a priority when your photographer comes to visit. Work with your chef on some of your most popular dishes to create a work of art, something drool-worthy when your customers see it. Imagine the reactions you would get from your regulars or new customers alike if you post the dish on social media, your Google listing, menu or wherever you decide to promote your restaurant. As you prepare your dishes for presentation, keep a few things in mind:

  • Match with your restaurant theme: does your local, family-owned spot reflect the simple, homestyle dish? Or does the high-end atmosphere give your guests a sophisticated delicacy to look at?
  • Create layers: build your food upwards rather than outwards to simply add more dimension to your plate. This also makes dishes look bigger without having to increase portion size.
  • Use complementary colors: dress up your plate and use striking colors to bring the dish out (red beets with orange carrots, green salads with yellow lemon peels). Garnish dishes with the added color.
  • Choose the right plates: while building dishes vertically makes portion sizes appear larger, be careful not to overcrowd one plate. Utilize bigger plate sizes for steaks and smaller sizes for appetizers. 

Spending time on food presentation helps photographers hone into the individual components of a dish – the ingredients! What you serve is what keeps your customers coming back and highlighting what makes each dish unique is the purpose behind its presentation. Consider even having a story for what inspired this dish.

Have a Point of Contact  

Woman in Front of Table

Finally, make sure there is a point of contact for your photographer to stay in communication with on the day of the shoot. You may have all your ducks in a row and an agenda slated out, but having a point of contact for your photographer to confer things with will help immensely. If you aren’t available on the day of the shoot, designate someone else closely aligned with your vision. Especially if you’re trying to convey the right message in your images, your photographer will greatly appreciate your guidance. Food and restaurant photography isn’t always as simple as snapping a few shots and calling it a day, which makes it all the more important to hire a professional. PhotoBooker offers a number of reliable photographers who know what they need to achieve to shoot the perfect food placement or capture your restaurant’s ambiance. You or your main point of contact won’t need to worry about directing the set as long as either of you is able to highlight your spot’s story and goal.