I am going to talk about photography that I have worked on for Restaurants and the way I work for best photographs that show the food in their best light. Get ready for the best tips to help you shoot better images for restaurants.
- Start with the natural. One of the issues with photographing food in restaurants is the lighting. The lighting normally is set up to create a ambience for the customers who want a romantic meal. Most restaurants are dark with some window light, some side lights. Other restaurants don’t have any window light. I really like to include natural light when shooting food.
- Balance the light. When I can I will use long exposure settings on the camera for food photography. This lets the daylight show on the food shots but being careful to balance the light with the flash. If the exposure is too long the daylight will appear too bright, the shot might look OK but some details of the food might disappear and become white areas with no detail. Best keep camera exposure to around 1/2 second and try using different power settings of the flash to get the correct exposure you are looking for.
- Use a tripod. Nobody can hold a camera still enough for 1/2 sec, the image will appear to be slightly blurry. If you are doing long exposure shots the photographer will need to use a tripod.
- Use a long lens. When I say long lens I am referring to the focal length, I would recommend using in-between 70-200 mm. It just so happens most lens manufacturers make this very type of Lens. I use a Nikkor 70-200 mm lens, an even better option would be using prime lenses. Prime lenses are the ones that don’t zoom, they have a fixed focal range, they usually produce a better image quality. The more noticeable difference is the quality of out-of-focus areas of the image, a good lens to use would be a 85 mm or 100 mm lens.
- How shallow. Most food photography is taken at fairly close range as this helps the viewers to see the detail of the food. As a result, the background of the image will be blurred although this is not a bag thing it helps the look of the image. How much to blur the background or even the food is up to the photographer. It helps to add style to the image but if you blur the image too much the food itself may hardly be in focus and the clients can’t see the food clearly. The way the depth of field (blur) is controlled is by the F stops. I don’t recommend using an F stop as low as F/2.8 as I think a good balance is around F/8 to F/11. It does depend on how close you are to the food as the closer you are the more blur will appear. If you go too high with the F stop control, say F/16 or above, I think you are seeing too much of the background coming into focus.
- ISO. Most photographers will know this but for better quality images the ISO should be as low as possible. My camera’s lowest ISO is ISO 100, some cameras can go lower than this. By using ISO 100 the image created will have little or no digital grain which usually looks bad. You can shoot on ISO 400 but I don’t recommend going higher than this.
- Go Ultra wide. When shooting for restaurants, in my experience, the photographer is not only there to create images of the food but of the kitchen and dining area too. To make the interior look its best, I would use a ultra wide angle lens for this. It makes the room look bigger and it helps the look of the interior by adding a dynamic element.
- Look for the unique. If there is anything unique about the restaurant make sure you get images of it. The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive industries there is aside from the photography industry…. Restaurants normally have something about them to help them stand out from the crowd. It could be features of the building, cocktail drinks that only they serve etc. I once captured a staff member because he got his accordion out and started playing for the customers.
If you follow these tips you will have some great results from photo-shoots at restaurants If these tips have helped please let me know and even share images with me so I can put them on my blog to show others.