Do it yourself food photography tips

Restaurant Menus

Food is notoriously one of the most challenging subjects to take good photographs of.

However, food photography can also be a key way in marketing your dishes on your QR code menu — so it’s something that many restaurant owners are interested in.


Lighting often has the biggest impact on how well food photography comes out. While you can invest in relatively affordable lighting kits, we’ll focus here on some tips that don’t require additional equipment or purchases.

  • The type of lighting matters. For example, harsh kitchen lights often tend to make food look “bluer” — so it can be a good idea to avoid taking photos of dishes in the kitchen.
  • Depending on the type of food, photographing under a heat lamp can help make the photo look more appetizing. However, keep in mind the intensity of how much orange the lamps add to your image.
  • Another option to consider is taking a photo outdoors in indirect sunlight.


  • While you can invest in a digital camera that is professional or “prosumer” grade, you do not have to buy a camera to get great photos.
  • Most mobile and tablets devices have excellent cameras, so trying using your own device or borrow one from a friend or family member.
  • In general, the newer the device, the better the camera.
  • If your device is equipped with the required lenses, experiment with using the “portrait” mode on your camera. This can add a nice sense of depth to your image. In some cases, even if the device doesn’t detect the subject (your food), portrait mode can often produce a better image.

Editing photos

There are professional grade photo editing tools that offer a sophisticated about of options for making photos look even better. However, some of these can be challenging to use, especially if you’re just starting out with photo editing. However, there are some other options that can make this easier:

  • Most devices come preloaded with a free photo editing tool — so check out what programs and apps you already have first.
  • There are also many excellent free or low cost apps and programs that be downloaded to your device. Try searching the app store for “photo editing” on your device.
  • Experiment with your device’s built in editing tools. For example, on iPhones, boosting the “Brilliance” setting (often as high as it can go) can make a huge different. In addition, increasing the brightness can also be effective (use this with a bit more caution, though, to prevent your image from becoming “washed out”).

Plating for photos

When preparing a dish for a photograph, your plating and presentation is key to making your photo look professional and polished.

  • In most cases, you’ll want to plate your dishes the same way you normally would so customers aren’t surprised when a dish arrives at the table that looks drastically different than your photo.
  • Pay close attention to details — such as grill marks, browning and melted cheese. These often make food look more appetizing and appealing.
  • When shooting photos of plated food, you can use a solid color background (try using butcher paper or other paper) or another surface in your restaurant, such as a table.
  • Instead of a background, you can also consider “zooming in” on the food and avoid showing almost anything beyond the edge of the plate.
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