Five top tips to help you with a restaurant photography shoot

How to take great restaurant images

Put these five simple actions into place when photographing in a restaurant, cafe or bar and you will be on the road to producing beautiful images for your client. In future posts I will go into more detail, with more advice to help you take better images.

Five Tips to better restaurant photography

1 LIGHT – Find a spot by a window. Window light is your friend. Position the food so that the light is to the side or back of the food you are shooting – side/back light helps give shape, texture and contrast to the dish you are shooting. If you light from the front, the light irons out all the shadows and you lose the texture (this is great if you photographing skin!) but dull & flat if you are shooting food.

See the images below – I chose the spot on the left by the window (and removed the no entry signs!). Also see my point below re colour of light – I turned off the electric lamp in the corner that is turning this area yellow.

2. SOFTEN THE LIGHT – If it is too bright soften with a diffuser, a sheet of tracing paper or soft plain net curtain. Take bull dog clips and sellotape to help keep diffusers in place.

3 BOUNCE THE LIGHT – shadows are beautiful and help make sense of the contours of the food just as much as the light does, but you don’t want them to be too heavy and too black. Use a reflector – or a piece of silver foil or white card – to bounce some light back into the darker shadows.

4 COLOUR OF LIGHT – Run away from yellow light! Ask the restaurant to turn off overhead electric lights. If all the lights are on a system and it will plunge the kitchen and customers into darkness, ask if they can remove the the bulb in the light above your table. I have done this many times! See the pic above – I turned off the electric lamp in the corner that is turning the area yellow.

5 BACKGROUND AND TABLE SURFACE – pay attention before you shoot. Talk to the restaurant – what look do they want – wood, table cloth, slate? The background is key to the overall feel & style that your images will have. Some wooden tables look very orange – I have literally walked around a restaurant picking out a greyer wood table to use and moving it to my window spot. I also remove pictures from the wall in the background if they are distracting (see pumpkin pic below – I removed the painting and cushions put a wooden crate in place of the cushions for this shot). Don’t be afraid to rearrange furniture – the restaurant will be more than willing knowing it is going to produce them a beautiful shot.


Experienced photographer with many years photographing people and families, as well as shooting and styling food.