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We all know that a picture’s worth a thousand words — and when it comes to food photography for restaurants, a picture can be worth increased revenue!

According to Grubhub, including food photography in your menu not only brings more traffic to your online ordering page, but it increases sales by at least 30%. 

So much business within the restaurant industry is conducted online — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the dining world goes online, your digital photography can be the difference between someone placing an order or finding dinner elsewhere.

Hiring a professional photographer is a great choice, but not all restaurant owners have the budget to do so — especially if you add new dishes or update your menu frequently. If you’re going the DIY route, the following principles will help your dishes shine and lead to more conversions for your restaurant. 

Equipment 

If you’re planning to take your own photos, you’ll want to start with a camera. DSLR cameras come with a learning curve, but with some practice and patience, these digital cameras can take stunning photos. Whether your camera budget is $400 or $1400, there are plenty of options — generally one with a 35mm lens is recommended.

Rule of thirds

Of course, not all restaurant owners have the budget to invest in a professional-grade DSLR camera. At Dash, we’re all about making the best of what you have. With the right tools, even your smartphone camera can take beautiful dish photos.

Whether you’re using a DSLR or your iPhone, you’ll need some other equipment, such as: 

    • Backdrops: A clean and professional-looking backdrop sets the stage for a beautiful photo. Purchase a backdrop online or consider creating one yourself
    • Plates: The quality of the dishware you use to serve and photograph your food can transform your photo from “meh” to “wow.” Be sure to use sparkling-clean dishes. Consider stark white plates for elegant dish photos, or wooden cutting boards or bowls for a more rustic feel.
    • Textiles: Napkins, tablecloths, pieces of burlap, and other textiles can pack a punch and give your dish photo some texture.
    • Props: Jazz up your photos with some props (but don’t overdo it). Consider including items like sleek glass jars and bottles, vases of flowers, knives, or other cutlery in your photos. Just make sure they don’t detract from the food itself.

Composition 

The composition of a photo makes a profound difference on its impact on the viewer. Photo composition seems complicated, but even a novice can achieve beautiful compositions by keeping a few key rules in mind:

  • Rule of thirds: This golden rule of photography states that when you break a photo into 9 quadrants, the points of interest of the photo should fall along the lines or intersections of the quadrants. Following this theory can make your photo appear more balanced.

  • Golden ratio: The golden ratio applied to photography ensures balanced photos by lining up the focal point of the image with the intersection of a Fibonacci spiral and lines at a 1 to 1.618 ratio.

  • Golden triangle: Dividing your image into a series of triangles and building your composition within some of the triangles — like this — is another strategy to compose a beautiful image. 
  • Rule of odds: Use an odd number of elements (1, 3, 5, etc.) within your photo for balance and composure. 
  • Repeating patterns: Consider the texture of your dishes and how you can play up repeating patterns without them appearing overwhelming.
  • Fill the frame: Filing the entire frame of the photo with your dish means you’re probably taking a close-up. This can be a great technique to show the texture of your food and really highlight minute details.

  • Leading lines: Use diagonal leading lines to draw a viewer’s eye toward the focal point: your food! Props like cutlery, spatulas, and other kitchen tools can be used to create leading lines.

Lighting 

Any photographer will tell you that lighting is key to any photo. 

Keep these tips in mind when taking photos of your dishes:

  • Achieve an eye-pleasing photo by using soft, natural light. Take photos near windows during the daytime to capitalize on the natural light that’s already available to you.
  • If you need a bit more brightness, use continuous lighting with a softbox for studio conditions. Ring lights are also popular and affordable choices for product and food photography. 
  • Depending on the lighting conditions in the room where you plan to shoot your photos, you may want to invest in a diffuser or reflector. Black diffusers are great for removing ambient light, while reflectors can control natural and artificial light.

Styling 

At the end of the day, you can take food photos that lead to more sales without professional-grade equipment if you focus on good styling. 

Here are some pro-tips to ensure well-styled photos:

  • Use fresh ingredients. Make sure your produce and meats look their best!
  • Wash veggies in ice water before shooting to brighten their colors 
  • Use plastic ice cubes underneath or around your cold dishes to prevent melting 
  • Photographing a bowl of soup? Place a plate in the soup bowl to prevent toppings from sinking 

Lighting photography

  • Add a human touch by including someone’s hands — for example, carving a piece of meat, or holding a fork

  • Add a human touch by taking action shots of the food prep procedure. Consider photographing someone carving a piece of meat, twirling pasta on a fork, or holding a soup spoon

 

  • Shoot objects from the side for a sense of scale 
  • Spray water mixed with glycerin to mimic condensation