Do you make these mistakes when photographing your food in a restaurant?

Photographing food in a restaurant

It can feel a bit cringy but I bet you've been tempted to, or you do it on a regular basis. Especially if you're a bit of a foodie or you've just been presented with the prettiest plate of food ever and you want to capture the moment.

If, like me, you want to do it quickly with the minimum amount of fuss and attention, then you'll be using your phone and you'll be in a hurry. This is the first mistake.

Slow down, take a breath and look at the plate of food. Really look at it.

Typical problems photographing under spotlights. All those warm reflections.

What is the light like and what problems is it creating for you?

This is probably the single most important factor in whether your photo will be WOW or 'meh'. The lighting, although creating a lovely mood and ambience in a restaurant, will be awful for photography: warm overhead spotlights that throw a dark phone-shaped shadow on your plate and harsh spots of light on shiny plates. It might also make the colour look off, too warm or too cool.

You can't fix some of this at the time, as you can't ask for the lights to be switched off. You just have to make the best of the situation and edit the shot afterwards . If you're seated next to a window in the daytime, then your luck is in, as the daylight will partially cancel out any colour cast from the lights.

The only way to avoid getting your phone's shadow in the photo is to try other angles or move your plate to a different place on the table until there is no shadow. 

Talking about angles - have you picked the best one for the type of food?

Overhead shots of dishes like this can look great but in this instance the pasta and crab sauce look flat. The previous image (above) is a better angle but there are a few problems with it.

  1. The lighting isn't great and there are lots of reflections.
  2. The cutlery peeking out from under the plate is distracting.
  3. The image looks a little bland and unappealing even though the food was delicious.

This can all be fixed with editing. Ideally the cutlery should have been moved out of the way but that can be fixed too!

Not editing images before posting them on social media is another common mistake. It's easy to quickly glance at the shot, conclude that it looks alright and share it. But in my experience 99% of images look better edited. Here's what I've done to this one with the Lightroom Mobile app:

  • Cropped in closer to focus on the food.
  • Removed the cutlery peeking out from under the plate.
  • Removed all the warm golden reflections.
  • Corrected the colour cast by increasing the warmth.
  • Adjusted the contrast, exposure and vibrance to make the image pop more.
  • Increased the texture and clarity to bring out the details.

This sounds like a lot but it takes a couple of minutes. So I've rescued a pretty mediocre shot taken in a hurry and made it much better.

What will you do differently next time you're tempted to photograph your meal in a restaurant?

If you like this blog post and would like more great tips download my PDF guide 12 Expert Tips for Creating Stunning Food Photos with a Phone.

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