Food for Thought – Shooting at Working Restaurant Locations

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We recently did a shoot at Manta restaurant in Woolloomooloo so I wanted to run you through some of the challenges that we face when doing restaurant photography and shooting food and lifestyle images in a working restaurant or café as well as what we pay attention to because it’s about a whole lot more than just emphasizing the food!

1. Shooting in a busy working environment.

The first thing that comes to mind is it’s an actual working restaurant, so we need to be very aware of that and to not get in the way of the staff and, more importantly, not to disturb the customers. We also have to be very aware that we need to work safely because we do bring some large equipment in which can cause trip and fall hazards or even fall on people and we definitely don’t want that so we have to really make sure that everything and everyone is safe.

2. The Lighting.

At some restaurants, the lighting can be particularly challenging, thankfully on this shoot at Manta it wasn’t too bad because we had a lot of natural light coming in. Despite a lot of light coming in, it was still very dark on one side so we needed to bring some additional lighting in to really make the images pop and come to life. Without doing this, the images would be very flat and dull looking – Not appealing to anyone.

We also want to capture the restaurant lighting as it is whether it’s a bright and airy place or intimately dim as the lighting emphasizes the mood which leads us on to the next point…

location photography
location photography

3. Paying Attention to the Ambiance & Vibe.

When we’re doing restaurant photography we have to make sure we actually capture the ambiance and the vibe of the place. We really want to give the audience a little glimpse into what it’s actually like to be there. We wanna make it the best possible glimpse we can, so we’re going to do what we can to really emphasize all the good points and the ambiance of the place. We consider if it’s a busy, bustling sort of place that you’d visit with friends, or if it has an intimate vibe, the sort of place you’d go for a romantic dinner date.

We also consider the vibe – what the restaurant is about, how it’s decorated and fitted out – Is it modern and minimalist or is there a cosy casual vibe with some antique accents?  Do they have a bar that you can come and sit at for a pre-dinner or after-dinner drink? All these things and more we really want to show off.

4. Locking In On The Location.

We also pay attention to the restaurant’s location and surroundings. Is it in a busy city suburb or is it by the beach where it’s more cool and breezy? What’s the view like from the window – Is this a place to people watch as people go about their busy lives or a place to relax with the sound of the ocean as the waves hit the shoreline, again, it’s something we consider and will tend to include in the package that we produce.

5. Finding a Balance & Representing It Right.

I don’t want to misrepresent a place so I don’t want to show more than what it actually is, but it’s a really fine juggling act between making a place more than what it is and not making it look good enough. So we need to sit right on that edge, having customers be pleasantly surprised at what they find both in terms of food and ambiance because you definitely don’t want customers going the other way and leaving disappointed because it didn’t live up to their expectations.

food photography
food photography

Final Thoughts

Swami Sivananda said Put your heart, mind, intellect, and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success”. I completely agree, this is my mentality when I’m out on a shoot.

As a product and food photographer, I really like shooting restaurants because there’s always a lot happening and there are lots of opportunities to get some excellent shots of the place; its food, its vibe, and its staff. For this shoot at Manta, I was very pleased with how the shots turned out. We got some really good action shots of one of the bartenders making some cocktails and were also able to capture the food and the general vibe of the place.

Tips for Your Next Restaurant Photography Shoot:

  • Make sure you and your food photographer are on the same page right from the start, have a conversation with them before hiring and be sure to check out their past work. You could even visit the location to see how it compares with the restaurant photos you’ve seen and the real life experience.
  • Consider what vibe you want to get across – Is your restaurant a hip place where the young crowd hang our with friends on weekday evenings and weekends, is it a family-friendly restaurant, or a place for first dates and romantic anniversary meals?
  • Review the key points that you want your food and restaurant photographer to highlight whether that’s your fun and friendly staff, your bar area, your handmade food, your seafront views, or your attention to detail with food presentation, table settings, or something else that’s unique to your place.

“Great things in business are never done by one person.
They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

If you need any help, please do get in contact. Let’s have a talk on how I can help you with your food and restaurant photography and draw the customers in through your doors by showing off your restaurant in the best possible light.

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