How to hire a restaurant photographer and make the most of your food pictures

how to hire a restaurant photographer

How to hire a restaurant photographer and make the most of your food pictures

Shooting food is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs. Unfortunately, the explosion of social media has had a terrible influence on the general perception that anyone can do this just because everyone is taking pictures of their meals and posting them on Instagram. However, most people would never agree to have someone with a smartphone as their wedding photographer. This is exactly why you should learn how to hire a restaurant photographer to help you promote your food business.

To help you create an excellent restaurant brand, we’ve highlighted the right reasons to have a professional food photographer and a list of tips and tricks to understand how to look at their portfolios when you shortlist the best.

Why hire a restaurant food photographer?

We live in a digital era dominated by social media. Since people get most of their information visually, it makes sense to invest in a professional photographer. Of course, you can ask yourself, what is a food photographer and why should you hire one.

A restaurant photographer can create mouthwatering images that are in line with your brand and help you attract new clients.

Skill level and access to professional tools

Just like any other job, becoming a photographer requires years of training, hours of practice, and having the right equipment. Although it looks easy, food photography is, in fact, very subtle. Differences in lighting, angles, and composition can make a food picture look appetizing or plain.

Professional photographers have some form of training that allows them to know the rules of composition. They know how to create an image that tells a story instead of just capturing a burger on camera.

When hiring a photographer, you don’t only pay them for their know-how, but also for the tools they use. Specialists invest in the latest equipment like lenses, lights, filters, tripods, remote triggers, and more. These can cost thousands of dollars, together with the editing software used for post-processing the captured images.

food photography tools Source: loveandoil.com

Apart from the image-capturing and image-processing tools, dedicated food photographers usually carry a much broader set of useful items, including food styling tools, backgrounds, and props. The best of them are highly skilled in food stylist tricks, like using glue instead of milk and motor oil instead of honey.

Creating a brand image and communication

Having custom-made food pictures can do more for your restaurant than selling an additional dish or filling in some seats. It helps you tell your story coherently and persuasively.

Of course, in the beginning, you could rely on great stock photos. The trouble with this approach is that a direct competitor could use the same images and create confusion in the mind of the clients.

When you have ownership of the food pictures, you can use them confidently on all channels, including your website, social media, flyers, and banners, even if food photography pricing is a concern for some restaurant owners.

Related article: 10 Successful restaurant flyer ideas to help you sell more

Unique vision

Your chef is great when it comes to combining ingredients and spices, but the visual cues are the first to catch your potential clients’ eyes. You want to work with somebody who knows a few food photography tips that can suggest taste, texture, and richness by using the right set-up. A great photographer is an artist, creating signature images that not only convey information about the food and its freshness but also give the viewers the right emotions.

Some restaurants are well represented by a rustic mood, based on natural ingredients and home-cooking, while others need a sophisticated vibe, with high-end props and diffuse light. For instance, notice the differences between the two images below depicting an apple pie.

elegant, glamorous pie, and rustic pie food photography for restaurants

How to hire a restaurant photographer?

Appointing a photographer for your restaurant is a process. It is similar to hiring any other employee, just that this is a one-time project and you require a perfect fit regarding ideas and communication. He or she also needs to be within your projected budget.

Select candidates

Start making a list of potential photographers or food photography agencies you might like by scouting the competitors’ websites and local social media. You could also search for “restaurant/food photographers near me”. Go to photo exhibitions if there are any available in your city or contact the local art school or photography club. Don’t forget to ask friends about recommendations or even ask your social media circle if they know anyone.

Make a list of all the artists known for professional food photography you like and reach out to them. Try to give them a well-mapped brief describing precisely what you liked about their current work and asking for specific photos. This helps them get back to you with a realistic price offer and enables you to rule out those who are too expensive for your current needs.

Short-list the photographers

Depending on the answers you got in the previous step, decide on your favorite food photography styles and who are the top 2-3 artists for this project. Ask them to send you additional portfolio pieces that are relevant for the story you hope to create for your restaurant.

Evaluate these photos based on the feeling they give you. Pay close attention to details to ensure these match your style. Decide on the winner after a one on one conversation about their ideas for your place.

Tips and tricks to select a great food photographer

There are no universal recipes for this, but here are some aspects that can make the difference between a pro and an amateur.

  1. Do they have professional gear and know-how to operate it? Ask what they intend to shoot with and what kind of other equipment they are bringing.
  2. Look at their edited photos and ask for the original. Do they do much editing? Do colors look natural for what they are depicting?
  3. How creative are they? Do you see a theme in their photos? Ask them where they get their inspiration from. Are they curious? Are they looking to improve their work continuously?
  4. How willing is the photographer to work with some ideas from the restaurant owner or the chef? Do they make their own food set-ups or ask the staff members to arrange the food, and they just shoot it as it is?
  5. Ask about the expected processing time. Does the photographer have a contract or will they only give you a rough estimation?
  6. Do they have testimonials and references from previous clients?
  7. What services do they include, and do they charge extra?
  8. What is their preferred shooting style, and does it match your location?
  9. Do they want to keep authoring rights over the images or will you get them no strings attached?
  10. What is the image they are most proud of?

Restaurant photography ideas

Even if you hire a true artist, you still have a say in the final decision about the pictures you will use to promote your restaurant. Here are a few restaurant photography tips to help you decide what you want and which photos are the best.

Food menu photography

If you want to use the pictures for your social media accounts or website menu, you need to have images that are as similar as possible to what you serve in your restaurant. This is like your food’s ID card photo. It needs to be the best version of the actual dish, with no extravagant enhancements. For the menu pictures of food, prevent your photographer from becoming too creative with props or backgrounds, or your clients will be disappointed when you serve them the actual plain dish.

sample of restaurant  menu photography

Fine dining photography

Although these too need to reflect what the food is about, it is less about the exact dish and more about the details and the mood it gives to the viewer. These photos follow a different food photography composition. They can have contrasting or faded backgrounds. Some photographers enhance the image with elegant props to show the richness, the freshness of the ingredients, and the craftsmanship that goes into creating the dish. These photos are a lot about the composition and can be flat lays or mimic standstill paintings.

samples of fine dining photography with diffuse restaurant photography lighting

Final Thoughts

Learning how to hire a restaurant photographer is a lesson you shouldn’t take lightly. The quality and creativity of your food pictures go a long way to making customers crave your dishes and buy from you more often.

If you haven’t decided on a restaurant photographer just yet, but still want to see how your clients would react to great photos on your website and menu, you could start using the GloriaFood website builder that comes with thousands of beautiful stock photos of every dish you can imagine. Always remember that we eat with our eyes first.

Silvia Palașcă

Silvia Palașcă is a passionate writer covering mostly the wine, food and travel industries, and a talented web developer with extensive knowledge of website optimization and SEO.

Create your own restaurant website

Get Started