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Take amazing restaurant photos with your phone

Join PosterMyWall and guest host, Monica Farber of Hello Fancy Media, as she demonstrates how you can take your own professional-quality photos using a smartphone. From lighting to layout and from best angles to best backgrounds, Monica will teach you everything!

This week, special guest Monica Farber taught us how to take fabulous bar, food, and restaurant photos with a smartphone. Monica is a social media marketing expert and is  Principal at Hello Fancy Media – an Atlanta-based boutique agency specializing in content creation and social media curation.

As a result of her years of experience in photography, videography, and social media curation, Monica harbors a special talent and love for capturing beautiful and engaging restaurant photos. 

In this class, the first question Monica addressed was whether you need a professional camera to take amazing photos. The answer? 

Absolutely not!

“The best camera to have is the one that’s with you,” Monica said. Then, she went on to talk about the endless capabilities of smartphones. 

Throughout the class, Monica shared great tips on how to take fabulous food and restaurant photos. If you missed this class, you can watch the replay above or read on to learn how to enhance your bar, restaurant, and food photography skills. 

Create the right ambiance for your shoot

Monica started her presentation by sharing tips on how to take bar and restaurant photos that convey the unique personality and spirit of your establishment. She said that everything deserves attention: Decoration, ambiance, the colors of the food, the delicate garnish at the top, and the steam rising from a hot dish. 

“Shoot in the daytime for the best results,” she said. This applies even to bars and eateries with nighttime openings and especially to spaces with dim lighting because natural lighting results in higher quality images.

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Monica encouraged everyone to experiment with shooting from different angles – both to add variety to your photos and to learn what is the best way to capture the unique details of your food and atmosphere. She also suggested that people purchase a photo gimbal to keep their camera level. 

Action shots are a great way to add variety to your feeds and make your photos more engaging. This could be the cheese pull from your pizza, the whipped cream melting on top of your pie, or the flames licking the burgers on your grill. 

Another fun option is to use “long exposure” on your iPhone. This will result in images where the subject is still but the people moving behind them will be slightly blurry – implying motion. “Not many people are aware of this option, but it really helps bring focus to your product in a unique way,” Monica said.

To do this, set your iPhone to  Live Photo, tap and hold the part of the screen you want in focus until the AE/AF Lock is activated. Swipe up and choose long exposure.  

Use different backgrounds and surfaces to make your images pop

When you take a food photograph, you’re not just capturing the food in itself. You’re trying to tell a story about the dish you’ve presented. And to tell that story, you need to create the right atmosphere and set up the right background. 

“Be intentional about what surfaces you are shooting on,” Monica said, meaning you should choose a surface that brings attention to the dish and communicates the right mood. Too many people skip this step and end up with photos that don’t do their dishes justice. 

Monica shared some of her favorite sources for high-quality backdrops. These are 1. Woodville Workshop

2. Replica Surfaces

3.Bessie Bakes Backdrops

4.Erikson Surfaces

Alternatively, you can purchase surfaces from your local Home Depot or home improvement store–or make your own backdrops with material from your local hardware store. Monica shared photos of surfaces she has made herself and encouraged viewers to do the same – especially if they’re on a budget. 

Adjust the lighting 

The right lighting will make or break your image, Monica said. “Do not use camera flash as a source of lighting,” she warned.

Instead, leverage as much natural (window) light as possible. To do this, place the dish you’re shooting near a window where the natural light accentuates the details of your subject. 

Monica advised viewers to avoid using multiple light sources. You will get a better image if you work with a single light source.

Another potential hazard is when your light source is too harsh. For instance, light coming in a window is great, but direct sunlight is too strong and will result in part of your photo being over exposed or burned out. 

Tame harsh light by placing a diffuser between the light source and your subject. You can buy one from a photo supply store or use a sheet of paper or sheer curtain. Even a shower curtain will work. 

When you need to add more light, you can use a reflector, bounce card–or even a sheet of white poster board–to redirect light onto your subject.

Add some props for an extra flair

Using props is Monica’s favorite way to enhance her images.

“Ingredients are my favorite props,” Monica said. She often adds a sliver of tomato, a garnish on the side, or some tomato slices next to a bowl of pasta. 

Cooking tools also make great props. If you’re taking pictures of freshly baked goods, try including a rolling pin or whisk in your shot.

Composition is key

Composition is the most important aspect of quality photography, and Monica said that the rule of thirds is the rule to live by. 

“If you’re going to remember one thing from this entire lesson, let it be this,” Monica said. 

She explained the rule of thirds like this: “Imagine there is  a 9-box grid in your photo. Line up your subject with the places where the lines cross.” This technique almost always delivers visually appealing results. There’s even a grid mode on your smartphone you can turn on to make this super simple.

 Some additional tips

Shooting great food and restaurant photos requires an eye for details. Monica’s suggestions include:  

  1. Clean up before taking your photo. Don’t capture drips, crumbs, or anything else that takes away from the beauty of your food. 
  2. Shoot your dish while it’s fresh. This will give you the best results.
  3. Shoot in photo mode for the best quality. 
  4. When editing, select a consistent aesthetic and use it to create a curated feed.
  5. Don’t over-edit or use filters that take away from the natural colors of the food. 

Choose the right template to enhance your food photo

Once you’ve shot your photos, you can import them into PosterMyWall to add your logo, a message, and other graphic elements. Monica used this template to create a promotion for a burger and brew special.

Your turn

Monica ended her lesson with a fun challenge. Shoot your favorite dish with your own phone. Make use of natural light. Throw in a cool prop. Post it on social media and tag @PosterMyWall and @HelloFancyMedia. Monica will comment on your posts and both Monica and PosterMyWall will repost the best submissions. 

We look forward to seeing your results!