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Food for Thought: How to Take Awesome Pictures for Your Menu

Food for Thought: How to Take Awesome Pictures for Your Menu

When it comes to creating a first impression, images on a menu can make or break restaurants. A well-crafted menu with stunning pictures of mouth-watering food is sure to entice first time visitors to indulge. While the best course of action for restaurateurs would be to hire a professional food photographer with an extensive resume, this is often not in the budget. The good news is that in a pinch, you can take awesome photos of food for your menu even without a DSLR.

You’re going to need:

  • A reliable point and shoot camera such as the Canon PowerShot G12 or the Nikon Coolpix P7100. Some smartphones such as the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6 or Nokia 1020 can also work if you don’t add any instant effects like HDR or retro.
  • White sheets and white poster board
  • A tripod (optional)
  • A little creative flair


A good photograph is all about lighting. Make sure you get a lot of natural light by setting up next to a window. Avoid artificial light sources and never use flash because it bathes images in a yellow light. Your subject shouldn’t be placed in direct sunlight either, because this will wash away all the details.

Use white sheets to diffuse the light from the window if it’s too harsh. Situate your plate in an area that gets indirect sunlight and use white poster boards placed on the sides of your subject to reflect natural light for a more balanced lighting situation.


Since the star of your shot is the food, context is important and composition is everything. Limit distractions in the background and don’t clutter the photo. Keep it simple, with one or two secondary pieces (greens, flowers, utensils, etc.) placed either in the foreground or background of your subject. Be sure to keep the secondary pieces out of focus so attention stays on your subject (the food).

Plate Around

Use plates, bowls and serving trays that compliment and contrast with the subject’s natural colors and make sure you experiment with your plating to get the best possible look. Don’t use an orange bowl for pumpkin soup for example, because the soup will blend in with the color of the bowl. Don’t be afraid to use different angles by turning the plate around.

The Hunger Game

If your photos don’t get you hungry, start over. Food photos should be mouthwatering and should capture all the important colors and textures of the dish. Ask other people to look at your shots and ask them how they feel when they look at it. Remember, you’re not taking photos for yourself. You’re taking them for your customers.

Pro Tricks

One trick professional photographers use is dabbing vegetable oil on the food to make it look shiny and sumptuous. Freshly cooked, steaming food is also great for photos but hard to pull off. You can work around this by heating water soaked cotton balls in the microwave and placing them behind your subject to mimic the effect of rising steam.

When shooting food, you also have to be quick about it. Ice cream won’t last long out of the freezer, and veggies tend to wilt after a while. One trick is to use a stand-in plate or bowl and take a few shots of it to get the angles and lighting just right. Once you get the perfect conditions, bring on the food.

A Shot of Branding

No menu is complete without a logo, so make sure you add yours to let people know who’s serving them all this delicious food. You can also use images of your signature dishes on business cards, flyers and signage.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Make your food shine by taking great photos that not only showcases your skill in the kitchen, but also behind a camera.




Stacy Cyr


Stacy Cyr is the Senior Marketing Manager at (LogoMix), a self-service branding and marketing platform for small businesses, featuring the easiest and most powerful logo maker online. She draws on more than 8 years of experience growing global marketing campaigns for companies across multiple industries. She currently manages customer acquisition and retention, across 20+ countries worldwide for FreeLogoServices. Stacy received her B.S. in Business Administration from Babson College.


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