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June 18, 2019

Pics to Pique Appetites: How to Take Great Food Pictures for Your Digital Menu

How difficult is it to make food look good, really?

The answer might surprise you. It's true we "eat with our eyes," but the gap between a bad photo and a great one is large indeed. If you're trying to make food enticing, then you need to land on the right end of that spectrum.

Below, we've put together some tips to help you take great food pictures for your digital menu.

Praise the Sun

Artificial light might hide some faults, but nothing brings out the best in things like natural light. Using artificial lights will obscure the intrinsic color of your dishes. That can make them look off-putting and plain bizarre, which only hurts your menu.

Daylight provides neutral light with a natural level of intensity, allowing the colors to pop and giving you even, all-over lighting. If you can't capture your food using natural light, modern LEDs can offer an alternative. White LEDs do a passable impression of natural light in a pinch and using them in a studio can give you reliable access to consistent neutral light.

Bring a Background to the Table

It might sound counter-intuitive, but your background is one of the most important elements of your picture. A bad background distracts and pulls focus from a subject. Like a good hype man, a good background puts the spotlight on the subject and elevates it.

You can even experiment a little with backgrounds to inject your brand's personality. Rustic food made by hand might benefit from wooden tabletops or cutting boards, whereas a sleeker, more modern establishment might prefer plain, neutral backgrounds.

Your background should never be overbearing. If you allow your background to become busy, it'll overpower your dish. That'll make it hard to decipher, particularly on a digital menu.

Golden Delicious

The human mind responds strongly to color. From the beginning of human history, our visual senses were hard at work finding food. Color remains central to both food and photography, so you better believe your food pics need to reflect that fact.

Consider your colors when taking your food shots. Rich and vibrant colors will set the mouth-watering visual and pique appetites. Color also plays into your image composition. Choosing dishes with complementing colors will help them pop and please the senses. A difference in color alone could be enough to sell a dish, so make sure you're showing your dishes at their colorful best.

The Right Consistency

If you want to create a coherent food menu, it helps to take your food pics in the same conditions every time. You aren't likely to achieve that consistency without some help. Setting up a studio will allow you to keep the same conditions for each photo. That means you can bring uniformity to your menu while also making future photo sessions easier.

Creating a studio may sound expensive, but it could be as cheap as buying a portable studio box. The LED lighting and neutral background they provide will help you take consistent shots every time.

Shady Work

We've already talked about the importance of light, but food photography lighting is also a game of shadows. Shadows give depth and drama to an image. Load up a picture in your favorite image editor to see this effect in action. Sliding the contrast slider up and down will give you a rough simulation of the image with weaker or stronger shadowing.

You should be able to see that weak shadowing "flattens" the image, removing its sense of volume. Cranking the slider up adds depth and texture. You need to position your light source(s) to capture some deep shadows, which will help to give your food a sense of size and drama.

The Best Side

You might have noticed by now that shooting quality food photos shares a few things in common with capturing a good portrait. But did you know that dishes even have a "best side," just like people?

It's true. Dishes show their best side from certain angles. These angles have a lot to do with the layout and structure of a dish.

Dishes with a deeper structure, like a burger or a cake, work better at lower angles. This shows off their layers and tells that thousand-word story that only a picture can capture. Foods like soups and pizzas have a flatter profile, so a shot from above will show them at their best.

Stuff Your Face

When it comes to taking shots, professional photographers always come back for a second helping. They aren't shy about stuffing their camera full of images.

There are a few reasons behind that. For one, this allows you to select the best of the bunch -- it's always good to have options. Second, this allows you to capture happy little accidents. Not all of the best photographs begin as planned images. It's often the spontaneous idea that wins out.

Finally, taking many pictures at once makes maximum use of your set-up. That could save you having to reassemble the composition if you decide you're not satisfied with any one result.

Better Than Life

#nofilter might win you some Instagram points, but post-processing can add a little extra pizza to even the most humble photo.

Even the standard Microsoft Photos software bundled with Windows can help perk up your pictures. They allow basic editing for color, contrast, and clarity. For more advanced settings, you'll want a more full-featured image editor.

You'll need to take some care with post-processing. Overdoing it will make your photos look phony and take away the appeal. But with the right balance, you can make your pizzas pop from the digital page.

Taking Tasty Food Pictures

Taking food pictures is a deceptively simple art. Anyone can pick up a camera, but a few small matters of technique can make a piece of culinary art look like a dog's dinner. Avoid that pitfall by keeping these simple tips in mind and you'll soon upgrade your menu.

Want to upgrade your restaurant visuals further? Use digital signage today to display your restaurant best pictures.

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