Learn How to Photograph Food With These Easy Tips

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of California Restaurant Month. All opinions are 100% mine.

One of my favorite things to do is to eat.

I’m totally being serious and I’m totally not embarrassed to admit it (well maybe just a little embarrassed). Living in California I have so many different choices of foods and restaurants to eat at and I feel totally lucky to have all these options. When I find something amazing I always want to share it with others and I’ve learned a few really easy tips over the years to help me photograph food so that others can see how awesome it is. I’m so excited to share these tips with you all!


The number on tip I’ve learned is that it is all about the lighting, so always start there.

This photo was taken at home about an hour before the sun sets. I can almost always get a good shot in this spot, at this time of day. So if you are taking a picture at home find your go-to spot and your best time of day to take the picture. I used my “big camera” aka a DSLR for this photo, so that helps too!

how to photograph food

The same is true when taking photos at restaurants.

When I’m hired to attend an event and share pictures of the food I always arrive a bit early and I look for the best lighting and then I ask to sit there. I also plan ahead and research when the sun is setting to make sure that I will have plenty of light. I’m not a professional photographer by any means and that is actually one of the reasons why I’m hired. My photos look real… like someone is just about to eat the food. Remember that it’s not always about taking perfect pictures. This shot was also taken with my DSLR.

how to take pictures of food at restaurants

This is where it gets really fun!

I love taking pictures with my phone. These are the pictures that really matter to most of us because it’s not always practical to carry around a huge camera and lens. Here are my tips to capture the best pictures on your cell phone…. starting from the upper left.

1. This picture was taken at a great little Italian restaurant in Monterey. I was just about to take a bite of the garlic bread when I decided I had to share it first. The bread is all out of alignment and the sauce is messy. I had so many messages from people asking where to get this bread because the photo looked inviting.

2. and 3. Theme park food is always a hit. These ones don’t even need captions because they are so well known… they both evoked emotional responses. I also made good use of the backgrounds to tell a story. I wonder how many trips to Disneyland were planned after seeing these?

4.  This was awesome light even though it wasn’t natural. Did you know that some restaurants are taking lighting into consideration so people can share their meals with the best possible looks? Pretty cool! If you can’t find natural light try to sit as close to the main light source as possible.

5. That pasta! I was able to get a shot of it right next to the window to block the wind and I loved the way the bread was presented. Look for “already there” features to share, like the way it’s served or a natural swirl to the meal. There are often elements that photograph really well, you just have to get creative and look for them.

6. I love food in action and people enjoying it. My daughter had always wanted to try fresh milk straight from a coconut and I was able to capture the moment.

7.I love shots taken from above. They show the whole picture. What else was on the table that set the mood? Where were you? So much can be learned with these shots.

8. If you really want to take a picture that gets a good reaction don’t worry much about anything but the subject itself. Sweets are always a hit! These last two pictures are of Ghirardelli ice cream overlooking the Pacific Ocean and vegan donuts. Both of these were super popular because they are dream eats. Something that almost everyone dreams of trying at least ones.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.


  • I think I’ve come to the right place, one of my favorite things to do is eat too. Thanks for the great tips. I’ll be sure to use them on all my foodie photography.

  • Those are great tips. I am definitely going to be using some of these the next time I take photos of my food!

  • This post is so helpful to me because I LOVE to cook and I always take photos of any and everything, especially food. I took an online photography course to learn to photograph food better and I’m always looking for tips to use. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • What great tips!!!! Lighting really is everything!! It can make the diffence between a pic looking professional or like a basic Instagram pic 😉

  • As a food blogger I can tell you just how hard it is to photograph food. Light is very important and if you live in the North, its harder to come by. There are artificial alternatives. I finally got a lightbox and some lights for Christmas. I need to get my home studio set up. Also, Photoshop and Lightroom are quickly becoming BFF.

  • Great tips! I have bookmarked this page for future reference. I do think lighting is important as well. I prefer my camera as well.

  • That SALAD in the beginning of the post, oh my goshhh…..I’m drooling!!! I actually love taking pictures of food too. Since I have a blog and share recipes – I’m always looking to take better photos. I got a DSLR for Christmas and I.Am.In.Love with this bad boy!! Thank you for sharing your tips!!

  • Great tips! I love taking pictures as well but can’t seem to take good ones with my camera while I’m out.

  • I love inviting food photographs as they pull you in and make you want to go get some. I plan to practice using more natural settings this year as most of my current food shots are taken in controlled spaces.

  • Food action is great! I love photographing food as well (although that brings with it the stigma/stereotype of ‘asian photographing her food’). *wry grin* But seriously… I get so much joy from it, because it’s a way that reinforces my memory of the flavors, and the presentation can inspire my own cooking. My tips would be to 1) frame unexpectedly – don’t always show the entire dish, because it leaves you wanting more and 2) get up close and personal (I like to shoot from the side at various angles, just to get a different sense of depth of the food). 🙂


  • I love taking pictures of the food I’m about to take part in eating while eating out all the time.. These are some really great tips!

  • I love this post because I post food in Instagram all the time! They are all very helpful !

  • Eating is one of my favorite things to do, and I wish I could take better pictures of the things I eat. Nothing worse than pairing an unappetizing image with a great review of something tasty. I definitely need to get better at judging the best lighting situation for food pics.

  • Great tips, Heather! And, good photos. Who knew that restaurants are now considering there lighting because of the explosion of social sharing of food pics!

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