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Photographing Dining Out and Home Cooking

Updated on October 1, 2013

Photographing food has always been fun, dining out has also been fun, and you get to enjoy delicious food and good times, especially if in the presence of family and friends. You can combine both experiences in one photographic project.

You can start the project by cooking a homemade specific dish or a country oriented meal such as Italian. You can then record the images of the process, the servings, utensils and of the final dish or meal.

The second part of the project involves going out to diner to a restaurant that specializes in the same type of dish which you prepared at home. You should then photograph images of the same dish but paying attention to the different presentations and general look of the dish as opposed to that of the one prepared at home.

Incorporate interesting images of details of the home atmosphere, the seating and dining area should be accompanied by similar images of the atmosphere and seating area of the restaurant as well as the servers and staff, the restaurant facade and overall location. Don't forget to include photos of you and the chef in full regalia as these are always popular images and in demand.

Also good is to record images of the menu and prices, which can then be compared to the average cost of the same dish done at home for which you would use the grocery retail slips.

This theme is an excellent project to include in an article about recipes, country themed meals, ingredients and an overall dining out experience and a home atmosphere. Better yet is to include images of people enjoying the meals and the shot acquires a family oriented feel to it. Images such as this are highly coveted by photo stock houses and many publications.

There are many magazine publications that will readily pick up such articles, especially if the images are technically sound and overall pleasing. A quick read of some of the major popular publications will give one a general idea of the in-demand and popular topics and trends currently being used.

Keep in mind that just because you will be taking some images in your house doesn't mean that the images don't have to be quality photos. The same attention that one would use when photographing food for a client or a magazine shoot should also be used in your at home pictures. Here you can arrange a photo friendly set up complete with lights and backgrounds the same way that you would do at a set.

When photographing in the restaurant you may be only able to use your camera and a flash unit with a diffuser attached to the flash head. This off course unless you can arrange a private session with the dining establishment.

Many restaurants are more than willing to arrange a special private shoot for a photographer if they can gather some publicity and a good review from it. Hundreds of restaurant reviews are regularly published in hundreds of publications every single month, and many restaurateurs are keenly aware of the benefits of a good article reflecting their location and products.

A good approach is to contact the management with plenty of time and explain your motives as well as to show some of your previous work. An added bonus is that you are often offered the meal free of charge. However, don't abuse this. It's not a good idea to show up at a shoot with your entire family. You and a companion are more than enough.

Whether you are shooting at home or at the restaurant, try to capture the sense of the dish; the smoke or steam that emanates from the "just done" plate, add some of the specialty ingredients to the area next to the dish, such as fresh spices, mint or bay leaves, condiments, and others. Add atmosphere by providing candles and delicate tableware such a ornate serving napkins, ornate serving utensils.

Or if your dish and theme is of a more traditional and has that "home grown" feel to it, then change the serving ware to more earthenware styles. As far as backgrounds, regardless of whether the meal is from a restaurant or from home a "rough" looking wooden table always works well.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Remember that you will be conducting this project as it were commissioned by a private client, a magazine which specializes in food or recipes. You must pay the same attention to detail and be conscious of every aspect of the shoot as if you were being paid for it.

Do close ups which isolates the dish. Mediums shots that include background and some foreground and regular shots that capture the entire scene. Use diffused light to your advantage by eliminating harsh shadows. This approach most often leads to great quality shots which can in turn be turned into submission to potential clients.

The dish or meal itself can be basically anything; from a hamburger to a fancy traditional Italian meal such as spaghetti & meatballs. What counts is that the images represent the true feeling and appearance of the food, and even better when two aspects; home and restaurant, are shown side by side for comparison not only of the dish and the presentation but also of the experience.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Eiddwen: Thank you, same to you

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great read and also very useful.

      Take care


    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Truckstop Sally: Thank you, you've made me laugh..nice to know that you kids are into cooking and writing.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      Great hub! My daughter is quite a foodie. She often snaps pictures of her dishes and includes them in her blog. If one of her brothers is near, they'll add a hand sign (shooting the bird) in the pic. Not appropriate . . . but becoming a tradition.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      gailalovesbijou:Thank you, glad that you liked it.Check out the hub on product photography for more in depth tips.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      venzkhvam: Thank you, I'm glad that you like it and there are several yet to be published, hope you like them too.

    • gailalovesbijou profile image

      gailalovesbijou 6 years ago from Wyomissing, PA

      I plan to publish many of my recipes on hubpages. Your advice on food photography will come in handy. Thanks!

    • VENZKHVAM profile image

      VENZKHVAM 6 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

      Dear LuisEGonzalez,

      That was anovel idea to photograph and comapare the same dish in different places of serving.

      I once remembered visitng a restuarant in which all the tables side had the superstar heros who has donned the role of a waitress in some movie And in the back ground those old songs use to flow smoothly. I felt so soothening effect and kind of exitment.

      This is some differnt idea and i had liked this one but only those who has spare time and lots of money can do this hoby i feel.

      i had voted up and interesting.

      I am following you with pleasure and wish to hear from you very soon.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      FloraBreeRobinson: Funny you saying that, when I wrote it I had this huge urge to go get something to eat....and did.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I agree with Cardisa. I'm reading this at lunchtime and I am hungry.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: Thank you, I hope that it helps someone

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Luis, this hub is making me hungry. Many of here on HP, especially those that post recipes here will find this article particularly useful. Thanks.