How to Take Better Food Photos

In the Instagram age, food photography has become as much a way of life as the act of dining out itself. Even those of us who once protested in hanger when a companion delayed the first bite for a photo are learning to savor the art of the #foodsnap before digging in.

As San Diego Restaurant Week 2018 approaches and the city’s culinary masterminds craft what promise to be some of the most Insta-worthy tasting menus we’ve seen yet, we’re sharing tips on how you can help spread the #foodlove by fully capturing the art of the fare.

Work with Natural Light

World-class beaches aside, if there’s one thing that abounds in San Diego, it’s sunshine—and if there are two, they’re sunshine and great food. When dining during daytime hours, take advantage of the natural light; it’s the most authentic way to highlight the unique colors and textures of the items on your plate.

While outside and seaside are often synonymous in SD, shooting in direct sunlight, especially by the water, can be a bit too harsh and may cause your photos to look washed out. Opt for softer sunlight by dining indoors near a window, or find a shady spot on the patio. Shooting outside on an overcast day is even better, although we don’t get many of those!

Try a ‘Foodtography’ App

This is especially useful if you’re dining after dark or unable to achieve that perfectly lit environment with natural light. There are so many free photo-taking and photo-editing apps designed to make your food more photogenic, whether you’re looking to create better lighting or touch out a slight imperfection.

Foodie, for example, is a free app that knows when your camera is hovering over your food and helps determine the best angle and lighting to capture its most alluring features. It even has filters for different types of food (Tropical, Picnic, Fresh and BBQ, to name a few), addressing the fact that a Mai-Tai requires vastly different brightness and saturation levels than, say, a plate of fish tacos.

Edit Lightly

Both the challenge and the fun in food photography are capturing the essence of the dish, but when you overedit, you can end up losing some of that substance. If you’re looking to emphasize a specific element of the plate, such as a really bold garnish, an app like Photoshop Fix can increase the lighting and saturation around the areas you choose, without sacrificing the integrity of the other items on the plate (e.g., turning your white rice brown). And if you’re just looking to give your photos a bit of a boost, go with a basic editing app like Flickr over the iPhone or Instagram editing tools.

Get in

Yes, people love photos of food. But what they love more—other than actually eating the food—is photos of people. If you’re out with friends, transform your happy hour toast into a photo op with those brilliantly crafted cocktails that are sure to be a staple of San Diego Restaurant Week serving more as props than focal points. Or better yet, snap a photo of the bartender serving them—with his or her consent, of course.

This goes for dinner, too. If you’ve got a beautiful plate of sushi in front of you, complement the scene with a pair of chopsticks or a shot of your group. Bringing a more personal element to your photography will not only boost your likes and comments but also preserve the experience. Great food pairs best with great company, after all.

Savor the Subject

The whole point of dining out is to enjoy the food you’re eating and the company you’re with. Normally, we’d say take a quick snap when your entrée comes out and put the phone away until dessert, but with the multi-course tasting menus characteristic of Restaurant Week, we realize this isn’t the most practical advice. That being said, do try to ditch the phone between shots and take in the full experience—food, drinks and atmosphere.

Will we see you at San Diego Restaurant Week? Check out our contest page for your chance to win two VIP tickets to the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, two restaurant gift cards or $100 to Donovan’s Steak and Chop House. Happy eating, snapping and posting!

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