Restaurant promo shots - tips wanted

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Lionel, May 26, 2004.

  1. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    I'm going to be doing some marketing photography for a friend's
    restaurant soon, & I thought there'd probably be plenty of people here
    who could offer advice, tips & 'gotchas' for this sort of work.
    The kinds of subjects I'll be doing include a couple of modelled shots
    of people at a table, some food shots & some decor shots.

    Would anyone care to offer advice on getting the best results? (Bonus
    points for tips on cheaper/faster methods. :)
    Lionel, May 26, 2004
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  2. Lionel

    TP Guest

    There are some good books on technique - try the Kodak Professional
    series. Food photography is extremely difficult, so I wish you luck.
    Unless it is a cheap fast food restaurant, avoid cheaper and faster
    methods. ;-)
    TP, May 26, 2004
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  3. Lionel

    Bandicoot Guest

    Watch the colour balance carefully: lighting in restaurants is often very
    mixed, and 'off-colour' results are particularly unsettling with food. If
    in doubt, err on the side of too warm - but whatever, be careful if there is
    flourescent lighting: no one but The Cat in the Hat wants green food...

    Bandicoot, May 26, 2004
  4. Lionel

    Guest Guest

    Position a 'roo in front of the restaurant. Hang a banner over the entrance
    which says, "Recommended by Skippy." ;-)

    Guest, May 26, 2004
  5. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    Kibo informs me that stated that:
    Nah, this place does a Spanish & Greek menu - no 'roo on it at all.
    Lionel, May 26, 2004
  6. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    Thanks Peter, much appreciated. I expect to be providing my own quartz
    lighting for those shots, but I'll make a point of doing a grey-card
    shot, & be careful to exclude any other light sources.
    Lionel, May 26, 2004
  7. Lionel

    Peter Chant Guest

    Someone somewhere has to photograph kebabs for those pictures you
    see at kebab shops.
    Peter Chant, May 26, 2004
  8. Lionel

    Alan Browne Guest

    I've never done this, but let me throw in these thoughts anyway...

    So much to think about ... begin by talking with your friend about how
    he wants the resto to be perceived by the audience. That should guide
    your planning, questions and choices. Lighting, lighting and lighting
    are the three main concerns...

    Three different situations really ... and yet in the promo material they
    have to have a unified look. Food covers a lot of gound (prepared meals
    look much different than the cliché bread basket, fruits or vegtable and
    protein shots, etc. Shots with mainly silver in them and shots with
    mainly white china in them need different approaches, etc. A good
    studio lighting and technique book will likely cover 'food').

    Add a fourth: will he need/want an outdoor shot of the resto?

    The shot that is most fun is the people at a table where the natual
    ambiance of the place needs to be captured. If there is a lot of natual
    lighting (assuming it is not an haute-cuisine restaurant where evening
    dining out is the selected market...) then a healthy mix of natural back
    light with studio flash to fill the foreground and light the 'patrons'
    would be my approach. This makes tight aperture shooting difficult on
    low speed films... Whatever approach is used here can be used for the
    decor shots as well. If the natural lighting is high, then shoot decor
    off of a pod with some flash fill as neccesary.

    (Another advantage with the nat lighting shot is that it can be done in
    the un-busy afternoon or pre-lunch allowing more time and thought as you

    Will the film have to be slide? If you can get away with a negative
    film, then try to do so to put everything in your corner wrt to the
    lighting. If the intended use of the images is for magazine ads,
    brochures and the web, then you can likely get away with a 400 speed
    film such as Provia 400, Portra 400 or NPH. This will give you greater
    control over natural and flash lighting balance. Rate the negative
    films slower. If it is a flashy place with rich color, use the Portra
    400VC (or even UC), E100VS; if it is a pastel or natural tone setting,
    the NC would look best (IMO).

    Promo shots of restos and so on that we see in various magazines are
    very often quite wide angle. This lends to a lot of depth of scene and
    actually favours mixed natural (back) and flash (fore) lighting. Use an
    incident meter for both the natural and flash readings. You will end up
    with shutter settings ranging from 1 to 8 or more seconds depending on
    the natural light, film speed and aperture chosen. One positive, is
    that the wider angle shots will get you more DOF with moderate apertures
    (f/11 ish) which will help with the flash. You need models who can stay
    relatively still for the shutter period (it's not that critical as they
    will be your foreground flashed subjects, rear curtain is best in case
    there is a little movement.

    You could allow, in the mixed shots, for movement from waiters and
    patrons...(rear curtain) this goes to the statement that the material
    wants to make ... is it a hot spot where excitement is key; or a subdued
    elegant resto where stately calm is the message...

    If an evening spot, no natural light, then controlling the ambient
    lighting would be the concern. This would mean T films or overwhelming
    the ambient lighting with flash... which for this type of shot would
    mean a lot of heads to come up with even lighting. You don't need to
    clobber the ambient tungsten, some can remain to provide warmth. Avoid,
    however, it being 'points' of warmth. If the electrical lighting is
    flourescent, then you need to dominate it by nearly 2 stops or more.

    There must be some sort of "about town" magazine or promo book in your
    town. Pick it up for ideas (hotels often have such a book in the rooms
    and at the concierge desk. Borrow or at least browse one).
    Depending on the intended use of the material, it is likely that a
    digital camera can be used. A Canon 10D or Nikon D100 would be very
    handy. IAC, even if done on film, a digital camera with a sync terminal
    could be invaluable in setting up lighting and determining settings for
    the film camera and the flash heads.

    Hope the above helps ...though more likely has you asking more questions...

    Alan Browne, May 26, 2004
  9. Lionel

    Sander Vesik Guest

    Do you plan to shoot the interior or the food or a combination?
    Sander Vesik, May 26, 2004
  10. Don't forget to get some good kitchen shots....Steaks being cooked over
    charcoal & the like.....This is what really turns me on in a restaurant
    William Graham, May 26, 2004
  11. Lionel

    TP Guest

    I cannot think of any better example to illustrate my point.

    TP, May 26, 2004
  12. Lionel

    Peter Chant Guest

    I cannot claim originality - I think kebab photographers were mentioned
    in a Bill Bailey sketch.
    Peter Chant, May 27, 2004
  13. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    Lionel, May 27, 2004
  14. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    Thanks William, good suggestion. I should've thought of that one myself.
    Lionel, May 27, 2004
  15. Lionel

    Sander Vesik Guest

    If you can, don't shoot the food. Really really really watch the colours
    if you can't avoid it. get somebody else to look at the result too. A good
    bit of mammalian colour vision is developed for judging foods good/bad.
    So you can have nice colours but the back of the brain sending a message
    reading "yuck!".
    Sander Vesik, May 27, 2004
  16. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    Thanks for the tipoff, Sander. I can't really avoid doing the food (it
    is a restaurant, after all!), but I'll make a point of doing some
    practice shots ahead of time, so I can figure out how to deal with any
    colour issues.
    The arrangement I have with the restaurant owner is fairly informal, &
    not time-critical, so I have plenty of flexibility to deal with these
    sorts of issues.
    Lionel, May 27, 2004
  17. Lionel

    Sander Vesik Guest

    Depends. Its a restaurant so people go for the whole package, inc interior
    view and what they see from the windows, etc so you have some more to
    communicate then "this is how some piece of food you might get looks like".
    Sander Vesik, May 27, 2004
  18. Lionel

    Gordon Moat Guest

    I hope you charge reasonably, even though it is a friend. Also, your friend
    is the first person you will need to please, but be careful about creating
    something that could be criticized by others, since it could come back to
    haunt you. Best tip I have is to carefully edit your own work first, then
    show it to the client (and maybe a few other opinions as well).
    Quite a variety. Each could be considered a separate speciality. The models
    may be familiar with the concepts from other work, so consider taking some
    suggestions from them. Food should be done separately from the other
    images, ideally to concentrate more on the set-up. Take your time with the
    interiors, and take many shots.
    Take a look at <>. Probably the best food and
    restaurant photographer I have ever seen.

    Consider that doing this for a friend gives you an opportunity to develop a
    catalogue of sample images to take to other restaurants. While some
    restaurants are on the bottom end of the revenue mark, you could approach
    restaurant chains with the images, and make decent money doing this. Your
    friend is partially doing you a favour by enabling you to art direct and
    stage photos. I would expect you to get many good image examples from this,
    and maybe a few portfolio items.

    Cheaper and faster often can mean compromises in quality. Okay, there are
    some items of consideration, and doing the job right can save some time, or
    at least minimize the possibility of needing to repeat any shots.

    Consider taking along an assistant. If you do not want to hire one, get a
    friend that is somewhat familiar with cameras. Use the assistant for
    everything from reloading cameras and getting lenses, to hold lights or
    reflectors in place. Having someone there can help you concentrate on the

    Any green food is really tough to photograph, regardless of the lighting.
    Some films do really bad at this, and horrors like Lettuce that looks
    black, or peas that are too pale, are bad results. While many films will
    accommodate green food well, a couple really stand out, which are Fuji
    Astia 100F, and Kodak E100GX. The Fuji is slightly better with Yellow foods
    as well, so that may be a better choice.

    Meat, Poultry and Fish can often look better when they are only warmed
    enough to change the colour of the surface. Almost everything else looks
    better cold, or very cold.

    Breads can often look really flat, though a bit of Tungsten light can warm
    them up a little (or filter the light, either direct, or with a warm
    reflector). Soft light should be your guide, but add in small reflectors to

    Cheap reflectors can be made from art board, or foam core. Buy white,
    black, and light grey. Add in a roll of aluminium foil, which makes a
    decent diffuser or reflector. All these can be used for the people shots as

    My personal feeling is that the true nature of the lighting of a place
    should take precedence over artificial lighting. Lamps and wall lights can
    still come out too yellow, but there is a cheap solution. If you can find
    some blue semi-transparent plastic, you can tape some inside the light
    fixture, and most of the light should then appear less yellow on the film.
    This beats having blue people in your photos, and allows the atmosphere of
    the place to still show in the images.

    Do some overall architecture shots, but also close in on the details of the
    place. Consider some shots of places that customers might not enter, like
    parts of the kitchen. Also, if the kitchen is stylish and dynamic, you
    might want to include it with the staff in action.

    Enjoy your shoot. I hope you have a full day, or ideally a couple full
    days, to get many good images.
    Gordon Moat, May 28, 2004
  19. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    [Hopefully you got my email yesterday as well.]

    Yep. I'm going to be charging him at the bottom end of the commercial
    scale for this kind of work for 'productive' time, but won't charge for
    the time I spend doing practice work.
    Yep, absolutely. At their urging, I've shown people my raw material a
    couple of times, & each time, it's been a mistake. These day, they see
    the good stuff or nothing at all.
    Yep, absolutely. I'm breaking up the entire job into multiple shoots, &
    will be doing practice runs for each style.
    Good advice. I've arranged with my friend to do test-shoots for each
    style, so I can get my technique down pat before 'starting the meter'.

    Thanks very much for that, Gordon! Noel's site is exactly the sort of
    thing I've been wanting as a reference. It's really useful to know where
    the bar is set. :)
    Yes, absolutely. One of the major reasons I've taken on the job is to
    help build a commercial photography folio. If my friend likes my work, I
    also expect to get good word of mouth in my local restaurant/cafe
    Yes, that's what I was getting at.
    I'll have to do what I can with this one, but the fact that I'm not
    operating on a tight schedule makes it a lot easier.
    Okay, I'm shooting digital for this one, which I think makes life a lot
    easier. I popped in to the location for a quick test shoot early
    yesterday evening, & found that food shots to be much less painful than
    I'd been expecting.
    (I've noticed that the current fashion for food photography is to use
    very shallow DoF, so that's what I'm using.)
    Here's a couple of the better test shots, I'd be interested in your
    Yes, I couldn't agree more. I do a lot of nightclub photography, & the
    key to a good photo is to capture the ambient lighting, or you lose the
    atmosphere completely.
    I've a couple of months up my sleeve, so I've got plenty of time to
    study & practice. :)

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response,
    Gordon, it was extremely helpful. :)
    Lionel, May 30, 2004
  20. Lionel

    Lionel Guest

    I gave it a try, as a test, & I'm not unhappy with the results. But
    perhaps I'm not being fussy enough. What's your take on this shot?:
    Lionel, May 30, 2004
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