photo by Esin Tellioglu via iStock
Commercial real estate photography is a fascinating genre to work in and it can also be quite profitable. As a part of commercial real estate photography, I also include general business photography as used on many business websites today since it incorporates the same techniques for running and promoting a business as real estate photography does for selling the property.
How to photograph restaurants is a valuable skill to own, since hotels and restaurants are a vibrant part of this style of business photography. Photography tips for commercial properties in general, especially interior photography tips, also work as excellent restaurant photography tips.
Here are 4 tips covering how to photograph businesses in general and specifically how to photograph restaurants to showcase them as operating businesses.
Empty, Clean, and Ready
photo by Petardj via iStock
Restaurant photography is much like other commercial property photography. You want to capture as much as possible and you want it to look good.
Staging becomes an integral part of the photo shoot. For a restaurant, staging may or may not include food, since food photography is a different set of needs and techniques. But the area can be staged by having tables set, lights on, candles on the table if that’s normal for that business, and a fully stocked salad bar, breakfast bar, buffet, or whatever they usually have.
Basically, it should look like the business is ready to have you come in - clean floors, all the lights and displays on, chairs in place, but no people. Unless the business is wanting to present the staff, leaving people out of the basic interior images is a clean look.
Plus, it reduces the chances of people streaking or smearing because they moved during the HDR exposure sequence and having to keep track of multiple model releases to allow the business to use a person’s likeness.
Include the Kitchen?
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A big question to address ahead of time when considering how to photograph restaurants is whether or not we include the kitchen and how much of it if we do.
A good rule of thumb is that restaurants with specialty meals of celebrity-type chefs will almost always want kitchen shots, but with other restaurants it’s sometimes more of a hassle than it’s worth.
Fine dining establishments may desire to have the kitchen featured in action. You will need model releases for anyone recognizable, and safety becomes an issue to keep to the forefront, there is a lot happening at once in a busy kitchen.
Turn On the Lights and Use HDR
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Exposure settings and techniques for how to photograph restaurants follow the basic interior photography tips covering how to photograph businesses in general.
If the exterior is interesting, open up the blinds on the windows. If it isn’t, adjust the blind so that light is coming in but the view is somewhat obscured. Turn on all of the interior lights including any special displays such as a neon sign or a jukebox.
We want the viewers to see what the restaurant normally presents to the public, so we don’t need to drag in a bunch of photo lights. The tried and true method of bracket and merge HDR that is used in much of residential and commercial real estate photography will capture detail in highlights and shadows and then blend it all together for a pleasing image.
Here an excellent YouTube video that also describes how bracket and merge HDR works for restaurant photography and interiors in general.
A question may come up of how bright to have the restaurant for imaging if the dining area is normally kept very low-key and intimate. Well, if you can get at least a little bit of light into the deep shadows, that helps create a balanced view.
If the establishment wants the low-key effect to be obvious in the images, simply adjust your contrast and exposure to make that happen. With HDR programs, that’s actually a relatively simple procedure. This variable is a huge reason why it’s important to have these things spelled out before the shoot, so you know what to capture and how.
Beauty Shots are Vital
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As with residential and general commercial real estate photography, the beauty shot or hero shot is a vital part of the package we deliver as photographers.
With restaurants, there may be more than one hero shot. An exterior twilight image makes a good one, but you may want to craft an interior hero shot or two. Extra care is taken in composition and staging in order to craft a usable interior beauty shot.
The bracket and merge HDR technique is used for these images as well, in order to fully present the feel and quality that the restaurant is desiring to portray to future patrons.
Menu Illustrations & Food Photography
photo by Максим Крысанов via iStock
When considering how to photograph restaurants as commercial real estate photography, we usually don’t deal with the food illustrations and images, except for some possible elements of a staged scene as detailed earlier.
Food photography is a demanding discipline that uses a different set of photographic skills. It’s more similar to small product photography than it is to how to photograph businesses.
Food photography and menu illustrations can be included in your restaurant photography package, but be prepared to shift gears mentally and creatively between imaging the business and crafting appealing food pictures. It will also require additional time so be sure to consider what to charge for adding this specialty feature to your packages.
Restaurant photography is an in-demand skill, your commercial real estate photography skills will let you deliver high-quality images to the businesses and you will enjoy the process as much as the clients will enjoy your high-quality images.