Restaurant Menu Design: Food Photography

Restaurant Menu Design: Food Photography

Designing a restaurant menu sounds simple. You get the list of items from the owner/manager, their descriptions, and your good… Right!? Nope, it’s not that simple… The layout of menu items, like the items you want the customer to see first, to the call outs, the specials, are all important but needs special attention. It can be a huge puzzle.

I’ll write up an Experience Journal on designing restaurant layouts. As well as my first time working with a menu engineer consultant, Greg McNally, from FoodPower. To stay up to date on when I post new articles, subscribe here.

The hardest part about designing a food menu, in my opinion, is having and getting the right food images. Some business have them and most that I’ve worked with, don’t. 

So let’s talk about photography!

Article Overview:

  • How to quickly get food photos when your client does not have any.
  • Working with a food photographer. Getting the right shots!
  • Finalizing food images in post production with Photoshop.

How to quickly get food photos when your client does not have them.

Getting your menu photography on short notice or when budget is limited is easier than you think. Try these options the next time you are in need of images quick.

  • Searching stock photography sites like Stock.Adobe.com and StockFood.com. For example, they have basic photos like, fries, salads, burgers.
  • Use the business social media channels for images. User Generated Content (UGC) is a great source because these are authentic views of the customers! Of course, assuming the company is not newly established and they have an engaging and active following. Using a platform like Crowdriff to curate images is a great option.
  • Rookie designers overlook one very important asset. The business owner vendors! Coke or Pepsi, Sysco, Dippin’ Dots, Icee and more have a catalog of brand photos. Most business owners are unaware that they can get with their sales rep for help. Vendors have stock photography of their own products! Therefore, use them!
  • This is obvious… Take photos with a DSLR or your camera phone. For instance, the iPhones now-a-days have great quality output!

These are all fast, quick, down and dirty solutions. The downside to some of these are image quality, approval for usage, and controlling the overall look and feel of the photos in the menu design. The upside… Easy options to have handful of photos that are ready to use in a matter of days.

If the budget allows it and time isn’t an issues, one of the best ways to get exactly what is needed is outsourcing the project to a food photographer. 

Working with a food photographer. Getting the right shots! 

Now, I’ve done food photography the quick way like I’ve mentioned above, with success, but this time around, I needed that special touch. An experience eye in the field so to speak. I had the pleasure to work with a food photographer, David from Solzberg Studios.

Solzberg Studios is an award-winning photography studio in Los Angeles specializing in the food and produce industries, working with restaurants, chefs, farms, food manufacturers, preserving, packaging and canning companies, groceries and delivery.

Solzberg.com

Davids’ experience in the field of food photography is apparent. For instance, he is prepared with tools necessary to insure a great shot! Paint brushes, stacking blocks, and more! Using oils, spray bottles, and squeeze bottles with condiments, for example. Also, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

With know-how and experience, he knows how to get the food to stand out!

Finalizing food images in post production with Photoshop.

It doesn’t end after a download on a stock site, or after the photoshoot with your camera, or getting files from a food photographer.  As a designer, you still need to work on each image to ensure the image looks their best and that they work within your design. 

You will need to consider removing or changing the background, color correction, image manipulation, or compositing. No photo will ever be pixel perfect but you can try your best to get there. 

Check out how I used the Liquify tool in Adobe Photoshop to manipulate this chicken sandwich. I Then composited a background image to finish the design. If you would like to see a tutorial on my process, please let me know in the comments or DM me!

liquify tool photoshop before by Orlando Ayalaliquify tool photoshop after by Orlando Ayala

Conclusion 

It’s easy to get photos of food products.

Depending on your budget and timeline, you can get exactly what’s needed to get a project completed. In my opinion, working with a food photography is the best way to go. Especially if the restaurant you are working for has specialty foods that stock photo sites just don’t have. The ability to get what images are needed from a food photographer to having full control in post production is a benefit worth having!


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Never stop being creative!

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