Restaurant Food Photography

When traveling and eating at restaurants whether on land or sea, you do not have the luxury of using a tripod or controlling the light.  As I knew I would be traveling to Walt Disney World and going on a cruise, I put the Food Photography assignment first for 2011.  Here are my results.

Grilled Buffalo Striploin with Artisan Cheese and Macaroni at the Artist Point restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge resort at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

Grilled Buffalo Striploin with Artisan Cheese and Macaroni at the Artist Point restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge resort at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/5, ISO 2000, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length, rear-sync flash at -1.0 power.

Artist Point was designed after the grand dining rooms found in National Park lodges across the Pacific Northwest of the United States and features foods based on cuisine from the same region.  Entrees like Cedar Plank Salmon, Fisherman’s Stew and Buffalo meats adorn the menu.

The following morning, we were bused to the Disney Dream where the Royal Palace was my first restaurant for dinner on the new ship.  Lighting was not the best but the tables were set for a king.

Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Medallions in the Royal Palace restaurant on the Disney Dream.

Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Medallions in the Royal Palace restaurant on the Disney Dream. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/5, ISO 800, EV 0, 65mm focal length, rear sync flash at -1 power.

After such a meal, a light dessert was in order.

Grand Marnier Souffle infused with fresh orange zest and served with creme Anglaise in the Royal Palace restaurant of the Disney Dream.

Grand Marnier Souffle infused with fresh orange zest and served with creme Anglaise in the Royal Palace restaurant of the Disney Dream. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/40s, f/5, ISO 800, EV 0, 62mm focal length, rear synch flash at -1 power.

The next evening we dined at the Animator’s Palate restaurant which featured interactive entertainment with the sea turtle, Crush, from the animated feature, Finding Nemo, and this tasty entree.

White Shrimp Pennette Pasta tossed with a basil and Reggiano Parmesan cheese sauce and topped with a parmesan cheese wafer in Animator's Palate restaurant on the Disney Dream.

White Shrimp Pennette Pasta tossed with a basil and Reggiano Parmesan cheese sauce and topped with a parmesan cheese wafer in Animator's Palate restaurant on the Disney Dream. Nikon D700, 1/40s, f/5, ISO 800, EV -1.0, 28mm focal length, rear sync flash at -1 power.

Back on land, I enjoyed the best breakfast dish in the entire Walt Disney World resort, in my opinion, at the Polynesian Resort’s Kona Cafe restaurant. Feast your eyes on Tonga Toast.

Tonga Toast is a banana stuffed sourdough bread, rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with Strawberry Compote at the Kona Cafe in Walt Disney World's Polynesian Resort.

Tonga Toast is a banana stuffed sourdough bread, rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with Strawberry Compote at the Kona Cafe in Walt Disney World's Polynesian Resort. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/30s, f/4, ISO 500, EV -0.7, 42mm focal length.

You will notice I used flash to control the light in all but the last photo.  Something many food photographers do not like nor recommend using including IvoryHut in the guest blog show wrote for this assignment.  However, when I was confronted with restaurant lighting, the use of flash bounced off a ceiling or nearby wall really helped to illuminate the food and bring out the colors and textures.

This is my submission to Assignment 11: Food Photography.

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43 Responses to Restaurant Food Photography

  1. kiwidutch says:

    Doesn’t it make it SO much harder when there is no natural light ?! I try and avoid flash whenever humanly possible, but as you say It’s just impossible sometimes and you have to make the best of what you have. Good job, especially sans natural light!

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  2. Really? No flash? I had no idea (if Ivory mentioned it in her post, I didn’t read it (too much)… just looked at her beautiful pictures). I would have though that most food photography (for magazines, restaurant ads, etc.) is done in some kind of studio, which most likely means flash or studio lights… which, to me, are pretty much a big flash.

    The cheese & macaroni looks good, and so does dessert. Breakfast SOUNDS good, but that sauce…well… it doesn’t look very appetizing at all. The color seems all wrong for strawberries.
    What is that in the background in the first photo, mashed potatoes?

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    • Most food bloggers prefer natural light including IH and PW. You know me, I like to control my lighting a bit more. 🙂

      The cheese and macaroni was excellent. I know the strawberry sauce looks a bit gaudy in color but it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. In the past, the strawberry sauce was not part of the entree. I really nice addition to the Tonga Toast.

      That is a buttered slice of bread in behind the buffalo dish. Should have removed it. I still need to work on slowing down but I didn’t want the food to get cold!

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      • Oops, I meant the second photo.. that pretty pile of whatever it is.
        You know, that color cast is easily fixed in photoshop, or other processing programs.
        I agree, natural light is best, but that’s usually nowhere to be found at dinner time in the winter.

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  3. flandrumhill says:

    White highlights (on food/cutlery/china/glassware) make food look most fresh and appetizing to me. They make that shrimp pennette pasta look especially delectable. I don’t think it’s possible to capture these highlights with natural light alone.

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  4. Gerry says:

    I think the most effective photo is the souffle. The simplicity and creaminess complement the nature of the dish very well. The one I want to eat is the penne with shrimp, basil and parmesan. Yes indeed. The radioactive strawberries not so much.

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  5. milkayphoto says:

    Tonga! Tonga! Tonga! 🙂

    The hubs loves Tonga Toast but notsomuch the sauce so we always bring our own *real* maple syrup (can’t get the real stuff in Disney restaurants) which always amuses the wait staff and diners around us.

    I agree with Gerry that the souffle photo is the best shot of the bunch! Looks positively delicious!

    Hmmm, I never realized that flash is frowned upon as I sometimes use it in food photos to get really nice highlights.

    Overall, it looks like you ate very well last week! 🙂

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    • Which is why I really liked the strawberry sauce over the Tonga Toast. I agree, maple syrup is not WDW’s best decision. They really should go the extra mile and bring in the good stuff.

      As I mentioned above, I think the flash issue is something food bloggers tend to stay away from. I know the Pioneer Women just recently posted an article stating NOT to use flash. I find that a bit silly myself. If you need more light, why not use a flash/reflector/light box to produce it?

      Oh, yeah, my pants are fitting a bit tighter today. Time to get back on the treadmill!!!!

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  6. Dawn says:

    I want to eat the shrimp pasta thing…but I like the dessert photo because of the drip of whatever starting to run down the bowl…

    I think we should ALL go on a cruise..as part of the homework assignment…

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  7. Beautiful selection of pictures, Scott ! The first one looks very inviting, I feel as if I were sitting there and looking forward to my meal, a very natural shot. The Shrimp Pennette look very tempting, so does the Grand Marnier soufflé. Fabulous food choice and such a nice presentation.

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  8. Robin says:

    I think they all look pretty good, if my sudden hunger is any indication. The souffle is my favorite.

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  9. Kathy says:

    You did good, Scott. Like Robin, I am suddenly much hungrier than before visiting your blog!

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  10. Karma says:

    Even if the light wasn’t your favorite, the gorgeousness of the food makes up for it (except for that sauce that everyone has already mentioned!).
    I think the whole flash issue is something many of us could some education on. The built-in flash most cameras come with really don’t do food much justice. I think a post about how and when to bounce and adjust flashes would be great. I have an older adjustable flash I’ve been trying to experiment with (no manual!) and I just don’t quite understand the settings and such.

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    • I have gotten some help and will be looking at improving these photos. This was the first time I seriously tried to photograph food at restaurants. I learned a lot and will do better next time.

      I did post a few links to flash articles last year in this articles: Flash is Our Friend. I will plan for a few more. If you have specific questions, email me so I can incorporate them.

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  11. kanniduba says:

    Seriously, stop it!
    You are very bad for my resolve, and I am not talking food, I’m talking the incessant magnetic pull of Disney!!!
    I think I have a disease…….is there a 12 Step Program for Disney addicts???

    Like

  12. Nye says:

    Scott, I love the last image, I think no flash made the image look warmer and colorful. I have such a hard time choosing which white balance to use when shooting indoor and lately I have been using auto white balance when lighting is unpredictable. I get so confused in this area, I need to practice and experiment some more.

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  14. plainmama says:

    Thanks for the invite 🙂 Hopefully I did it right.

    http://plainmama.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/fast-food/

    I think food photography is very challenging. Lighting, color, and composition need to be top notch since the subject is something so simple and everyday. But the challenge of it is something I appreciate and enjoy. I hope to participate in some more of your challenges, so if I didn’t pingback right please let me know 🙂 [Scott: I added the link to this comment for ya!]

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  16. Giiid says:

    It all looks delicious and very artistically made, and the joy of having it all served is absolutely not to forget. I would like to taste the cute little souffle, with sauce in its own little jug. Tiny small things are cute, they definitely taste well too. Thank you for making this tasty assignment.

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  17. mrgrosky says:

    Scott, just wanted to make the comment that your excellent collection of photos and your posting of these photos (with annotation and tips) seem to engender the very best kind of comments and constructive criticism from a wide audience of readers. Keep up the great work!

    Like

  18. Greg says:

    Make sure to bring a grey card to get your white balance correct (and of course shoot in RAW) as a couple of the images were not white balanced correctly. On camera flashes will ruin a shot unless it’s for fill when shooting in bright sunlight. Best to use a remote flash system (I use the pocket wizards for Canon) so you can shape the light better. Worst case use a bounce for your flash. Most commercial food shots are taken in a studio in a very controlled environment. Most editorial food shots are done on location with less control but a few tricks can make the images look quite good.

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