a restaurant owner taking a menu photo using food photography tips from Grubhub

9 essential food photography tips to help boost delivery and takeout sales

Customers love mouth-watering food photography, which is why adding menu photos to your restaurant website, social media accounts, and online marketplace menus can help boost your delivery and takeout sales. According to Grubhub data, restaurants that follow best practices for menu design, including adding pictures, receive up to 70% more orders and rack up 65% higher sales compared to restaurants without pics.

How Food Photography Can Fit Into Your Restaurant Menu Design

There are two main ways to incorporate photography into your restaurant menu:

example of food photography from Scoop DeVille
Example of a cuisine photo from Scoop DeVille
Example of food photography from P.S. Kitchen
Example of a menu photo from P.S. Kitchen

Cuisine photos

Menu item photos

Think of cuisine photos as setting the stage or establishing a vibe. These images are generally taken close up, artistically cropped, and more abstract overall.

You might use these photos on your menu as well as on your website and in marketing materials.

These photos are zoomed-out snapshots of specific menu items so it’s easy to see and understand the whole dish. They accurately convey portion size and what components diners can expect should they order that dish.

These are helpful when people are trying to decide what to eat or if they’re unfamiliar with the type of cuisine you serve and need a better idea of what a specific dish entails. 

9 Food Photography Tips

Restaurants that have already made the switch from text-based menus to photos have increased their conversion rates by 25% — that means more website visitors who actually become customers. Check out these food photography tips for best practices and take the first step toward attracting new customers of your own.

1. Good Lighting

Food photos are only good if consumers can make out the images and if those images portray your food in a positive light — literally. Good lighting ensures you can show off all the yummy toppings on your signature brisket nachos and emphasize the freshness of the ingredients in your Greek salad. 

Natural lighting is always preferable, with indirect light more flattering than direct sunlight, but a light tent or strong artificial lighting can work too. Just watch out for shadows and try to avoid using your camera’s flash.

2. Composition

Professional photographers know all about the “rule of thirds,” which says you divide your photographic fields into thirds, putting your subject into the right or left third of the image and leaving the other two sections relatively clutter-free. 

Also, be aware of the depth of field. You want your dish to be in focus, but it’s okay if items in the background like placemats or drinkware are a bit blurrier.

3. Tasteful Arrangements

Take your time arranging each dish. Prepare the plate itself, wiping the rim clean and checking for stray garnish. Add a spritz of oil or water to fresh ingredients to make them look dewy and juicy on camera.

Except in rare cases where you’re going for cuisine photos that are more about vibe than information, food should always be stationary rather than captured in action.

4. Create a Background That’s Interesting Without Stealing the Show

Photos are more memorable when they include details beyond the plate of the food itself, but you have to be careful not to incorporate elements that compete with the main attraction. Choose utensils, cups, salt and pepper shakers, and table vases that are clean and simple while contrasting the colors of the food. All props should be on-brand, too.

Feel free to use your accessories to show portion size. Avoid miniature salt shakers or demitasse spoons for that reason; even photos that are accidentally misleading can feel like false advertising.

5. Find The Right Angle

Creating the right composition means examining angles. It’s always a good idea to play with your angles until you find one that makes your menu items look their absolute best. 

Flat foods like pizza look best shot from a bird’s eye view while stacked foods look better photographed from the side to show off the layers in all their glory.

Here are few more suggestions on shooting food from an angle:

  • Use a higher angle for bowls without going completely vertical so diners can see past the lip of the bowl but still get an accurate gauge of contents and portion size
  • If you have multiple dishes that are plated similarly, like lots of appetizer platters or noodle bowls, shoot them using a variety of angles to keep your menu images diverse
  • Place sauce in small containers outside the basket to show scale and portion size

6. Plate Intentionally

Plating with a purpose means thinking about the containers you’re using and how much of a dish you ultimately show. For instance, pouring liquids into clear cups helps diners understand the color and texture of sauces and dressings.

Diners prefer realistic images versus overly staged menu photos so they can imagine sitting down to eat. Imagine how you would present the dish to a diner in person and stage your photos to look like the best version of that.

7. Capture Food In Its Prime

Take photos of food right after it’s been prepared to take advantage of its natural colors and look. It’s much easier to make lettuce look crisp and fresh if it actually is crisp and fresh versus switching out produce or trying to perk up wilting romaine.

8. Look Up Professional Photography Tips — Or Just Hire a Professional

The internet is full of food photography tips offered up by industry pros who know exactly what it takes to make all kinds of cuisine look wonderfully appetizing — even if you’re taking those photos on your iPhone

Even a few small tweaks can drastically improve your images. Want even better shots? Try using a high-definition DSLR camera to boost resolution, which makes photos crystal clear whether they’re used on printed menus, for online delivery apps, or anywhere else on the internet.

For an even easier way to get professional menu photos, sign up with Grubhub Restaurants. Part of your membership includes access to a free professional shoot of your menu. That way you can showcase your dishes to customers without worrying about photography details.

9. Edit, Edit, Edit

Pay attention to editing, too. You can crop photos to fit into your menu or eliminate excessive white space to keep the focus on your dish. Play around with exposure and lighting to see if you can make certain colors pop. But remember, you don’t want your food to look artificial and this isn’t the time for artsy takes on comfort food (purple pot roast is not a tempting sight). 

Example: P.S. Kitchen jazzes up their Creamy Potato Salad using celery, red onions, herbs, and spices, and thanks to pro photography, hungry customers can see hints of those ingredients throughout this crisp, clean picture.

Ready to take your restaurant menu to the next level? Discover what you can really do with Grubhub at your side.

From infusing your existing menu with full-color photos to helping potential customers understand the intricacies of your signature dishes, Grubhub is here to help you take your menu to the next level.  

When you partner with Grubhub for Restaurants, you’ll receive a dedicated Account Advisor who’s experienced in restaurant success and invested in driving your restaurant’s performance on the Grubhub platform. Not only will they schedule your free professional photoshoot, but they’ll also connect you to internal experts who can provide menu consultation services to fuel takeout and delivery success

Ready to get started? Sign up with Grubhub today and your first 60 days are free!