How to improve your food photography skills? – with Julie from Inspiring Kitchen

How to improve my food photography? How can I take better pictures when at my restaurant? These are questions I get asked all the time.

I’ve been photographing food and restaurants a lot these past 4 years and have gained lots of experience and insight in the field. However, I’d not consider myself a true professional – especially not when scrolling through my own Instagram explore page. There are so many highly skilled and talented food photographers out there – and thankfully, many of them are more than willing to share some tips and tricks with us.

One of these wonderful photographers is Julie from Inspiring Kitchen. You can check her Instagram out right here. Now, let’s dive into the interview and learn how to improve those food photography skills!

1) Could you shortly introduce yourself?

I am a marketer by profession. I had clients in the housewares industry (high-end cookware), so it’s here where my journey into the food and cooking world began. The connections I made with chefs (Emeril Lagasse was the first celebrity chef that I worked with) and restaurants led to working with kitchen design brands, which led to culinary travel writing.

I kept getting asked for advice. What were the current trends, what tips did I have, oh, and “could I please write it down!” So, I did. Inspiring Kitchen was created as a means to share all that I was learning. It has grown enormously to where I am now a part of the culinary media in Chicago, an influencer in the food, restaurant, travel, kitchen, and luxury space, and a journalist in culinary and luxury travel. 

2) How did you get started with food and restaurant photography?

I live in downtown Chicago and am lucky to have a wealth of amazing restaurants here. I have gotten to know so many of them during my start in the housewares world. Now, I proudly support and promote them via social media and on Inspiringkitchen.com

3) What is the biggest mistake you have made when it comes to restaurant photography? 

There are a couple of things, really. But the biggest one would be not coming prepared with lighting. Restaurants are notoriously dark. Some food no matter how delicious does not photograph well. The colors just don’t translate well.

An example: I was taking photos at a wonderful restaurant that had made a pear and gruyere sandwich. On the plate, it looked wonderful. In the shot, it looked beige. All beige. The lighting didn’t do much. This is where storytelling and being a writer really rescued the situation. I had to explain the dish in words instead of with the images. 

4) What are your top 3 tips for beginners, often without any real equipment?

  1. Cameras on phones are now really good. However, do bring an external handheld light. Here’s an example: https://amzn.to/2ORDfOt
  1. Be authentic. I don’t eat meat. At some point, a bigger Instagrammed/photographer told me that for my Inspiring Kitchen Instagram, I should show everything, even if I don’t eat it. But I couldn’t figure out how I could do that since I had never eaten it. How do I tell people it tastes good, when I didn’t even try?
  1. I love color. Many of my photos are colorful. but that’s not doctored.  The same goes for filters. I’m not a fan of every photo image in a row having the same color, whether blue or pink. When I go to a restaurant, I want to know what the food I am ordering is going to look like. I don’t want to feel deceived because the photographer doctored the picture so much. All of these things are based on authenticity in my opinion. 

Restaurants may serve dishes on colorful or patterned plates. That’s potentially challenging in a photo. I always like soft subdued colors, with white (not shiny) plates being my favorite, as that will allow the food’s beauty to come through. Using dark plates can bring drama but doesn’t work for every dish. 

  1. Ok, actually, 4 things. Editing software is your friend when it comes to restaurant and food photography. Use it. 

Are you ready to level up your food photography with these tips?

So there you have it. Julie’s food photography tips. Easy to implement and with direct results. I love them! I personally totally agree with all of them, and especially with tip 2 and 4. Recently I was asked to work for a shoarma place – but I am a flexitarian myself and eat meat only on a very rare occasion. Doing a shoot at this restaurant just didn’t feel right.

Anyhow: these tips are so good. Thanks, Julie, for sharing them!

Which one are you going to use first? Time to improve your food photography!

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