Skills Needed to Be a Good Restaurant Photographer


A restaurant Photographer needs to be good at taking portraits, interiors, exteriors, lifestyle photography, but most important of all, food photography. (Photo by Pittsburgh restaurant photographer, Michael Ray)

Restaurant Photographer

What type of photography do restaurants need?

Food Photography – Every restaurant, at one time or another will need to shoot their food.  If it’s a fancy restaurant and doesn’t have any photography on their menus, sooner or later they’ll need food photos for an ad or a billboard.

Still Life – If a restaurant is involved with social media, there will come a time when it needs lots of photography content to fill its posts.  A portion of these photos will end up containing still life photos.  It might be a shot of a table surface, or maybe a beer tap, or even a picture of a salt shaker, bunt some still life photos will be needed by almost every restaurant.  This may not be a major need for most restaurants, but they will use some still life photos.

food-wine photography for Pittsburgh client

Interiors / Exteriors – The insides and outsides or restaurants are often needed for advertising and marketing purposes.  These types of photos are probably the second most used types of photography, second to photography of the restaurant’s food.

Portraits – Many times a restaurant will need photos of the owner, the head chef, of possible a customer or two… Portrait photography is probably the third most important skill for a food photographer.

Lifestyle – Photos of customers eating and having fun, are often used by restaurants in their advertising.  Sometimes the models are paid professional talent and sometimes the models of these lifestyle photos are just real customers.  Social media has greatly increased the need for this type of photography. LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Instagram, all require photography as content, and social media had become a very important part of most restaurant’s marketing efforts.

Where do restaurants use photography?

No matter if we’re talking about restaurants in Pittsburgh or New York, all restaurants need photography on many different types to be used in many different places.  Here are some of the uses that a restaurant will find for quality photography.

Menus – Pretty much every customer or every restaurant interacts with a menu.  Not all menus use photography, but many do.


Shot for Mitchell’s Restaurant (National Chain owned by Ruth’s Chris)

Billboards – No matter how expensive or inexpensive the restaurant, one of the best means of marketing is through billboard advertising.

Magazine and Newspaper ads – Many restaurants use magazine or newspaper advertising to bring in new customers or entice old ones to return.  And what better way to make someone hungry to visit a restaurant than with some great food photography or maybe a beautiful photo showing the atmosphere of the restaurant.


Here’s an Iphone photo of me standing in front of one of my photos that was being used as exterior display outside of Emiliano’s Mexican Restaurant & Bar, In Pittsburgh, PA.

Misc marketing materials – Some restaurants use photos for other purposes too.  Many have brochures, business cards, in-restaurant display, direct mail pieces, and many are now involved with email marketing.

What’s it take to be a good restaurant photographer?

It’s important for a restaurant photographer to be well rounded and be able to shoot many different types of photography, but there is one type that is more important then all the rest.

What Photographer skills are most important!

It may not be obvious, but food photography skills are the most important photographic skill needed to be a good restaurant photographer.  Most commercial photographers can make a decent portrait, shoot interiors, and do general “people” photos for the restaurant, but shooting food is a specialty.  Being a good food photographer takes a lot of practice and not every photographer can develop those skills.

If you should happen to need a restaurant photographer in or around Pittsburgh PA, or just want to learn more about the subject, please feel free to contact Michael Ray at 412-232-4444 or

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