How to photograph chefs in a restaurant

Most group shots are awful – the people may as well be fence posts riveted to the ground, wooden expressions, no energy. As a photographer I find my role is less and less about lighting and more and more about energising people, after all, with today’s cameras, anyone can light – right? Well, no, but you get what I mean.

This image was a three light set up – two off camera.  I positioned the tall bearded chef in the background to block the exit as it was a deadspace and banned the chefs from looking at me, suggesting they look at the twirling romali instead.

how to photograph chefs in restaurant


In case you think the chefs are natural actors, here is the first photo from the day!

indian chefs posing in restaurant kitchen

Nilgiri’s Restaurant, St Leonards needed images in a hurry

The Sydney Morning Herald wants food shots for an article. The writer names the dishes. But you don’t have the images. What to do? Pull out an iPhone and risk the SMH abandoning the article when it receives the less than ideal images?

Call me!

Here are three shots of meals requested by the Herald – shot at award-winning nilgiri’s restaurant today.

Fenugreek-crusted lamb cutlets

Fenugreek-crusted lamb cutlets

Aloo gobhi

Aloo gobhi

chicken korma

chicken korma

The Red Clove Indian Restaurant, Seaforth

A Punjab restaurant, the night before it opens, chaos, hopeful diners knocking on the door, staff unpacking boxes and I’m photographing meals for the website and mail outs.

I wander in the kitchen and see gorgeous shiny clean copper bowls, water jugs and pans; they become the backdrop to my images.

We move unsightly computer from stable and voila, the restaurant is ready to be photographed.







How to encourage diners to return monthly, not every six months

Too many restauranteurs don’t give their diners a reason to return monthly.

Nilgiri’s restaurant does – with a different theme for its Sunday buffet every month.

Below are three posters I’ve designed for nilgiri’s. They are displayed on the website and also in frames located in the restaurant (internal advertising is free and effective).

restaurant theme restaurant theme 81ChristieStreet

The Grounds, Alexandria – smiling staff

Restauranteurs often want staff in photos but the staff aren’t being paid to be photographed. They are being paid to be rushed off their feet, the meat between the chef and the customers, and don’t always  want to smile at a photographer who is blinding them with a flash.

So if you want staff to be in photos, make sure they are into smiling, no matter how busy they are.

The grounds, Alexandria

This photo works well because the waitress is smiling, the food is visible, the ambient lighting is warm and inviting and there are happy diners in the background.

Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant or why restauranteurs don’t need to buy props

I was asked today by a prospective client if they should buy props for a restaurant shoot.

My answer was no, the restaurant will have enough props within it.

The images below were taken at Wooden Spoon Bar & Restaurant, Cremorne To only photograph food was to ignore the restaurant’s terrific ambience which was created in par  by filling up wine glasses, placing candles and placing another meal w in the background (the previous food shot).

restaurant shot003restaurant shot002sydney restaurant photography

Why use models in your restaurant photos? An example of photos of diners at Grace of India Restaurant, Milsons Point

Restaurants want images of people enjoying themselves in their restaurant but they can’t afford models.

what should they do? I think they should abandon even thinking of wanting models unless they want their clients to be anorexic which is unlikely to help their bottom line.

Instead, restaurants should use real clients in real time thereby guaranteeing authenticity. 

Grace of India RestaurantGrace of India Restaurant

Grace of India Restaurant

Grace of India Restaurant

Grace of India Restaurant

Flamingos and mirrors, or how to attract a younger crowd to your restaurant

Many years ago Taronga Zoo had a problem – the flamingos weren’t breeding.

The solution was simple – a long mirror in their complex . It worked because the flamingos then felt secure. Why did they feel secure? Because there seemed to be twice as many flamingos and there is nothing like safety in numbers!

The same principle applies to restaurants. You want to attract a young crowd, you want more than elderly couples and young families but how on earth do you attract the mid to late twenty somethings who are cashed up and ready to spend?

It goes without saying you need a terrific product but you also need to appeal to their insecurity: the last place they want to be is in a restaurant full of people their parents’ age.

So how to deal with this? Show images of young people!

It’s not rocket science yet 99% of restaurants don’t. Why? Maybe they prefer images of empty restaurants or they only employ photographers who work business hours.

This is an image I took at Bay Tinh Restaurant Marrickville. It shows happy young people. It’s real. The only fakery is the table hadn’t ordered Bonfire Prawns, Bay Tinh’s signature dish which not only tastes good, it is also eye catching. So when they were offered Bonfire Prawns on the house, they accepted and I got a great photo that is used to market Bay Tinh as a young thing’s restaurant!

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