Black woman with natural hair using a film camera to photograph a plate of food.

Your Food Photos Need Work. Here’s Help.

BY Amanda M. Faison


Your Food Photos Need Work. Here’s Help.

Dek goes here…

You’ve got ‘em and we’ve all seen ‘em—food photos with terrible lighting and awful presentation. Whatever’s on the plate or in the glass, well, let’s just say it doesn’t sing. Even if your photo needs don’t surpass Instagram, your dishes, cocktails, and your business all deserve better. Jennifer Olson, one of Colorado’s best food photographers, steps in with some advice:


  • Lighting is everything. It defines my work. I spent a lot of time getting that just right. 
  • Photograph everything by a window. Window light is the best kind of light. If you pick the same time of day to shoot, you’ll guarantee that consistency even more. 
  • Try and shoot in the same place every time.
  • Think before you shoot: Overhead shots are interesting, but not everything deserves an overhead. Sandwiches, burgers, salads: all of those you’d want to photograph at what we call a three-quarters angle, which is from the point of view of the person sitting at the table.
  • When shooting cocktails, bring them to a window. Bring in fresh garnishes. Put the bottle in the photo and use the opportunity to co-brand.
  • Think about people, too. Customers really like to see behind the curtain.
  • Find a photographer who does social media packages. I offer them ( and I’ll pop into a restaurant once a month (or whatever we’ve agreed upon) for less than an hour and take 20 shots. It’s super affordable and then you don’t have to think about it.


  • Filters are great—but they’re not great for everything. My pet peeve: If you get the opportunity to have professional photos done, let them be. Do not put them through a filter.
  • Try not to shoot dishes at night.
  • Don’t shoot cocktails on a bar mat. (Why? They’re dark, usually wet, and ewww.)
  • If you’re going to shoot someone holding a dish or cocktail, don’t use someone with chipped nails or dry hands. Only shoot good-looking hands—and have that person apply lotion before.

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Amanda M. Faison