Food Photography

In this article, Kitchen CUT Co-founder John Wood looks at the importance of operational photography for delivering a consistent dish, and why it’s critical for your business.

Operational photography

Operational photography is about producing a clear, photographic representation of a dish – a photographic ‘spec’ that is easily used by teams in the kitchen and front-of-house as a reference to work to. It’s a check to make sure every dish is consistent (read our article here on why dish consistency is so important).

Why do I need this?

Accurate clear dish photography, taken under proper lighting and with a good camera will give a more realistic representation of what standards you set as a chef. When permanently displayed in the kitchen and for the front-of-house team, photographs can ensure that the dishes you and the team have created will be presented exactly how you wanted.

Why is it important to present dishes the same?

Any serious business wants to deliver a consistent product to their customers: it’s the key to return business as customers like to know what they’re getting. To do this you need to first, ensure that the components – in the case of restaurants/food the taste and execution of dishes on the menu – is the same. And, then, you need to make sure that the product – the dish – always looks the same. The delivery of taste and execution is delivered with detailed recipes with precise methodology; and presentation is delivered by reference to precise and clear photography.  Returning customers will order the same dish that they enjoyed previously, expecting it to look and taste exactly the same as on the first occasion when they ordered it. Your job as a chef is to ensure that they get this.

What do I need to produce a good photograph?

  • A good quality camera, ideally an SLR or a decent phone camera can also take a good picture
  • A steady hand, or a tripod
  • A good quality flash – either built in to the camera or separate
  • A simple clean black cloth or board (white can also be used)
A great investment is a portable mini Photo studio which are available on the internet and cost approx £30-45. They have a tripod and 2 halogen lights that shine soft lighting onto the dish from the sides and will improve your dish photography 100%. Remember: The beauty of Kitchen CUT is that you can take a picture on your phone and upload it straight in to your recipe.

Top tips for great food photography

  • Present the dish 120% as even if there are slight discrepancies in service you will still get a good presentation from your team
  • Do not take photos under the hot plate or in kitchen lighting only as the true colours will be distorted
  • Place on a clean black cloth or board
  • Do not photograph dishes on stainless steel tables, on top of tea towels or a dirty chefs apron
  • Ensure that the dish is photographed as close as you possibly can while allowing people to see which type of plate is being used
  • Make sure it is in focus
  • Always take two photos in case one is blurred
  • Make sure the dish is in the centre of the photograph
  • Photograph everything you serve, no matter how simple you think it may be
Please find below some examples of some good photographed dishes and some poor ones.

Make your photos look like this….

Dish Image 2

Not this…

Dish image 1

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