Everyone knows photographs are important to restaurant advertising and marketing. Customers want to see what they’re going to eat and experience before they come. So why are the photos for local restaurants often so bad? Is it the expense of scheduling professional photo shoots? I think reluctance to unclench the checkbook is part of this creative block, but there’s something else: uncertainty.

Do you and your chosen photographer know which pictures to take? A wedding photographer often has a checklist of pictures to get: bride and groom, bride with parents, bride and groom with groom’s family (except for old Aunt Linda), bride and groom with Rufus (dog), Leo (bunny rabbit), and Jennifer (the cockatiel).

Eliminate the uncertainty and make your own list of pictures to request! Let’s explore ten important shots your restaurant web design needs.

  1. The Attractive Exterior
  2. The Awesome Interior Angle 1
  3. The Awesome Interior Angle 2
  4. The Signature Dish
  5. The Dessert
  6. The Smiling, Happy Diner
  7. Showcase Customer Service
  8. The Chef’s Headshot
  9. Lots and lots of food macros
  10. Incredible Ingredients

The Attractive Exterior

I need to see your building in full. A nice wide angle would be nice. You see, I’m about to drive here and I need to know what your place looks like. Not only that, but what the parking, sidewalks and neighboring buildings are like. Show me your building’s exterior with a photograph that makes it a landmark I’ll recognize from the street. Put this photograph on your Contact or Location page. You’ll also want to make sure this photo is available on Yelp, Google, and other restaurant listings sites.

The Awesome Interior Angle One

Next, show me what your restaurant looks like inside. Show me another wide angle shot of the main dining room. What can I expect to see when I walk in and look past the host stand?

Admittedly, interior restaurant photos can be challenging. This photo should accurately represent the normal atmosphere on an average night. Which means your photographer’s dealing with low lighting in tight or awkward spaces. If your restaurant serves lunch and you’ve got windows, solve the lighting problem by shooting during the day. Or simply trust your photographer and let them bring in extra lights to subtly brighten and illuminate the spaces.

The Awesome Interior Angle Two

We’ve already got a nice wide angle of the inside. Now, let’s take a detail shot from an individual table or highlight a specific feature like the bar.

Or how about something entirely different! Some hip restaurants now build and decorate their spaces specifically for customers to take photos in. If your place has a mural wall, a cool tile floor pattern or other signature design element, make sure it’s well documented so everyone knows to bring their best selfie game.

The Signature Dish

What about the food? Your photos don’t need to show every single dish, mixed drink, and dessert plate. However, I want to see a picture of your signature dish, your must-try. Take a few photos here. Get a wide angle of the dish served in context with sides, pairings, table setting, and other dishes. Also get something called a macro. A macro is a close-up detail shot. Think about those cereal boxes that print “Enlarged To Show Texture” next to the picture of a spoon full of breakfast. This image should seem larger than life to show detail and spark interest.

The Dessert

Give me all the dessert macros! I want to see the little hairs on the raspberries, the light reflecting off the oozy chocolate syrup on that double-choco-death-by-brownie-cake. Take wide shots too so everyone can see exactly what they’re ordering and start salivating early.

Desserts and cocktails are great for luring in customers and clearly setting yourself apart from competitors. Make sure you’ve got the pictures you need to show off these items in your web design and marketing.

The Smiling, Happy Diner

Ok, this one could get cheesy. That’s a food marketing joke! Showing people on your restaurant web design is tough because you don’t want to seem like your place is only for this or that group. And you don’t want your photo to come off feeling fake with pasted on smiles.

Think about those interior photos suggested above. While I do think some great shots of the decor are needed (with no people) you should take the same angles with a crowd. They all could work with people in them as well, just as part of the background, out of focus or given a motion blur. This smiling, happy diner photo idea is really about capturing your restaurant’s atmosphere, whether it’s a quiet cathedral to steak or a hip and lively open-kitchen.

Showcase Customer Service

Speaking of atmosphere, why not let your photographer capture your customer service experience with pictures of your bartender setting down an icy beverage for a customer or your chef giving the finishing touch of artful sauce or seasoning. Bam!

The Chef’s Headshot

If you’re the chef, or your chef is front and center representing the restaurant in public, you’re going to want headshots taken in uniform in the dining room or kitchen. You know the picture: arms folded, amiable smile, crisp jacket or apron. Local media will be asking for this picture as you grow.

Lots and lots of food macros

You don’t need to photograph your whole menu, but a small library of pretty detail shots will give web designers and graphic artists lots of options. These macros help set the tone. One detail shot of a gorgeous fish taco can set off a whole section of the menu without having to show every single option.

Incredible Ingredients

Want to go the next step with these macro pictures? You might need to enlist the help of your chef and maybe a food stylist to create displays of the spices and ingredients that go into your food. This is a trend customers will be familiar with from the posters, commercials, and packaging of big-time brands. Why not try it yourself?

Like food macros, these images are great for decorating menus and web pages with relevant images that don’t necessarily have to be changed out if you drop an item or change the menu.

Are you hungry… for great, new photographs of your restaurant and food? I hope this list and all the photos and descriptions make you want to step up your photography game and give you ideas to get started. Share your own ideas comments with me on Twitter @pwolfgram and in our comments!

Working on your restaurant website?  We’ld love to chat.