Lessons Learned | My First In Restaurant Photo Shoot

Updated: Nov 7, 2019


Last year, when I was first taking my photography services live and into the restaurant market, I started to look for a few places that I could reach out to and let them know I was here and that I was all ready to take the best photos for them. I wanted to start slowly and try places that were close by and that I was already frequenting first, just to get my feet wet.

The problem was, at that time, I hadn’t really built up a portfolio of food or restaurant work specifically, so, what was I going to show them in order to prove that I wasn’t some hack who was going to show up with an iPhone and think I knew what I was doing?

That’s when I reached out to a local sandwich/toast + coffee joint that is around the corner from my house called Toasted Coffee + Kitchen and asked them if they needed a few shots of some of their favorite items. I offered to come in for an hour or 2 and shoot a few things for free.

I couldn’t have known then, but, it was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made.

I showed up and met with the manager, Bob, who is super nice and cool, and he pretty much immediately gave me free reign to walk around and take whatever shots I wanted to. I was nervous... Really nervous! Mainly that I didn’t know exactly what to take photos of just yet, I didn’t really know where the best lighting would be, or what I was going to be shooting, and I also was nervous that the staff would wonder why this annoying person with a camera was getting all up in their way while they were trying to help customers.

But, that fairly quickly subsided, and I found my cadence. They had 3 or 4 special menu items at that time that they wanted to feature. I was allowed to move around, stand on benches, add coffee or water to the shots, etc…, and they helped me every step of the way to get everything I needed.

They then allowed me to take some photos of the employees. This was even more nerve wracking. I’m a super private person myself, and am by default very careful of taking other’s photos without their consent, and most definitely not posting them anywhere unless the images are approved first. I have come to realize that most younger people are not at all worried about this sort of thing, for the most part, but, I’m still thoughtful about it.

But, once I met everyone, and started meandering around the kitchen and back of house, I felt really comfortable with it and with them. I tried not to be in the way, but, also, snuck in some great close ups of the people who worked there, who are all super interesting and fun, and all sorts of other things that are probably more interesting to those who actually work in restaurants, but, also made for some great and interesting shots!

This experience was priceless. I ended up doing 3 shoots like this with them, and loved, learned from, and appreciated each one. To be able to go into an established business and be given such free reign allowed me to work through a lot of things that I might not have been able to otherwise, like how to approach business owners about my services, what expectations are when shooting in an open or crowded restaurant, how to find the best lighting, what sorts of things to do ahead of and after a shoot. Most importantly, it allowed me to build a comfort level that I now take into every new interaction with every new client.

My next few blog posts will cover more specifically some of the most important things I learned from my shoots with Toasted Coffee + Kitchen. I look forward to sharing them with you!

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All photos by Allison David

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