Fixing Bad Restaurant Lighting in Food Photography

The trouble with taking food photos while travelling is that many restaurants are too dark with weird sulphuric lighting that makes the food look extremely unappetizing in a photo.

There are ways around this such as

  • shooting in the daytime by the window;
  • bringing a very small discrete tripod with the camera already attached and set-up. Even so you will need a very patient companion and I travel with a grumpy-when-he-has-to-wait-for-me-to-finish-taking-the-photo companion. So not an option for me.
  • fiddle with the white balance

Galway’s Il Vicolo Pasta with three different ‘white balance’ settings: auto, incandescent and fluorescent.Galway's Il Vicolo Pasta with three different White Balance settingsAfter adjusting the colour a fair bit (including using ‘Replace Colour’) I ended up with this dish which still doesn’t look as good as it tasted!
Galway's Il Vicolo Pasta Text courtesy of Snapseed and a bit of lightening and hopefully you get the feel for the meal.Il Vicolo Pasta in SnapseedPilek is a restaurant in Amsterdam where the future is now, and the world’s housing crisis is solved by everyone living in shipping containers.

But the lighting was awful and I forgot to fiddle with the white balance so I ended up with awful photos that no amount of colour adjusting worked. I tried running all the shots in my post through various apps. But even double-apped this meat plate didn’t make the cut into my post – sometimes meat just doesn’t look good no matter what you do to it.
The meat plate at the Pilek Restaurant in the NDSM of AmsterdamPossibly triple-apped works though, maybe. What do you think?
Pilek meat plate appedThis was their strange little salad made of artichokes, almonds, fennel, mixed herbs and romesco sauce run though more or less the same apps.
Pilek salad appedThese chicken wing tapas in a hole-in-the-wall Spanish bar were delicious. But the photo doesn’t show it.
A Tapa of Chicken Wing in a MugHere it is again, photo apped to death – it looks good but doesn’t really look like chicken wings. Adding graphic titles adds the suggestive power of words to the image. The best app I’ve found to do this quickly is Snapseed.
Chicken Wing Tapas in Snapseed More of K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Challenge: Foodie for a Day.

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One response to “Fixing Bad Restaurant Lighting in Food Photography

  1. Thanks for joining in on the challenge! I like these and I have to say, you’re right about lighting. I had to do more than my share of adjusting my own lights to get the look I wanted. Every shift of my source made the dish look very different. I’m now convinced I’ll be doing more of this type of photography.

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