Are you interested in taking photos of your drinks and food in cafés and restaurants but unsure about managing harsh light or dark interiors? Coffee shops can be one of the more difficult places to do food photography.

One thing to remember is that it is all about the light! Here are a few tips to take into consideration to get that perfect shot:

1. Have a good lens

A good lens makes for a good image! Choosing a prime or fixed lens (which means that it cannot zoom in or out) is best as it enables the lens parts, including the glass which affects the detail in the image, to be of higher quality at a lower price point.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

2. Embrace that every day is different

On some days it will take 10 minutes to get the perfect shot and on others up to two hours – different light and shadows create different effects. The secret is to enjoy where you are and its unique quality as you will eventually find and capture its magic.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

3. Shoot when it is fresh

Remember when shooting drinks you need to shoot fast – as in when it is still steaming hot or ice cold. This is because with coffees or lattes, the art will start to look less fresh when you take too long, and with smoothies or iced coffees the ice will start melting and it won’t look the same.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

4. Background check

Try different compositions and get creative. The best things about shooting in a restaurant or café are its big open and unique spaces. While just must not forget to focus on what is important to you, remember to look further than the food and drinks.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

5. Use your scene to tell a story

If you order a standard coffee, see if the coffee shop sells pastries and include it in your shot. This will tell a better story about the coffee you are having. Depth of field is not just about aperture, but also about leading the eye down the image. Using the café’s interior and props will create depth without having to change the camera’s aperture.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

6. Move to find the best light

Never avoid a shot because of poor lighting. Try to make the interior look as natural as possible and make the best out of the situation. Explore the lightning of the café by moving to the counter or a booth near a window. For coffee shops with low-quality light, pick a spot that does not have harsh shadows. Always angle your camera by the way the natural light hits the food best.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

7. Use a tripod

A tripod will take away the stress of shooting free-hand (no more holding your breath while pressing the shutter release) plus your photos will be tack-sharp. It will also get your camera away from messy food!

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

8. Try different angles 

Some food looks better from above and others from the side or a 45º angle. Try moving the plate around while taking different shots to find the most appetising angle.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

9. Shoot in RAW

Shoot in RAW image format for more editing (especially colour temperature) in post-production. RAW also makes your images look softer and more natural with even tones.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

10. Capture the uniqueness of the café

Each café is different. Whether it is the interior or the branding of the café, try to capture its unique vibe. For example, if the café has unique mugs, capture that! If the place has a cool bar area, try using that as the background.

Coffee shop photography - Outdoorphoto Raw Coffee shop

PRO TIP: Shoot tethered

Tethering is when you shoot while your camera is hooked up to your computer/laptop. By doing this you can view a larger, more accurate rendition of your shot. This allows you to see any mistakes you may have made and tweak your composition during the shoot. This is simple to do in Lightroom and all you need is a proper cord to connect your camera to your computer/laptop.

Food photography in a coffee shop can be challenging, but also very rewarding! Put the tips into practice to capture the perfect shot and let us know in the comments how it went.

Did you know that you can now enjoy true barista-made hot and cold coffee brews at RAW Coffee, Outdoorphoto’s very own coffee shop? Based in Garsfontein Pretoria, it’s open 8am to 5pm on weekdays and 8am to 1:30pm on Saturdays.