Not all of us own DSLR cameras and even if we do, we don’t carry it around for every single restaurant meal. This is where our camera phones come in handy. Lucky for us, with the growing love for food photography, the quality of phone cameras have improved. On most days, our phones are able to produce some decent shots of the dishes we eat. Here are some tips to get you started on taking great photos or make some of your good restaurant photos even better!
Note: All pictures have been shot on iPhones and edited on Photoshop express.
1. Move the camera away from your dish
No one needs to see the absolute close up shot of your food and be able to count the number of stems of herbs on your dish! Pull up your camera and take a wider shot – get most or part of your dish, some part of the table and maybe the cutlery or the other dishes on the table. That said, close-up macro shots do work well as long as you are using a good quality camera and it highlights the details of a well plated dish.
Don’t: No close-up shots or shots of a solitary dish in the middle of your frame.
Do: Zoom Out, bring in more of the table in the frame. Here, the cutlery tray is used to enhance the photo.
2. Frame it right
Look around your table – bring in more color and texture to the composition. Your sunglasses, a book, a little vase of flowers on the table, the menu or the cutlery - the list of props is endless. Limit yourself to what you have, I've heard horror stories of people picking up whatever they fancy from the restaurant décor and throwing it around the table just to get a social media worthy picture. Don’t be that person!
Do: An overhead shot with full plates and a hand in the frame are a great way to make your photo look more inviting.
Do: Use the restaurant menu and things in your bag to tell a story through the photo.
3. Rule of Thirds
Want to make your food photos look more interesting and balanced? The rule of thirds is the most talked about composition rule you could apply to your photos. Simply put, it is moving your subject off the centre. Divide your frame into 9 equal parts and place your subject along the grid lines or at the meeting points. Most phones have the option to turn on grid in the camera settings which auto-divides your photo into 9 parts.
Do: Place your subject along the grid lines or the intersecting points to increase visual appeal.
4. Use natural light
I try to schedule all my special meals in the afternoon – one, they're usually indulgent so it's perfect to have them at mid-day to ward-off some guilt, and two, it's the best time to take food photos in as much available natural light. If I do intend to take pictures, I do a quick scan of the restaurant in the first 30 seconds of entering, try to find a table next to a window (if available). Choosing outdoor dining is another a great way to get the best shots in natural light.
Do: Choose a well-lit lunch setting on a table next to a window.
5. Experiment with different angles
Overhead shots are most preferred when it comes to food photography but they don’t always work. The easiest way to explain this is to think of two popular foods – pizza and burger. You are doing no justice to a burger by taking a top shot and a side-angled shot does nothing for a pizza. So, think before you click - try a few angles and choose the one that works best for your dish.
Don’t: Take a close up, blurred, or a top shot of a burger
Do: Take a straight shot of a burger to show the different layers. Keep minimal background noise.
6. Turn that flash off
Be kind to fellow diners and avoid flash-photography, they don’t even make the food look any better. If you're stuck with poor lighting, try to make the best of your photo with editing.
7. Be quick
Taking a photo before eating has become a way to appreciate what we eat and sometimes warn people about poor experiences. Let this be an insignificant part of your meal, take a quick shot and focus on what is more important – eating!
Your picture is only as good as its editing. Editing does wonders for any pictures especially the ones taken from our phones. Apps such as VSCO and Photoshop Express come in handy to bring life into some dull photos.