9 Tips for Food Photography with your Smartphone

29 Apr 2018

@akm profile image

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.

Move the camera away from your dish

Don’t: No close-up shots or shots of a solitary dish in the middle of your frame.

Do: Bring in more of the table in the frame. Here, the phone has been pulled up a bit and the cutlery tray added to enhance the 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!

An overhead shot with full plates and a hand in the frame are a great way to make your photo look more inviting.

Do: An overhead shot with full plates and a hand in the frame are a great way to make your photo look more inviting.

Another way to enhance the frame is to use the restaurant menu and things in your bag to tell a story through the photo.

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.

Rule of Thirds

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.

Natural light

Do: Choose a well-lit lunch setting on a table next to a window.

5. Experiment with different angles

Don’t: Take a close up, blurred out or a top shot of a burger

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 in mind to keep the background noise minimal.

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!

8. Editing

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.

Before and after editing on Photoshop express

9. Too dark? Keep your phone away and enjoy your meal

Sometimes the lighting in the restaurant is great for a romantic and intimate meal but rather poor for photography. Don’t let this bother you – just choose to not take a picture at all. Put your phone aside and dig in!

Remember, these are all just guidelines and not hard-set rules. Play around with these tips and feel free to break them if you feel your photo will be improved.

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@vikas profile image
vikas4 YEARS AGO
Awesome guide. I suck at taking food photos. Shadows and dark places are usually the hardest to get right!
@thekoaman profile image
thekoaman3 YEARS AGO
If you meed lighting you can use the other persons phone, assuming someone else is with you and have them light it with their phone. You can adjust how much light by how they hold it. We do that all the time and makes the photos pop 😊👊
@vikas profile image
vikas3 YEARS AGO
Great tip thank you! I’m going to try this next time I’m out with someone!
@lou profile image
Nice handy guide!
@wharding profile image
wharding4 YEARS AGO
I needed this!
@manjugarg profile image
manjugarg4 YEARS AGO
I learn a lot from this . Thanks !!
@bigfatnyancat profile image
bigfatnyancat3 YEARS AGO
i'm most guilty of the super zoomed, centered shots 🐶
@jashment profile image
jashment3 YEARS AGO
@shraddha this is what I was talking about!
@lizmaselli profile image
lizmaselli1 YEAR AGO
Great tips!
@mallory17 profile image
mallory171 YEAR AGO
I’ve tried all these tips and I’m still terrible at it, especially photographing the food I cook myself. I am always too excited to eat it that my photos never do the taste justice! If you’re a good photographer looking for a live in private chef with a French bulldog hit me up 🐕
@simonel profile image
simonel1 YEAR AGO
These are great tips, thank you!! I'm not great at taking photos so I'm going to try a few of these ideas.
@jinny profile image
jinny10 MONTHS AGO
Thank you!