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How to Take Great Food Photos With Your Phone

How to take great food photos with your phone

When you sit down to a nice meal, which do you pick up first, your fork or your phone? Join the club. We’re all snapping pictures of our plates before we start eating. Well, a lot of us anyway. A study last year showed a whopping 69 percent of millennials photograph their food and put it on social media before they put it in their mouth.

Of course, like your selfies, you want your foodstagrams to look amazing and make the internet think you’re a total superhero – especially if you cooked the food yourself.

Here are a few tips for taking excellent photos of your fare.

Use natural light

The flash on your phone will do no favors for your food shots. The light is harsh, it casts odd shadows and makes the food look cold. The best light for food boasting is natural light. If you’re at home and it’s overcast, take your creation outside or next to a window. If the sun is shining, consider hanging a white sheet to filter the light. If you’re at a restaurant and the light is dim, turn off your flash and prop your phone against a glass to hold it steady.

Try the flashlight feature

If you’re in a restaurant with muted light, borrow a friend’s phone and use that phone’s flashlight feature. If the light looks too harsh, hold up a napkin to diffuse it. If you need more light, you can use a white napkin or a white menu to reflect light onto the food.

Change the exposure

If you have a relatively new smartphone, you can control the phone’s exposure. When you open your camera and focus manually by tapping on the screen, you’ll see a sun icon appear. Press and hold the sun and slide your finger up and down to control the level of light in your photo.

Play with depth of field

Experiment with different angles to create depth of field, which will make your food photos look more interesting, even cornucopian. Try 45 degrees or even eye level. Overhead shots can also be good, depending on the dish.

Focus on the food

Lean in close to fill the frame and evoke a feel of intimacy and abundance. Tighter images tend to look better on social media.

On the other hand, if you’re in an artsy mood and the table is not cluttered with crumbs and spills, try creating negative space (empty space) around the food to draw  attention to it and evoke interest.

Introduce props

Food should be the star of your shot, but props can tell a nice story. A napkin, utensils, the little stone bowl of wood-smoked sea salt (yes, that’s a thing) – used imaginatively, they can create atmosphere and bring a moment to life.

Get on the grid

Photographers work with the “rule of thirds.” Imagine a grid of four lines superimposed on your phone display, dividing it into tic-tac-toe thirds. On most new phones, you don’t have to imagine the grid – you can go into settings and display a grid on your screen. Then place your focus at a point where the lines intersect. You’ll get more interesting photos this way.

Edit after you shoot

Hey, we all edit our selfies, right? (Right?) So why not edit your food photos with a little postproduction? No one will ever know. If your smartphone is a recent model, it likely has editing features built in. Or try one of Instagram’s editing tools to adjust contrast, saturation, brightness, warmth – all sorts of variables. But don’t overdo it or the food in your photo will look about as edible as something from a laminated menu. (Watch for our upcoming post on how to edit your phone photos.)

Practice makes perfect

The secret to taking great photos is taking a lot of photos. Take 25 pictures, and at least one should turn out OK.

We hope this advice helps you create more epic food selfies for your social media pages.

2 Comments on “How to Take Great Food Photos With Your Phone

  1. Your lesson on taking photos of food was interesting. I have never photographed my food, and probably will not in the future. However, your suggestions were helpful.

    I’d like to see the same effort put forthwith on scenery. I take many photos just to document things. For example, how much snow has fallen, the strange footprints of an animal, when it is “ice-out” and when the leaves pop.

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