How to get a great food image with a smartphone

Hi folks, this time I’d like to introduce you a very talanted photographer ,Chris Cummins based in Kansas City  and taking mostly wedding and portrait photography. Chris wanted to share with you some tips about taking great or better images using your mobile, So digg in and take a look!!!

Better food photography with your mobile phone:

Your meal was heaven sent. The mysterious little dive on the street corner was a place you always avoided until that one day a voice beckoned you in. You are glad they did because the little restaurant delivered in a big way. Who can resist the temptation to be the modern day Paul Revere and alert the world about your discovery? But you won’t be mounting a horse. You’ll be grabbing your smartphone.

Food photography has taken off in a big way because of the social media landscape and the amazingly powerful cameras we have in our phones. This hot trend is called “foodstagram” in which a photo of a dish is quickly posted online.

But you may have noticed, the dish that spoke to every one of your senses can often times not look that great in the photograph. For some reason the image you have made makes the steaming cinnamon roll that deserves its own religious following look more similar to that plastic-wrapped hockey puck you remember from your grade school cafeteria. What happened?

Here are some tips to make your smartphone food photography go from ho-hum to yum-yum:

1. Find the light.

Great photography, be it done with a camera phone or a traditional camera is all about the light. We’re not just talking about the quantity of smartphone-food-photography-1light, we also want to focus on the quality and direction of the light too.

Let’s start with the quantity of light. We all have made plenty of photographs over the years that look like someone turned off the lights. That’s because there wasn’t enough light to adequately make a photograph. Of course, that’s why camera phones are all being made with built-in lighting devices to help us illuminate our foreground subjects. While these are useful they often don’t make a very pleasing photograph in a dark restaurant. The on-camera “strobe” lighting is flat and frankly, amateurish. Let’s love our food a little more, shall we?

So what are we to do if we don’t want to have that ugly on-camera strobe, party-pic look to the photograph? In a restaurant one of the best places to make a really smashing photograph of your entree of choice is with window light. Windows are full of a great quantity of light. If it’s night time and the sun is down, look for places where the light seems the most intense. Low hanging incandescent bulbs can be fun. Watch for wild color shifts though.

The quality of light is important to. This is where windows shine. Look for a window during the day that has indirect light streaming into it. Indirect means no harsh sun blaring directly down on your plates of delicious artwork. The light is very diffuse in those windows and can easily give the same appearance as a high-end food photography studio’s soft boxes.

The direction of your light is critical too. A restaurant window is going to give you dramatic side lighting depending on where you make the photograph. It can give you really wonderful light from behind the dish or from directly above in a skylight, too.

Always think about those three factors of quantity, quality and direction of light and you have won half the battle!

2. Go during the day

This directly relates to the importance of light. You’re going to have more choices to create amazing images of food with daylight pouring through the restaurant windows. If you go in an off hour the restaurant won’t be so packed either. It would be awkward putting your plate of beautiful food on someone else’s table while they are eating. I’m not sure the management would like that either!

3. Let the background blow itself out

Smartphones have a tendency to capture everything in sharp detail. Everything is in focus. That can be frustrating because it means lot of things will be competing for your attention. Let’s reduce visual clutter. To create a magazine-quality image, find the perfect spot with a window letting in the indirect light, make the photograph with the window directly behind the subject matter shining into your phone’s lens. This will let the background be photographed super bright and “blown-out.” This visually keeps the viewers’ eyes on the food and not wandering off to restaurant’s decor or other stuff you don’t want to focus on.

4. Keep things simple

No need to go crazy on the styling and accoutrements around the entree. Avoid lots of excess stuff because less is more. Some silverware in the smartphone-food-photographybackground, napkins and a little bit of the table is about all you could possibly want. After all ,the purpose of the photograph is to showcase the food and not a bunch of other stuff.

5. Get familiar with your camera’s settings

One of our favorite settings for the iPhone is the exposure and focus lock that you can use by touching the part of the image on your phone that you want to expose for and lock on. By moving the screen’s little blue box to different parts of the image you can see subtle changes in the exposure of the image. I prefer to go for a slightly brighter look to the image. You can get this by positioning the little square on a slightly darker part of the image. This helps bring out details in the shadow areas of the entree while helping to add a little extra brightness to the surroundings and background. This helps focus our viewers eyes more on the important parts of the meal.

6. Use napkins, menus or your bare hand to reflect light back onto your subject and open up the shadows

Opening up the shadows means adding light to the especially dark areas of your subject. This helps us control crazy amounts of contrast that are so often the downside risk with using a strong backlight on your subject. Be careful not to let the napkin wander into your frame, though. Adjust and play with the reflector to study how the dark areas of the plate are lightened.

Remember, great food photography has never been more fun with that device you carry with you everywhere. Keep it simple, study your light and do some simple cropping and you will be making your friends and followers drool over your epicurean discoveries!
Bon appétit!


Chris Cummins is a Kansas City wedding photographer and portrait photographer with more than 10 years in business. Chris combines a passion for natural, unscripted photography and a high energy, fast-moving approach to wedding photography that his clients love. If you are a Kansas City brides who feels stressed out at the idea of spending hours and hours away from your guests in order to create wonderful photography, then we are here to help.

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