7 Tips for Phenomenal Food Photography on a Smartphone

Food photography on a smartphone has a stigma attached to it. But, we have some food photography tips for Instagram to make your meal look so good, people think you used a DSLR for the shot.

Typically, smartphone food photography isn’t aesthetically pleasing, because the photographer has the pallet of a picky seven-year-old. We get it, you like chicken tenders and curly fries – everyone does Brad.

With a few nifty food photography tips using your smartphone, though, you can turn those annoying, ‘I’m just going to keep-scrolling’ posts into ones that have your friends drooling.

Food Photography on a Smartphone: Frequent Faupauxs

Outside of just being a child or an inept photographer, there are some pretty big no-no’s when photographing food with your smartphone that are annoyingly common. We’re going to let you know what they are so you can avoid doing them like the plague.

Then, we’ll give you some excellent food photography tips to make sure that photographing food with your phone doesn’t take so long that your meal gets cold. Unless you’re shooting the meal for a client, the main purpose for your visit to the restaurant is eating – so do it! Taking a few quick shots of your food throughout the meal is worthwhile, yes. But ruining a nice dinner for said shots is crazy.

Smartphone Photography Food – What Not to Do

First off, use a high-quality smartphone camera – it’s the most important piece of equipment for food photography. Next,  be sure to order something colorful to eat, every time. It’s difficult to make fried food or a salad drenched in dressing look photogenic. A beautiful plate of sushi or a visually refreshing salad, however, easy peasy lemon squeezy (oh – and hint, if it comes with citrus, it’s probably a winner)!

Also, don’t use flash, it creates glare in the photo itself. As someone who’s worked in a restaurant, I can attest to how annoying it is having a flash go off during your meal.

Chill with the filters too. Your smartphone food photography isn’t an awe-inspiring landscape or anything. It’s food, treat it as such. Great smartphone food photography is a result of the photo’s composition, not the gear and filters.

On another note, we recommend snapping your photos before things get cold and then going home to do some minor photo-editing. Try one of the 37 best photo-editing apps to improve your workflow.

7 Tips for Phenomenal Food Photography Using a Smartphone

food photography
Fortune (photo by Getty Images/Hero Images)

So, while there are definite rules regarding what-not-to-do, the regulations of what-to-do are less strict and more theoretical.

These food photography tips will help you when photographing food on your phone, but it’s still up to your artistic creativity. Doing some planning before getting to the restaurant can help you to capture your photo because, well, you’ve already caught it in your mind!

Having some additional assistance from some of 2020’s top smartphone camera accessories can always make the process go a little smoother.

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #1 – Utilize that Grid Mode

food photography tips
LinkedIn Learning

So maybe you’ve heard of the rule of thirds, and perhaps you haven’t. If you haven’t, that was our subtle way of telling you to check this out.

Photographing food with your smartphone well is all about positioning the food in the photo. To explain, it’s more appealing to the eye if your food is in a quadrant as opposed to randomly interspersed throughout the picture (FYI, the examples of food throughout this post got chosen for a reason).

Your phone has grid capabilities – all you have to do is turn them on.

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #2 – Adjust your Exposure

So, we’ve explained what exposure is before. But, we may as well do it again. We do this because food photography lighting is of the utmost importance.

Exposure is how much light gets to your camera’s sensor. If you were using a professional camera, you’d be able to adjust this via shutter speed and aperture. Because you’re not, we’ll say ain’t nobody got time for that and move on.

With the time we’ve saved, we’ll again harp on the importance of food photography lighting!

If you don’t know how to play with your phone’s exposure manually, then don’t stress. It’s simple and – of course – we got you.

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #3 – Experiment with Angles

smartphone food photography tips
Photos with Phones

Do a little photoshoot with your palatable parfait or your steak and veggies (whichever you prefer – we don’t judge)!

Taking a shot from directly over the plate is too overdone for you. Anyways, you’ve never been one for fitting in with the norm.

By doing a little experimenting with angles when photographing your food, you may even find a perspective never before used. It’s all about capturing something eye-catching after all.

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #4 – Natural Light: Always

Photographing Food
Serious Eats (Vicky Wasik)

Don’t just use natural light because using the flash in a bustling, crowded place is rude. Always try to include natural light because it just looks so much better.

And because food photography lighting is so important, you may as well get the best and most natural light you can!

Be wary though of too much natural light – both in photography and beer terms – as it can create a washed-out look in your photos.

If all else fails, keep this brief tip in mind as it succinctly sums it all up –

“Natural light it ideal [for food photography lighting]…aim for having shadows because they create contrast and texture to the subject that you’re photographing.”

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #5 – Procure some Props

smartphone food photography props
Photos with Phones

There’s nothing worse than a boring dish with absolutely nothing going on around it. That’s why in our opinion, of all the food photography tips this one is the most important.

So, if you can’t bring yourself to order out of your shell, then at least add in some exciting props to capture your viewer’s attention.

Include your drink. Maybe if you order the burger and fries, you should include your slightly more adventurous cocktail or an assortment of sauces in the background.

If you’re not into cocktails, then have your dinner partner included in your shot. They’ll undoubtedly appreciate playing sidepiece to your sauces!

Perhaps you dine alone (while it’s sad it does happen to the best of us). Use your cutlery to draw the eye through the photo.

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #6 – Never Ever Zoom

mobile food photography tips
Joamos (Libby Vision)

You’re in a restaurant, and your food is sitting right in front of you. Just move your phone closer to the plate.

By zooming, the integrity of the photo gets compromised. Because of this, you shouldn’t ever do it when photographing food. You really shouldn’t do it ever, and we’ve told you why.

If it helps, pretend that to zoom when photographing food is to curse your mom (or something comparable)!

Food Photography on a Smartphone Tip #7 – More the Merrier

tips Photographing Food with phone
Serious Eats (Vicky Wasik)

There’s nothing wrong with taking twenty photos to choose one. In fact, professional photographers recommend it!

When it comes to food photography on a smartphone, the rules are no different.

As we mentioned earlier, experiment with the angles. When doing so, take lots of photos. One or more is bound to turn out. And hell, if they don’t end up being winners, at least, you enjoyed a lovely meal without photographing your guest to death.

Keep in mind that eating is a process. So, capture it!

Move Over Mobile Food Photography Expert Coming Through

Well, maybe let’s not get ahead of ourselves – practice makes perfect after all and you still need to put these tips to use on a consistent basis. As you’re doing so consider using #photoswithphones on your Instagram food photos so that we can watch your mobile food photography improve and offer tips for improvement! Who knows, maybe we’ll ask to feature your photos on the site.

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