17 Essential Tips for Smartphone Food Photography
Silvain • updated June 21, 2022 • 6 min read
Silvain • updated June 21, 2022 • 6 min read
Taking pictures of food with a phone is nothing new, and it makes a lot of sense. Smartphones are small, allowing you to get close to the food for the greatest creative perspectives, which isn’t always possible with traditional cameras.
There are even more arguments why smartphones are useful for food photography. Most smartphones now offer modes like ‘Portrait’ that allow you to achieve shallow depth-of-field effects, and numerous lenses can be utilized for varied compositions
Fortunately, we’re here, and our tips and tricks will get you started with smartphone food photography.
We are talking about smartphones as the easiest way to take photos. Therefore, logically, you need a smartphone, the built-in camera app, and optionally one or more apps to post-process the photos.
Apps like the indestructible classic Hipstamatic, which directly edits the photo, are practical. You select “film” and “lens” and only have to take the photo (pro tip: the Foodiepack with the Loftus lens, whose delicate soft focus is not only suitable for food photography).
The important thing here is that it is sufficiently bright. In the evening or in very dim lighting, the smartphone’s software amplifies the ambient light, which results in unsightly noise.
Of course, you only have to keep this in mind if you’re not photographing the daily lunch table, but actually cooking it yourself.
Depending on your dedication and attention to detail, it’s best to start thinking about the eventual picture before you start cooking.
What colors does the food have, what dishes go with it and what background brings out the food even better? As is often the case, good preparation is (at least) half the picture.
Once the food is ready, you have to be quick:
Pure white, no-frills tableware is never wrong. The red tomato soup, for example, works all by itself. Wood as a background is also always nice, and even on a dark slate plate, dishes can be arranged worth photographing, ideally even without plates.
In general, you should pay attention to a calm, not too colorful image composition. Food plays the main role, and the background should be correspondingly restrained.
Many images are taken from a bird’s eye view. Used skillfully, it creates an effect all its own. The food sometimes looks flat and cool when photographed from above.
An angle of around 45 degrees is often the better alternative. Drinks should always be photographed horizontally so that the liquid does not look crooked.
Basically, there are four camera angles that you can always fall back on for beautiful food photos:
This photos are great for views of a table setting from above, for example, as well as tarte, pizzas, and bowls. This camera angle is also called tabletop or flat lay.
Make sure to take photos that are really parallel to the plane of the tabletop. The integrated cross of your smartphone shows you whether you are actually perpendicular.
A 45° angle looks particularly inviting and natural. It roughly corresponds to the angle we have when sitting at a table with food in front of us.
However, this perspective often looks distorted on many smartphones. The portrait mode, for example, which is now integrated into some models, helps here.
The image detail is ultimately a question of taste. This is also of certain importance when it comes to food. A detail often offers a different, unusual perspective, so you should get close to your food in the proverbial sense.
In the system settings of your smartphone, you have the option of displaying a grid when taking photos. This makes it easy to use the rule of thirds as a guide.
Your image is divided horizontally and vertically into three equal parts by lines. Exciting objects should be aligned along these lines or placed at the intersection points. Find out more about food photography composition.
If you are photographing several plates or objects, it also makes sense to consciously guide the viewer’s gaze. You can achieve this, for example, by placing the elements in an imaginary path from bottom left to top right.
In addition to colors and light, functional elements, such as cutlery, also determine the mood of the image. Chopsticks instead of spoons, a sharp knife next to freshly cut chives – it’s the details that matter.
Your pictures will be more vivid and colorful if you combine the raw ingredients of your food with the finished dish. Even a single flower or a beautiful cloth napkin often changes the effect significantly.
The rule of thirds, where you break the image into three parts and don’t place your main subject directly in the middle, is something you should also follow in most cases when photographing food.
At the latest, if you are photographing more than one plate or a section, it makes sense to lead the viewer to your image a little (from bottom left to top right). Unless, of course, you’re shooting square.
“I keep the gridline turned on all the time since it helps me align the horizontals and verticals within my frame as well as get my composition properly aligned.”
Daylight! Daylight should always be used. The use of direct flash light, – especially smartphone flashes, only makes things worse – should be avoided in any case. (Unless the flash is a deliberately chosen) But that’s another story.
If in doubt, take the photo in the bright kitchen light before going straight to the cozy candlelight dinner. After all, you’d rather look deep into the eyes of your flame than photograph the food.
One of the most important things in a good picture is the right light.
Depth of field, depth of field, whatever. Even with standard photo apps, you can often set the focus and (slightly) blur the background, especially for close-ups.
It works even better with special filters in the photo apps or in post-processing directly on the device (great: Snapseed for iPhone and Android).
Portrait mode is available on the majority of smartphones. It may also be referred to as Aperture or Live Focus at times. You’re looking for an option that produces shallow depth-of-field effects, which will help your photographs stand out.
This works especially effectively when the outline of your subject is clear or well-defined, so be aware of when it may not be as successful.
Some smartphone devices lack a clear set of professional photo settings. While this is useful for quick shots, third-party apps will allow you to do more.
If you wish to recover some control, we recommend the Adobe Lightroom mobile app The app allows you to change the shutter speed, ISO, or white balance. You may also take images in RAW format.
Food photos are not only getting better and easier due to the technical possibilities of the newer smartphones. The possibilities of image editing directly on the cell phone have also developed in parallel.
This means that your main subject in the center is sharp, while the less important background is blurred.
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