17 Essential Tips for Smartphone Food Photography

Silvain • updated June 21, 2022 • 6 min read

Tips for Smartphone Food Photography, flat lay

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.


 

Our Tips for Smartphone Food Photography


1. The right equipment

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.

2. Arrange first, then cook

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:

  • The meat cooks down, sauces form a skin. And above all, the whole thing gets cold quickly.
  • Preheat the plate, arrange the food, put it on the table, and quickly take one or two photos.
  • Someone has to pour the wine quickly, and then you can start eating.
Tips for Smartphone Food Photography. sene with coffee and plates, flat lay
Table top (flat lay), @iamstevedaniel

3. The color composition

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.

4. The right angle

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:

5. Tabletop or flat lay

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.

6. The 45° angle

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.

 

7. Close up

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.

Smartphone Food Photography, handheld smartphone, 45 degree angle
Handheld, 45 degree angle,@randytarampi

8. Exciting image compositions

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.

9. The right mood

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.

10. The rule of thirds – gridlines

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.

  • Just enable the gridlines in your phone settings.

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.”

11. Stay away from the built-in flash

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.

12. The right light

One of the most important things in a good picture is the right light.

  • The easiest way is to take pictures in daylight. A cloudy but bright day is best here. At a window, you will get enough light and your subject will not cast hard shadows due to the “soft” light. This is what we want to avoid.
    Find ou more about food photography with natural light.
  • Should the sun shine in too much, you can shield it with a normal white fitted sheet or sandwich paper. But you don’t always have the time or opportunity to photograph your food during the day.
  • If you rely on artificial light, pay attention to the shadows. For this, take your subject and try to find in which place in the room the shadow falls most beautifully.
Smartphone Food Photography natural light
45 degree, natural light, @samahosseini

13. Playing with depth of field

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).

14. Make use of the smartphone’s portrait mode

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.

15. Make use of a third-party photo app

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.

16. Simple image editing with a smartphone

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.

  • First of all, you can use the already integrated editing options of your smartphone.
  • Smaller adjustments, such as the exposure time or increasing the contrast, can be easily implemented with the phone’s own editing software.
  • If your phone has a portrait mode, you can use it to create a depth of field when taking photos, almost like with a system or DSLR camera.

    This means that your main subject in the center is sharp, while the less important background is blurred.

17. Helpful apps for image editing

  • When it comes to apps for editing images with your smartphone, I like to use the free basic version of Lightroom Mobile. With it, you can edit your photo from exposure time to white balance, making minor and major beauty corrections. With the repair brush, you can easily stamp away unwanted spots and blobs, for example.
  • The SnapSeed app is not quite as extensive and complex as Lightroom Mobile. But it is easy and intuitive to use. That’s why it’s especially recommended for beginners. With SnapSeed, you can also add a slight depth of field to your photos afterward using the Tilt-Shift function.
  • If you just want to add a nice filter to your photos, you can also use apps like VSCO. Or you can edit them directly when you upload them to Instagram using the options and filters there.

 

List of App downloads:


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By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.

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