I’ve become so lazy! Taking my DSLR to the restaurant has become an effort, while instead shooting quality images of dishes and location with my phone has become so easy!
As a foodblogger, I should be ashamed of myself. But there’s something very liberating about taking pictures with a mobile device. First of all, you can be discrete. It’s easier to capture the environment of a restaurant when you’re not whipping out a massive body fitted with a lens. Both patrons and staff get awkward (or worse, they pose) when they see a camera pointed at their face. And who’s to blame, it’s intrusive! Just like it is standing on a chair to get the perfect #onthetable above shot. A smartphone, on the other hand, can be used to take pictures without anyone noticing.
Plus lately, with Apps like Foodspotting, Instagram and Pinterest it’s quick and easy (and fun) to share images of favorite meals, while they happen.
Here are a few tips and pointers on how to take great #nofilter food photos with your phone.
Use natural light
Good food photography owes a lot to lighting. If the lighting is poor, there’s a good chance the photo will be just as unattractive, even if the food is delicious looking. Avoid using a flash to shoot food, opt instead for natural light sources – the best are cloudy days – which bring out food’s natural colors, show off textures. Shooting in natural light will save you from over-editing in post-production. Take photos preferably in daylight, and if you’re in a restaurant, aim to sit at a table near a window! It’s incredibly difficult to take a shot of food with your phone in a dimly lit room, but do resist the temptation of using a flash. Better to shoot a noisy (grainy), underexposed image than killing it with a flash. Otherwise, you can give your phone’s HDR feature a try, which – provided you hold absolutely still – often produces a brighter photo without compromising clarity. If you’ve had one too many glasses of vino or don’t commonly carry around a portable tripod for your mobile device, a non shaky image can be achieved by placing your phone in an empty glass, or resting it on anything that will enable your device to be steady and positioned above the subject.
Try different angles
Different dishes require different plating, so not every preparation will look good shot from the same angle. Try shooting from different perspectives and see which best exalts the beauty of the food. When shooting from above, I often like placing my main “subject” anywhere but the middle.
Food stylists make food look good on film, instead real food lands at your table and won’t necessarily maintain its freshness and overall appearance for very long, because it is meant to be eaten, not solely photographed! After a few seconds, sauce on spaghetti will eventually congeal, gelato will melt… Be prepared to shoot as soon as you get your food. It’s also polite in regards to the chef and other people at your table.
Don’t be afraid to get close to your tasty subject. Shallow depth of field and detail are what make a food photo mouthwatering. Some smartphones give you the ability to modify depth of fiels by tapping on the screen in the spot where you’d like focus to be. Blurring functions can help you do that too. Another way to add sexy depth and intimacy to a food photo is to bring a forkful of food closer to the lens, with the rest of the dish slightly blurred in the background.
Frame your food to make it look mouthwatering, interesting. Make it look delicious. If the plate however contains food that’s not particularly appealing visually, try to frame it in a way that enhances the overall dining experience. My dear friend and talented food photograher Andrea Di Lorenzo taught me how to make a bland plating more interesting in a photo, by adding a blurred element in extreme foreground, to fill the frame. A frosted glass of wine or a flower, or even a person’s hand sopping up sauce with a piece of bread.
Find a backdrop
Contrast and texture greatly help the outcome of a food photo. If the restaurant has nice rustic tables of aged wood, or you own textured tablecloths, mats or fabric swatches, interesting cutlery of appropriate “props”, do consider using them for your set to bring out the best of the food that you’ll be shooting with your phone.
Share your best food and wine photos with us on Instagram by using the hashtag #casamia_italy and #italyfoodandwine – we will feature the best ones on the blog!
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.