5 Food Photography Tips from a Non-Photographer

Let me start by saying I am 100%, absolutely NOT a photographer. I’m too lazy to buy a fancy DSLR camera and learn how to use it for my baking Instagram account or my blog. However, I realize that in order to keep the blog and Instagram account going, I need to try to have some decent photos of my food. Although my photos are nowhere near professional, I’m pretty proud of how far my food photography has come. Don’t believe me? Check out the difference two years has made:

The first image was taken in November 2014, and was probably my first baking photo. The second image I just took in November 2016, after two years of practicing baking and taking pictures. The yellowy tint on the first image is just making me cringe.

This post is mostly for my fellow bakers or cooks who like taking quality photos of their goods for blogs or social media, but don’t have the time or skills to figure out those fancy cameras. Up until a few months ago, I was using the iPhone 5s camera (occasionally with the Ollo Clip attached), but we upgraded to the iPhone 7 recently and I’m super impressed with the camera. I’ve heard the iPhone 7 Plus camera is even better, but I’m sorry, that phone is just too big for my little hands.

While these tips may already be obvious to some, here are a 5 quick tips I’ve learned along the way for creating good iPhone food photography:

1. Always take photos in natural daylight! 

This one tip alone made a significant difference in the quality of my photos! I used to take my photos in my small one-bedroom apartment during the evening. If you use artificial light, such as a lamp, it’s likely to create that brutal orange or yellow color hue in your photo. This can be tricky, if you are like me and you are often baking in the evenings after work.

In order to get great natural daylight for your photos, you can set up a table or space near the window where you always photograph your food. I often take my photos in the dining room, rather than the kitchen, because there is more natural light. I also turn off any lights in the house that are near my setup and might cast a yellow hue. Overcast days often work better than extremely sunny days, for natural light without too much shadow.

 

2. Keep it simple but colorful 

Don’t get me wrong, I love editing my photos before I post on social media or my blog, but using preset photo filters or over-editing can ruin a photo. If I’m using a preset Instagram filter, I pick only the natural-looking ones (Juno and Ludwig are my favorites), and I often turn the filter setting down to about 25%, rather than 100%.

When editing my photos, I focus on enhancing the colors. Start by going through the filters carefully until you find one that enhances the colors and mood of the image. Filters that make the colors more vivid will add vibrancy and excitement. Filters that add fade and make the colors more muted tend to create a more subdued mood, making the overall picture “softer.”

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3. Follow the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a well known composition rule in which you set up your shot as if you had a 3×3 grid over it. Your dominant objects should be placed near one of the intersection points or along the grid lines. I love Instagram’s editing tool, because they provide the white 3×3 grid lines to help you make sure you are following this rule.

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4. Add a natural element

Adding a human hand or another natural element, such as a plant or ingredient, to your food photos is another technique that you can use to tell more interesting and unique stories. These natural elements will make your pictures feel less rigid, even if the natural element doesn’t necessarily belong. Natural elements help create a sense of presence for the viewer because it’s as if the photo has been captured from their point of view.

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5. Fill your frame

Don’t be afraid to get close or zoom in on your subject and let some elements disappear of the edge of your photo. This allows your viewers to focus on the details that you want them to see. I usually take my photos so all of the objects are within the frame, but when it comes time to edit, I zoom in on the areas of the photo that are the most interesting.

For instance, in the cheesecake image below, I started with all of my objects included in the frame. The final product, however, focuses on the piping bag and frosting swirls on my cheesecake, with the rest of the cake spilling out of the frame.

 

These are just a few of the tips I’ve learned along the way that I think have improved my photos. If you have any other tips for a foodie with a phone camera, I’d love to hear them!

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