Today, I’m going to show you just a few simple steps to take great pictures of food, using just your iPhone. Here we go.
Step number one, get a phone.
Hey, babe, can you toss me my phone? What am I supposed to do with this phone? Where is the camera app? Yeah, hello? Can you throw me my modern-day phone, the one that does Twitter? We don’t need this crap today. Today, we’re using just your iPhone.
Step number two is lighting.
All right, so the most important thing in all of photography is lighting. We all know that what makes a good photo is how it’s lit. Find a nice big window in your home. If you don’t have a big window, that’s fine. Just get yourself close to a window, one preferably with soft, even, cool light. Morning hours are great, but if you live in an apartment like us, when it’s just direct sunlight in the morning, blasting through our windows, that’s not good. Direct sunlight, what that does is it creates a lot of shadows and it creates a lot of blown-out highlights in your photos, and it’s very, very difficult to get those back. So, what you want to do is look for a window that has really cool, soft, even light.
Step number three, simple backgrounds.
You don’t want to have something too distracting. You want simple and clean. I like a white style, that’s just my preference, but a lot of people do really well with dark and moody photography, or bright and vibrant. Start with something white, like a marble surface or a white tile or something like that. So, what the white does for me is, it really helps to differentiate the food from the surface so the viewer’s eyes go straight to the colorful, most beautiful part of the photo and that should be your food. That’s why I like using neutral backgrounds. That’s why I like using neutral surfaces. That way, it’s never distracting. You get the point across very quickly and the viewer’s eyes go directly to the food and that’s ultimately what you want them to be at.
Step number four is angles.
The three main angles that people photograph food from are typically overhead, which are sometimes referred to as flat lay, 45-degree angle, and then also, straight on with smartphone stabilizer. Food that wouldn’t look good from above is often photographed from a 45 or straight on like burgers, pancakes, drinks. So, it really just depends on your style, what you want to achieve. So, if you are shooting waffles, I recommend doing something from overhead. Waffles have all those little nooks and crannies in there and you definitely want to capture that detail. I would say shoot something like overhead or a 45 for waffles.
Step number five
Setting up your iPhone to do semi-manual control. And what I mean by this is, is you can leave your phone pretty much the entire thing in automatic if you want, but just make sure you tap your subject to get focus and then lower your exposure down just a tiny bit. That’s all I mean by semi-manual control. And what that does is, you preserve some of those highlights and you preserve some of those shadows because it’s very easy to bring those back up in post, whereas you can’t go the opposite way. Once you blow out highlights, blow out shadows, blow out the entire image, you can’t regain that information.
Step number six
You never want to digitally zoom into your image. And what I mean by that is this button right here, this toggle on-off, goes 1X to 2X. And what that does is, it digitally zooms into your image, so you lose all that data from the outside of your image that you would normally get in its resting original state. So, if you actually want to zoom into an image, just move your body, your arms forward, and just get a little bit closer to your subject. Your iPhone is not going to have any trouble whatsoever focusing in on something a little bit closer, and it’s just going to be juicy and filled with all this goodness. We fill up the entire screen with the food that you’re trying to capture and it’s going to look outstanding.
Step number seven
Use a bounce board. Go down to Target or Walmart right now and grab yourself a dollar or two foam core board, and just set that up opposite of your light source. So, in this case, your window light, and that light’s going to travel across your food and then bounce off and return back in, filling in a lot of those shadows, preserving some of those highlights, and just illuminating your scene just a little bit more.
If your phone has a portrait mode or something that creates artificial depth, use it, and play around with it. It can be really cool for telling a unique story to get that really nice blurred background effect and to really isolate your image and bring out the characteristics of the food that you’re trying to shoot. Thanks to Alex Norman for consulting this.
The last thing I want to say is just practice, practice, practice. That’s how you get good at something. That’s how you get good at food photography. Work with different angles and different lighting scenarios and really figure out what you like. This is probably the most important step in anything that I’ve talked about today is just experimenting and practicing, and that’s how I got where I’m at today, just three years of totally just guessing and just figuring it out as I go.