As a working food & travel photographer based in Dubai, I have been guilty of being a purist when posting pics here. You see, I believe in DSLRS and have made quite a formidable investment in my professional photography equipment, which includes two full format Nikon cameras and top end, super fast Nikkor lenses. This is not a post to brag about my equipment – I am still overdue to post about what’s in my camera bags- but I mention this to juxtapose just how I got to the point where even as a very particular pro photographer I now feel like it is very possible to get suitable food images from simply using an iPhone. So much so that I have made two recipe posts on this blog with photos taken from my iPhone6+
I captured all of the images in this post at the launch of La Cantine du Faubourg’s Parisian Brunch, which provided the setting with beautifully arranged food and surroundings and a dining hall that is very compatible with indoor photography.
CHEF AND STEWARD TIPS FOR IPHONE/SMARTPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY …
- Know that photography is not really about your equipment but your understanding of light and composition. Knowledge of your equipment is essential to the extent that you know how best to manipulate what you have and the limitations of it.
- Kill flash now. Seriously. Never use flash. Ever. If there is no other source of light, try to move your subject to a light source. If it isn’t possible to move the subject or to add an off camera light source such as a lamp or reflectors, just resign yourself to the fact that there is no good shot.
- The hands down best light source is natural light. The magnificence of the light that God created can only be mimicked but nothing comes close to it. If possible, shoot in daylight.
- Unless you want strong, weird shadows for a dramatic effect like here, avoid harsh, strong direct sunlight. If you are in a restaurant, this could mean picking a table away from direct sun coming through the window but still well lit enough to get sharp photos.
- If you cannot avoid strong direct light, use a thing white fabric or a white napkin to filter the light.
- Work quickly. If you are at a buffet, do not stay too long at a station blocking others from being able to eat.
- Try to be as inconspicuous as possible. The idea of someone elaborately drawing attention to him/herself while others are trying to enjoy a peaceful dining experience is just. So. Wrong.
- For travel photos, arrive early or late. The best light is either early in the day or right when the sun is going down, but before it sets. That is called the golden hour in photography and even if you are not shooting with heaps of studio equipment outdoors, you can take your smartphone photos up several notches by using the best quality light that nature has to offer.
- Where food is concerned, an overcast day is your best friend. This means the clouds are acting as a natural filter for the suns, rays, and dispelling perfectly diffused, soft even light that makes food look absolutely amazing.
- Focus. The touchscreen smartphones like iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones allow you to select an area to focus on your viewfinder on your screen. Use it to focus on what part of the composition that you want to stand out.
- Get on Instagram! Instagram has many people like us who post mostly shots taken with smartphones. Follow our Instagram here.
- Avoid Instagram filters like the bubonic plague. I fell into that trap initially but have gotten better over the years. I eventually switched to uploading my pics to my computer and editing them in Lightroom 4 but now since Lightroom 5 now has as mobile app as well as Photoshop, that makes it easier/faster. Plus there are lots of other editing apps that make it easier to process without the ghastly mega-tinted filters. VSCO can be used on both iPhone and Android phones. There are lots or free and paid apps that you can get and play around with to see which you like best.
- If you are shooting for Instagram, remember that the composition for a normal portrait oriented scene differs dramatically from a square one. I find that in more complicated compositions, it’s just easier to shoot in the square format on iPhone so that I can see what my shot will look like on Instagram. Plus I hate cropping as I prefer to have all of my resolution in the entire frame instead of losing out with crop after I have already shot the photo.
- What are your tips? Leave them below and I will incorporate the best ones into this post and credit you accordingly.
CHEF’S NOTE: The truth is that most of us as chefs do not like patrons pausing for very long to take food photos because time has a huge impact on your experience of the food we create. This is why our waiters aim to serve dishes immediately upon plating because temperature and time are critical factors in how a dish tastes and sometimes whether it flops or not, especially in intricate things like soufflés. That said, we do appreciate you loving our food- so much and wanting to capture and share the moment with others. So, to achieve a delicate balance, I would encourage you try to take your photo in the shortest possible time so that you can really experience your meal in the best possible light.
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