When we dine out, it has almost become second nature for us to whip out our phones to snap a photo of our meal to share on Instagram before we tuck in. However, are there times when you find yourself having to retake multiple photos because you are just not satisfied with the photos? Before you know it, your food is turning cold and you still can’t seem to get that perfect shot. We got food blogger Eleanor Tay (@geekyelephant) to share with us her tips and tricks on how to improve our food photo-taking skills and elevate them to the next level.
More from CLEO:
7 Places With The Best Private Dining Experiences By Home Cooks In Singapore
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At 6 Of The Best Ice Cream Shops In Singapore
Ed’s Picks: 10 Instagrammable Cafes That Are Worth Your $$$
Arm yourself with the right apps
Get your photos truly insta-ready with some helpful apps so you’re just an upload away from the raving comments and flood of likes. I particularly like the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom app for mobile to enhance my photos, from adjusting white balance to selective edits on certain elements of a photo.
But the best part of using a mobile phone? You can take as many photos as you want and pick from your options after. This also gives you a chance to review your photos and reflect on what you want to do differently.
Know the rules of flatlays
Some apps include a guide to indicate whether you’re holding your phone parallel to the ground—this can be very helpful for flatlays! For instance, the Lightroom app takes the guesswork out of flatlays by giving you haptic feedback when the phone is perfectly aligned and ready for you to take that Insta-worthy shot.
Otherwise, try the grid feature in your camera app to help place your subject in frame. Use this to position the food item(s) with the two-thirds rule or place the food in the centre of the frame for a more appealing photo.
To make things even easier, you can adjust the image’s ratio. If you know what platform you’re shooting for (e.g. Instagram Stories), you can shoot your photos in 16:9 ratio in portrait mode. So, a great way to get started on mobile photography or to improve your photos is to use the right image ratio and practise framing your photo.
Portrait mode to the rescue
Portrait mode in your phone works great to enhance your selfies, but it also works wonders for food photos! Against a simple/plain background, it helps the subject stand out. By adding depth of field to any dishes captured, portrait mode allows you to focus on the main dish as other items fade in the background.
To prevent edges of objects from blurring out, make sure your background is a contrasting colour from your main subject. You can also capture the ambience of the location by using the restaurant/café as a background.
Spice up your background
A simple background change is an easy way to switch up the mood of a photo. Often, our favourite cafés and restaurants are decorated with flowers or little display items that we can use to fill up spaces in our composition.
Anything can be a prop if you use it the right way! For instance, fabric napkins can sometimes be used to change the tabletop texture if it is not to your liking. If you carry around notebooks and gadgets, these can also come in handy to enhance the natural ambience of a location.
Are you exposing too much?
Mobile cameras tend to take into consideration everything in your frame. This can lead to the over-exposure of some parts of your photo as you try to focus on a slightly darker object. Resolve this by adjusting your camera’s brightness settings.
You can adjust the basic brightness setting in your native camera app, but if a little more control over-exposure is something you’re seeking, hop into the Lightroom app and use the inbuilt camera feature. The app allows you to control the focal point and exposure separately in pro mode. (Other apps like Snapseed also allow you to select specific parts of your photo to brighten or darken.)
Take advantage of natural light
Natural lighting should be your go-to, so try to take food photos in natural, indirect sunlight. If you’re at a café or restaurant, a window seat is ideal as the light doesn’t shine directly on the food/table. Timing is key—try to take your photos in the morning and afternoon as the sun casts gentler shadows.
But just in case the window seat isn’t available, you could also use your phone for lighting! While many people use the flash light by default, it can be too harsh, and in warm lighting conditions, the cool light from mobile phones may make the food look unappealing. Use your screen as a lightbox instead, with apps such as iSoftBox. With these, you can change the colour of your screen to match the lighting conditions in the restaurant so that the colours of the food are preserved.
With good natural lighting, photos don’t need much editing—just a few tweaks can help make the images stand out. I like to make sure the white balance is not too yellowish and that there is enough contrast between white/black. Try tuning the colour temperature cooler to bring out the vibrant blue shades.
Text: Eleanor Tay
Additional text: Elizabeth Liew / Women’s Weekly / October 2019