Your phone is a perfectly good way to capture food and recipe creations. I am a firm believer that the best camera is the one you have with you.
A dear friend of mine recently asked about taking better images, saying that she ‘has only been using a cell phone.’
There is a lot of great work you can do with a cell phone camera, great images to take, and lots of delicious food that needs documenting and posting to Instagram! Use what you got!
I took all the images below with a cell phone.
Yes. For real.
So how can I take better cell phone pictures of food?
Boom. That’s your answer.
If you want to take better photos no matter what camera you are using, try adding light. This helps cellphone cameras, digital cameras, and dSLRs
It’s a huge light source. It’s versatile. It’s free. And it’s gorgeous. Move your table over to the window, or put your food on the floor next to a sliding door.
You will instantly have better pictures than your dirty countertop in your dark, dank kitchen. I’m just saying that because that’s what I always try to pull with myself.
It’ll be fine.
Uhhh! It’s hideous! No Instagram post about that meal.
Sometimes I’m lazy, and I don’t want to walk everything over next to the window. But it’s worth it. Your pictures will be so much better.
Maximize that daylight.
Think about what time of day the most light comes in that window. And it’s important to say that we’re not looking for direct light here. When you see a big sun spot moving across the floor slowly, and you put a plate of food in the direct sun, it’s going to be really blown out and contrasty. Plus, psychologically, when you see that, you start squinting because it reminds you of sitting by the window in a restaurant with the sun glaring right in your face.
Diffuse the light with a white curtain, white fabric, a sheer scarf, some foam sheet packing material. Tape something to the window to tame that light and make it more even if it’s too much. Or wait for a different time of day and see how it changes.
Bouncing light is the best way to get a lot out of a free source of light like daylight. Every time you can bounce the light, you are essentially adding a new light source.
My favorite light modifiers are from Amazon. They are the packing materials that have come with other items. Use Styrofoam boards.
Here’s some Before & Afters because I know it’s your favorite.
Behold the difference:
With foam boards in an L-shape and without the boards bouncing the light.
And here’s what that pomegranate set up looked like. (They are in the corner of the foam.)
In the image above, you can see where the sun is. The bushes outside and the grass in the left corner is all blown out because the sun is up and over the back of the house already. So there’s not a TON of sunlight beaming into the room.
Also, this is how I’ve been shooting my CSA weeks. I got this piece of paneling that looks like whitewashed wood flooring for like $12 bucks. I put all the veggies on it, wrap them in the L-shape of the Styrofoam boards that I also picked up at the hardware store for a couple bucks, and stand on this little white IKEA table to shoot down. Bounce the light.
Here’s an apple. Just by the window, then just by the window with a piece of white foam. Huge difference.
If you don’t want the foam to be visible in the image, there is a whole other art of holding everything at the same time and making sure you don’t see the foam in frame.
A single pomegranate, no foam, then with foam. You can really see how much of a shadow it has on the floor from the window light in the first one.
Then when you drop the foam in there, it brightens it up quite a bit. And you have to fiddle around to get a good angle where there is not a foam in your image. Haha. Excuse my sweater into wrist warmer…it’s freaking cold here. 🙂
This pomegranate just had a white background and window light in the first, and I made it a little light bounce-house with foam garbage from an amazon order for the second image.
Nothing says Cell Phone Pro Photographer like Busted Styrofoam Light Bounce-House.
Booyah! Master of LIGHT!!
Now you are a pro too. Go dig some styrofoam out of your trash, or go to IKEA and buy some furniture that comes with a bunch of foam board, and bounce that light.
Some other good things to mention
All the images in this post were taken with an iPhone in the span of about 6 minutes. This was fast and dirty.
They are not edited. No time was spent staging the fruit or making them look nice.
So if they look this good by just adding some foam boards in 6 minutes, think of what you could accomplish if you really tried hard.
Instagram filters sometimes make the colors of food look really weird. Weird colors on food makes things look less appetizing. Be careful with filters that change the colors of food too much.
Try my favorite photo editing app: VSCO, where you have a lot more control over editing and individual tweaks you’d like to make to your image.
Also, I use reflectors and bounce lighting when I’m photographing with my dSLR too. People, food, pets, bounced natural light makes everything look gorgeous.
When you start with a well-lit, nice image to begin with, the editing is faster and easier and you can focus on other things. Like writing up a delicious recipe for me to make and eat.