How to Take Good Food Photos Using Your Phone

It’s obvious: the internet loves food photos. But there are two types of food photos you’ll find online: those that look enticing and those that make you want to close down the app and never look at food again. If you’ve scrolled through food photos for Instagram you’ll know exactly the type of pictures we mean: amateur shots with awkward flash that makes the food look overly greasy, unappealing, grey, and far from how it looks in reality. But don’t let these grim food photos scare you off. Food photography is an art that can easily be conquered – if you know how to do it properly. 

You don’t need to be a hotshot photographer to take good food photos for Instagram. All you need is a smartphone with a camera, a little bit of know-how, and some incredible food to photograph, of course. So, don’t let your food down with some low quality food photos – give it the imagery it deserves by following our food photo tips below. 

1. Let your lighting be as natural as your cooking

Natural is always better, and that extends to food photography lighting as well as anything else. If you want to take good food photos, try to source natural lighting wherever you can. Poor lighting is almost always the culprit behind terrible food photos, and one that can easily be remedied. 

photo credit: Rachel Nichols, The Fond Life

You don’t need the sun to be bright to shoot with natural lighting – even an overcast day has an abundance of natural light for your food photos for Instagram. The key here is to find the perfect balance of natural light for your food photography. Too much light or too little light will have an effect on the end result, so you want something that’s perfectly in-between. If it’s too dark outside, you can shoot your dishes next to the window or even outdoors if possible. You can also consider using a ring light, which takes great food photos by simulating natural light.  If it’s too bright outside, lower the blinds to diffuse the natural light or move your plates further away from windows to lessen the glare. 

Poster boards are an excellent tool to use here. If the natural light is too bright and causing heavy shadows, you can hold up a piece of poster board to reflect the light onto darker areas. If it’s too dark outside, poster board can be used to reflect the light into your image.  

2. Avoid flash like the plague 

Flash is almost never flattering, and it will never take good food photos. So, to master the art of food photography, stay away from the flash! Rather than brightening up a dish, flash will create an intensely harsh light that bounces off anything shiny – including moisture on the plate. This is how you get unappealing, greasy-looking dishes. Flash can also create shadows that distract from your image and get in the way of highlighting your food. 

photo credit: cookpad

If you really need to add more light to your food photography, try moving the food into a room with more natural light, using a ring light, or using an editing app on your phone to add more brightness to the photo. Or just eat your food and photograph it another day!

3. Use an editing app

If you’re taking food photos for Instagram, you might like to download an editing app to add filters and adjustments to your photo. Editing apps will almost always turn average food photos into good food photos by correcting colour, brightness, contrast, and more. Some great editing apps for food photography include Snapseed, VSCO, and Afterlight. These will all let you adjust colour temperature amongst other aspects of your image.

photo credit: Jazzmyn Roman, sequoit media

4. Lose the clutter

Now that we’ve handled the food photography technicalities, let’s focus on setting up your photos. Good food photos need an uncluttered background that lets your dish be the centrepiece of the image. You’ve spent all this time creating an incredible meal, and you don’t want it to be eclipsed or let down by a busy background that takes away from its beauty and simplicity. 

photo credit:

So – don’t take your food photos for Instagram inside your messy kitchen. Take your food photos in front of a clear, simple background like a blank wall, an empty table, or a clear kitchen bench. 

5. Shoot from above

Almost all food photos for Instagram are taken from above. Why? Because it’s the most flattering angle for food photography. Shooting your food photos from above makes dishes look more appetising and aesthetically pleasing. It’ll also prevent you from having to clean up your whole kitchen to take your photo – all you need to do is clear enough space to get a shot of your dish and a nice clean border around it. Don’t shoot too close to the food here – aim to shoot the entire dish and even some of the bench or table space around it.

photo credit: Olympus Hillwood, Olymbus property

6. Style your background

We did say that good food photos need a nice, simple, and clear background, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be styled nicely. If you’re taking food photos for Instagram, it’s a great idea to get creative and add a little flair to the background of your dishes. You could spruce things up with a nice tablecloth, add some crumbs to give a little character, or intentionally place condiments to pair with your dish in your image.

photo credit: spectrum

7. Play around with arrangements

Half of taking good food photos for Instagram is about the presentation of the dish, the other half is about how you place it in the photo. If you’re photographing a few different dishes, play around with the arrangement to create different shapes for your food photos. Move dishes around and take different shots with plates in different areas. The way you place each item in your photo can have an effect on your final food photos, so don’t try to take just one shot and leave. Stay for awhile and move things around until you’ve got that perfect food photo for Instagram. 

photo credit: cameras and cupcakes

8. Tell a story

We know you’re creative – you’re a chef! So take the time to put your artistry into your food photos for Instagram by telling a story. Good food photos will usually include more than just a plate. There might be a set of cutlery, or a small plate with pickles and condiments. You might like to sprinkle some spices that you used in the meal, or to add a raw ingredient in the background of the image. 

credit: iphone photography school

Something as simple as throwing a serving utensil into a casserole dish can evoke images of a warm, home-cooked meal with loved ones. Or you might want to consider photographing the serving plate along with an individual portion of your dish. Another food photography trick is to place raw ingredients next to cooked dishes – for example, adding raw apricot next to a cooked apricot crumble will help audiences know what’s in the dish.

9. Sometimes more is more

If you’re trying to take a good food photo that hides small imperfections in your dish, the key is sometimes to just add more! Ten cookies looks more impressive than just one, and including a whole bunch of cookies in your food photos means that you won’t have to try to single out one perfect-looking piece. Your audience will fixate on the image as a whole and small imperfections will be lost in the final image. You can also use this trick if you’re photographing any small food item, like a tiny muffin, a handmade chocolate, or an hor d’oeuvre.

photo credit: pastry affair

10. Add a human touch

A human touch can really elevate food photography. If you’re taking food photos for Instagram, consider getting your friends and family involved to give the image a bit of life and action. You could ask a friend to hold your muffin, or get a shot of them reaching for the salad bowl. If you’re shooting an entire tablescape of dishes, invite your whole family over and shoot from above with everyone’s arms reaching for different plates and dishes. This will help create an exciting, communal atmosphere of a shared dinner and making connections, adding to the storytelling element of your food photography.

credit: iphone photography school

Good food photos are easier than you think

See, you really don’t need to be a master photographer to take good food photos for Instagram. It’s as simple as understanding a few key elements and taking the time to set up your shots with a dash of creativity and storytelling. Now, get out there and practice your new skills, and make sure you share them with us! We’d love to see what you come up with.

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