How to take killer food photos using only your smartphone

Step up your food photo game with this crash course on photography. Share this article

Taking pictures of food is hotter than ever, and it's time restaurants everywhere get on board with the trend. Snapping a mouth-watering photo of a juicy steak and then posting it to Instagram or Facebook can garner hundreds of likes, which can keep people coming back and attract new faces as well.

The trick to magazine-worthy food pictures isn't what you photograph, but rather how you capture the moment. What's rad is nowadays you don't even need to drop a few grand on expensive equipment. You have one of the best tools right in your server apron: the almighty smartphone. Charge up your battery and have some fun practicing food photography in the kitchen, at home or next time you're pining over your delectable arrangement of meats and cheeses. 

Don't take it lightly
Ask any photographer who has a modicum of experience under his belt what the most important element of a flawless picture is, and he'll tell you – lighting. It's everything. It can be the difference between a lackluster plate of fries and a divine basket of crispy potato goodness.

"The challenge about restaurant photography lies in finding natural light."

The challenge about restaurant photography lies in the lack of natural light. However, it's exactly what you need to take an epic picture. Head to the nearest window, patio or doorway to illuminate your to-be-photographed object. Then, find a smidgeon of shade and you're there. Pro tip: Skip the flash. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jay Dickman explained via Everyday with Rachael Ray that the flash can be too harsh on food photos

What's the rule of thirds?
Once you have the basics of lighting down, the other important part of your visual creation is the composition. It's the focal point of the photo. To figure out your composition, step back and examine your plate of pork and it's delectable accoutrements. Figure out what you'd like to stand out most. If the melted cheese looks irresistible, then that's your composition. You may also find that garnishes, colorful napkins or a pepperoni on a pizza make excellent subjects as well. 

Find your focus by using the rule of thirdsFind your focus by using the rule of thirds

At first, it might be a challenge to determine the composition and what parts of the dish you'd like to accentuate. However, with a little practice you'll get the hang of it. Throw the rule of thirds into the mix and you'll practically be a smartphone-wielding amateur photographer.

Nikon explained the rule of thirds in an easy to comprehend manner, but before getting started, you'll need to adjust your phone's settings. If you're using an iPhone, go into the settings and select "Photos & Camera" and turn the grid on. This'll divvy up the screen into a grid of nine boxes. Once you're there, open your camera so you can try out this strategy.

Point your phone at the subject so that you can see it entirely on your camera grid. The goal here is to keep the focus points in the place where the lines intersect for the best result. Snap a few pictures and review your archives to see what ones you like best. 

If you're still not satisfied, then it's just a matter of sprucing up your subject. Elevate your photo by bringing in a few extra elements. Colorful, tiny plates, fresh garnishes and vibrant patterns can fill in empty space and dress up a simple dish.

Find your filter or upload your favorite photos to a photo editing app for the final touches. VSCO has been lauded for its professional settings and endless assortment of filters. Oh, and it's free!

Feed your inspiration
Hone your skills by seeking out fresh inspiration from other culinary-minded geniuses. Forbes suggested a number of Instagram culinary artists who offer interesting and unique spins on food photography.

Check out Adrianna Adarme's feed @acozykitchen. Forbes extolled the LA-based food blogger for her knack for colors, shape and texture. She captures images using only her iPhone 5. She's just one of the thousands of resources for inspiration. 

Have fun trying out your new photography skills, and then post your favorite shots to your restaurant's social media accounts. In due time, you'll have patrons clawing for those succulent steak tips that you posted to Instagram last month.


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