I am a professional food photographer, and even I seem to find myself camera-less in front of amazing food quite often with nothing but my iPhone to document it. Here are a few suggestions on how to make your smartphone photos of food look a little better.
First of all, with small cameras, food usually look better under natural (day) light. I try to avoid flash and move my plate close to a window.
As I mentioned in my previous post (When should I use flash?) pay attention to the direction the light is coming from, and feel free to fill in shadows with a white piece of paper. Aim for having the light come from the side or behind. Also, remember that placing your food in the shade will produce softer shadows. (Photos above and below taken with my iPhone 3G).
My two favorite iPhone camera apps:
1.) The Photoshop app, "PS Express" is free and I use it all the time. Just take a picture normally with your phone then you can crop, brighten, add contrast, make colors more vivid or less saturated and add a border. Also, since most phones won't let you focus while being very close, you can take the photo from farther away (so it's in focus) and then crop into it. Also, this app lets you sharpen your image (making images look more in focus)!!
For example, this photo on the left was cropped, rotated, brightened and sharpened to create the image on the right.
2.) Tiltshift is GREAT for food! Gives the blurry background look. There's a free version, which is all you need. Adds that "macro lens" shallow depth of field look to any photo. The Tiltshift app allows you to alter the saturation/contrast and add a vignette. Be sure to choose the horizontal blur (not the circular blur), and don't oversaturate. With the free version, you cannot alter an already taken photo (you must take the photo inside the app).
For the above image, in the Tiltshift app, I made the colors slightly more vivid, added a vignette and added contrast. Notice the blurry foreground and background that the Tiltshift app adds.
3.) For funkier food photos, of course the Hipstamatic and Instagram apps can add a fun artsy twist to your food photos.
Hipstamatic (Kaimal Mark II lens; Ina's 1969 film; flash off):
Instamatic, Poprocket filter (this could use a little sharpening in the Photoshop app, perhaps?):
Instamatic, Toaster filter:
A few other ideas:
Darkroom is free and really great for low-light situations (like restaurants). Works against motion blur.
The iCamera HDR app can now blend dark areas with light areas. For example, if you have a plate sitting in the shade and something bright and sunny you'd like to show in the background, take two photos, exposing once for the background and once for the foreground, and let HDR mesh the two together.
The Autostitch app can be great to capture a panoramic scene, perhaps of a long dinner table or a dining room.
*Erin Gleeson is a professional food photographer who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Her photos have been published in The New York Times, Gourmet and Edible Brooklyn. Culinography posts every Monday on Umamimart.
**Got a photography question? Email Culinography at email@example.com