How to Shoot Food Photography: Tips for Mobile

Mobile Food Photography Tips

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March 27, 2019

Food photography is something anyone can do with a few simple tips. Let’s face it we all want to indulge in great food and capture it to share. It doesn’t need a lot of technical know-how and with a phone, it’s even easier.

Photographing food used to be for professional photographers. They had large setups in a studio with fantastic lighting. In the past, those beautiful pictures of food landed in menus and cookbooks.

Recently things have changed with cell phones and social media. We were now telling the stories of our lives. This includes the delicious food that we eat with friends and families. A few years ago, we took a snapshot of our friends after we ate dinner. Now we are taking pictures of the menu, food, and our friends, telling the complete story.

Pictures of food on Instagram look so beautiful but it can be challenging when you give it a try yourself. Here are some food photography tips for everyone. You don’t have to have years of experience but a few ideas and some practice.


15 Food Photography Tips: For Those Who Don’t Usually Take Pictures of Food


1. Try Any Angle

One of the simplest food photography tips is to get the right angle. Food photography can look appealing at many angles. Shooting from above shows the beauty of the food. It creates food as a work of appetizing art. The top-down angle shows the details of the food, the background, and contrast of shapes and colors. This creates a strong and bold but balanced image.

Taking an image from the side brings out the little detail of the food. It can show the detail in a mouth-watering piece of cake. Show the fresh salt on salted caramel by taking a side view. Also taking a side view will show the steam coming off warm hot chocolate. One thing to take note is to always consider your background when taking side images.

Shoot the image diagonally to show three dimensions of the food. This will show the food and will also show the detail of the background. If you shoot an ice cream cone shooting diagonally will show the three dimensions of the scoop.

Smartphone Food Photography Tips

2. Explore Light and Shadows

Getting the right light is the key to making the texture of the food look appetizing and appealing. Backlighting is the trick to getting the food look fresh. The angle of light shows the image as crisp and will allow any steam to show up in the image.

Direct natural light can bring harsh shadows. Use a white sheet or a piece of poster paper to diffuse the light. Try this to diffuse dark shadows and highlights to create softer light.

food photography tips

Contributed by Dave @iexploreutah

3. Arrange with an S Curve

Naturally, when we take a picture of food our eyes move through the image from top to bottom or right to left. When you look at landscape photography. Often there is a winding river which directs your eye through the image. Arranging the food in an S curve will lead the viewer’s eye through the image.

Overhead Food Photography


4. Tell the Story of The Food

The next step in overhead photography is to think about the story you are trying to tell. Are you trying to show where and what did on your summer vacation? Gather all objects from your trip. If you went to the beach it may be shells, maps, or a travel journal you used from the vacation. Take the most important object and place it so that it is the main feature of the story.

When creating a food story use simple props to tell what is going on in the image. Raw ingredients, extra plates, and silverware add to the image and portray the story. Make the food the focus of the image so patterned dishes may distract from the image.

To enhance the story of food take pictures of the process. That may be chopping, peeling, and stirring the pot in the process. Step by step images will help you capture the moment.

5. Add Personal Interaction

Interacting with food is one of the most creative food photography tips for mobile. Food can be more appealing if you show a hand holding a spoon, or someone holding an ice cream cone. Food without a personal touch may seem boring and unrealistic. Adding a human element shows the emotion and excitement of food.

Cell Phone Food photography tips

6. Test the Exposure

Exposure is the darkness or brightness in an image. White backgrounds or plates can appear too bright and slip into the background. To get the right exposure make sure you expose for details and highlights. This is difficult if you are taking a picture of a white plate on a dark background. Your image may appear to have harsh shadows and bright whites. The trick is to expose for the highlights and go and alter the shadows in post-production.

Do you know how to adjust the exposure on your phone? If you don’t know that’s okay, it takes a second to learn. First, think about the last picture you took with your phone of a beautiful landscape. Have you taken a nature photo and realized a dull washed out sky or background? Getting the right exposure is where the image is not too dark or too light and the colors are vibrant and clear.

How to Adjust the Exposure

Getting the most beautiful landscape photos with your phone is more than tap, focus, and shoot. You may also need to increase or decrease the exposure of the image. On the iPhone, the sun appears next to the focused area. Slide up or down on the image to adjust the exposure. With a Samsung, a light bulb appears at the bottom and you can slide from left to right to change the exposure.

How to Take food photography tips

7. Think Texture and Layers


The texture in mobile photography gives life to the photo. Textures include smooth, drippy, crumbly and rough. A piece of cake may have a rough cut into the side showing the texture of the cake and then smooth frosting on the side. To capture texture you will need to get closer to the food to get the fine details in the shot. The texture shows the imperfections and the mouthwatering details of the image.


The most stunning food photos have layers built up. Try adding layers by using napkins, boxes, plates, flowers, and material. Aim for two to three layers in a photo. When building layers think of the image in three sections, the background, middle ground, and foreground. The main point of layers is to give the image depth of field. You want the main element to stand out from the elements and is usually positioned in the middle ground. Position other elements in the foreground and background. Focusing on the middle ground guides your eye toward the most important element in the scene. You will notice your image will be visually appealing by using this food photography tip.

Composition Food Photography Tips Smartphone

8. Always Have a Full Back-up Battery

Taking pictures on your phone takes up more battery than just searching the web. It is disappointing to create a food photography set. Then you realize that your phone is out of batteries. Then you may miss the great light and have to start over again. Attaching your phone to a simple portable battery pack is an easy tip. This will improve your flow as you take food photography.

There are many types of battery packs. I recommend the Lander Cascade power bank 7800. This is because of the versatility, auto-off saving mode, and the number of charges. The number of times you can charge your phone with the power bank before recharging. The Lander power bank is designed for durability and adventure. The grip makes it so you can balance it off in the distance without holding it. I keep one of these with me whenever I am taking pictures in case I need more battery power when I am on the go.

Cell Phone Battery Pack Large

9. Where do I focus?

When choosing the focus of your food photography think of the image and the story you would like to tell. Do you want to show many delectable desserts from above? By choosing to focus on the center will show each delicious dessert crisp and clear. Get close up and focus on a specific detail, then the image will seem more personal and mouthwatering. Get closer to the steam from the hot soup will be visible. Pasta and textured foods look better with a closer focused image.

How to do food photography

10. Find Your Food Photography Style

Thoughtful styling will create the difference between a dull or an appealing image. Put the right food with the right setting can be challenging. Square or rectangular plates have the challenge of shooting the angle right. The plate may end up looking distorted and trapezoidal at eye level.

Notice the size of the food due to the size of the plate. Adding some white space leads the viewer’s eyes to the food. Having too much white space may lead the food to look small and less prominent.

Bright colors or patterns can add life and vibrancy to a simple dish. Or a simple background and accessories and draw the viewer into the beauty of the image.

food photography tips Mobile phone

11. Gather Props

Look around your house for little props that will make your images look better. If you are doing food photography, bright or decorative plates work great as props. Also, salt and pepper shakers or kitchen utensils are great to add color and shape to the image. After you gather the props, place them on the shooting surface. See how they would look in overhead photography by placing the phone above you.

Take note of what accessories would add to the ambiance of your image. Do napkins, utensils, glassware or fresh flowers add to the image?
This may be adding some reminders of home like a flowered tablecloth, or a newspaper. If you take a lot of food photography. Go to the thrift store and gather some items: a wood cutting board, or colorful vintage dishes. These items will help you get great photos every time.

12. Leave white space

When taking pictures using overhead photography things can get cluttered and confusing. You can take many beautiful objects and it is distracting and hard to understand. Take time to play your layout so that there is enough white space to see and breathe in the image. Arrange the objects in a few different ways to create more white space. Do the objects need to be grouped together to look the best or more evenly spaced?

How To Food Photography Tips

Contributed by Dave @iexploreutah

13. For Steady Shots use a Tripod

Trying to get an image flat with overhead shooting can be very challenging without a tripod. There are many options of tripods that will work to improve your image. If you don’t have space and can place your phone above on a shelf or a bookshelf. Also, a small tight grip one tripod will work well. If you have a tripod you can get an attachable mobile phone mount that will help you take amazing pictures.

Here are a few things to look for when buying a tripod. First, is the size. With mobile photography size matters, the smaller the better. Joby makes a small tripod for your smartphone that is 7 inches long and can fit into any bag or purse. The GorillaPod comes with adjustable legs that balance on rocks or can wrap around a tree.

Next look for a sturdy tripod. When taking pictures outside something sturdy is important for balance. A cell phone could tip over and get scratched. The Manfrotto Pixi is one of the best small tripods. It is very sturdy and can even hold a regular digital camera without falling over.

Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod

14. Lighting Tips and Tricks

Take the Picture by a Window

When taking pictures inside it is important to position the shot next to natural light. Although, turning on the light can bring the added light to make the image light. Lights it can cast strange shadows and unflattering colors to the shot. The natural light from the window will add great light and diffuse the image. To improve the shot, you may want to use a white poster board as a reflector.

Lighting Tips

If you are in an area where it is dark and there is no natural light nearby. To diffuse light turn the flashlight on your friend’s phone and place a Kleenex over the light. This will give your shot the light it needs to look great.

You can also try portable lights that will help you take better pictures. The Litra Torch is an excellent small light that can fit into your pocket. It also has three settings for better light.

food photography tips

15. Shoot from Above

Shooting from above shows the story and is very popular on Instagram and social media. Arrange your setting with a tabletop view or just one plate of food. You may want to use a nice tablecloth and set the table so it looks beautiful. Then shoot from above the image by standing. Please take note that getting your phone to lay straight may be a challenge. You may think the image is parallel but it may be slightly tilted. Review your shot to make sure the shapes are as displayed.

The iPhone has a little crosshair feature that matches up when shooting from above. This can help you get your image straight. Other apps like Lightroom Mobile and manual mode apps often have a bar that helps you know if your camera is level.

Smartphone Pictures Thanksgiving


These food photography tips may take some time to get the hang of and a little bit of practice. Food plays such a role in our daily lives and one of the ways we can savor it is by capturing photos and sharing it. By trying to recognize the angle, adjust light and shadows you can create a better shot. Choose props that will create pictures that tell a story. Next time you are a restaurant take a chance to take some shots of your meal before you enjoy every bite. Try these tips to take great pictures and to share your stories on social media. Take your Instagram images to the next level with these food photography tips. We would love to see what types of pictures you take. Please share your images by tagging us on #mobilepicx on Instagram or other social media.

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