Renana's Kitchen

Food Photography

How to take better pictures of food with your smartphone?

The right photo is all it takes to transform your social media account into a follow-worthy palooza. However knowing how to take the right photo is key to gaining followers. You do not have to own a super expensive and fancy camera to take great pictures of your food.

Nowadays sharing your food pictures on social media is such a common thing to do, but if your pictures look weird or ordinary, you will not get any likes. You already have what it takes to capture the right photo in your smartphone, you just need to follow some simple rules and your pictures will look stunning!

Food Photography

I created this list of tips and tricks to help you improve your food photography and take it to the next level:

  1. Light:
    Photography is all about capturing light. Not any light works and sometimes even the flash does not help much. If you are in a restaurant that it is dark and gloomy and you ordered some great dish and are thinking about taking a picture - stop right there. You do not have to photograph everything, especially if the light is bad. Enjoy the dish and the moment. I know I created this list to help you take better pictures and the first thing I'm telling you is to not take pictures but sometimes it is just better not to. If you must photograph it in these conditions, use someone else’s smartphone as your light source and light the dish. Your smartphone flash will be too strong and the result will be another ordinary picture.
    I think food in particular looks best during the day light, which is white light, and it is most complementing. In many houses, the lights are more yellowish and you need to try avoiding picturing food in this kind of light because the food does not look good in it. I only take pictures with daylight, I know there are many artificial lights/ strobes you can buy but I use the free option. When I say daylight I do not mean any daylight, it has to be soft light and you can get it in the early morning and just before sunset. The light during noon is harsh and will create dark shadows in the dish you are picturing, which does not look so good.
    The light can come from three directions: back light coming from behind your dish, side light comes from left or right to your dish, and front light comes from in front of your dish. I like to use side light in my pictures and place my dish on a neutral background near a window and then take a picture.

    Food photography lighting

  2. Angle:
    the angle your smartphone is when taking the picture is very important. There are 3 main angles you can use: 90, 45 and 180 degrees. For example if you want to take a picture of a bowl of soup, if the smartphone is right in front of the bowl in a 90 degrees angle, the soup won't be seen. You need to try any angle and see what works best for the dish you are picturing. The most appealing angle for food pictures is usually 45 degrees, it looks like you are sitting at the table and about to eat the dish in the picture, and this is also the angle your eyes typically see the food positioned on the table. Another angle which is very trendy in food photography is 180 degrees or top shot, taking the picture from right above the dish, it gives another view and can look very good.

    Food photography tips for beginners

  3. Composition:
    when taking a picture you are actually telling the viewer a story. Our minds read and get info from pictures faster than reading text. You want to catch the viewer attention by capturing the moment and telling an interesting story. In art, (paintings) and photography there is a fundamental rule called the rule of thirds. It is a technique designed to help artists and photographers build drama and interest in their picture. The rule states every picture needs to be divided into 9 squares of equal size. 3 thirds from top to bottom and from one side to the other and then you get a net/ grid. The dots form connections on the grid and are the places that you should place the topic of the story you are telling in the picture. I know it sounds complicated but it's actually very simple:

    Rule of Thirds Photography

    This is the grid that you need to have in your mind and you can also add it to your smartphone camera to help you picture and place the food in the interesting spot - the red dots. When the subject is exactly in the center of the picture, the picture is less interesting for the human eyes so try to move a bit and have your dish on one of the red dots. Explore pictures that you liked and try to check if the subject was placed according to the rule of thirds, you will be surprised that you never noticed it before!

    Food photography with iphone

  4. Styling:
    styling is not only for fashion. When I say styling in regards to food I mean the props around the dish like linen, a napkin, the plate the dish is served on etc. The styling helps you tell the story of the dish and needs to be related to it in a way. If you are taking a picture of an Italian pasta dish, add a red and white kitchen towel that helps get the viewer into the atmosphere of Italy and relates to the dish. Think of what can fit the dish you are picturing and be creative. You should also explore Pinterest and look at other peoples’ pictures, get ideas and inspire yourself.  

    Food Photography with Smartphone

  5. The food itself:
    food is your subject in food photography. You want to think about it when taking the picture. You want the food to look good and appealing. Do not take pictures of food you think do not look good even if it tastes delicious. Sometimes less is more, it doesn’t has to be a very complicated dish, even a picture with only raw vegetables can tell a story and look good. It is very hard sometimes to take a good picture if the food does not look good, you can still picture the process and take pictures of the ingredients, tell a story about the dish that you are cooking and the making of it. Fresh fruits and vegetables come out very good in pictures, you know they say we eat first with our eyes so you want to make the viewer want to eat the food in the picture. Ergo, it must look extremely good.

    Food Photography Tips and Tricks

  6. The background:
    I talked about styling before, and the background is part of it. Try placing the dish on a natural background, a wooden table with a white wall behind it is perfect. Your countertop is another great option if it has a light source nearby and is colored with one main light color - marble has been very trendy in food photography lately. You can also take pictures outside in your garden. Try to think about the colors of the dish and match them with the background, you do not want the background to be too distracting so the viewer misses the food in the picture. There are many backdrops you can purchase if you want to take your pictures more seriously, and there is also an option of DIY your backdrops - be creative and think outside the box.

    How to take better pictures of food with your smartphone?

  7. Focus:
    I mention it last but actually, it is very, very important. The viewer’s eyes are attracted to sharp beautiful pictures. If your picture is out of focus, no one will want to see it. It is very easy to have focus with smartphones, you touch the screen where you want the focus to be and the phone does its magic. On an iPhone you see this yellow rectangle on the screen and you know the focus is there.

    How to take food photos for instagram

That's all there is to it! I really hope you liked the tips and tricks I provided here and that I have inspired you to look different at pictures. I also hope you’ll try to take better pictures yourself. If you have any questions, you are welcome to email me at You are also welcome to join my Facebook group - Renana's Kitchen Recipe Share Group and share your own pictures and recipes.