It seems everyone these days is taking photos of their food and uploading them to Twitter—before they’ve taken their first bite. While some of these photos offer mouthwatering results, most are a mess, poorly lit and unappetizing. Here’s how you can take a good food photo with whatever camera you have on hand.
Get comfortable taking photos outside auto mode. First, turn off the flash. Second, practice manual focusing so that the target food item—say, your cupcake—is the center of attention. Third, master the manual exposure control. Aperture priority is the preferred option for photographing food. Most cameras have automatic macro settings.
Get the Right App
If you’re using an iPhone, find an app that will let you shoot and edit photos without applying retro or lo-fi filters, such as Inventive’s $2 Camera+ (campl.us). After you take the photo of your mom’s spaghetti, add the preset Food Scene option to warm up the colors and make the food look more appetizing. The Depth Of Field option blurs out the plate’s distracting edges.
Vuzz’s free Snapdish (www.snapdi.sh), an app designed for enhancing food images, brightens your photo. You can then upload it to Snapdish or send it straight to Facebook or Twitter.
Choose Your Lens
A wide-angle lens lets you include more of the table, but can also add unwanted distractions. A longer lens can get a tight shot with a shallow depth of field, but might not be practical for a quick pic in a restaurant. A macro lens gets in close enough to capture delicious details. Specialty lenses like tilt-shift and telephoto make photos stand out.
Style and Perspective
Decide on the best composition for the plate. If the layout of items is interesting, go for an overhead shot, but if it’s stacked food—like a sandwich—a side shot shows off your meal better. To style a photo more energetically, try shooting a fork playfully stabbing pasta rather than a half-eaten plate of ravioli. If you’re preparing food specifically for a photo shoot, cook the veggies less so they retain their color, thoughtfully shape the mound of rice, and plate your food with the entire scene in mind. A glass of wine and a few crumbs make it look more realistic.
If you are taking photos at home—say, at a family meal—try these quick steps to attain natural-looking, appealing shots. Start by using an available window to cast light on your dish of food. Then use mirrors or white paper to reflect that light back onto the subject for even, consistent light color.
A Pinch of Editing
Even if you’re not a photo-app pro, you can keep whites clean and bright with manual editing tools. In iPhoto, click the Adjust button at the bottom of the editing window. There, you can manually over- or underexpose your photo or change the color temperature.