Photography, Resources

Guide to iPhone Food Photography

19 August, 2016


iPhone and mobile photography has become a pretty big deal. It lets us capture moments when we are out and about without having to lug around a giant camera. And, if you’re like me, taking photos with an iPhone makes me feel a lot less annoying to my fellow diners. Sure, I still make them wait for me to snap a photo before we eat, but at least I’m (usually) not lugging out my giant camera most of the time, standing on chairs to get the right angle. I save that for my professional photo shoots!

But how do you take the best mobile photos possible? Read on and follow these tips in our Guide to iPhone Food Photography!



If you’ve tried to take food photos in the evenings under your kitchen lights, or at night in restaurants, you’ve probably realized one thing. Most food photos look best when shot in natural light. And when you’re out to dinner, you’re not going to bring a lighting kit with you anyways!

So how do you make the most of the natural light at restaurants?

  1. If you have a choice, always try to sit close to a window. Many times you won’t have a choice if you are being seated by a waiter or waitress, but if you are in a place where you can seat yourself, look at where you’ll get the best light and cozy up to that spot!
  2. Sit with your back or side to the window. If you sit facing the window and take a photo, you’ll see a bunch of shadows on your food (and then your best bet is to do an overhead shot). You want your food lit from the front or side.
  3. If you’re shooting a cocktail, forget the above advice. Cocktails and drinks look great backlit!


If you’re photographing food at home, you have a lot more options! I like to find several spots in the house that work well, depending on what time of day it is. There is a spot in my kitchen, living room, bedroom, and outdoors that I all will use to take photos.

I also know that at my kitchen window for example, depending on what time of day it is, I will get different results. In the morning and mid-day I will tend to get softer light, whereas in the evening I will get bright light with intense shadows.



Styling & Props

Styling is an important part of any photography! Again, when you’re out and about, you have less options, but it also allows you to capture the feel of the place. So if you’re at a restaurant, you can utilize the table surface, and then decide if you want to include a fork, glass, chopsticks, other plates, etc. into the photo. Use what you’ve got to make it interesting! You can also opt for the simpler route and just showcase the food. I like to take a couple of shots of each and then choose which one I think looks best later.


When at home, you can treat it like you do a real photo shoot. Before I do a shoot, I like to choose which plates and napkins I think will look best with the food I’m shooting. I also like to think about any other elements to incorporate into the shot. For example, if I’ve just used fresh lemon, a lot of times I’ll include part of the lemon in the shot.


You can also use people as props! Include that hand, or part of your friend or significant other in that photo. It will add interest, context, and you may discover a future hand modeling career for yourself or your friend.



Composition & Camera Angles

You’ve seen it. The overhead camera shot. Everyone is doing it! And that’s because SO MUCH food looks great shot top down. You can get a view of a whole table, which is perfect for showing the other elements on the table such as glasses, forks, your friend’s meals…. But let’s not forget that the overhead camera shot is not the best for all food. I like to try several angles and decide which I like best!

Types of camera angles and composition:


This works well in a lot of situations and is usually my go-to.



If your photo could benefit from a bit of depth, this angle helps. Also, if you don’t want to shoot overhead ALL THE TIME, it’s nice to mix it up with an angled shot.


Side view

Test out the side view when shooting drinks. It’s nice to let that light shine through. Also, certain things like burgers and some sandwiches will almost always look better in side view.


Far away

A photo shot with a little distance between you and the food will allow you to incorporate some of those props into an image, and can give the food a sense of place.


Close up

Food porn. When you hear that term, it’s usually describing a photo that is getting up close and personal. This is perfect for creating a really tantalizing, drool-worthy photo.



Apps for Editing

After the photo, don’t forget about editing! Those photography photos you’re drooling over on Instagram? Probably not straight out of the camera app (although the camera app does have some nice editing tools). Here are a few of my favorites and ones many of those star food photographers use.


VSCO has been around for quite awhile (their lightroom presets are incredible), and they were my go-to editing app for years. The star of the show are their filters. They come with a basic set for free, and then you can purchase more. I used to find the interface really intuitive, but they’ve made some changes, and now it’s a little harder to navigate around. It is definitely still a great option, for the filters and other editing capabilities alone.

A Color Story

This app is newer to the world, but it’s set up similarly to the VSCO app in that it comes with a few basic filters and then you can purchase more. One thing I adore about this app is the ability to create your own filters. That way if you find a certain look you love with your photos, you can save it as a filter and apply it to all your photos.


Snapseed is a great app, but I use it mainly for one thing – spot editing. If I have a photo that has an element I need to remove, I use Snapseed for this purpose! It has other editing capabilities, but I usually do those in VSCO or A Color Story.


There are other great apps to try out like the Lightroom app, Afterlight, and Camera+. See which ones you like the best!


Posting Online

Edit yourself with what you post online! If you’re posting photos for your family and friends on Facebook, post whatever you want! But if you’re trying to cultivate a following on Instagram, you may want to only post those shots you’re really happy with. If you have a dark, grainy photo you took at dinner that you’re not in love with, it doesn’t need to go on your Instagram page if you’re trying to showcase a style of bright, well-lit photos. Post what you love and are excited to share.

Have tips of your own to share? Post them in the comments below! And follow Food Banjo on Instagram!

  • Optimista 19 August, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for these great tips! Might you have any suggestions for shooting or editing when you don’t have the benefit of natural light? Seems like so many of the beautiful plates I eat are served in the dark. :(

    • Aimee 19 August, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Great question! Unfortunately, usually if your phone is anything like mine, photos in dimly-lit restaurants usually turn out grainy. However, I usually try to take photos anyways, to see if I can save a photo through editing. I think if you’re trying to capture the food, a little light you can easily carry around (like the one I know you have!) :) is a great option to give some light to your photo. I’ve also taken candles and such that are on the table and placed them close to my food to try to provide some brightness, which works sometimes. Additionally, you can try to also capture more of the feel of the restaurant rather than the food for some great atmosphere shots. I hope that helps a little bit!