How To Photograph Food With Your Phone

Take your Instagram game from good to great

Hello, over-sharers: You love to photograph your food. We get it. We do, too.

But snagging a reservation at the restaurant opening of the moment and having an iPhone do not necessarily prepare you for Instagram greatness. And even seasoned meal-chroniclers can learn something from the food photographing pros. Here's our advice for a prettier, more appetizing feed.

The two most important words in food photography: lighting and composition.

On-camera (or in most cases, in-phone) flashes are food's worst enemy. The harsh light turns lovely platings into scary, blown-out horror shows. There's no shame in asking for a table near a window. The natural light will do wonders for your images (and your neighbors won't hate you for the constant intrusion of blinding flashes).

Natural light? Check. | Photo: Tasting Table

Once there's food on your plate, think about the direction of your light. Sunny or overcast, lighting from the side is always a safe bet, but don't be afraid to play around—try different angles or pick up the plate and move it into more flattering light. Take more than a few photos so you're sure to nail it. If the light is especially strong on one side of your plate, hold a white napkin or a menu up on the other side. Pros call this a "bounce card," and it'll help fill in pesky shadows.

When it comes to composing your shot, it helps think in terms of shapes and proportions. Start with an overhead shot and then think about what shapes should fill your frame. You want the food to be the star—but food by itself can be boring. Some well-placed crumbs, a knife resting on a plate just so or a glass of wine or end-of-meal espresso at the edge of the frame can help contextualize the food and make for a more interesting composition. Don't be afraid to cut off dishes: Half of a bountiful bread basket is going to help tell the story more than a big empty white space.