Tips for Taking Beautiful Food Photos with Your Smart Phone (Part 1)

As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), I’ve always believed that if you want consumers to eat a healthy diet, you have to give them easy and affordable recipes that work, taste great, and look amazing and appetizing.

A healthy version of Beefaroni taken with an iPhone 5s Smart Phone

This is a gorgeous image of our Homemade Healthy Beefaroni made with lean ground beef, mushrooms and red bell pepper, and whole wheat pasta … and served with fresh asparagus and basil. Don’t you want to take a bite? I took this photo with my iPhone 5s and edited using Snapseed. {Keep reading for my top food photography secrets.}

But before I learned how to use my smart phone to take appetizing food photos, here’s what that same recipe looked like:

Homemade Beefaroni / bad food photo example

“No, Mom. You can’t make me eat that!”

With more attention paid to food styling, a better lighting situation, and a few smart phone photography / editing apps, the differences between my “before” and “after” images is quite dramatic. Best of all … IT’S EASY TO ACHIEVE.

 

#FNCE meeting in Atlanta

Earlier this week, I traveled to Atlanta, GA for the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo—AKA FNCE—featured an array of lectures and workshops including From Drab to Delicious: Food Photography and Styling Tips for Dietitians, which I taught with Regan Jones, RDN and Janet Helm, MS, RDN.

#FNCE workshop: From Drab to Delicious, Food Photography and Styling Tips for Dietitians

My portion of the workshop focused on smart phone food photography. What follows are some of the tips and tricks I shared with the group:

Elements of Appetizing Smart Phone Food Photography:

- Use natural light

- Style recipes using interesting backgrounds and props

- Shoot from Above

- Use the Camera+ app to take your food photos (if you have an iPhone)

- Use the Snapseed app to edit your images

- Add fun graphics (if you so desire) with PicMonkey.com

USE NATURAL LIGHT

Smart phone food photography / Use Natural Light

Things to remember: Avoid the camera flash; shoot in daylight; position the food near a window but avoid harsh light and opt for diffuse, soft light instead; and reflect light back onto the subject using something like a white tri-fold, project board (I purchased mine at Staples for a few dollars.)

FOCUS ON INTERESTING BACKGROUNDS & PROPS

Things to remember: Use surfaces with texture such as an old piece of barn board, a rustic table, or an interesting background board. (For tips on making your own, check out our DIY photography background board post.); use props that pop; layer plates, bowls, and linens; use relevant garnishes; and when choosing props, use those that reflect the personality of your recipes and your readers. At Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, we aim for playful, colorful, and family friendly.

Black Bean Soup photo using smart phone

For this smart phone photo, Janice and I used one of our DIY photography background boards, a yellow plate topped with a white bowl, an inexpensive fabric swatch from Joanne Fabrics, a lime wedge and baked corn chips, and colorful soup toppers: cilantro, shredded cheese, and sour cream. You can find this recipe for Last-Minute Black Bean Soup on our MEAL MAKEOVERS smart phone recipe app.

SHOOT FROM ABOVE 

Roasted Pickled Beets photo using smart phone

Things to remember: Smart phones don’t have the same depth of field as a DSLR camera, so your best shot is from above. Shooting from the side rarely looks as good because everything will be in focus (i.e. you can’t fuzz out the background). Don’t these roasted, pickled beets look deee-lish?!

USE CAMERA+ IF YOU OWN AN iPHONE

Camera+ iPhone app for great food photography

If you don’t have an iPhone, you can skip this part of my post. Camera+ is for iPhone only, and I use it instead of my phone’s built-in camera. It allows for touch focus and touch exposure, so you can bring more or less light into the shot depending on the amount of light you’re working with. In other words, if it’s a cloudy day outside and you’re in a low-light situation, the touch exposure feature will help you pull more light into the shot. Once you shoot your image, you can save it to your camera roll. FYI: I do NOT edit on Camera+.

POST PRODUCTION

The real magic begins when you edit. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about Snapseed and PicMonkey.com, my two favorite food photography editing tools.

grain salad photo taken in bad lighting conditions with smart phone

During the workshop, participants were assigned to one of six food stations and asked to style a scene. Here, you see a grain and veggie salad served up in various bowls. The artificial lighting in the convention center room was dreadful, but that didn’t stop me from ultimately getting a great shot. I took this image with my Camera+ app (this was the best I could do given the situation), and then I edited on my phone using the Snapseed app.

Here’s the “after” image!!

grain salad photo fixed and edited using Snapseed app for smart phones

In Part 2 of my Smart Phone photography post, I’ll tell you how I cropped, white balanced, brightened, and sharpened this image. The improvement was amazing and appetizing, and this image would certainly look more appealing in a blog post or shared on Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook :)

As food professionals, we need to put our best feet forward, and smart photos can help all of us achieve that goal.

Janet Helm, Regan Jones, Liz Weiss at #FNCE meeting

Just had to give a shout out to my co-presenters: Janet Helm, RDN, winner of this year’s AND Media Excellence Award, and Regan Jones, RDN, co-founder (with Janet) of Healthy Aperture and The Recipe Redux. These women inspire!

Cabot Virtual Road Race to Benefit Feeding America + a Cheese Giveaway

image

On Columbus Day, I ran the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women road race with my friend, Mary. Besides the fact that I like to run (sometimes), I was eager to join the Cabot Virtual Race to benefit Feeding America, an organization dedicated to feeding America’s hungry through a nationwide network of food banks. If you’re interested in joining the [more]

How to Make Homemade Focaccia Bread with Fun Spiced Toppings

Homemade Focaccia Bread via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Learn how to make an easy homemade focaccia bread for your family using store-bought pizza dough!  Starting with store-bought pizza dough makes creating your own focaccia bread simple as pie.This month, I joined fellow healthy food bloggers for the following Recipe Redux cooking challenge on Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of [more]

Local Farms Make Me Happy: My Visit to Hornstra Dairy Farm

Farms are magical places. They remind us to think about where our food comes from, the hard work involved in producing it, and the importance of maintaining open space where nature and beauty can thrive. Welcome to Hornstra Farms in Norwell, MA. I had the privilege of touring this 100-year-old dairy farm last week with a [more]

How to Roast Delicata Squash + a Recipe for Cinnamon Roasted Delicata Squash Slices

How to Roast Delicata Squash via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Learn how to roast nutritious slices of delicata squash for a simple, naturally-sweet autumn side dish your family will love. If you’re trying to get more vegetables into your family’s diet, shake things up by trying something new. Every autumn you’ll find delicata squash at the market. It’s easy to prepare … if you know the right [more]

Tortellini Lunchbox Salad for National Pasta Month

Tortellini Lunchbox Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #pasta #lunchbox #vegetarian

Add excitement to your child’s lunchbox with this Tortellini Lunchbox Salad. It’s filled with color, flavor, fun, and great nutrition … and it’s easy to make too! October is National Pasta Month. In my house, every month is pasta month! I have two teenage boys. Need I say more? {By posting this recipe I am [more]

Cha Cha Cha Chia Meatballs + a Podcast on the Nutritional and Cooking Benefits of Chia Seeds

Cha Cha Cha Chia Meatballs via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

This low fat, gluten-free meatball recipe is a dinner favorite with busy families. Made with lean ground beef, grated carrot, chia seeds, and fresh basil, they’re nutritious and delicious.   We love the flavor of these lean meatballs, and they’re super healthy too thanks to a bunch of nutrient-rich ingredients: lean ground beef, carrots, and chia [more]

Strawberry Chia Pudding + a Biology Lesson

Strawberry Chia Pudding via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Serve this healthy, no-cook Strawberry Chia Pudding as an after-school snack for your kids or a delicious dessert for the family.  I’ve been on a bit of a chia seed kick lately. My recent obsession stems from 10th grade biology. My son is taking bio, and I’ve been helping him study for an upcoming test on carbohydrates, lipids, [more]

A Healthy Pin It Party: Blue Plate Special

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Finding healthy recipes on Pinterest is getting a whole lot easier these days thanks to Pin It Parties like the one being hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. To participate in the party, we were asked to write a post featuring five of our favorite recipes that we wanted to see on Pinterest, so we chose [more]