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I have been taking about one million photos of food in my life-time, or so it feels, and have come to a couple of important conclusions: I personally don’t like to make a fuzz about the act of photographing when I’m actually out eating, especially when I’m with friends, so I will rarely bring in the big guns but prefer small, handy cameras. However, I appreciate food presented in fine imagery, so I need to find a balance between these two poles. Many times, I will use my iPhone, currently the XR, to shoot the snack in front of me, because it’s the quickest, least obtrusive way and provides really good material for my blog or social media. Especially when I’m at markets or busy events, like last week’s Bite Club. This street food market is certainly the most buzzy: located just by the Spree it comes with a mix of fun vendors, a big bar and loud music. Not a space where you want to set up a photoshoot for your one dish.
Also factoring in: I actually like to eat my food fresh and hot, so I can’t and don’t want to take too long.
At last week’s season opening (next one coming up Aug 9th!), I spent some time at Bite Club munching on the excellent grilled cheese by Mama Shabz (shop on Reichenberger coming soon!), tried the newly invented Mibap with a very interesting, self-developed patty made of multiple legumes inside, enjoyed the excellent paneer from the clay oven by Bahadur, and was once again not convinced by the soft-serve Paul Möhring is serving up (it’s more like a… light ice cream?). In between, I used another small camera and the help of a trusted friend to photograph the way I photograph food with the iPhone. Here are my pivotal rules for that:
Arrange it well
Unfortunately, the most scrumptious food is not necessarily the best looking. This factors in especially on street food markets, when the ways of preparing and plating are limited by space and time (those queues!). However, in my book, taste always beats looks, never the other way around. So I don’t want to place the focus on how instagrammable my food is. Here’s what you can do with a dish that doesn’t present itself well: look for appealing background: a nice tablecloth or some luscious grass. Use a perspective that benefits the dish, from above for flat things, from an angle to show off the stacks. Let the grid help you adjust your lines. It’s also helpful when arranging your image. The main focus should be comfortably in the mid square. Or, just get close and picture a detail, the iPhone can do up to 10cm in minimum distance
Use Natural Light
One of the main skills of every photographer is to handle light – first rule: go to where the light is! Avoid artificial light whenever possible, because natural light always wins. But rather than shoot in direct sun, which can give you harsh shadows, use the shade that’s closest to the sun where it’s still warm and bright, without giving you too much contrast. Then, touch the iPhone camera screen to adjust the light and define the focus.
There are plenty of options when it comes to filters. When using them on food images, be careful how they might affect your colors with an unnatural hue. Once you found your go-to filter, make sure you adapt it to each image by playing around with the intensity of it. Over time, everyone develops a go-to routine when it comes to photography and editing, but it’s certainly important to not get stuck in your ways. The iPhone has such a good lens and very high quality images, you have many possibilities to play around. Rules are made to be broken – so turn into the sun for some lens flare, add some more grain than you usually would, use that filter you never used before (my favourite filters are VSCO), add some vignetting to see how you feel with it, and maybe even tint that shade. You want your images to be memorable.
Clean that Lens
Last but very much not least is the simplest trick of all, and usually the one overlooked: clean your lens! I have annoyed many people with this suggestion and most of them were still so surprised with its effect. The iPhone is usually flying around uncovered in your bag or pocket and the lens can collect a lot of muck that will give your pic a greasy haze. A quick wipe with whatever cloth you have on you will make your photos look much, much clearer. Try it, even if you don’t think you need it. Also, a clean lense gives you a much better lens flare.