Eva Barrios, CEC, Executive Chef of Royal Oaks CC, shares some of her best advice for improving smartphone food photography.
As chefs, we often examine each dish after we’ve worked obsessively to balances the flavors and the plate presentation. We wonder how to share the beauty of this dish with other club chefs and members who might not be able to come to the club and see it in person.
It is so common to see bad food photography on social media. More often than not, the photos just don’t show the true beauty of the colors or details.
Some club chefs have professional cameras, a lightbox, and the skills of a photographer sorcerer to help to bring their dishes to life. The end result is often magnificent. For others, including myself, I have none of those things, but I’ve worked hard at improving the way I photograph my food. Here are some of my top tips for my fellow club chefs.
Your Smartphone Can Be a Good Tool
Today’s smartphones have high-quality cameras and different settings that can produce really outstanding photographs when handled appropriately. Here at Royal Oaks Country Club (Houston, Texas), I use my iPhone and a photography app called Snapseed for all the food photos I post on social media. (You can follow me on Instagram here.)
Good Lighting Is Critical
One tip I was given earlier in my career by a professional photographer was to always use natural light when photographing food. He explained how important it is to experiment with your dish in natural light, meaning move the dish around until you get the angle needed to accentuate the details and colors inside.
Another tip I given by a chef colleague was to give the photo an extra lighting filter without overdoing it since not all phones or computers are the same.
When I take a photo I usually go outside and take several photos of the dish from different angles. I have an iPhone and I like to use the portrait mode on the camera. This is my favorite setting because it focuses on the food while making the background a little blurry. It works well and it brings the dish to a different level visually.
After I’ve taking a bunch of photos of the dish, I sort through and choose the best one. Then, from the comfort of my home, I spend time manually editing the photo using the camera editing for lighting, contrast, etc. I do not use filters for food photos.
Inside the app I mentioned earlier, Snapseed (which is free), I carefully play around with the different lighting, color, and sharpening tools until I achieve the result I want. The app is easy to use, and if you do not like the end result, you can easily go back to the original photo and start again.
Did you know that iPhones are capable of sending high-resolution photos? When sending a photo as an attachment, simply select the actual size. The photo file is big enough to be used for magazines like Club + Resort Chef. The dish below was actually used on the cover of the January 2021 Cookbook.
I am sure there are plenty more tips and tricks out there to take better smartphone food photos. In fact, on June 23rd and June 30th, Club + Resort Chef is hosting a two-part webinar series, sponsored by Libbey, where photographer Leigh Loftus, President, Photographer and Founder of The Chef Shots, will teach club chefs exactly how to take better smartphone food photography. Don’t miss this important educational opportunity!
You can learn more about the details of the free webinar here.