Let's face it, basic iPhone food photography is pretty easy. Once in a while, you may even take a shot you deem worthy of Food & Wine Magazine. There are just a few concepts and tips that could help you elevate your iPhone food photography above 90% off all the other food instagramers out there.
1. Invest in ProCamera App
Is there a way for me to get money for referring people to this app??? I use ProCamera on my iPhone because of really only one feature that the pre-installed camera app doesn't have, custom white balance. There are certainly other features of ProCamera that are handy that the standard Camera app doesn't have, such as shooting in RAW format, but the standard camera app has been slowly closing the gap. The only feature that is still missing is custom white balance & that can make a world of difference in food photography.
2. Set Custom White Balance in ProCamera
Setting a custom white balance will require another investment in a white balance card or filter. I personally use an ExpoDisc White Balance Filter, but that's because I shoot with a full-frame DSLR just as often as my iPhone. I actually wouldn't suggest it for an iPhone because it's simply not designed for it, but I use it because I already have one.
In ProCamera, make sure that you have the White Balance option selected in the Control Panel. Hint, the three horizontal line at bottom right of the app is called the Control Panel. Also, make sure that you're either in Wide Angle or Telephoto shooting mode. I realized after a very long time that you cannot set a custom white balance in Dual lens mode.
If the White Balance option is selected, then you will see AWB floating on your screen. To set a custom white balance, hold your White Balance Card essentially in front of your shooting subject, in this case your food dish, and hold your iPhone in a position so that the White Balance Card fills at least 50% of your iPhone viewfinder. Then press and hold the AWB until ProCamera confirms that it has been calibrated.
While "warmth" and "coolness" is a personal preference and part of your artistic Point of View, it's always best to start with a neutral white balance and adjust the warmth and coolness later on. Of course, you can do so in ProCamera photo editor or even in Instagram.
3. Understand Photo Exposure & Control It
The easiest way to think about exposure in photography is brightness. A photo that basically looks too bright and "overblown" is overexposed. A photo that is too dark is underexposed. Despite what some photographers would say, exposure is also part of photographers artistic Point of View. For example, my wife, Anne, always overexposes, even when she has a fairly good idea about proper exposure. But the truth is that she comes up with some pretty good food photos with those over exposed shots. Once gain, I would argue that it's better to have a "properly" exposed shot and then use the ProCamera editor or Instagram editor to change it to over or underexposed.
Nonetheless, the important point is to understand what photo exposure is and how to control it, no matter if you want an underexposed, "properly" exposed, or overexposed shot.
In ProCamera, there is a + / - sign either at the top of the screen in profile mode or left of the screen in landscape mode. Tap it once and an exposure compensation slider will toggle up. Simply adjust the slider with your finger and see how the exposure changes on the screen. Hint, positive numbers will make your shot brighter, negative numbers will make your shot darker.
4. Might As Well Shoot in RAW Format
If you're iPhone has a lot of memory, then you might as well shoot in RAW format, though you're probably going to want to delete bad photos as often as you can. In the most basic terms, RAW format just contains more "information," such as color, and you have more ability to edit your photo in editing software, such as Photoshop.
5. Learn to Edit Photos Without Filters
We all know that filters can save a lot of time and more often than not produce really good results, but that means you're using the same filter as everybody else. Maybe more importantly is that a filter doesn't take into account any specifics of your photograph.
Instagram provides tons of filters because generally one of them will work with your specific photograph, which is of course great, but learning how to adjust things such as brightness, contrast, saturation, highlight, shadows, etc will help bring your own artistic point of view.