Candid Cuisine’s Top 5 Tips on Taking Amazing Food Photos on Instagram
Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of comments and emails online and offline about the photos that are on Candid Cuisine. Some are asking if I actually took those photos and what camera I use.
I didn’t have any formal training in photography but I recall the days when I was fascinated holding my very first disposable camera back when I was young. But I grew up hating point and shoot cameras, and to this date, intimidated by sophisticated DSLR and what have you’s. I feel like the complicated nature of those expensive cameras stop you from doing the real work – taking great photos.
I love that Apple honed the iPhone into something more than just a regular smartphone. It disrupted the photography industry and made Kodak bankrupt ~ a story that I will always love to go back to every now and then. I love that Steve Jobs simplified customer needs.
Just to share, the photos at Candid Cuisine are all taken by me and I only used an iPhone 4S. I sometimes feel awkward especially when I get invited by a restaurateur and I don’t have any sophisticated equipment, thereby worrying them I won’t give a good review. But they’re all satisfied with the end product, with me taking care of what’s most important in the process, the Subject, in my many cases: FOOD.
The Challenges in Taking Food Photos
Food is one of the toughest subjects to take pictures of. You know why? Because foods don’t look appetizing for long. (Especially ramen, you’ll notice the noodles will go soggy later on or the broth will lose its appeal.) So I usually need to be “candid” and quick and think ON THE SPOT, or better yet, conceptualize right before the dish arrives on the table. See how tough it is? It’s not easy. There are dishes that are naturally photogenic and there are some that are just plain ugly though they taste delicious.
I won’t pretend that I am some photography expert because I’m not, but my purpose is just to share some of my learnings along the way especially in taking amazing food photos in Instagram.
Top 5 Tips on Taking Amazing Food Photos on Instagram
Tip # 1: PRACTICE
Practice makes perfect. See that Instagram photo below? That’s one of my first food photos shared on Instagram, way before Candid Cuisine was born. Not so good right? It’s because I didn’t take things seriously. But if you’ve been wanting to ace your Instagram food photos all these time, you will need to practice and know what works for you.
Photography is partly skill-based. I browse through my gallery at Instagram and just saw how much my skills have grown, though sometimes I don’t take great photos even up to this point, so it’s consistency I am aiming for at the moment. I am not inherently talented in photography but I’ve grown to love it and accustomed to the craft.
Tip #2: USE NATURAL LIGHTING
I aim for natural lighting 99% of the time though restaurants don’t have this luxury most of the time. This is one of the most important learnings I had. Yellow light bulbs hanging above your food would cast shadows on your photo. This bowl of Happiness Ramen at Hanamaruken Ramen was taken with great effort. I had three light bulbs hanging on top of me and taking a top view photo of it (like I always do) casted a hand shadow. But using tip #1, I finally managed to evade these evil lights, and yes, on the spot.
Tip #3: #NOFILTER
I used to apply Instagram filters on my photos. Eventually I stopped using them. All of my photos are edited on mobile and with some practice, I mastered the art of editing through mobile devices. This saves the time of editing using Photoshop or Lightroom which consumes too much time and like DSLR’s, too much complicated language.
Tip #4: MASTER YOUR CAMERA
Whatever device you’re using or however old it may be doesn’t measure the quality of the photos you take. I had a friend who offered me to use his newly purchased Sony Ericsson Android phone that has 12 Megapixel camera when I went to Singapore. I am glad I used my instinct. Megapixels doesn’t equal great quality of photos. I took a sample photo using that phone and all the while I thought the crisp, high resolution specs of the phone would make the photos turned out great. The minute I transferred them to my Mac, the photos turned hideous, exposed and unbalanced. No amount of editing on Photoshop or Lightroom could save those photos.
Over time I mastered my trusty iPhone 4S and learned the boundaries that it can take better photos. When iOS7 was released, the UI for the Camera app changed, creating great commotion among iPhoneographers who had difficulty taking a great photo using iPhone unlike they did before. But again, with practice, I got the hang of things.
Tip #5: ANGLE
If you have noticed, most of my photos are taken from the top angle. A friend of mine jokingly thought I had to stand on a chair just to take a top view of the table. I laughed that idea off. I consider this one of my signature angles to work on.
One of my signature angles is also incorporating an extreme Rule of Thirds. For professional photographers out there, you’ll know that the Rule of Thirds is important. They say that people interact better with photos that have subjects situated at one third of the entire composition of the photo, however I apply more than this rule. I like extreme minimalism, so when I’m presented with clean surfaces, this is when I am most happy. A great example of this would be my review of Nomnomnom Happy Food.
Most of my photos are taken using this angle but I’ve also mixed it with the Fork’s angle, like the camera is about to get a taste of the dish. Well usually, I’m holding the actual subject on one hand and my iPhone on the other. Again, that takes a great deal of PRACTICE.
Bonus Tip: GET LUCKY
With a bit of luck you’ll always get a lucky shot. The photo above is one of my lucky shots. Oh and by the way, the first shot is always the best shot, so don’t obsess taking 10+ photos with the same angle.
I’m not restricting the art of taking amazing food photos on Instagram to these 6 tips. You’ll always have to get out of the box and try something new every now and then. That’s where you’ll make mistakes and learn.
It’s best if you’ll catch me on Instagram as well and get the most out of my learnings. It’s both my training ground and actual practice.
I’m open to learn about DSLRs and all that. We’ll see.
Follow my food photography on Instagram: @candidcuisine