Whether you’re shooting a restaurant meal or a homemade creation, you can enhance your food shots with some tricks…

Make it look appetizing: For social postings of restaurant meals, your cell-phone camera is capable of capturing good shots. Your images often are viewed on small screens, so keep compositions simple and tightly cropped. Add a napkin, side dish or a glass to give scale and interest to your food story. Also…

  • Look for good lighting opportunities. Soft window light and bright artificial lighting work well. In dark interiors, often the brightest lighting is on top of the bar—bring your plate to the bar for the shot. Or you might want to consider lighting when selecting your table.
  • Turn off your flash. Newer phones have excellent low-light capability, and ambient light is always more attractive than flash.
  • Rotate the plate to find the best composition, and take several shots from different angles.
  • Shoot as soon as possible after food arrives so that everything looks fresh.
  • Keep hands and faces out—let the meal be your hero.
  • Use your phone’s crop tool and other editing tools to “finish” your image if you’re uploading immediately. Modern smartphones have good resolution, so a onetime minor crop and rotating of an image do little to degrade the image.

Show the steps. If you’re shooting home-cooked recipes, consider using a “real” camera such as a DSLR so that the image quality is better. Also, consider shooting your cooking process—people love to see step-by-step shots. Try to keep the background setting, exposure and lighting consistent for your series of food-prep images. Study similar image series from food blogs or magazines for composition ideas—good sites include CookieAndKate.comThePioneerWoman.com/cooking…and SeriousEats.com. Unlike in most restaurant shots, it’s fine to show hands at work.

Direct or diffused sunlight provides interesting shadows and has a warm quality. You can use white or sheer curtains to soften and diffuse daylight.

To fill in harsh shadows, use white poster board as a reflector. You can cut the board down if it is too large. Place it just outside the camera’s view on the side with the deepest shadows. Place it farther out if it adds too much light. Don’t overdo it—you want your shots to be three–dimensional, so it’s good to have a healthy ratio of shadows and highlights.

If you’re shooting at night, home lighting often isn’t sufficient. You can purchase a light from photography-equipment stores. One example is the Lowel Ego light ($143, Lowel.Tiffen.com/ego).

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