Often the best camera for the shot is the one that you happen to have with you at the time, and luckily we live in an era where the camera in your pocket is good enough to create some cracking images! With that in mind, and seeing as not everyone has access to professional-level kit, here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your smartphone camera.
Turn your phone upsidedown! Flipping your phone brings the lens closer to the same level as the subject you're shooting. This creates a 'hero shot' where the dish is given an imposing perspective, and makes your food seem larger than life! Images like this draw attention because it's an angle that fewer people are accustomed to seeing.
Use natural light to to create stunning images with minimal effort. One major contributing factor to poor quality images is that there's simply not enough light for the camera to work properly. Phones in particular tend to automatically set their settings based on the light on the subject, so making sure there's enough illumination means your image will have less noise in it (artifacts that appear when your ISO is set too high) and will be nice and sharp (as your camera will be able to use a fast shutter speed, removing the risk of your shots being blurred by hand movement.
Even lighting from one direction is a great place to start, and you can place your subject near to a large window to achieve this simply and easily. Positioning your set so that the light falls on the front of the object slightly to one side is ideal, but be sure to have fun experimenting!
To keep things really simple - the light colour temperature spectrum goes from cooler blue tones, to warmer yellow hughes. Now our brains can automatically adjust for this, and you dont necessarily notice the colour difference of various light sources, but this is something that cameras pick up on.
When you take a photograph, your phone camera will set it's White Balance where it makes an assumption about the kind of lighting that represents 'white' in your shot. If you're using one colour of light, your camera will be able to correctly record the colour data for the whole image, but if you're using mixed light then it will either set its White Balance for the blue end of the spectrum, or the yellow end, or somewhere in the middle. If this happens, your image will have an excess of blue or yellow, or a mixture of both, and won't look like a real representation of the subject as it would be viewed in real life.
As an example - if you're using natural light as your main light source, then avoid having tungsten bulbs like indoor ceiling or table lights also casting light on your subject. If you need some additional full illumination to lift the shaddows of your subject, try putting a piece of white card on that side just out of shot to reflect the daylight onto the scene.
Consider what's in the foreground and background of your frame. Positioning elements so that they're out of focus in the foreground or bakground can really help to draw the viewer's eye to the subject that's kept sharp, and creates a sense of depth and space to your image. Most modern cameras have a 'portrait mode' that helps accentuate the subject and soften the peripheral elements, and there are a number of apps for all mobile operating systems that can be used add DSLR bokeh to your snaps.
Ice, frozen foods and anything that decays at room temperature tends to be a real challenge to work with. Ice cubes in particular become a melty mess in minutes, diluting your drinks, and swiftly sogifying your set. Consider buying some cheap plastic ice cubes online. Professional-level cubes can be crazy expensive, but the more afforable plastic cubes that are roughly 1 inch in diameter look convincing enough and will save huge amounts of hassle!
This can seem daunting at first, but it's really incredibly easy to build a set that will help take your photos to the next level. Something as simple as painted cardboard sheets can have a massive visual impact. Take a look at this blog post for more info on how we build ours!