Equipment for better phone food photography

Equipment for better phone food photography

While I use my (affiliate) Canon 1300D for professional photography and images destined for the blog, having a decent-quality camera always available in my back pocket is, undeniably, hugely helpful when I’m out and about.

There’s no need to faff about getting a big DSLR out at every meal – I generally use my phone camera to snap food for Insta, right before I eat it.

I keep these three little puieces of equioment in my car though and, with my phone camera, they let me set up kind of ‘mini photography studio’ on the go.


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Affiliate disclosure: This post uses affiliate links. If you purchase products or services via an affiliate link I’ll get a small commission (which supports the running of this site) and it won’t cost you anything extra. I’ll specifically point out each affiliate link in the post. Learn more here.

3 pieces of kit that’ll help you take better food photos on your phone

1. Flexible mini tripod

A tripod is a great way to make the most of the natural light.

A mini tripod like this is perfect for on-the-go. It comes with a smartphone attachment, the flexible legs let you attach your smartphone to pretty much anything, and the stand-ball head makes it even easier to capture photos from almost any angle.

Find the perfect angle for your food and keep your phone absolutely still, so its easier to focus and get the perfect snap in low light. Using a holder like this also means that you can easily take photos that include your hands in the shot.

Buy this flexible mini tripod in the Fig & Fennel shop to keep your phone steady while you take food photos.

2. Mini ring light

This ring light clips onto the front of back of pretty much any phone, allowing you to easily and discreetly fill any photo with a pleasant light. Natural light is best for food photography, but thats not always possible, so using a ring light like this, on its lowest setting, allows you to take food photos on your phone after dark.

Buy this mini clip-on ring light in the Fig & Fennel shop, to improve your phone food photography

3. 5-in-1 diffuser/reflector

The wrong light source can ruin a good photo. Carrying a small 5-in-1 diffuser/reflector with you lets you manipulate the light (by diffusing bright, glaring sunlight or reflecting a single-source light to fill dark shadows).

Buy this mini 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser for better food photography on the go.


Taking food photos using an iPhone or another smartphone can be an easy and cheap way to get great food photos when you’re out and about.

You can now get these three items together as a £30 bundle in the Fig & Fennel shop.

Improve your phone food photography by keeping a tripod, ring light and mini diffuser/reflector on-hand, so you can easily take the best food photos on your phone.

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Equipment for better phone food photography

The best VSCO filters for food photography

https://figandfennel.photography/blog/the-best-vsco-filters-for-food-photography/

This blog post originally appeared on EatsLeeds.co.uk & ZoePickburn.com and has now been republished & redirected here to my freelance food photography site Fig & Fennel. 

Affiliate disclosure: This post uses affiliate links. If you purchase products or services via an affiliate link I’ll get a small commission (which supports the running of this site) and it won’t cost you anything extra. I’ll specifically point out each affiliate link in the post. Learn more here.


I’ve been posting a series on food photography for bloggers and food businesses for the past few years now, and something that repeatedly comes up is the best VSCO filters to use for food photography.

While I use my DSLR for most of my professional food photography (both for freelance work and for the recipe shots I take for this blog), a lot of the food photos on my Insta are taken with my phone.

I always use VSCO to edit my photos (I have a post on my editing process in VSCO here) but sometimes a simple filter is all you have time for.

This is going to be a quick post on my favourite filter in VSCO for food photos.


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What is VSCO?

VSCO is a freemium photo editing app, available on Android or iOS.

While there is functionality that you can choose to pay for, I’ve been using the free version of VSCO on Android for years and have never felt like I’m missing out on features that I could access in the paid version.

In the app, you can upload your photos and then edit them, either by manually adjusting settings or by applying a pre-set filter.

Why edit in VSCO instead of in Instagram?

Firstly, VSCO offers more editing options than the Instagram app, so you have more aspects of the image to play with.

The key draw of VSCO against editing directly in Insta though is that it allows you to edit a few photos and then export them to a scheduling app like Planoly (which I use) or LaterGram. This gives you the freedom to arrange & preview your grid, compose your captions and schedule out a few posts in advance.

The options to export also mean that you can edit a photo and then re-use it on other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter or on your stories, instead of it being ‘locked’ in Instagram.

How do you edit food photos in VSCO?

I won’t go into too much detail here, as I actually have a full step-by-step post on editing your food snaps in VSCO here.

When I’m editing food photos on-the-go using VSCO, I normally bring the exposure & contrast up, sharpen the image, take the saturation down and play with the white balance a little (usually taking the temperature down and the tint up a tiny bit).

My editing style has evolved over the years, and this is the way I currently have my Insta aesthetic styled (very pale, with moody pastel tones)*

*I’m very aware that using phrases like ‘my Insta aesthetic’ and ‘moody pastel tones’ makes me sound like a millennial wanker, but I don’t even care. I love working on having a pretty ‘gram so just let me live, mmkay?

Before 'manual' editing in VSCO
Before ‘manual’ editing in VSCO
After 'manual' editing in VSCO
After ‘manual’ editing in VSCO

What are the best VSCO filters for food photography?

Quick and simple as that manual edit was, sometimes you just want to get your photos out there fast.

As with Insta, thats where filters come in. The VSCO filters are a bit more subtle than the Instagram ones, so I still prefer to use VSCO even in a filters-only level rush.

There are 10 filters to choose from in the free version of VSCO. I tend to use F2 as my go-to filter on VSCO, but it really depends on the overall look and feel you’re going for.

Lets take a look at all the free filters, shall we?

VSCO filter B1
B1
VSCO Filters F2
F2
VSCO Filters M5
M5
VSCO Filters X1
X1
VSCO filter B5
B5
VSCO Filters G3
G3
VSCO Filters P5
P5
VSCO Filters C1
C1
VSCO Filters M3
M3
VSCO Filters T1
T1
  • B1 – Monochrome filters aren’t the best for food, so I wouldn’t recommend
  • B5 – Again, monochrome isn’t great for food, but if you prefer the black & white look, B5 is probably the best for food
  • C1 – A bright filter, perfect for busy, colourful feeds
  • F2 – This is my go-to VSCO filter for food photos, keeping them crisp but not over-saturated
  • G3 – G3 probably comes a close second as my favourite VSCO filter
  • M3 – This filter is best if you prefer the dark & moody look, again keeping the food crisp and not over-saturating the colours
  • M5 – As with M3, this filter can be good for a ‘moody’ look, but with a little more colour
  • P5 – P5 is a very dark filter, with lots of blue tones that can make food look quite unappetising
  • T1 – I love T1 for moody landscapes, but it just makes food look indistinct and grey – probably my least favourite of the colour filters for food
  • X1 – As with B1 and B5, monochrome just isn’t well-suited to food photography

The best VSCO filter really depends on the look and feel you’re going for. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but my personal favourite is F2.


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The best VSCO filters for food photography

How to use VSCO to edit food photos on your phone

How to use VSCO to edit food photos on your phone

This blog post originally appeared on EatsLeeds.co.uk & ZoePickburn.com and has now been republished & redirected here to my freelance food photography site Fig & Fennel. 

Affiliate disclosure: This post uses affiliate links. If you purchase products or services via an affiliate link I’ll get a small commission (which supports the running of this site) and it won’t cost you anything extra. I’ll specifically point out each affiliate link in the post. Learn more here.


Use free apps like VSCO for food photography that is even more beautiful

 So, recently I posted my guide to taking more beautiful food photos on your phone, which included a bunch of simple tips that will make your phone-based food photography way more beautiful. Today though, I’m sharing some of my top tips for using free photo editing app VSCO for food pictures that will make your Instagram followers drool

This post isn’t going to tell you how to TAKE pretty pictures on your phone – you’ll need to check out my phone food photography guide for the full deets on that. This is working under the assumption that you’re taking decent pictures of some pretty food, and you just want to up your food photography game with a little help from VSCO (just FYI, I have literally no affiliation to VSCO, I just think that it is an AWESOME free tool for anyone into photography).

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How to Use VSCO for Food Photography

Just a note: this post was first published in 2016, so the look of the VSCO app has changes slightly – the basic functionality & the edits you’ll make have largely remained the same though.

1. Download the VSCO App

Go to VSCO.co to access the VSCO app. The app is available on the App Store for iOS; and on the Google Play Store for Android (I use the Android version). Download the app, create an account and log in within a few minutes.

2. Take a picture…

Obvious, right? In my previous post, I mentioned two points that at particularly important here you should a) take photos directly in your phone’s camera app (this gives you more flexibility later) and b) set your phone’s camera to capture a square (1:1 ratio) image, instead of having to crop later (on a Samsung, open the camera app, then use the settings gear, to select ‘picture size’ and 1:1)

3. … And open it in VSCO

Now you can take your picture. Then press the ‘share via’ icon and scroll down to select VSCO. Your image should now be open in VSCO. Tap the image to select it, then click the slider icon at the bottom of the screen to begin editing.

How to Use VSCO for Food Photography Edits

4. Apply any filters

Here you can choose a filter, if you like. I don’t tend to use filters because I prefer the control of being able to manually adjust the image (which we’ll get to in the next step, don’t you worry), but if you are using filters, I think that the options in VSCO are just a bit more subtle than the options in Instagram. Get my guide tp using VSCO filters here.

How to Use VSCO for Food Photography Edits

5. Manually adjust the image

How to Use VSCO for Food Photography Edits

Once you’ve made a decision about filters (and when you first start using VSCO for food photography editing, I know how addictive it can be to just scroll through the filters trying them all out), slide upwards on the arrow at the bottom of the screen and select the slider icon again to access all the adjustment options. Being honest, the best way to get a feel for them is probably to spend a few minutes trying them all. I go into a bit of detail below about the key ones I use:

For each of the settings below, select the relevant icon, and adjust the level by moving the slider at the bottom of the screen right or left. When you’ve got that particular setting adjusted to the right level, click on the circle in the bottom right of your screen to save, or the x in the bottom left to return to the image before you made that adjustment. The key settings that I adjust go in pairs, as follows:

Crop & straighten

How to Use VSCO for Food Photography Edits

Though they are different things, I’ve grouped crop and straighten together because the adjustments they make to the image are fundamentally different to the other ways I use VSCO for food photography image editing, in that they physically change the composition of the image, rather than adjusting the makeup of it (to use a flimsy simile, cropping and straightening are like going on a diet and losing weight to make yourself look different and the rest of the edits I’m using are like changing your clothes to make yourself look different. Kind of. I did say it was flimsy).

As mentioned in point 1, take all your images in 1:1 ratio and you shouldn’t need to crop unless a sneaky finger or shoe is just visible in one corner, in which case crop as little as possible (sticking with the 1:1 ratio, of course). Similarly, try to line your images up to the ideal angle before you come to editing, but if your image has very clear straight vertical or horizontal lines, then a little straightening may be called for.

How to Use free app VSCO for Food Photography Edits
How to Use free app VSCO for Food Photography Edits
How to Use free app VSCO for Food Photography Edits
How to Use free app VSCO for Food Photography Edits

Exposure & contrast

I’m lumping these together because, 9 times out of ten, they should be used in exactly the same way: Adjust the exposure up to +1 or +2 (occasionally +3 or +4 if the image is very dark, but any more than that and it will just look overexposed), then save, and adjust the contrast by the same amount or sometimes +1 less (so if the exposure is adjusted to +2, the contrast will be adjusted to +1 or +2)

Using VSCO - the free app for photo editing
Using VSCO - the free app for photo editing
Using VSCO - the free app for photo editing
Using VSCO - the free app for photo editing

Saturation & temperature

Again, these are bunched together because they serve a similar purpose and I tend to use them in tandem: Increase the saturation to +1 or +2 to make all the colours in the image a bit more bright and vibrant, then adjust the temperature to anywhere between -1 and +2 to balance out the artificial look of an over-saturated image.

VSCO for food photography
VSCO for food photography
VSCO for food photography
VSCO for food photography

Sharpen

The sharpen function is in a class all of its own, and is usually the last adjustment to make in VSCO for food pictures. It adjusts the definition of the image – a tiny adjustment, but it gives images a little boost that just makes them that bit more pretty. Adjust the sharpness to anywhere between +6 and +12 to make your foodstagrams really stand out.

How to use VSCO for food photos
How to use VSCO for food photos
How to use VSCO for food photos

6. Save the image & upload to Instagram

Free Android app for food photography
Free Android app for food photography

Once you are happy with your Foodie Instagram Picture, scroll up on the arrow at the bottom of your screen and select the circle on the bottom left of the screen to save the image.

In the home screen, tap the image to select it, the tap the three-dot ‘more’ symbol in the bottom right of your screen.

From this menu, you can either choose ‘Share’ to send the image directly to Instagram or ‘Save to Gallery’ which I usually use, so that I can share to Instagram later.

Free Android app for food photography

That is the way I use VSCO for food pictures, but I massively encourage you to have a play with all the adjustment options and find a combination that suits you and your style. Eventually you’ll get into a routine, and know what adjustments an image is likely to need, almost before you’ve even taken the picture.

via GIPHY


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How to use VSCO to edit food photos on your phone

Improve Your Phone Food Photography

How to take better food photos on your phone

This blog post originally appeared on EatsLeeds.co.uk & ZoePickburn.com and has now been republished & redirected here to my freelance food photography site Fig & Fennel. 

Affiliate disclosure: This post uses affiliate links. If you purchase products or services via an affiliate link I’ll get a small commission (which supports the running of this site) and it won’t cost you anything extra. I’ll specifically point out each affiliate link in the post. Learn more here.


First up: I know that this is a departure from my usual posts. I’ve been blogging about the food I love for a few months now, and I’m really really really enjoying the whole process – I love having a creative outlet, and the feeling of accomplishment as I watch my blog get prettier, and my numbers go up. I’m also really enjoying learning again – I’ve been out of university for two years now and I think I secretly missed learning new things – the web design, the marketing and the photography involved in food blogging have all been huge learning curves for me.

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So recently I’ve had a few compliments on my Instagram feed, and I’m not going to lie, its something that I’m pretty proud of. Without a doubt, I get the most engagement on Instagram compared with other social media channels, and though I only have a tiny, baby following so far, I absolutely love it – both as a way to share my posts and as a source of foodie inspiration.

I’ve been really keen to get out of my food-blog comfort zone recently, so I thought I’d write my top tips on how to instagram your food, without spending any money on equipment or software. I probably take about 80% of the images on my Instagram directly on my phone: that is how the platform was designed, it is the most convenient (and least obtrusive) method of photography, and most smartphones produced in the last few years have fairly decent cameras built-in, (at least, decent enough to take good Instagram pictures).

The rest I take using either my trusty Canon PowerShot S90 (unfortunately now out of production – the newest model is the [affiliate link] Canon Powershot G9), which takes beautiful pictures for it’s size, and is small enough to take out everywhere I go; or my [affiliate link] Canon EOS 1300D, which is on a whole different level of gorgeous photography, and deserves a ‘how to’ post all of its’ own.

How to improve your food photography on your phone

How to improve your food photography on your phone

1. Eat pretty food

Or, more accurately, only post your pretty meals to Instagram. There is no getting away from the fact that Instagram is a visual platform, and if your food looks like a pile of slop, you will struggle to make it look appetising. Colourful food tends to be the most beautiful. Also, consider the way your food is arranged on the plate: think of creating stripes, or concentric circles, or observing the rule of thirds. Play around and make it beautiful.

2. Move towards the light

Lighting is essential for any photography, and especially so if you are taking pictures on a phone. Try to capture most of the images destined for Instagram in natural light, outside or by a window (this is why I can be found wandering about outside my office with my food most lunchtimes…) Second to natural light is a strong overhead light, or a big lamp – whatever the light-source you can gravitate towards it like a moth. I’d recommend using flash basically never, the light source is way too harsh, which will make the image look very washed out, with deep, unnatural shadows.

3. Open up your phone’s camera app to take photos, not Instagram

There are two reasons for this, firstly, your phone’s camera app will have much better capability to capture higher resolution, higher quality images, meaning that the picture will come out much more clearly. Secondly, capturing images in your phone’s camera app gives you much greater flexibility in terms of editing – more on this later.

4. Compose yourself

Composition takes the entire layout and setup of the picture into account, as a whole image, not just looking at the main subject (your food, probably). Composition is super important: You have one little square, and everything in that square is part of the picture (on which note, it can be really useful to set your phone’s camera to capture a square (1:1 ratio) image, instead of having to crop later). The next couple of points will go into a little more detail on composition elements.

5. Get the angles right

How to take better food photos with a phone

Even though food photos taken directly overhead are on-trend, this isn’t always the most flattering angle to use. Sometimes, when the entire dish doesn’t look perfect, finding a ‘good side’ and a photographing from a 45-degree angle (slightly from above, and to one side) is the best, easiest and simplest way to hide it. Some things also look most impressive directly side-on (I’m thinking anything with layers like cake, or drinks in bottles, which can look beautiful from directly in front), so play around!

6. Frame and background

Now, just pause and look at the edges of the picture. Think about how your image will look as a whole: what do you want in the frame (nice cups and cutlery, clean tea towels or napkins (in a pinch, I’ve used an actual scarf to liven up an image), small houseplants or pretty notebooks, or anything else that can pretty-up the picture, without detracting from the food) and what do you want to remove? (does that crumpled tissue/ sock with a hole in one toe/ busy main road really portray the atmosphere you’re aiming for?) Find the prettiest, least cluttered space you can to take your foodstagrams.

7. Focus

Make sure to tap the area of your screen that should be in focus (generally whatever food you’re photographing) right before you take the photo, then check and go again if it isn’t in focus. This can be much harder in low light. Hold your phone as still as possible to help it keep focus: one way to do this is by bracing your elbows against the table or a chair back, to limit the natural movement of your hands. Protip: If you have a very lovely and helpful person nearby (hello, Instagram husbands!) ask them to tap the screen, if both of your hands are full.

8. Use all the free tools at your disposal

Now that you’ve taken an image that you’re happy with (and it may take a few goes to get that perfect picture) it is time to fine-tune it. There are a few free photo-editing apps out there, but my favourite by far is VSCO – I find that the controls are much more finely-tuned than editing directly in Instagram, so the images come out looking distinctly prettier, but not over-edited. I have posts about using VSCO to edit your food photos & which VSCO filters work best for food photography.

9. Have no shame

If you are serious about taking more beautiful foodstagrams, you are occasionally going to have to look like a fool. Sometimes, you need to pick up your dinner plate and take it over to the window to get the light just right, or stand in the most awkward positions in order to get the side shot of your favourite beer against a clean wall. This isn’t to say that you’ll have to mess about every time you take a picture, and you certainly shouldn’t do anything that makes you feel really uncomfortable, but yes, to get the most out of every foodstagram opportunity, you will more than likely find yourself at some time or other, doing something that could be seen as embarrassing (shout out to my very own Instagram husband for putting up with all my embarrassing sh*t).

Take better food photos on your phone

No matter how delicious or pretty your food is, no matter how proud you are of your latest bake, or how excited you are to be visiting a new restaurant, sometimes you just have to give your foodstagram endeavour up.

If the room is just too dark, or the food is just not photographing well (or even if you’re just too hungry to mess about taking pictures) it is better to just give it up as a bad job, and take a different awesome picture tomorrow. Don’t overthink this – it is easy to get obsessed, but it is only social media: you don’t want your food to be cold, or your entire evening to be spent staring at your phone (and ignoring the actual real people who you might be eating with).

You will end up with a much more beautiful feed if you slowly and carefully curate the pictures you are really proud of, than if you post every rushed, dark, blurry image you take.

So there you have my tips for making your foodstagrams even more beautiful. Make sure to tag me @zoepickburn in your best foodstagrams

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How to take better food photos on your phone