John Gholson, Director of Creative Development at Rocksauce | APPS | 04.10.2012 @ 9:33 am
The most common joke yesterday, in the wake of Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram, was that the social network had paid an extraordinary amount of money for people’s sepia-toned photos of their dinner. First of all, Instagram doesn’t even have a straight-up sepia filter, and, secondly, anybody who’s serious about using an app to take a picture of their dinner is using something better than Instagram for that purpose. Try Picdish, Evernote Food, and my personal favorite, Foodspotting, and you’ll see that there are apps specifically designed to capture memorable meals.
I tend to use Evernote Food for meals cooked at home and Foodspotting for restaurant outings. Evernote Food has limited social aspects, but seems well-designed for creating your own library of recipes and attaching those to photos of the finished product. Foodspotting, on the other hand, is a social network designed around food and sharing great meals from restaurants with others. You can attach a photo of your meal to the location, so that others can use the app to see what kind of food is being served up. You can mark food from user photos as “tried,” “loved,” or “want” so that you can offer recommendations, or earmark a beautiful plate of chicken and waffles that you want to remember for later.
The only real downside to an app like Foodspotting is the crowd-sourced photographic content. I realize not everyone is a professional food photographer — I’m not either — but a poorly photographed meal, no matter how delicious it may have actually been, can look unappetizing as a cluster of out-of-focus blobs, washed out with the white light of the flash. You want to capture an image that makes the mouth water, if you’re posting the pic as a selling point for that restaurant.
Here are some quick tips that can help you get the best from your food photos.
1. Use a photo editing app.
I use Camera Plus to take the picture, then I tap “edit” then “clarify.” It’s a bit like using auto-contrast in Photoshop. Your colors pop a little more, darks get darker, highlights get lighter. Instagram works just fine in a pinch, but pay close attention to how the app affects the food’s colors. I save the image to my camera roll and import it into one of the food apps, instead of snapping the image through the food app itself.
2. Pay attention to composition.
This doesn’t even require an artist’s eye. If you’re taking a picture of a hamburger for example, it does no good to take a top view. You just end up with a picture of a bun. Lower the camera, get in close, get all the layers in the frame — the crisp lettuce, the seared beef patty, the glisten of the mustard, the shine from the crinkled pickles. Everything that would make you want to eat that burger should be in the frame. Move things around if you have to. Is a napkin in the way? Would your fries look better if they were stacked a little differently? Sometimes it only takes something as simple as turning your plate around to get a better shot. Remember, the food is the supermodel, not the table. These are things that take maybe 5 seconds of your time, but can produce far superior photos.
3. Turn off your flash.
Trust your iPhone. Unless you’re eating in a cave, chances are the camera will pick up your food just fine. You want to try and capture how the food looks in the restaurant’s natural ambience as best you can. I have yet to eat in a place so dark that I was unable to get an attractive pic of my meal. The flash tends to make the food look unappetizing, forcing out shadows and texture and washing everything pale with a blast of light.