PHOTOGRAPHING food used to be a habit among food bloggers in the past but thanks to photo sharing sites like Instagram, that habit has been taken to a whole new level. Almost everyone takes photos of food now.

People even joke that they can’t enjoy their food until a photo of the meal is posted up on social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Chili crab and deep fried bun from a seafood restaurant in Kepong; shot using iPhone 4S.

Well, it is possible to take mouth-watering food photos if you know how to use your camera, particularly your phone camera, to its fullest potential.

Here are some tips that I follow to achieve the best result when photographing my meals, mostly with an iPhone 4S.


I always choose to sit at a table where there’s light. Sometimes at a table that has a direct light source above it or maybe near a window for the sunlight or even go al fresco if the weather is nice and cool.

IKEA Swedish meatball, only available at IKEA food court; shot using iPhone 4S.

Ample lighting makes photographing food easy. It allows the camera to choose a fast shutter speed to avoid blurry photos and produce an evenly exposed photo. The colours in the picture will also pop out and seem vibrant under natural sunlight instead of artificial light source (such as tungsten or fluorescent lighting).

Fill ‘em up

I generally do not like to leave too much unused space in my photo when it comes to taking food shots. I love to fill up the frame entirely to bring out as much detail as possible and close in for the mouth watering and this-looks-really-yummy feel. By ‘closing in’, I can also remove any unwanted objects or distractions around the subject in my photos. This way, the viewers will focus only on the food and nothing else.

Macro mode

Most phone cameras have a macro mode and this mode is particularly useful in snapping food photos. Macro mode allows you photograph from as near as possible to the food and you will still be able to snap a clear and sharp photo, revealing all kinds of patterns, texture and interesting details there.

Pad Thai Spaghetti from Ben's, Pavilion KL; shot using iPhone 4S.

Additional light source

If the venue is too dark, you will have to add other light sources by using external flash gun for DSLR or the built-in flash for your phone and compact camera.

It is relatively easy if you have an external flash gun as you can just bounce the light off the ceiling for a well lit photo. However, just using the built-in flash for phone or compact camera will make your food photo look flat and uninteresting.

This is when your friend’s phone camera comes in handy. Use their phone (they must have a flashlight app somewhere in there) to provide light from another angle while you press the shutter button on your own phone.

You can also control the lighting by placing your friend’s phone at the right place to bring out the best of your subject.

Old school nasi lemak, wrapped in banana leaf and served with a spoonful of sambal ikan bilis and a slice of egg; shot using iPhone 4S.

I have a friend who purchased a video light and carries it everywhere to take food photos. The photos, even though snapped using a smart phone, are of very high DSLR-ish quality.

Stay clean

Always watch out for unwanted mess like jutting bones, skin, spilled drinks and gravy or tissue paper as you don’t want to include them in your frame.

Make sure the plate is clean and wipe the rim with a clean tissue if there are any droplets of gravy or sauce. A clean plate will make the food look a lot more presentable. Another important thing to remember is to avoid posting photos of half-eaten food.

Colorful lollipops; shot using iPhone 4S.

Be considerate

Unless you are having your meal alone, act fast and shoot fast before the food gets cold. If there are other people at the table, don’t hold them up. Be considerate. Cold food does not taste good and do remember that you are there for the food, not the photo.

* If you think you can handle all the mouth-watering food photos, follow Jason Lioh on Twitter at
@jasonmumbles. And yes, he can eat his food without posting them on Instagram.

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