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Wine and Photography: Four Tips for Better Food & Wine Photos on Your Smartphone

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Your friends and family might know you as that one, the foodie or wine lover who always whips out your cellphone right when everyone else's forks are hovered above their plates. There is nothing wrong with capturing that perfect dish and wine pairing – in fact, we encourage it! Jeff Burrows of Food Wine Click shares four tips on how to make your cellphone shot better.


There you are at that restaurant you've been dying to try. You take a photo of the artwork on the plate before you, but it just doesn't look right. What's the deal?

Whether you're traveling or just at a neighborhood restaurant, your phone's greatest advantage is that it's always with you. Always. Even so, you may be disappointed by the photos when you're trying to capture that fabulous meal or glass of wine. 

Pay attention to these four simple tips and you'll be happier with those photos from your phone:

All of Jeff's photos were taken with an iPhone 5.

 

1. Turn Off the Flash

Restaurant light is almost always dim and the natural tendency is to use the LED flash on your camera to get the photo. Don't do it!  Turn off your flash. You'll be surprised at how good the photos can be with natural light. Plus, you'll be much less bothersome to those around you, including your tablemates.

Your phone flash creates harsh lighting with sharp shadows. Often, the colors are a bit off. With ambient light, the image will be softer and more natural.

Flash (left) shows harsh lighting & shadows, natural light (right) is softer with natural background
Flash (left) shows harsh lighting & shadows, natural light (right) is softer with natural background

OK, now that your flash is off, you want to pay attention to lighting: go for lunch, ask for a table by a window (without sunlight streaming in), or ask for that table with a bit better lighting.

Indirect lighting through a big window is perfect!
Indirect lighting through a big window is perfect!

When all you have is candlelight, you can still get some very nice photos. Even moving the candle helps, be creative with candle placement!

Move the candle from the front (left photo) to behind the glass (right) to highlight the beautiful color in the glass.
Move the candle from the front (left photo) to behind the glass (right) to highlight the beautiful color in the glass.

Today's mobile phone cameras are capable of making beautiful photos in good light.  Bright, indirect lighting from a window is perfect.

When the lighting is good, a phone camera can do a great job. Look for bright, indirect light (no sunlight streaming in)
When the lighting is good, a phone camera can do a great job.
Look for bright, indirect light (no sunlight streaming in)

 

2. Learn Your Camera

Auto-everything has its advantages, but sometimes it will defeat your best efforts unless you can take control. Learn how to set the focus & exposure point in the photo.  Be prepared to take several photos, as your camera will want to override what you are doing.  Backgrounds with lots of detail are especially challenging.

Your phone won't automatically focus on the glass, but you can override it, learn how!
Your phone won't automatically focus on the glass, but you can override it, learn how!

Last, indoor light often has a warm, yellow cast.  If you adjust the white balance, your photo will have natural colors.

Use natural light, select the focus point and adjust white balance. Nice.
Use natural light, select the focus point and adjust white balance. Nice.

 

3. Take Advantage of the Unique Capabilities of a Mobile Phone Camera

Your phone isn't a professional camera, and it has its shortcomings.  However, it has some unique advantages that pro cameras lack.  Take advantage!

Get Into Tight Spots

That tiny lens in the corner of your phone can go places a larger camera just won't fit. Find those unique points of view!

Stick your phone camera right into that glass of wine.
Stick your phone camera right into that glass of wine.

Video

Camera phones take great video. Recent additions of slow-motion and time lapse modes add to the fun. Learn to use them and capitalize!

Close Focus

Your phone camera will focus at incredibly short distances.  Use your newfound skill to ensure the focus point is where you choose. Put a little distance between the close object and the background, and you'll throw the background out of focus, bringing attention to the object you chose.

Unusual point of view and close focus, easy with your phone.
Unusual point of view and close focus, easy with your phone.

 

4. Use your Artist's Eye

Use your visual artist's eye. Arrange your subjects carefully, add some fun details: the cork almost always adds something. Tell a story with your photo, have some fun!


Jeff Burrows, Food Wine ClickJeff Burrows 

I'm a photographer and blogger from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I love exploring the intersection of food and wine, especially the idea of "If it grows together, it goes together". I love the Piemonte, especially the warm welcome I've received on my visits to the region.  You'll find lots of photos and stories of our trips on my blog, foodwineclick!

www.foodwineclick.com
TW @foodwineclick

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