If you take a picture and don’t use a filter on Instagram, is it even really a picture? On the flip side, if you eat a meal and don’t take a picture, did you even really eat it? Food photography is one trend that has grown exponentially with the advent of social media, and with the specialization of cameras on our mobile devices this phenomenon is only increasing. While your camera flash mid-meal may be unnerving to your dinner date, taking pictures of your food and food blogging can help you lose weight, as it actually works a lot like a food journal would.
Journaling, or logging what you eat has long been a successful tool for dieters. In fact, dieters are 70 percent more successful when they journal. But, why just log what you eat when you could blog it. The food journals of the 21st century (i.e. our camera rolls, Instagram posts, Wine and Dine accounts and snap stories) have a plethora of advantages over the bulky notebooks dieters used to walk around with.
For one, the ease and accessibility; our phones are usually readily available, if not already out on the table, so capturing the meal can take mere moments. The real benefit comes when you take the time to stop before you eat to get that perfect shot of your meal though. Doing such, and subsequently editing your photo and crafting that perfect caption to post it, all work to slow down your eating, which gives your brain the time it needs to register that you’re full, and ultimately helps you to eat less. And when your post receives all those likes and comments, that validation from friends and followers can help keep you motivated too! All this makes you more mindful of what you are eating too, as you take the time to appreciate the textures, smells, looks and tastes of your food before inhaling it all, which has been shown to aid in weight loss too.
You don’t need to be a professional photographer to get out there and snap some photos, and you don’t need a bulky food journal to carry with you to log your eating. The answer is, as always, within your iPhone. Dieters, listen up, here’s how you can get those perfect food shots:
1. Natural light
The key to any great photo is light, and natural daylight creates the best photos. Artificial light can cast a yellow tone on objects, and professional grade lighting that accounts for it can be very expensive. For more accurate, clearer pictures of your food, use natural, diffused light by taking your picture outside or by a window.
2. Choosing the right angle
If you’re using your mobile device to capture your meal, shooting from above usually produces the best pictures. This is because your Iphone camera does not let you control aperture, which on a normal camera is what does things like make the background blurry and put the plate of food in focus, thus comprising an excellent food shot. Therefore, shots taken on an iPhone at any other angle aside from above can result in unrefined photos with busy backgrounds. To compose the best shot from above, simply arrange the food, cutlery, napkin, and other elements you want to include on the surface and push the rest out to the side. Take your picture from directly above your composition and be careful to not leave a shadow of yourself on the food, which can detract from the focus of the photo.
3. Consider the composition of the photo
One of the most important parts of a good food photo is the subject. If the dish looks ugly in real life, the photograph will most likely look ugly too. So, before you start snapping take a moment to refine your plate. Wipe away any drippings, crumbs and residue that may have found its way to your canvas and add color by including the napkin or plate mat in the shot. Experiment with cutlery placement and action: is the fork better on the side of your plate, or on the dish, spaghetti swirled around it? Your easy-over egg is going to look different in a picture with the knife beside the dish, then it will in a snapshot of the moment the knife cuts in and yolk begins to ooze out onto the plate. Cutting a piece of the food out will show the profile and layers, too. For food that isn’t “naturally” pretty, consider taking a tight, close-up shot, it’s a little trick that makes all food look better in photographs.
4. Control the shadows
Aim to take food pictures when there is a slight overcast (or move food to the shade) as taking photos in broad daylight can result in hard shadows from the bowls and cups on your image that ruin the shot. If you are shooting by a window and too much light is coming in, hang a sheer curtain or white bed sheet between the window and your food to diffuse the light. Another trick is to use a reflector, but you do not need the fancy ones photographers use. Just wrap a piece of aluminum foil on cardboard and have someone hold it on the side of the food not near the window, the light will bounce off the reflector and fill in the shadows.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.