One of the questions I get asked the most is: how do you take such great photos?!
First off, I believe that some people just have a great eye for food photos. I like to think I have a good eye for it, but I 100% believe that food styling and editing is a big part of the photography game.
I have been hired as a food photographer by many publications and restaurants in New York, New Jersey, Miami, LA, and Chicago. Most recently, I was hired by Time Out magazine, where I was shipped up to Boston for 2 nights to photograph the brand new Time Out Market. This was Jan 2020 – a much, much simpler time. Here’s a few pics from that shoot!
Now, I’m not sharing these just to humblebrag about how great I am at food photography. I’m actually sharing these because it showcases the importance of GOOD LIGHTING. Most of these photos barely needed any editing at all, which is a dream come true for a photographer.
I brought artificial lights with me just in case I needed them for those kitchen shots (above) where the lighting tends to be very yellow and harsh, but a lot of these were taken right by a window, with indirect light. As a food photographer (and for my personal style), I love an overcast day, with a table right near a window. It creates beautiful shadows and picks up highlights in all the right places.
For those times when I’m shooting in places that require a lot of extra help, here are some apps I use for creating content and editing photos/video. There are so many out there now, I’m sure there are some great new ones that I don’t even know about, but I love all of these below and have been using them regularly for YEARS. In order of preference, please see below. Keep in mind these are all FREE, but some of them have upgrades for very cheap and they make a big difference!
The 5 FREE Photo Editing Apps You Need!
- Adobe Lightroom: this is the closest thing to serious photo editing software I have found for use on mobile. I can edit brightness, saturation, highlights, shadows, and sharpness all with a few swipes of my fingers. I use it on almost every photo. Link here to download for iPhone and here for Android.
- InShot: this is for videos, and it costs $2.99 to upgrade to “Pro”, which removed the inShot watermark from your videos. 100% worth it. My favorite features are the ability to crop your video freely (or you can use preset sizes) and the text function. Lots of different text styles available to help create a great video, quickly and easily. Link here to download for iPhone and here for Android.
- Snapseed: before I discovered Lightroom, I lived on Snapseed. The one MAJOR downside I had with Snapseed is it’s not very intuitive. I actually had to YouTube how to use it. But once you understand how it works (which I can’t explain with words, you just have to watch it), it’s got a lot of great features. The Brush option is amazing – use your finger to brighten or saturate only specific parts of your photo (like making cheese more yellow, or bacon more red, or brightening one side of a bagel that got a little too much shadow). The healing feature is also pretty great for removing unwanted spots on a table (or anything)! Link here to download for iPhone and here for Android.
- Imgplay: technically a GIF-maker, but I use this to create little stop motion videos with my photos. If you use the burst option on your iPhone, or if you have a DSLR and put it in Sport Mode (the increased shutter speed function to capture moving images clearly), you can piece all of these photos together in Imgplay to create one fluid video. Link here to download for iPhone and here for Android.
- Facetune: ok before you laugh at me, Facetune is not just for making your butt rounder or your face smoother. This app comes in REAL handy for food photos sometimes! You can increase the size of a sandwich using the “resize” function, and the “detail” function is great for emphasizing details or layers in dishes. Link here to download for iPhone and here for Android. I could only find Facetune2 on the Google Play store, but I can’t imagine that’s much different than the original, if anything, probably better.
Here’s an example of Lightroom editing. And shoutout to Sambal in Westchester for these delicious Shrimp Shumai. The original photo you can see is a bit muted (not a lot of contrast) and ever so slightly blurry. I played with the brightness levels, as well as a few other things like highlights, vibrance, clarity, and sharpening.
And here’s an example of Snapseed + Facetune. I used Snapseed’s “Healing” function to remove the onion and garlic from the background, then I used Facetune’s “Tones” function to color in the table and the “Patch” function to remove any smaller spots. Now, I’ll admit this isn’t my BEST work honestly, but I bet if you didn’t see the original (and it wasn’t side by side), you would have never thought “oh I bet there was an onion and some garlic back there”. Perhaps if you’re a designer with a keen eye or someone who just notices these things, but for the average person, it works!
Here’s another with Lightroom + Facetune. It’s subtle, but you can see how it just pops a bit more and has more definition to each layer.
So there you have some of my most tried and true photo editing apps in 2020! And if you want to see some examples of what I do with InShot for video, click on the below IGTV links. Again, I’m not the best with video, but this app helps me pretend that I am.
PB Chocolate Chip Energy Bites:
Boiled & Broiled Buffalo Wings:
And if you have any other suggestions, drop a comment or let me know on IG! @skinnypignyc