Mouthwatering food photos entice readers into your food or travel story. But capturing the best quality while using only a smartphone camera in the notoriously low-light conditions of most restaurants can challenge even the most skilled photographers. Follow these simple tips to instantly elevate the quality of your photos:

Consider composition

Focus on your subject—usually the dish you’re photographing—and frame the photo so that anything distracting is removed from the frame. While a clean fork placed artfully next to the food can be used as a prop, dirty silverware on the plate, a clutter of smudged water glasses in the background, or random items on the table only take away the focus from the food itself. Come closer to the dish, and use your phone’s auto-focus to center the focal point on the most intriguing part of the food. Because we see food at about a 45-degree angle when we eat, shooting the photo at this angle is almost always a safe bet.

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This clean composition makes the food the star of the show.

Consider lighting

You can’t control the lighting in the restaurant, but you can control how you use it. Never photograph food using a flash, as this washes out the image and leaves it looking flat. If there is a light shining down on your table, move the dish so that there are no shiny spots of light on the table reflecting up into your photo. Food photos are most appealing when the light comes from behind the food or to the side of it, so during daylight, ask for a seat close enough to the window to allow you to utilize the natural sun from the side or back. It’s very hard to control shadows in direct sun, so avoid that entirely. While candles add ambience to a dining experience, they cast shadows and streaky lighting, so avoid placing food next to a flickering candle.

Natural light coming from behind helps the food look its best.

Get the shot

Photographing food in a restaurant should be done quickly and discreetly so as not to interrupt the waiter’s service or annoy your dining companions. Wait until the food has been served to start photographing so that you don’t delay a busy waiter. Be sure your phone camera is set to the highest resolution, decide on the composition, frame the photo, and then anchor your forearms on the table as you take the picture to eliminate camera shake and blurriness.

Do some processing

Even if you do everything correctly to capture the image, chances are your photos will benefit from at least a small amount of post-processing using an application like Photoshop or Lightroom. At a minimum, correct the white balance, adjust the levels of lighting, and crop as needed. If you’re publishing the image in print, be sure to save it in a high-resolution format, but if you plan to publish it online, it will load more quickly if you use the option to save it for the web.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Three Fun Ways To Get Paid To TravelA Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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