iPhone Food Photography Lighting Tips

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I'm your food photography guru sharing photography tips, equipment ideas and business advice to help you improve your photography skills and strengthen your business mindset.

Hey, I'm Regan.

If you’re looking to improve your iPhone food photography lighting, you’ve come to the right place. As a professional food photographer, I have experience with a variety of equipment. So, I decided to explore different lighting techniques using my iPhone camera that wouldn’t break the bank. This post shares tips on how to use natural light and artificial light with your iPhone camera so you can improve your iPhone food images.

This post contains affiliate links. Read the affiliate disclosure.

lighting for iphone food photography

iPhone Food Photography Lighting

Exposure Adjustments

Before we dive into iPhone food photography lighting tips, did you know you can adjust the exposure of your images right within the iPhone camera app? It’s a pretty handy tool when you want to adjust the exposure of your image quickly. I highly recommend experimenting with it and watch how it affects your images.

To adjust the exposure, tap the screen where you want to focus. You’ll see a yellow square appear with a sunshine icon on the screen. If you move the sunshine icon up, you will make your image brighter. If you move the sunshine icon down, you will make your image darker. This is a really great way to start taking more control over how bright or dark you want your images to be.

iPhone Exposure Adjustment Tool

iPhone Food Photography Lighting: Natural Light

It’s very common to rely on natural light when shooting food photos with your iPhone. The ease of being able to pull out your iPhone and take a picture is pretty awesome. And, the sun provides beautiful light to work with most of the time. However, if you want to take more control of the natural light, it’s going to require some extra tools.

Diffusers

When shooting with natural light, it’s important to set up by a window. But, sometimes the light is a bit too harsh on the food. Moving the food further from the window helps, but it also pulls the food away from the light, which could cause the image to become dark. This is when a diffuser will come in handy. You simply place the diffuser right over the window. It will soften the light and spread it out more evenly over the food.

Diffusers are one of my favorite tools to use when shooting with natural light. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and usually fold up for easy travel. When deciding what size to get, think about the size of your window. It doesn’t need to cover the full window, but if it covers a good portion of it, this tool will help improve your lighting significantly.

White Foam Boards

When shooting food next to a window, the food is lit well from one side, but not necessarily lit well from the other side. The side facing the window catches all the light and looks beautiful. But, the side opposite the window isn’t catching much light at all. This is when white foam boards will come in handy.

Place the white foam board on the other side of the food, opposite the window. The light from the window will bounce back to the food creating a more evenly lit dish.

Black Foam Boards

Directing and shaping light is another way to take more control over your natural lighting . Black foam boards will help you direct and shape the light and will also help you emphasize contrast and shadows. I recommend moving the black boards all around your food to see how different placements affect your images.

POSITIONING YOUR FOAM BOARDS

To make your foam board stand up right so you don’t have to hold them, you have three options:

  1. Use a clamp at the base of the board. The handles are spread apart and will help it stand upright.
  2. Create a v-flat using two pieces of board taped together. It will open like a book and will balance upright on the table.
  3. Use a light stand and clamp your board to the light stand.

READ MORE ABOUT: IPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS AND ACCESSORIES

iPhone Food Photography Lighting

iPhone Food Photography Lighting: Artificial Light

When it comes to lighting, the ultimate control is to create your own light. I love working with artificial light and I can confidently tell you that it will help you improve your iPhone food photography by leaps and bounds. 😉 I know artificial light can sound complicated, but it really isn’t so bad. In fact, I’m going to recommend my favorite “non-complicated” light for you to start experimenting with.

Continuous Lights

There are a lot of artificial lighting options on the market, however, the best light for iPhone food photography is a continuous light. Continuous lights don’t flash. You plug them in and they’re ready to go. You can adjust how powerful you want the light to be and where you want it positioned in relation to your subject. When you think about it, that kind of control is actually really nice. When you are using natural light, you can’t change the power of the sun or where it’s positioned.

When thinking about using an artificial light, try not to overcomplicate it. Imagine your light is the sun and your window. The benefits of artificial lights include:

  1. Easy to move around for different lighting perspectives.
  2. Completely adjustable power to be as dark or bright as you need.
  3. Variety of modifiers to create different moods ranging from soft even light and direct light with strong shadows.
  4. Consistent lighting across your images.

Amaran Lights

If I had to recommend one continuous light to my iPhone shooters, it would be the Amaran 100d or the Amaran 100x with Bicolor. The difference is the Amaran 100d is daylight (natural light look but without the ability to adjust the color temperature) and the Amaran 100x with bicolor allows you to control the color temperature. There are a lot of continuous lights out there, but they can get expensive really quick. And, from my research, the Amaran lights are on the lower end of the spectrum.

Something to note is that the Amaran lights are also an offshoot of the popular Aperture brand, so the quality is definitely there despite the lower price point.

Some features I love about this light are:

  • Super quiet fan, which is great if you shoot video with your iPhone
  • Lightweight to bring on location
  • Umbrella hole and Bowens mount for a variety of light modifiers
  • Bluetooth capabilities to control the light with your phone
  • Very easy to use

Light Modifiers

If you consider the Amaran 100d, you will also need a light stand to hold the light and a light modifier to control the light.

Light modifiers help you shape your artificial light. You can create any type of mood you want depending on the size and shape of the modifier. Keep in mind that the larger the modifier, the more soft and spread out the light will be. The smaller the modifier, the more direct the light will be.

I’m recommending two different modifiers to consider below and both are compatible with mounting to the Amaran 100d. However, any light modifier with a Bowen’s mount will work if you want to do some extra research.

GLOW EZ MODIFIERS

I really love the Glow EZ Lock modifiers because they are SO EASY to set up and take down. They open up just like an umbrella and they’re ready to go! They’re also not as pricey as a lot of modifiers are on the market, but are great quality, reliable and durable.

GLOW EZ OCTA 36″ (COMES WITH A GRID)

This softbox is going to create a nice soft, natural look to your images.

NEEWER SNOOT KIT (COMES WITH A GRID AND GELS)

The snoot will create a more direct light with stronger shadows. It also comes with gels if you want to experiment with different colors.

Amaran MC

If you’re not ready experiment with the Amaran lights, a smaller light to consider is the Amaran MC. It’s the size of a credit card, so it’s super easy to bring with you. You can experiment by placing it near your food and moving it around to see how the light affects your image. Because it’s smaller, the light will be more contained to one area as opposed to spreading out evenly over the food. But, it still creates some really pretty light scenarios with the ability to adjust the color temp and power using the dials on the side.

I hope these iPhone food photography tips were helpful when thinking about your lighting. The more control you have, the more creative you can get with your food images. There are definitely some great ways to control natural light, but you will always be more limited by what the sun is doing. Learning artificial light is simply a way to take more control and create images at any time of day and in any location. But, always remember to stay true to the shooting methods that work best for you and your budget.

Happy Shooting!

READ MORE ABOUT: GETTING STARTED WITH ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2022.

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If you want to improve your iPhone food images, start with these 5 essential tips.