Is a phone good enough for food photography?

Ramen styled by Jan Cron @kitchen_maverick

Can you use a phone to photograph food?

I get asked this question so often and a few years ago, I would have hesitated and replied that it would be okay for certain shots, but that a camera would be much better. Oh, how times have changed... there have been some significant additions and improvements to phone cameras. So much so that I now whole heartedly recommend using them to photograph food.

So what has changed so much that I'm actually writing a whole book on how to photograph food with a phone?

Download my free guide '12 Tips For Taking Stunning Photos With a Phone'.

The single biggest change is the addition of more lenses on phones.

There used to only be an ultra wide lens (0.5x) and the main lens (1x). The ultra wide is designed for landscapes and interiors and you can often see distortion like buildings and other straight vertical lines leaning inwards. The 1x lens is fine for the majority of everyday shots but still has its problems, especially when you use it quite close to the subject - which is typically what you do when you photograph food. Objects nearest the lens look much bigger than they really are, and those furthest away look much smaller. And pinching to zoom closer doesn't reduce the problem, as all that does is enlarge the pixels.

This meant that I only used my phone for overhead (flat lay) shots of food.

A phone with 1x zoom was great for this type of shot as long as you didn't shoot close (which you don't tend to do for the average flatlay foodie image).

Then along came smartphones with more lenses and this was game changing. The new lenses let you bring the subject closer and reduce the distortion.

Just a little reminder that smartphones have two types of zoom - Optical and Digital. When I refer to 0.5x, 1x, 2x, and 3x I'm talking about Optical zoom - the best quality. If you're not sure about the difference take a look at my post on why you shouldn't pinch outward to zoom.

1x zoom

2x zoom

3x zoom

These photos have all been taken using the iPhone 14 Pro, which has three different lenses. You can clearly see the difference between using 1x zoom and 3x zoom. The final shot is more or less what the eye sees and this is also taken at a very popular angle for food photography. My previous phone with 1x zoom could not take shots like this and, therefore, I couldn't shoot from this angle.

This was very limiting and was the main reason I used to recommend using a camera instead.

Recent phones also offer different optical zoom options in Portrait Mode as well, so you can shoot images with a soft focus background at 3x optical zoom. I use this for all my food photographs apart from flatlays where I use Photo Mode and 1x or 2x optical zoom.

The final image is much better than anything I could achieve with a phone with only 1x zoom.

There are other great improvements in phone cameras but this is the one that changed my mind and convinced me that a phone is more than good enough for food photography.

For more top tips on photographing food with a phone follow me on Instagram and check back here regularly too.

Let me know if you liked this tip and have tried using it.

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