[OPPO R9S Plus]: Tips for Flawless Food Photography (Lighting)

Of all that factors that influence the quality of a photo, lighting ranks as one of the most important. But that doesn’t mean you need a truck load of expensive lighting equipment to take a gorgeous, insta-worthy food photo. In fact, in order to create mouth-watering food shots, you’ll only need a diffused light source and a camera. At the moment, I’m using the OPPO R9s, which comes equipped with a 16MP rear camera and an all new Sony IMX398 sensor for phenomenal focusing speed and low light performance.

Put the remarkable camera capabilities of the OPPO R9s together with a good lighting source, and fantastic food photography comes naturally. Here are some techniques to manipulate countless lighting scenarios to create images that will leave your viewers salivating.


Natural light is your best friend where food photography is concerned. Don’t be afraid to request for window seats in restaurants, as they tend to have the best and most ample lighting.

Natural light is your best friend!
Set up your work surface (coffee table, napkin on the floor, wood panelling – whatever works for you) near a window, ideally one with indirect light. The East- and West-facing panes are most ideal as they cast the gentlest soft glow on the subject. Make sure to turn off any nearby lamps or overhead lights as these will cast an artificial orange-y tone on your photos. Alternatively, you could request some assistance in using an object (like a file or reflector) to block off the harsh spotlights if any. When faced with direct sunlight, semi-sheer white curtains or a soft cotton sheet can be employed to filter the light and soften its glare, leading to the perfect glow.

Use Shadows to emulate volume and make image livelier with more depth

The look of natural light isn’t uniform, however — the time of day affects its colour tones. Sunlight in the day and evening would impart two completely different effects to the picture. Use that to your advantage. Shadows can be set up to emulate volume and make the image livelier and give it more depth.


If you don’t have a good source of indirect natural light, don’t fret. You can use harshly lit tables or even head outdoors to capture a shot, but you’ll need to filter the glaring light to soften it. Semi-sheer white curtains or even a thin white bedsheet are your friends in this case.

Alternatively, you could use other objects to block out direct sunlight and add perspective and context to the frame (as shown in the photo).

If you tend to do a lot of indoor photography sans the presence of natural light, a hand-held portable LED light is a good long-term investment. Scrunch up your white napkin or tissue paper to soften the harsh rays for more desirable results.

Lighted with an LED Panel

When you only have light coming in from one direction, you will get strong shadows on the opposite side of your subject. Sure, these shadows can add drama and an artsy effect to your subject but in instances where clarity is key, I would recommend “bouncing” the light to fill in the shadows and maximize the light source.
Use a reflector to bounce light back onto subject

This simply means using a reflective surface like a white foam core board or a professional reflector to cast the light back onto the darkened side of your subject.

Many people are intimidated by low-light situations but it really can be easy and necessary when dining out. Thankfully for OPPO R9s's Dual PDAF (phase detection autofocus) technology, focusing speeds are 40% faster even in low light, producing crystal clear images.

The OPPO R9s low light capabilities are amazing!

The OPPO R9s is designed for improved clarity - it sports a f/1.7 aperture lens which lets more light into the camera's sensor. Turn on the camera's pro settings to get your picture just right and enable HDR.

Another things to note is your stance when shooting under low light. Proper camera-holding techniques can give you more leeway when it comes to preventing camera shake. Plant your feet firmly to the ground, about shoulder width apart, and hold the phone with both hands to steady it. Tuck your elbows tightly into your chest and control your breathing, shooting after you exhale whenever possible. All these things will contribute to the stillness of the image.

Alternatively, you can use this beer bottle/ wine glass trick to keep your shots steady when you're deprieved of a tripod. Rest the phone on top of a beer bottle or a wine glass to keep your image blur-free - it's a rather good trick to utilise when you've had on too many drinks.

Lastly, never ever use the camera's flash aimed directly at your subject. Just don't. It makes for awful highlights and terrible shadows that will make your food photos tragic.

All images in the article are taken with the OPPO R9s

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