iPhone Food Photography: Capturing Coffee, Dessert, and More | Adam Goldberg | Skillshare

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iPhone Food Photography: Capturing Coffee, Dessert, and More

teacher avatar Adam Goldberg, Food Photographer, A Life Worth Eating

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Capturing Parlor Coffee


    • 3.

      Capturing Sweetleaf


    • 4.

      Editing Images from Parlor


    • 5.

      Editing Images from Sweetleaf


    • 6.

      Finding Inspiration


    • 7.

      Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

Up your latte art game with this coffee shop photo class! Instagram star and photographer Adam Goldberg (@alifewortheating) is sharing his secrets so you can master iPhone food photography for Instagram and beyond.

In this 30-minute class, travel with Adam as he captures his morning routine at two of his favorite Brooklyn cafes: Parlor Coffee Roastery and Sweetleaf. He reveals how to shoot the perfect latte and croissant, edit in apps like Snapseed and VSCO Cam, and transform a humble iPhone shot into a spectacular image.

Adam is known for shooting everyday food with beauty, symmetry, and a clean aesthetic. This class shows the intention and thoughtfulness behind each of those images so that you can bring that same beauty into your own lifestyle and food photography.

By the end of the class, you’ll have the skills to capture your morning breakfast routine — or any light snack you take throughout the day — in a way that’s real, inspired, and perfect for Instagram.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Adam Goldberg

Food Photographer, A Life Worth Eating


Adam Goldberg is the photographer, blogger, world traveler, and food enthusiast behind A Life Worth Eating. Since 2010, the site has grown from his personal restaurant blog to a top destination and resource for chefs and culinary fans around the globe. Today, the site especially focuses on the cuisines of Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, and New York.

Adam first fell in love with food on a trip to China when he was just 13. During college, he often took weekend classes at the French Culinary Institute. He later lived and traveled throughout Mexico for nearly five years, giving him a first-hand, unique perspective on one of the world's great cuisines.

Adam currently lives in New York, where in addition to documenting his culinary adventures, he is also a software engineer. He hol... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi. I'm Adam Goldberg. I'm the photographer behind Life Worth Eating, and today I'll be taking you through some of the tips and tricks that I use to take better mobile photography photos. It was always amazing to me that the camera could be this tool to capture a moment in time that never disappears. Particularly with food that's important because not only can you enjoy the experience at the time, but there's a piece of it that you can take with you. I started taking photos of food particularly when I was living in Paris, and I'd bring my camera with me to these restaurants. It was funny at the time because I've had this huge SLR camera and everybody looking at me like I'm a crazy person in a restaurant with a camera. I think that food photography has gone from this eccentric hobby to something that's more mainstream. I think especially on Instagram, coffee photography is extremely common and it's due to tools like the iPhone and editing tools, like Snapseed and Disco Cam, that enable anybody to be a professional food photographer. So, the goal of this Skillshare class is to photograph your morning routine. Everybody has a morning routine from grabbing a cup of coffee from a street cart in the financial district to visiting a specialty shop out in Williamsburg. Things like lighting, composition, focus, color can really make your photo stand out. There are a lot of coffee shops in the city that have great coffee, but the shops that we're going to today also have great lighting and they will make your coffee look very photogenic. So, it's a great spot to come and enjoy a cup of coffee and also to get great pictures to bring home. Parlor Coffee for me is a particularly special shop. It started as a room in the back of a barbershop in Williamsburg and it has the best espresso in the city. It's gone from this small one-room espresso shop to this large roaster that's providing coffee to some of the best restaurants and cafes in the city. We're actually here today in the new roaster space and it's just the perfect photography environment in addition to great coffee. It has excellent lighting. It has all sorts of coffee props. It's a coffee photographer's dream. Afterwards, we'll go to a completely different space that has different lighting, different props, different environment to show how I adjust some of the elements on the camera to enhance a photo. We should have some great photos. 2. Capturing Parlor Coffee: So, when I go into a coffee shop, one of the first things I look for is lighting. This is a really nice space because the room is flooded with natural light and there's all sorts of different types of light by the window. There're really strong shadows and here in the middle of this large table, it's just as very diffuse bright light. Usually, what I'll do is, it depends on the type of shot, I really like overhead shots. So, when I take an overhead shot, I'll sort of take my hand and put it over the table and look for shadows and because there's no overhead lighting, there are no shadows on this table. So, this is the perfect environment to take a photo. One of the problems with overhead shot is you don't get this depth perception. So, for something like a chemex, which is, I don't know, maybe a foot tall, it's not as effective from above or as flatter items like scale or some coffee beans, where the depth isn't as important, it looks really great with an overhead shot. For something like a chemex or items that are a little bit taller, I think, taking them from an angle so that you can get perspective is really effective. So, maybe we should brew some coffee and sort of see how it comes out. I find that a lot of times with coffee, the action shots work better. Pouring something or drinking something or just simply holding with your hands adds a very human element to the photo and it can really make a photo kind of pop out. When I'm in a restaurant, if waiter is kind of plating something table side or adding, pouring soup into a bowl, I'll try to capture that shot because it's more indicative of the experience and they can help viewer to kind of put himself in the shoes of the diner. Otherwise, a lot of times it can seem a bit clinical to just kind of photograph an already composed still life. It looks more like a still life instead of this live event, which is something that I try to capture in my food photos. Let's take one shot against this wall just because it's so simple and we can set up some glasses. I tend to try to keep my shots like a bit minimalist. I think, a really common tendency to when you're shooting objects is to sort of want to center everything and to put everything in the center of the frame. But a lot of times, particularly, with cups or glasses, if you're able to set up your composition, where the focus is sort of at the lower right or the lower left-hand corner it can be a lot more interesting, particularly, if there's negative space. So, since we have this large kind of empty wall, if I focus it in the center, it wouldn't be as interesting as the negative space that will be visible if we were to put the object in the lower right corner. So, for this shot, I'm going to try to get at the same level of the coffee. So, with the iPhone to focus the actual picture, you can click on the spot. If you notice, as I click around different portions of the image, the brightness changes. So, if I click on the darkest portion, which is the coffee in the chemex, it'll get really bright. If I click on a bright portion like in the upper left hand corner, the image will get darker. This is adjusting the exposure of the camera. It's much easier to underexpose and make it brighter than it is to overexpose and make it darker. So, I'll tend to click on an area that's a little bit too bright so that it's underexposed and then I can adjust it after. One thing that I notice a lot of people do is when they take pouring shots they kind of stand in the way of the actual photo, but because of the way the focusing on an iPhone works is sort of you want all of your objects to be in the same plane. So, instead of pouring it like this, where you're actually blocking what you're shooting and there's this depth, it's much better to kind of pour everything at the same level. So, actually, Danny, could you pour this and I'll Instagram you? Sure. If your photo can tell a story, then I think it becomes much more convincing. In this case, we're surrounded by coffee-related items, so I'll try to put them in. I think sometimes it feels a little bit forced, there may be too many props in a photo. Since I'm mostly shooting on the go, I won't spend more than a minute looking for props, it has to be something really quick. It's not worth the coffee cooling too much and not actually tasting good at the end of the day, it is left to you while you're photographing. This is a great area for an overhead shot, there are no shadows, there's uniform lighting. So, maybe we can set something up. It's really important to take the item that you're photographing and to put it into context. So, we're photographing coffee, so I'll be showing some beans, maybe a coffee book. We can try taking a photo like this. We're lucky here that the height of the coffee bag is the same as the height of the glasses and book, so the focusing will be perfect. If we start bringing in elements that have different heights, it becomes a lot harder to focus. When adding any human element like hands, you also want to make sure that the hand is actually at the same level because sometimes your arm can kind of reach up. So, I'll try to get down and keep everything kind of plane. Would you mind getting to the same level as the cup? Perfect. So, let's take this photo. So, again, I'm going to click on the brightest portion or just a little bit too dark, maybe something a little bit brighter like right there. Let's get the whole book in there. Okay. Perfect. So, the first thing you can do is never shoot with flash, unless you want your food to look like an autopsy report. Turn off all the lights in the kitchen. If you maybe don't have a very well-lit kitchen, try to find a white wall or other area that kind of collects light because you can use the space to your advantage. We're lucky here because the walls are all white and we have the skylights and we have these great textured surfaces. A lot of times if I'm at a cafe, I'll actually take the coffee outside because the lighting outside will be a lot more interesting than the lighting inside and you can't ask them to turn the lights off in a cafe, so just bringing it outside just snap a quick photo can really make a difference. So, the first thing I did was I looked at the lighting in the space and since we're going to be taking an overhead shot this area is perfect, there are no shadows anywhere on the table. Then, I kind of set up a small photo studio in less than 15 seconds. I just put some beans on the table, showing exactly what I'm photographing and this is one of my favorite coffee books, so it helps to tell the story if I can somehow include it. A lot of times with the iPhone, it doesn't get the exposure correct, so you actually have to click on the part of the picture that's the brightest because it's a lot easier to underexpose the photo and make it brighter than it is to overexpose it and make it darker. If you hold your finger down for two seconds over that area, it'll actually lock the exposure and the focus and it'll say, "AE/AF Lock." Instagram has a one-to-one crop ratio, so I know at the end of the day the photo's going to be a square. The iPhone and Android both capture in a two by three or four by three ratio, so when I'm framing the picture, I'll sort of imagine what the square will look like and I'll aim the camera towards a composition that will make that look better. One of the issues with mobile photography is that the cameras don't perform as well in low light, so you always want to look for areas of the room that have the most light. By underexposing the camera, you're going to introduce less noise into the image, which will give you a clearer, crisper picture and that's one of the benefits of also clicking the brighter portions of the screen, so it forces the camera's ISO to lower and give you a sharper image. 3. Capturing Sweetleaf: So, we're here at Sweetleaf, which is one of my favorite coffee shops in New York other than the Parlor. They have a great espresso program, so hopefully, we'll get some cappuccino, and macchiato, great pastries that were all made in-house that we can shoot away and get some great Instagram shots. This is a really interesting room because there's very strong light coming from the windows and all the incandescent lights are turned off, so that's going to be a little challenging. But let's see what we can get. So, let's try putting this here. Let's take a quick overhead, because, why not? One thing that drives me crazy with overhead shots of coffee is getting the saucer and the cup lined up. I think this is something that'll really set your photo apart from most coffee shots. A lot of people when they take coffee photos, they don't align the saucer and the cup and it looks like this. But if we can get it symmetric, it makes it much more interesting. Now, we just got to get the exposure correct. Let's take another one from back here. Danni, can I borrow you for a photo? I'm going to shut this other blind here just to get rid of some of this harsh lighting. There we go. We can try one more overhead shot. Since we've closed the blinds, I can get pretty close to the food without worrying about a shadow, so, I'm just going to try to get the coffee cup and saucer windup. Here's the shot actually where her feet look pretty good. So, I went ahead and closed the blinds because the lighting actually looks a lot better with the blinds closed. Sometimes when the lighting is too harsh, it's just really difficult to work with. I guess I'll just take a lot of photos and see how they look on the phone and play with the lighting as I have to. So right now, since we closed the blinds there are no shadows at all over the food, so overhead shots look really dramatic. It's almost like studio lighting, to be honest, it's pretty cool. So I just got to make sure that the coffee cup and saucer are lined up. There we go. I know that I'm eventually going to be cropping this to a square, so, I'm going to make sure that everything that I want is in the frame of the picture. Let's get that cup out of there, there we go. It helps a lot if you have coffee to put it in the middle of the image because you know you're going to be going directly overhead and it helps with the alignment. So this cappuccino has been sitting here for about maybe five minutes and you can see what happens to it. It starts to set and that's why you want to take your coffee photos really quickly. Since the north sets so quickly, sometimes I'll order a drink and then just race out the door. A lot of times they think I'm not going to pay or something but I'm just trying to get the photo taken really quickly. So, this space is really dark and it will be tough to get a good shot in here. It's mostly incandescent lighting, so I'm just going to take the cup outside and see how it looks. Thank you. Let's bring this outside and get a quick photo. So, I'm making sure that the cup and saucer are lined up because that drives me crazy. Also that it's right in between my feet so everything's symmetric. Cool. So I'm going to take a shot and just maybe you want to rip off a piece of the muffin, or you want to break that in half, or just actually having your hands in there will really, let me stand here. There we go. Let's get that exposure. Danni, can you break off a piece of the carrot cake? Okay. Awesome, thanks. Like that? Yeah. Thank you, cool. Sometimes when you photograph food that looks too sterile if it doesn't look edible, and by breaking off a little piece or by engaging with the food, it just makes it look more natural. It creates this effect that almost as if there's a gathering around a feast. I think it's something that I try to do with my group shots of compositions of food. It just makes you want to sit down and actually start eating. It looks more natural if there are people approaching the food from different angles. Like you're all sitting around this roundtable. If two people are grabbing it from the same side, it just looks, in my opinion, better if it's a bit more symmetric and people are interacting with the food from all different angles. I think most of my friends are used to me taking a photo of the food before they start eating, so it can be hard though when you're with a bunch of strangers. But I try not to be annoying about it, I'll take a quick picture of myself, or if I'm missing additional to it, it's usually fine. This is really a great spot for lighting. Good. It doesn't have to be a hand, I mean, sometimes if you're holding a plate from the bottom and you get like a foot or just some human element to the photo, it will add a lot of personality. Anyway, so this is an espresso that I'm going to take a picture of. The lighting over here on the edge of this bench is pretty cool, it's indirect, there's no shadow. I'm going to try to make this a little square area. I'll make sure the distance from the edges is the same like maybe right here. The handle of the cup, I don't really want that to block out the spoon so I'll turn that a little bit. Let's see how that looks. Yeah, that's pretty nice. So, I'm going to try to line up the cup and the saucer and then I'll adjust the exposure. Like this isn't as interesting as this. I don't want to get too close because then there's no sense of perspective. So, let's try this, double-click on the brightest part of the image to make it a little more dramatic and that'll also make the background completely black. Sometimes it's really hard to get the cup and the saucer lined up, but I think this is pretty good. Cool. One of the nice things about a room like this is that there's this contrast in color. There's a green table, and a red bench, and this black and gray wallpaper. It makes a really photogenic area. This will be another interesting shot, I guess. When you're in a room like this with all natural light, the colors just pop. There we go, cool. Sometimes if the lighting is too bright or too harsh from daylight or if there's a lot of incandescent lighting, it'll cast this yellow or orange hue on the food and it's just not as appealing as indirect sunlight like this room. My style of photography is I really like when there's some element of black in the photo. Either it be around the border or in the background but just something to give contrast to the food. It's important that the food be beautiful and speaks for itself. If there's a lot of distraction around the food, then it might take the attention away from what you're actually trying to take a photo of. So, this room works really well because it's fairly simple and there's somewhat dramatic lighting. There is no shadow over the food so we can clearly get that in a frame, and then, the background we can make black. So, it's just like a spotlight on the food which is what we're trying to focus. So we went to two coffee shops. We went to Parlor and now we're at Sweetleaf. This summarizes the routine that I'll usually do when I go to a coffee shop. I'll order a milk espresso, brewed coffee with a pastry or two and just set up a little photo studio inside of the coffee shop. But honestly, this is something that you can do at home also, using the same techniques and tools focusing on the darkest area of the frames. These tools really work everywhere, and hopefully, you can get some great photos at home with this as well. 4. Editing Images from Parlor: So, let's go through some of the photos that we took and we can find one to edit. We can start with I guess maybe one of the ones by the wall, maybe 10 or 15 photos there. Let's try to find one that has some action so, some of the beginning photos or just before Daniela started pouring. So, maybe we can get one where the coffee is actually coming out. So, this looks nice but in order to see that, there's actually a lot of coffee in there, maybe we should get one that has a bit more coffee in the cup. So, we can try, this one looks pretty good. It's really hard to adjust perspective after so, if you look at the wood on the bottom of this one, you can see that the camera wasn't quite head on. It looks a little crooked down here. This photo looks pretty straight and you can see- we are going to be rotating the photo afterwards to make it perfectly straight but I can't rotate all the parts of the picture so, I want to make sure that the different lines are parallel. In this photo here, it's not even on the right and the left and this looks leveled so, I don't really like that one. This one looks pretty good. The one after, you can see she's pouring the Cemex at an angle and I don't think that's as appealing as it is when it's dead-on. So, let's pick this photo and edit it. It's much easier to browse through photos on the iPhone in the Photos app and then if I like a photo, I'll copy it and then I'll paste it into Snapseed, which is always where I start with my photos. So, the first thing is, I'll make sure that I get it really straight or as straight as I want. So, I'm going to align it to some of these horizontal lines from the wooden bench. I mean, it looks pretty straight but maybe just a tiny bit. Then, since Instagram requires a square aspect ratio, I will crop it out to a square and this is where you have to figure out your composition. Is it important to include the map or to not include it? I think that for this photo, that map really isn't adding much to it so we'll just crop it out and we'll put the actual subject in the lower right hand corner of the frame. So, that looks pretty good to me, maybe up a little bit. This is a white wall but because of some of the different shadows and reflections in the room, there's this light yellowish brown hue which is okay but we can make it look even better by editing it out. Snapseed has this great tool called Selective Adjust where you can actually select parts of the picture and make your circle bigger, and we can desaturate the background which is going to remove a lot of the color and make it look even more minimalist and simple and pure. I'm only clicking on the white areas. This tool, you have to be careful with because if you accidentally click on a hand, you desaturate it, it looks like a zombie hand and we don't want that. I usually start by adjusting the saturation of the darker areas and you can see, actually I got a little bit of her hand so we're going to have to move this out of the way so that we don't desaturate her hand. You can always hold your finger down to see what it looked like before but you can see that there's this yellow area back here that we just got rid of by desaturating it. Then, you can click Tune Image and you can adjust the brightness a bit more and this is where a lot of the magic happens. You can instantly turn that gray background into something more white. That looks pretty good, just to compare it to what we had before. I mean, it's night and day and one of the things about Snapseed is you make these small incremental changes that add up to a completely different picture. So, now I think this is ready to go I'll save this. Sometimes what I'll do is I'll bring it into VSCOcam just to apply a bit of a fade or a filter to make it stand out a little bit more. One of my favorite is the F2 filter, which is here and it adds this analog look which sometimes is really appealing, other times it's not but I like to always have it as an option. Let's upload this. So, just to compare the two. This is without the filter and this is with, and I think I'll use the filter for this one. Let's tag this as where we are, parlor coffee. There we go. Morning coffee. So, let's go through some of the other photos that we just took, maybe an overhead shot. So, these are some of the photos that we just took and these are overhead shots and you can see there's a big difference when there's a hand included versus not a hand. It adds this personal element to the photo that makes you feel more like you're in that moment so I really like them. As we're going through these, you can also see that there's a huge difference in exposure. This photo was way too bright, you can't see any of the text in the book. Also the colors are a little off, there's this greenish yellow hue that's not very appealing. This is better but this is also a little bit too dark. The one before was just right so, we'll pick this one. For this one, I'm actually going to rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise so it looks more like you're sitting in the position of where this was taken. Then, let's go ahead and crop it. This is a nice photo to use, the center focus tool which will add this blur and a vignette. There's really not much happening around the borders so, we can actually use this tool to darken the edges and to increase the brightness only in the center. So, we'll use the portrait one and I always turn the blur off because there's no reason for that. Inner brightness so, we can make the centers a little bit brighter. You never want to overdo it. Small changes add up to big differences and we can take the outside to make it a bit darker and you can see, this is when we make the outside brighter and then this is when we make it darker, and just it adds this element of moodiness that I think is really nice with food photography. That's the before and the after. 5. Editing Images from Sweetleaf: So, these are some of the other shots that we took. Sometimes, it's easier to just look at them in the grid like this. This lighting is a little bit too bright. You can't see any of the detail in the top of the carrot cake, it looks like this white blob. This one looks much better. Let's bring that photo into Snapseed and start editing it. So, I like the asymmetry here, there's no reason really to straighten it out, we'll just leave that as is. I'll crop it to a square, since that's the aspect ratio that we're using for Instagram. I don't think this line here in the corner - what is that a bench or something? - isn't adding much, so I'll kind of crop it off to the other side. Actually, I'll just crop it out, there we go. Now we can use the center focus tool, make the background a little bit darker, and make the food a little bit brighter. A lot of times with coffee, the milk and espresso looks a bit faded, so I'll use a selective adjust tool to shrink in around the top of the cappuccino and saturate it a little bit more. We can see how that looks. Some of these plates, we can saturate a little more, and now we can put in the final touches, brightness, overall saturation. It's really easy to overdo saturation, so better to error on the side of under-saturated then over-saturated. I kind of like this little touch of light here, so I might even enhance that a little bit more, bring up the brightness. Perfect. Let's save that, and let's put on the finishing touches with VSCO. I actually think I like the version without the VSCO effect, but maybe just a little bit, we'll keep it on eight out of 12. Let's save that and we can compare. Let's throw this up on Instagram. I think I'll just put some fade in. There were some other photos that we took that were kind of cool. This was the shot that I took on the corner of that bench, and it really looks different when the saucer and cup are aligned, the symmetry just makes the food kind of stand out. So, we could try editing this one too, I'll paste that in to Snapseed., So I kind of like the lines in this photo. It makes this nice little square which will look great in Instagram. So, I'm just going to make sure that it's perfectly straight or as straight as it can go. So, we'll rotate it a little bit to the left. That looks pretty good. Now let's crop it into a square. It's always better to rotate first and then to crop otherwise you may end up making the image too small and then if you try rotating it, it'll crop it even more and you can lose parts of the image that you might want to keep in, so as I'm cropping it down, I want the margins to be even. I guess that's just my my own personal aesthetic, but I'll try to keep it as symmetric as I can. A little bit lower, let's try that. Perfect. There's a little bit of an orange kind of hue. This is an area that if we desaturate, it'll look perfectly silver, so we can desaturate it. You should never really desaturate anything with color, because it'll look too artificial but no one will be able to tell if this is desaturated, it'll just look clean. Now we can use the central focus tool just to put a little bit of focus. You can actually take the center point and you can drag it around to wherever you want the lighting to be. So, I'm going to put it right over the coffee because that's going to be the center of the image. I'm also going to use the selective adjust tool to saturate the inside of the espresso, just so it looks more kind of coffee chocolaty like. Not too much,, I mean that looks fake, but something like, I think that that's pretty good. If you wanted to, depending on your style, you could increase the saturation of the red bench. It's kind of cool, I wouldn't do it too much though. Let's see how that looks. Let's save that and we can bring that into VSCO. Sometimes 12 is too much, and eight is a little bit better. There we go, we have a finished photo. The filters in VSCO are very subtle, and they have a level of precision that you can't get in Instagram. So, once in a while if I put a filter on, it'll pretty much only be F2 and to a very small degree, so that it doesn't affect the way the food looks, but I think VSCO overall has the best filters out there, better than what's on Instagram right now. 6. Finding Inspiration: Instagram offers this sort of instant feedback for food and coffee photography where you can take a photo, in the moment, and share it to hundreds of thousands of people who can interact with what you're seeing at any given point in time, and it's pretty amazing that I could follow people from Spain or Japan and see what they're having for breakfast or what coffee they're drinking in the morning and immediately right from my phone. Hopefully, using some of the tools that we learned in this class, you can do the same and share what your morning routine is. So, go ahead and take a lot of photos, edit them down, there's nothing wrong with taking too many photos, have a great breakfast and share what you're taking. 7. 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