You鈥檙e out to dinner in a trendy restaurant that has pretty wooden tables, floral arrangements and low lighting. When your perfectly plated food arrives, you take out your phone to capture the beautiful scene, and鈥 blurgh. All you鈥檙e left with is a dull, grainy photo that really doesn鈥檛 do justice to the meal. You could filter it and get a few likes, but odds are聽it鈥檚 just going to sit on your phone and take up precious storage space until you have to go on a deleting spree in a few weeks.

How do those food bloggers do it? Sure, real food photography is done with a DSLR and Photoshop, but we鈥檙e talking about those enviable Instagram foodie feeds we can鈥檛 stop following. They鈥檙e using the same phone camera as you, but instead of bland, muted colors, they鈥檙e making veritable food porn. What gives? We got San Francisco food blogger Cynthia from Cyn Eats to spill the beans on Foodstagramming like a pro, using just your phone and some ingenuity.

CynEats B Patisserie

Find Your Light

1. Ask for a table with great lighting. This is such a simple tip that we鈥檙e kind of embarrassed we never thought of it. When making an online reservation, Cyn uses that 鈥渟pecial request鈥 box to ask for a table with great lighting. Bonus: You鈥檙e likely to eat healthier if you sit somewhere well lit.

2. Turn your back to the window. Obviously one of the best lit areas of a restaurant will be near the window, but Cyn warns that you should avoid shooting against the light with a camera phone.

3. Avoid direct sunlight and shoot in the shade. When you鈥檙e taking your lunch to go, you鈥檒l actually get the best lighting in the shade.

4. Use your friends. If she鈥檚 in a dimly lit restaurant like in the scenario above, Cyn will forgo her own flash (which can be too direct and hard to control, resulting in harsh lighting) and ask a friend to shine theirs instead. Here鈥檚 another genius tip: 鈥淚f the light coming from their phone is too harsh, take a napkin and cover the light so it that gives off a softer glow.鈥

5. Get moving. So you didn鈥檛 manage to get a seat by the window? This is where being a food blogger takes some moxie: 鈥淚f I鈥檓 sitting in an area of a coffee shop with bad lighting, I will actually take my coffee and move it to find the best lighting, then go sit back down.鈥 Cyn鈥檚 no stranger to curious looks from other patrons, but that鈥檚 the price of Insta art ;)

CynEats Sandwich

Set the Scene

1. Shoot from your food鈥檚 most photogenic side. For a lot of food, that鈥檚 going to be bird鈥檚 eye view, one of Cyn鈥檚 favorites. But if you鈥檙e about to go HAM on a burger, snap it from the side so that your photo isn鈥檛 all top bun. Check out how Cyn smashed both halves of her sando together in the pic above.鈥淭hat makes it much more foodporn-ish,鈥 she says.

2. Arrange your food neatly. If you鈥檙e going for the top-down view, Cyn suggests leaving space between your plates. Also, don鈥檛 be afraid to stand up to get a wider shot and avoid clumping dishes together. She does it all the time.

3. Find the right background. Make use of a killer view or creative background if you鈥檝e got it, but otherwise Cyn鈥檚 favorite backup background is a white surface聽for a really聽clean look. Oh, and if you鈥檙e Instagramming an ice cream cone? Pick a background/location ahead of time then RUN, 鈥渓ike, REALLY REALLY REALLY FAST.鈥

4. Find your focus. As great as smartphone cameras are, they鈥檙e not amazing for establishing the focus range 鈥 a DSLR is better for that. So make sure you鈥檙e tapping your screen to focus on the foreground or background. You can also use Instagram鈥檚 Tilt Shift feature to blur parts of the image.

CynEats Ice Cream

Edit Where Needed

1. Download VSCO Cam for iPhone or Android.聽The Instagram app is handy for slapping on a quick filter and calling it a day, but you have to get a little more technical than that if you want to really stand out. VSCO Cam happens to be one of our favorite (free!) photo-editing apps for the same reason as Cyn: Every photo is different, and VSCO gives you more control over individual aspects of each photo.

2. Adjust the contrast, exposure and highlights. These are some rules of thumb for getting familiar with your editing apps. 鈥淚f the photo is too blown out, decrease the highlights. If the photo needs more color, add a little bit of contrast to make it pop. If the photo is too dark, add a little bit of exposure to brighten it up.鈥

3. Don鈥檛 assume you always have to edit. If you found great lighting and a really appetizing meal, then let the food do the talking and go #nofilter, like Cyn did with this burger.

Put It to the Test

So, does it all work? I went to some local eateries (ugh, work is so hard) to see if I could master the camera phone once and for all. First up was this minted cold brew coffee in a cafe with some free counter space by the window. I even grabbed a potted plant off the windowsill to set the scene (while apologizing profusely to the customer next to me).聽Here鈥檚 the before:

CynEats Test Coffee Before

One thing I regret not doing was tapping the screen to focus on the coffee. That would have helped take some focus off the smudges on the counter. So I took Cyn鈥檚 advice and added a radial tilt shift in Instagram. I also upped the highlights, added a hint of contrast and toned down the exposure. The results:

CynEats Test Coffee After

Boom! Minty fresh photography.

Next up was this INSANELY good waffle sandwich from Melted (get thee to Napa, pronto). The before:

CynEats Test Sandwich Before

Even though the inside of this sandwich was tasty, I thought the top-down view would work best from the waffle and tomato soup standpoint. I nabbed a perfect window seat so the lighting was great. Already I was off to a good start (I had once tried photographing this exact same sandwich before from one of the outdoor seats, at an angle, and quickly deleted it). The only editing left was to crank up the shadows, add a little contrast and then sharpen the whole picture to show off that parmesan cheese. Here鈥檚 the after:

CynEats Test Sandwich After

Aaaaand now I鈥檓 hungry again. #Foodporn mission accomplished!

Be sure to check out the Cyn Eats Instagram and blog for even more amazing food photos, as well as inspiration for new amazing foodie finds!

Do you have any tips and tricks up your sleeve for taking the best food photography on your phone? Share your tech savviness in the comments.

(Featured photos聽via Cyn Eats)