Capturing festive moments with your smartphone

Piggy pineapple tarts shot with an Apple iPhone XS Max using Portrait Mode.
Piggy pineapple tarts shot with an Apple iPhone XS Max using Portrait Mode.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Chinese New Year is just around the corner.

Whether it is having reunion dinners, visiting relatives or renewing acquaintances, there will be great moments you want to capture with your smartphone.

Here are handy tips for taking "Instagrammable" shots.


• Do not just point and shoot. Take time to reposition a dish or shift its ingredients - in a hygienic way, of course - to show the focus of the dish. For example, with siew yoke, or roast pork belly, make sure you get the layers of the roast meat to front the photo.

• Find a clean background. If the dish is to "pop" in the photo, you need a background that does not distract. If you want a dish to stand out, move away other dishes for a clutter-free backdrop.

• Keep it simple. Unless you are a professional food stylist, taking a single photo of multiple dishes will always be a challenge. Do not try to fit more than two dishes into a shot, so you can style them easily.

• Experiment with different angles. Some dishes such as steamboat tend to look better when shot from the top, while others such as fried chicken might look tastier when photographed from the side.

• Use the depth-of-field or bokeh mode when taking close-ups of dishes. Blurring the background allows the viewer to focus on a main subject. This is especially helpful when photographing dishes of similar items, such as a plate of pineapple tarts.


• Take along a selfie stick. It allows you to easily take photos of yourself from a higher angle so you can avoid the dreaded double-chin in your photos. In addition, some selfie sticks such as the Xiaomi Wireless Selfie Kit ($38) double as a tripod for group photos.

• Use the portrait mode when photographing one person. It blurs the background and lets your subject stand out. With smartphones such as the Apple iPhone XS and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, you can change the aperture after taking the picture to adjust the background blur to your liking.

• Take advantage of lighting. Make use of whatever light is available. For instance, I like to have my subjects by the window as it provides natural light at an angle. The resulting portraits usually look more dynamic.

• Capture emotions. As a smartphone is not as intrusive as a DSLR camera, people are usually more relaxed and tend to be more natural when being photographed. Look out for candid moments to capture that priceless expression.

• Position your subjects for group photos. Often, group shots during Chinese New Year gatherings tend to look like "firing squad" photos, as everyone is lined up in a straight line facing the camera. Position your subjects at various points within the frame, with them facing different directions. For a family photo, a grandparent can, for example, sit in the middle of the sofa facing at a 45-degree angle outwards, while the taller ones stand behind the sofa as the others sit on the sofa's hand rests. Make sure everyone is looking at the camera when you take the shot.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Capturing festive moments with your smartphone'. Subscribe