I ditched my afternoon work plans and downloaded the new Bon Appétit after hearing it was shot entirely with an iPhone (!!). I’ve dreamt of this day. The DLSR has always felt too heavy and intimidating in my hands. Last summer I attended a photography workshop put on by Muir Glen with House of Brinson. I timidly rose my hand and jumbled my words to eventually ask if they thought the iPhone would be considered a professional tool for photographers. As soon as the technology improves, yes, they said. I sighed a huge sigh of relief, knowing that one day shooting recipes might not make me sweat so much. I love the simplicity of shooting with my phone. I can see the composition on the screen and quickly adjust if it’s off. It’s quick and efficient. It absolutely suits me. As does this one pot butternut squash soup. Because two pots would be too many, too heavy. I might not even make it.
Inspired by BA, I shot this recipe with my phone (editing with photoshop). I’m not ready to drop the heavy camera yet. The iPhone is just a little too finicky and unpredictable for large scale images. I notice issues mostly in the grey shadows of the white backdrop and in the overly sharp edges of the plates. Both pixelate a bit. For now, I’ll keep practicing iPhoneograhy via Instagram. If you’re interested, I’ve included my typical step-by-step editing process using only the phone below, as well as a couple general tips that have helped me over the years. You might also enjoy this interview with the photographers from the issue. I did.
On to the one pot butternut squash soup. The flavor is pure. The texture is creamy. The color is brilliant. And the clean-up is minimal. Start with only the best of ingredients. The carrots should be sweet and the onions crisp. Salt as you go to achieve an even flavor throughout. Leaving it to the end would be too late. This soup is flexible to meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Chopping abounds, but once complete, the soup is very low maintenance. Kev named this his favorite, and Lucy, my neighbor, called to pass on her approval. A text wouldn’t do she said.
Start with the very best vegetables. You can’t hide a bad carrot. This soup will be naturally sweet and plenty salty. It’s flexible to meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. There’s lots of chopping involved, but once complete, the soup is low maintenance. Give yourself about an hour start to finish to get it on the table. Serve with crusty bread or not.
4 large carrots
1 large sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut oil
a sprig or two of sage (see image above for reference)
2 tsp. flaky kosher salt, divided
a couple cracks of pepper
1 medium-large butternut squash
1 qt. stock or broth
1/2 c. heavy cream or coconut milk
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Prep vegetables. Peel and dice carrots. Dice onion to the same size. Roughly chop garlic.
Into a large stock pot, add prepped vegetables along with the oil, butter, sage sprig, 1 teaspoon flaky kosher salt, and a couple cracks of pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and let the vegetables cook, about 10-15 minutes. The salt will cause them to sweat and breakdown. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.
Meanwhile, peel and dice butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes. Check out this tutorial on how to peel and cut butternut squash from Naturally Ella.
Once the vegetable based has cooked through, add butternut squash and stock. Taste a carrot or onion. Using your judgement, add an additional teaspoon of flaky kosher salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes or until squash is tender.
Remove sage sprig from the pot. Puree soup using an immersion blender. And cream and nutmeg. Puree once more until absolutely smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Garnish with a couple swirls of additional cream and olive oil.
Making ahead of time? Don’t add the cream until the very end of the reheat. Stir in and serve.
Here's the image straight from the iPhone. It definitely needs some lovin.
Let's start. Click the edit icon (the pen). Then click "Tune Image". This is where I do the majority of my adjustments.
Using your finger, slide to the right or left to begin adjusting the image. Slide your finger up and down to adjust different attributes. See numbers to the right of each attribute for reference. I play up the brightness and highlights in my images and deepen the shadows to create depth.
Once the majority of the image looks good, I hone in on the details. In this case, the sage feel too dark. To edit, click the edit icon, this time selecting "Brush". Zoom in. Select the exposure tool and paint the area needing work. I typically only use the exposure and saturation feature of this tool.
A little bit lighter. That's better! In general, try making tiny changes over drastic changes. You can layer a bunch of tiny changes and end up with a better result rather than making one drastic change.
Click the edit icon again. Let's adjust the "Details" to make our image look crisp. I only do this at the very end. Overdoing this feature can cause your image to deteriorate when enlarged.
Brighter, crisper. Yes! Let's save it and move on to another app. Note: did you go wrong somewhere? Click the number in the top right corner to go back into the history of edits.
Let's open the final image in Afterlight. I used to do all of my image editing in this app, but found more control in Snapseed, especially when editing the highlights and brightness.
Click the slider icon, then the magic wand. Let's adjust the "Clarity". I don't always do this step, but sometimes this feature allows me to add a bit more contrast without changing the colors. Like most steps, I only use this feature sparingly, notice the slider.
Now, click the circular rainbow icon. Then click "Guest". This is really why I still use the Afterlight app—for the filters. I apply a scaled back version of "Russ" to help achieve my signature look. I've created a photoshop action to mimic the Russ filter for my DSLR blog photos too. I thrive on consistency.
There you have it—the after. I then upload the image into Instagram and typically press publish. But if I notice something off, I use the Instagram tools sparingly to get it just right.
Fauxtips for iPhoneography
Use natural, diffused light. The iPhone technology is not up to par with a DSLR. In low-lighting situations, the image doesn’t have enough information (or pixels), making it very difficult to edit.
Pick a spot, and shoot exclusively there. Get to know the light and the shadows. Is the light neutral, blue, or yellow? Do you have harsh shadows or soft shadows? Once you get comfortable, begin manipulating and branching out. Buy a cheap white board or a reflector to bounce light when needed.
Choose a consistent background and props. I use a white desktop from Ikea and enamel plates from Rejuvenation. I’ve found that eliminating some of the variables helped me to better focus on and understand the subject. Once that feels comfortable, try adding things back in.
Give yourself as much time to acclimate to the phone camera as you would with a DLSR. Although shooting with an iPhone is quick, you still have to know the tool. And in a way, it needs to know you too. With any form of art, give it time and practice a whole lot.
Tap the subject on the screen to tell the phone where to focus. You can then adjust the brightness by scrolling your finger up or down. I rarely increase the brightness as it blows out the image too much.
Take note: the ratio of the image is different than you’re probably used to. The lens is wide. You can crop to a different ratio when editing, but you’ll need to compose your shot accordingly.
Pick an app (or two) for editing. I use Snapseed (recommended to me by Canary Grey) and Afterlight. Make tiny edits over drastic edits. Try editing the same image a couple different ways to get to know the editing app and your preferences.
Put your problem solving hat on and think backwards when editing. For example, sometimes off-putting colors creep into the white of my images. I use the brush tool to desaturate those areas, removing color without changing the entire image. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Do you have specific questions? Leave them in the comments below. I’d love to help where I can!