WHEN LIGHTING IS DIM IN A RESTAURANT/CAFÉ/BAR
If the lighting is dim in a restaurant/café, there are a few options I like to use: When I don’t want to bring out extra lighting gear, my favorite option is to use my iPhone. Whilst most people might think this means the flash light on their mobiles, I personally find that lighting too harsh. And in warm lighting conditions, the cool light from mobiles can sometimes make the food look unappealing or create unexpected results like a blue tinged foreground and a yellow tinged background.
Instead, I use an app called SoftBox Pro (other apps include LightBox, SoftBox, or Photo Light HD/Refboard for iPad) that allows me to use my iPhone or iPad screen as a light box. I can change the color of the screen to match the lighting conditions in the restaurant so that the colors of my food are preserved.
If the restaurant uses incandescent lighting, choose a yellow tone so that the food maintains its color; and in fluorescent lighting, use the white to cast light on your subject. Because the whole screen is lit, the light covers a larger surface area without overexposing any particular spot.
If you want to take clear photos in a dark space, opt for a speedlight, which is my favorite option if the location allows. Observe your surroundings and try not to impose on other guests or make them feel uncomfortable, and never use flash in a fine dining restaurant.
Even the most basic speedlight helps as long as you can angle the flash so that it’s not aimed directly at the food. It’s always best to look for white walls or ceilings to bounce the flash off of, as colored walls will affect the color of your photo. My personal favorite is to find a white wall and bounce the flash to the side. This creates better light and shadow play.