Well Thanksgiving is over and I hope you had a wonderful day with your family and friends. As it turned out, life happened and we did not have the Thanksgiving we had planned. Two days before Thanksgiving my son and his girlfriend’s Great Dane, Portia, came down with a massive infection and required emergency life saving surgery. She survived (Thank God) and was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving. So instead of spending the day with us, they spent the day taking care of Portia as she was still very, very sick and could not be left alone. We toyed with the idea of driving to them but everything happened so last minute and Portia needed complete quiet and attention so we felt it best not to make the trip. It was sad they didn’t spend the day with us but we are grateful Portia survived and is slowly recovering. Besides, being grateful is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Since the day turned out to be very quiet,I spent some time (okay, too much time) on Instagram. I saw many photos from friends, designers and shelter magazines of beautiful Thanksgiving table settings. Most were outstanding but I did see a few that could have used a little help. Since Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s is just around the corner I thought it would be helpful to share some tips so that you can get the best photos possible of your table setting using the iPhone (or cellphone of your choice).

1.Pick the best time of the day to shoot the table. Pick the time of day when the available light in the room is the brightest. You do not want harsh sunlight streaking across the table but you also don’t want to wait until 6pm just before you sit down to dinner because it will be too dark. Generally mid morning to early afternoon is optimal but it really depends on your specific lighting situation and which direction the room faces. Of course if you want an evening shot then you will want to invest in a cell phone tripod so that the image will be sharp.

2. Use the AF lock on the camera screen. One thing the iPhone can’t do easily like a DSLR is give a desired blurred background or foreground. However, by using the auto focus lock feature you can lock the focus on something in the photo and get a little bit of a blur behind and in front of what the focus is locked on.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

In the photo above I locked the screen on the blue ginger jar so that the orange napkin in the foreground as well as the background blurred out a little.

3. Use an APP to straighten the lines. I saw several photos of tablescapes on Instagram that were shot from directly above. This is a tough shot with the iPhone because unless you are on a ladder up near the ceiling and dead center over your table, you are going to get distortion. Below is an example I took to illustrate what happens. This is the origional image from my iPhone. See how the table looks like it is bent and the plates look like they are falling? That’s because the iPhone lens is a very wide angle so it distorted the image.

Overhead table shot

Using the Transform Tool in the Snapseed App, I was able to adjust the vertical and horizontal perspective to  straighten the lines.

Snapseed Transform tool

Snapseed Transform tool

Using the same App I also lightened and darkened where needed and here is the final image.

Overhead table shot

Overhead table shot

It’s not perfect as I was dealing with overhead pendant lights that were causing shadows and hot spots but at least the lines look better.

4. Try different angles (like above) and don’t forget the closeups. Getting the whole table in the photo can be busy and distracting so focus instead on just one section of the table and don’t forget a few close ups.

Flower detail

I hope these tips give you some confidence to share your upcoming holiday table setting with me. I would love to see it.




Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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