8 Hot Tips for Food Photography in the Instagram Era

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We all know that it’s seemingly a violation of Instagram policy to not have at least 50 percent of your gallery showing sunsets and food. But while sunsets essentially take photos of themselves (the sun is undoubtedly the most photogenic thing in existence), food can be trickier.

It’s fair to say that the visual gap between the hamburger on the billboard and the hamburger in the wrapper is vast. It’s not often that you get a dish that looks as though it’s been taken straight from a glossy mag, so when you do, it’s entirely understandable that you’d want to document such an occasion.

So how do you take the perfect food photo in this era of Instagram? Here are eight quick tips that should help you to take the perfect shot.


Satisfy your hunger

Your first job is to choose a food item for its taste, rather than its look. Sure, that sauerkraut may look unnervingly photogenic, but if you’re not going to enjoy eating it after you shoot it, there really is no point to the whole charade (and my apologies to any sauerkraut lovers out there. But you are weird.)

Plate it up

What is your food sitting on or in? The backdrop is just as important for a food photo as it is for any photo. Marble? Slate? A chopping board? If you’ve got a takeaway delight, even the disposable packaging can make for the perfect frame. Experiment until something makes the food pop.

Light it right

Lighting is key to getting your food looking its best. Natural lighting is ideal, as artificial has a tendency to create odd shadows or misrepresent color. The ideal place to shoot food photography is on a cloudy day, sitting by a window – this will soften shadows and make colors pop. And whatever you do, don’t use your flash!

Show some perspective

“How big is this salad?”, your audience might ask, “a thimble or a bucket?” Showing a bit of perspective in your food photographs gives your viewer a sense of scale, and can also create a fascinating subplot in the image. A hand going for a slice, a beer glistening in the sun; these things pique interest.

Spin a yarn

Speaking of piqued interest, why not turn the whole photo into a story? Rather than a static bowl of pasta, the same pasta twirled on a fork and hovering in front of a laughing face can give the photo so much more life. Or an ice cream cone held at the end of a long pier. Get creative and tell a tale with your food photography.


Shoot from where you eat

Many chefs take great care in plating up from a diner’s perspective – they build their masterpieces so that they look best from where your eyes sit while eating your dish. So why not use the chef’s hard work and shoot from there?

The chopping block

Cropping an image on Instagram used to be nightmarish. Forcing whatever beautiful landscape you might’ve shot into that pokey little square kept many an Instagrammer awake at night. These days the rules have slackened somewhat, but the early days of the cut-throat crop should not be forgotten. Sometimes leaving out large parts of dishes is to the betterment of the image, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue.

Use a deluxe editor

While your Juno and Clarendon filters are undoubtedly excellent choices, for truly jaw-dropping shots, it may be worth investing in an app that offers editing capabilities that are a little more substantial. Apps like Camera+ and Adobe Lightroom can turn an amateur piece of food photography into the sort of thing that you’d expect to see in the Michelin Star guidebook.

So, are you ready to take your food photography to the next level? Then charge that phone and loosen that belt, there’s dinner to shoot.

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