5 tips for taking the perfect food photo for Instagram

Dec 19 2017, 11:27 pm

Going out to eat is no longer just about the food, it’s also about snapping a drool-worthy photo. Making sure your meal looks as appetizing online as it does in real life comes down to getting a few crucial things right. Vancouver-based food reporter Erin Ireland shares her tips for taking delicious food photos perfect for posting on Instagram.

Before you commit to taking your food photo, there is one thing you have to overcome: embarrassment that other restaurant guests are watching you take it. Sometimes that involves kneeling on your seat to get a higher vantage point or moving to an unoccupied table that has more light. It can feel awkward and there may be eye rolls and snickering. Ireland’s advice? Ignore it.

“You have to block them out and act like they are not there,” she says. “You also have to get really comfortable in your surroundings and do whatever you have to do to get a shot – act like a boss!”

Now that you’re mentally prepared and comfortable to take the photo, here are the next steps to consider:

Determine whether your subject is photo worthy

Is it especially beautiful? Well plated? Delicious? Served on attractive plate wear? A breakfast served on styrofoam for example might not be a shot you should waste your time taking.

Find proper lighting

If a restaurant is dim, consider taking your dish outside. Ask your dining partner or even your server to hold it for you, or find a decent background outside. Sometimes the ground can work well. Moving your dish to a table near the window can also work.

If you’re impeded by shadows from pot lighting while taking an overhead shot, have your dining partner hold a menu below the pot lighting to block the direct ray of light.

If you’re desperate to get a shot in a dark restaurant, and outdoor lighting isn’t an option, use your smart phone’s flashlight covered with a napkin for a softer light.

Ask your server to hold the food for a different angle (Erin Ireland)

Ask your server to hold the food for a different look (Erin Ireland)

Determine your camera angle: overhead, 45 degree, or straight on

Items like burgers most always require a straight on or 45 degree shot so its layers are visible (unless it’s open-faced and the dish includes great looking side dishes – this might warrant an overhead shot).

Flat dishes, like pasta or pizza, almost always require an overhead shot. Of course there are exceptions to every rule depending on your surrounding and setting.

Experiment with different angles (Erin Ireland)

Experiment with different angles (Erin Ireland)

Take more shots than you think you need

If you’re not a highly-skilled photographer, play the numbers game by shooting plenty of shots. You’ll increase your chances of finding a winner. Also, play around with your composition, move cutlery around, position condiments etc.

Although, sometimes I find the natural shot is best, for example leaving everything on the table, even crumpled napkins and personal items. Other times you’ll have to move your dish around in order to shoot it’s best angle.

Editing is key

I enjoy the app Snapseed for quick edits on my smartphone. A few adjustments I make on almost every shot: straighten so your table line or skyline is horizontal, brighten (even if you had good light, a slight increase of exposure can really make a photo pop) and warmth (if you’re shooting early morning your photo may appear blue due to the lack of light, and the opposite in the afternoon).

Brighten to bring out colour (Erin Ireland)

Brighten to bring out colour (Erin Ireland)

Bonus tip: avoid direct sunlight. I find the best light to shoot in is indirect natural light by a window.

Erin Ireland is a passionate food reporter for 102.7 The Peak RadioCTV Morning LiveBC Living Magazine and her site, itstodiefor.ca, which serves to connect Vancouverites with the most delicious and ethically-sourced food in the city.

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