When it comes to food photos on social media, I know there are folks out there that disapprovingly proclaim, "Who cares what you ate for breakfast?!" Well, I care! I care what you ate for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner!

Really. 

Great food Instagrams inspire me to try something new in the kitchen or check out a new restaurant. 

Humans have been paying homage to beautiful food for hundreds of years: capturing the way the light falls on a bowl of fruit or a table of wine and cheese in a painting is considered high art and celebrated in museums, not mocked for self-indulgent foodie-ism! 

I was a photo editor at The Arizona Republic for 10 years and I loved working on the food section; styling plates of pasta, making loaves of bread look irresistible, capturing the excitement of a chef at work. Nowadays I shoot food and manage Instagram accounts for my restaurant clients.

I take the ‘Insta’ part of Instagram pretty seriously – I’m not one of those photographers that shoots everything on their DSLR and performs image correction in Photoshop. I shoot all my Instagram images with my iPhone 6.

Here are five tips for making more mouth-watering Instas:

#1 Head to the nearest window

Food always looks best in soft, natural light, so ask for that table near the window.  You want that nice diffused light to wrap around the food, giving it dimension (highlights and shadows) and showing off its natural color  (not the flat, yellow tinge it gets from the overhead ‘mood’ lighting). 

Once it gets dark, things get a little tricky. Your phone will compensate for the low light by making things grainy or by automatically using the flash, which is too harsh. 

So if you really must photograph your dish after the sun goes down, have a friend use the flashlight on their phone as a light source, angled slightly above and to the side of the dish.

Natural light coming from a nearby window creates beautiful, soft shadows and highlights

Natural light coming from a nearby window creates beautiful, soft shadows and highlights

 

#2 Consider your angle

You want the food to look its best and you want the background to enhance, not distract from the focus of the shot, so contemplate that plate! Does it looks prettiest from directly above? Is it the height of the tuna tower that’s most impressive? You might need to get down to the food’s level to really capture the dimension of a dish, or stand over it to get the graphic beauty of the arrangement on the table. 

Directly from above or down at plate level are often the best angles to capture food

Directly from above or down at plate level are often the best angles to capture food

 

#3 Cropping is your friend

I usually shoot all my Instagram intended photos with the square crop already set on my iPhone, that way I can be sure exactly what’s going to be in the frame. There’s nothing worse than shooting a beautiful vertical image only to loose the best bits when you crop to a square.  I also try and shoot as close to the crop I want as possible – if you try and crop too much afterwards you loose image quality and could end up with a blurry photo. 

Finally, a creative crop can turn an average photo into an exceptional photo.  Play around with negative space (you don’t need to fill the whole frame with the dish) and including or excluding background elements to create the most captivating image.

Get creative with crops

Get creative with crops

 

#4 A little styling goes a long way

Rarely is plate of food ‘photo ready’ when it’s put in front of you. Giving the viewer a sense of place, or creating a vibe for your image with the thoughtful placement of a few objects can really elevate a shot. Try placing the fork on the plate, elegantly laying the bistro napkin nearby, pulling the floral centerpiece into the corner of the shot or scattering some of the ingredients you used on the edge of frame. 

Using ingredients or a simple fork can really elevate the image

Using ingredients or a simple fork can really elevate the image

 

#5 Take it easy on your filters

You want your food to look like food, and as tempting as it is to rely on those funky film grain and lens flare filters, they rarely do a dish justice. I keep things simple by using the VSCO app (I like the filmic quality of their filters over Instagram’s) and my favorite filters for food are F1 and HB1, which I always use at between 50% and 75%. Sometimes I’ll add a little more contrast or tweak the saturation. Then I upload to Instagram and post. If you prefer to just use Instagram then I recommend the Aden or Mayfair filters.

Go easy on the filters 

Go easy on the filters 

 
Share YOUR favorite snaps with me by tagging #RilleFood and check out more of my photos here!

 

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