There’s no shortage of food photos on Instagram. In fact, #food has been used over 300 million times on the platform—with brunch-goers, influencers, and food brands alike, all competing for consumers’ attention. To help you create content that stands out in this crowded feed, we’re taking you behind the lens to reveal a few secrets for taking mouth-watering, Instagram-worthy food photography.
1. Don’t play with your food (too much).
In other words, know when to stop. It’s important to keep the food looking as natural as possible. The more you fuss with your food, the less appetizing it will look. And that’s not to mention that the integrity of the dish will begin to fall apart, depending on its fragility. The more you move the leaves of a salad around for example, the worse it’s going to look. Luckily, authentic imperfection is embraced these days. We are beyond the age of grandma’s cookbook with its pictures of perfectly pristine, blemish-free turkeys and apple pies.
2. Shoot fresh food fresh.
Timing is important, especially when dealing with “trouble foods,” those foods that don’t keep their integrity at room temperature (ice cream, burgers, greens, etc). Meat will begin to oxidize the instant it comes off the grill, so unless you want to photograph something reminiscent of a hockey puck, you better start shooting right away. Depending on the look you’re going for, ice cream looks good slightly (very slightly) melted, but not in a creamy puddle. The same goes for greens. The longer they sit out, the less appetizing they begin to look. A good rule of thumb is to shoot fresh food fresh, and to only let desserts with a lot of sugar (the more chemicals the better) sit out, excluding ice cream of course.
3. Use different textures.
Food, plates, napkins, silverware all lend a hand in the overall composition of an image. If you’re shooting a stew or soup, it’s important to introduce another texture or else you run the risk of everything looking like monotone mush. Add herbs to your soup or a napkin that brings out the colors in the dish. Try using silverware that has some patina or some wear and tear.
4. Remember, less is more.
If it’s about the food, there’s no need for extra fluff. Make sure that everything in the frame is necessary. If the food is the star, avoid patterned napkins or tabletops. Sometimes all you need is the food, a white dish, and a white marble surface. This is not to say that you can’t introduce color, just make sure that the color works with the food, and be careful not to introduce too many distracting colors.
5. Tell a story.
Never underestimate the power of a work-in-progress image. People relate to stories, and if a single image can tell a story, you are much more likely to garner an emotional reaction from your audience: How was the dish prepared? Was fresh produce used? Who is there eating with you? If everything was shot with a story in mind, far fewer images would be forgotten.