I am an Instagram addict. No, not in a bad way (says the addict, haha), but I am a really huge fan! It’s become such a huge part of my life that most of my day is spent on Instagram, drooling over stunning photos and the amazing life adventures of my friends.
The simple, straightforward approach also presents a really inspiring challenge for me: shooting photos for the square format, and telling stories, one picture at a time. I like to think that I’ve come a long way from badly lit photographs of half-eaten food, and I’ve learnt so many tips and tricks from this amazing community about food photography that I’d love to share.
1. Shoot for the square
The whole thing about Instagram photos is that they are cropped to a square (1:1) ratio. To help frame for this, I find that it’s much easier to shoot in portrait (instead of landscape), because it allows me to visualise where the photo would get cropped. Not that you can’t do it in landscape, but I seem to always not quite allow enough room for cropping in landscape photos, so this just works better for me!
Of course, you can also just shoot in a square frame, but I still want to use the photos for other stuff, and keep them whole, so I choose to shoot first, crop later. =)
2. Have a subject
Instagram is pretty much a phone-only platform, and because of the limited screen real estate you get on a phone, I think it’s really important to focus into a particular subject. It draws focus into your photo, and captures people’s attention when they’re scrolling! Feel like you’ve got a lot to show and say? Well, why not post multiple pictures to Instagram! I like to pick my favourites to share, but feel free to tell your story any way you want!
3. Tell a story
Let’s face it: good food isn’t always pretty and porn-looking. Like, you know, women.
So I find it very helpful in those situations to try and think of what story I’m trying to tell. Is the food meant to be shared? Is it street food? Is it a sinful sexy indulgence?
Pizza, especially simple pizzas like a Margherita or a Potato and fontina pizza (like the one in the picture!), can be hard to photograph because it’s so flat. And we all know it’s delicious, so why not tell the story by photographing the chef in the midst of preparing it? It adds a new dimension to the photo, and it’s great practice to try and capture the moment!
4. Think in shapes!
I love a bit of food porn as much as the next person, but sometimes I need to remind myself that photography is as much about design as about the subject! This is something that I’m still learning how to use effectively, but what I’ve learnt from drooling over beautiful aerial shots is that all the components – the circular plates, the lines of the table – are also design elements in the photo, and can be used to create a lovely picture!
5. Rotate the picture
Sometimes I have this image in my mind – how the plates are going to be just so, and all the supporting elements are going to tell the story – and then it just doesn’t look quite right in the end photo.
Well, why not try rotating the photo? Yep, it can be as simple as that.
There. Much better.
6. Experiment with Symmetry
Trying out a new kind of marinated egg: besides the Japanese usual of soy and mirin, I'm also using lapsang suchong, a smoky Chinese tea. This results in an egg that's got notes of woodsmoke, savoury soy, and sweetness of mirin and a touch of rice vinegar. Topped with a touch of citrus salt for a zesty lift! #eggsperiments #egg #recipetest
It’s quite common in photography to have contrasting colours and intersecting lines so that it draws the eye, but there is just something so zen about symmetry, and it can add a great balance to a simple photo. Sometimes, when the food is simple, I like using symmetry as a tool to lay out the shapes. Also, it feeds my OCD tendencies. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
7. Fake the depth of field
To be honest, I use this in my regular food photography too. “Something in the foreground, something in the background”, I always say. It creates a “moment”, and draws the eye into what you’d like to really show off.
8. Edit your photos
Instagram has a whole bunch of amazing tools, and there’s no reason to let that go to waste! And if, like me, its not quite doing it for you – I’m a bit of a control freak – then why not try these other great photo editing apps that are my absolute favourites!
9. Turn the plate
Just like a face has great angles and not-so-great angles, food does too! I know it can be so tempting to just snap a plate of food as it is so that you can smash your face straight into the hot, delicious pile of smells and flavours in front of you, but just take 30 seconds to turn the plate, so that the food can look its best, and so can your photograph! =)
10. Find the light!
This is straight out of America’s Next Top Model for me – find the light like a moth to a flame. Restaurants can be so dimly lit sometimes, and while that’s fantastic for ambience, it’s horrible for food photos. I like to request to sit in a brightly lit area (where possible!) and there’s a variety of lighting hacks that you can pull out.
I hope that these tips help you in your Instagram food photos as much as they help me! Do you have a favourite food photography tip? I’d love to hear more in the comments below! Oh, and remember to stay tuned, because we are going to be doing more photography tips every Monday!