How To Take Tasty Instagram Food Photos

— by Caroline on Crack

Macarons Instagram food photo by Caroline on Crack

Don’t these just scream, “Eat me”?

I’ve had the good fortune of being called out on Mashable and Huffington Post for being one of a select number (75 and 11 on the lists, respectively) of food-focused Instagram accounts worth following. I’m not a professional photographer, just someone who really wants to document and remember all the beautiful dishes and cocktails that I’ve had. Taking food porn really is an addiction and has become as important in the appreciation of a dish as smelling and tasting it.

And because I take pride in my shots, I’ve made sure to do what I can to take good ones. Again, I’m not a pro photog. These are just things I’ve picked up that I figure are worth sharing.

Awhile back I wrote a post for LA Weekly’s Squid Ink asking renown food pornographers for their tips which included things like light, no flash and composition. But here’s my Instagram-focused supplement to that list, for those who want to up their food porn game.

6 Instagram Food Photo Tips

Instagram Goldie's Bloody Maria by Caroline on Crack

Instagram food photo tip #2: Get in tight.

1) Pre-Instagram App: My favorite photo app for food shots is Hipstamatic, believe it or not. Bartender Jordan Gold (@mrgoldjigger), quite the accomplished food pornographer himself, was the one who turned me onto Hipstamatic’s Foodie SnapPak. The pack includes a Loftus lens inspired by photographer David Loftus, a Tasty Pop Flash (which I never use) and DC Film which brings out the delicious tones. It’s my second favorite photo app.

2) Get in Tight: When using Instagram, you have such a tiny space to work with that it really is best to get in close for your shots; perfect for food shots. Get the details. And if you can’t get the whole plate in the frame, that’s OK. Focus on the texture. The sunny-side-up egg glistening atop a quinoa bowl, the condensation outside a cocktail glass, the fine foam of a Ramos Gin Fizz.

3) Doctor the Shot: I usually try to do as much as I can to make sure I secure a great photo — light, focus, composition. But when all that fails, it’s time to fix it in post. Here are my favorite apps:

  • Aviary: I use Aviary for basic fixes like when I want to brighten a shot and balance out the colors. Occasionally I’ll use the “Sharpness” feature if I’ve got some blur.
  • Facetune: OK, this is not a food porn app. But I really want people to want me to take their pictures. And the way to do that is to make them look good. So Facetune will smooth out complexions, get rid of red eyes and even, if worse comes to worse,  reshape!
Anthony Bourdain blur Instagram by Caroline on Crack

OK, I threw out Tip #4 for this but it’s Bourdain!

4) Learn To Let It Go: This is hard to do but when I don’t like the shot I take, I just won’t post it on Instagram. (Unless it’s a #drunkgram.) Even if it’s an exceptionally beautiful cocktail. If the light is too dim, it’s a blur, etc. it’s just not worth it. The only exception was when I took a blurry shot of Anthony Bourdain handing me a plastic cup of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year. But how could I not post that one?

5) Light Redux: In the LA Weekly post, the food pornographers discussed the importance of good lighting. But when you frequent dim bars, you don’t have that luxury. Grainy shots aren’t your friend. So I usually either use the flashlight app off a friend’s phone or the steady light feature of the Camera+ app. Even though I’m still guilty of this, NEVER use the flash on your phone. It’s best to have a steady light from a separate source so that you can hold it from the best angle. If the light isn’t too bad but still dim, I’ll use my regular camera app first. It’s better than the Instagram one, adjusting to low light and focusing faster.

6) Use HDR and Focus Wisely: It’s easy to go crazy with these Instagram functions. You want to call out a certain part of the shot so blur out everything else but then you just have a field of blur and a little circle of detail. And HDR may be good for bringing out the details in a shot but at the same time it will end up just oversaturating it.

Extra: The Food Photography Guide To Instagram Filters