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How To Take Instagram Worthy Food Pics With Your Phone

by Albertina Roca   |   February 11, 2019   |  

We all want to know what our friends are posting – and eating – but do you also find yourself wondering how they make their risotto look so amazing, while your pasta carbonara shots looks lumpy and dark? Trust us, nobody's taking fancy DSRL cameras or professional lenses to dinner with them, but they are probably making use of a few tips and tricks to make their steaks look juicy and their cakes luscious. If you want your posts to make everybody feel hungry (and let's face it a little jealous!) pay attention to these simple tips.

Keep these tricks in mind, but remember that in the end. you are trying to share memories and enjoy the moment, and not just shoot the perfect dish. The food is one part of it - capture the ambience, capture the mood, and let your audience savor it with you.  Last, but not least, practice makes perfect, so keep ordering, shooting, and sharing!

Photo: @mercedesaime


  1. Natural light: Natural light is always better. If you can’t shoot outside, go near the window, always. And if that seat is taken, move around to find the best light source. But avoid direct sun. The secret to a great image is the light. If you're out at night and want to share a shot of your steak in a romantic candlelit dinning room, ask your date to help by asking them to just point the screen light of their phone towards the dish while you take the picture without turning on the flash. If they're up for that, they're up for anything!
  2. Framing. This is the key for harmonious photo. So remember the best composition rule of regular old fashioned photography: rule of thirds. Some phone cameras let you place an actual grid with 9 sections in the viewfinder. Place the subject of your picture a third of the way from your left or right and from the top or bottom, where the lines cross. The focus of the photo doesn’t necessarily have to be the center - that's actually less aesthetically pleasing. Now that Instagram shots don't have to be square, take a chance and use your rule of thirds to make your food look more interesting. Also, when there’s a line in your frame, make sure everything looks straight and level. Either you capture it right or you do it in editing.

  3. grid lines

  4. Focus. It’s all about focusing on the food, but even blurring the background sometimes works wonders. Portrait mode is an easy way to rock it. Also make sure to keep your phone steady to avoid shaking the camera. The focus is as important as the composition, and if you focus on the center of the food, you can't miss. Or you can sometimes play a bit and focus on a certain tempting detail like a generous amount of nutella dropping from an enticing dessert.
  5. Get Close: Macro photos are a good idea if you are shooting juicy fruits or an even plate. Getting close to your subject makes it look bigger and most of the times bigger is better…Think juicy Wagyu beef, colorful grilled veggies, glistening chocolate cakes...or the Spanish tortilla below adorned with chorizo. 

  6. close up

  7. Avoid reflections. If you have an annoying shiny spoon in your composition, put a napkin under the spoon to tilt it away from the light.
  8. Think like a food stylist: Notice every detail, remove empties, turn away food labels, straighten the tablecloth near your dish, brush away crumbs. That being said, be picky but don't be too fussy or pretentious - this is instagram, not Bon Appetit, keep it natural! If you spill some wine or drop some cheese, just go with the flow.
  9. Up Top. Try taking photos from multiple angles: some plates look better taken from eye level (sandwiches, burgers), others from above (stand up for fruits and pizza), or from the versatile ¾ angle (aim intelligently for drinks, cakes).

  10. view from the top

  11. Play with your food (then eat it). Move items around until you find the right way to make your food the priority taking away anything that might make noise or doesn’t add to your composition (like a fork, spoon, napkin, or a busy background). Take a shot of the whole uneaten plate, then tempt your followers with a heaping forkful - invite the viewer to enjoy that bite with you. Take photos before and after trying the dish.

  12. bite of truffle

  13. Shoot, eat, EDIT! You don’t want your friends to be waiting for you to take the perfect photo before they can try the food! Be fast. It's best to take a bunch of pics and pick later. Wait till you get home, or even the next day (when the wine has worn off a bit) to pick the best and edit it. Of course, a quick filter and post is fine, but don't be rude and mess around with your phone all night. For editing, avoid direct sunlight on your phone. Screen brightness varies in the sun and you might be discarding the best ones without realizing it.
  14. There's an app for that app(etizer). Easy postproduction apps (like Snapseed, Lightroom, or Photoshop Express) or even the basic social media edit tools to tweak the image’s sharpness, warmth, brightness, levels and color saturation of your photo will make your food pop. And if you want to go a little further, there are inexpensive lenses and other gadgets to go more pro. But don’t overdo it, you want your food to look edible, not weird with unreal colour excess.
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