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How to take the perfect food shot for Instagram

Achieving the perfect foodie Instagram shot is quite the accolade. The stats say it all – there’s been a meteoric rise in the Google search phrase ‘how to take photos of food for Instagram’ over the past 12 months – that’s a 200% increase, according to keywordtool.io.

Those mouth-watering food photos you casually stop and pause for on Insta might appear effortless, but in reality, capturing an exquisite Instagram foodie shot is quite the art form, requiring careful thought and strategic arrangement. Let’s face it, there’s a good reason some Instagram food pics rack up likes while others fade into the background!

In the pursuit of mastering the art of the perfect foodie Instagram shot, we’ve enlisted the expertise of Georgie Glass, an Instagram influencer and accomplished food and commercial photographer.

Discover her insider secrets on how to boost your chances of your Insta-worthy food photos going viral – from achieving the perfect angles and lighting, down to understanding how to stylise your food for a stunning photograph. And if you’re feeling like your space isn’t living up to your Instagram expectations, check out our new kitchens for some serious inspiration. 

It’s all about the angles – shoot top-down

It’s all about the angles when it comes to capturing an Insta-worthy food shot. Elevate the professionalism of your food photos by opting for the ‘flat lay’ technique, capturing the scene from above.

This method is particularly effective when your dish boasts intricate details on the top, such as a scattering of garnishes, or, when you’re looking to showcase multiple food elements in a single captivating photo. Make sure you’re standing up when you’re taking the picture of your meal, and shoot from a top-down angle, as explained by Georgie:

“Shooting top-down (flat-lay) from up top can make for easy but effective first shots to start out with – don’t make it too hard for yourself! Start with foods like pizzas, tapas and breakfast dishes like Shakshuka, where the dish is flat to the plate or bowl, and you can easily stylise the shot up with additional side dishes and drinks.”

Don’t fill the frame – leave some ‘negative space’

Embracing a clean composition is crucial. Keep in mind the term ‘negative space’ when taking your Insta food photos, which involves intentionally leaving portions of the photograph empty to amplify the visual impact of the shot. Employing this photography technique is an effective way to direct attention to the main focal point of the image, as explained by Georgie:

“You don’t need to fill the frame – there’s a term called ‘negative space’ which can effectively be used to help add drama to any type of shot, but especially food photography. Letting your dish breathe in the frame by adding negative or stylised space around it is a sure-fire way to elevate your photographs.”

Diagonally arrange your objects

Want to take a foodie snapshot that wows? Strategic arrangement of your objects is essential. Diagonally positioning your food can help bring a little magic to your photo. Follow the angles of the food to help with your positioning, or add to the diagonal aesthetic by arranging the food in different directions. Here’s what Georgie recommends:

“I love adding flow through compositions to my images; for example, using diagonals to create movement in food photography is something commonly used and very effective. Push against ideologies of straight lines to create something unique and creative.”

Follow the rule of thirds

The ‘rule of thirds’ stands as a golden rule in photography, especially when optimising your Instagram food photos. When composing your picture, utilise Instagram’s ‘Grid’ feature. This will display gridlines so that your image is divided up into thirds – horizontally and vertically. Simply place the most interesting part of your food setup 1/3 of the way in, so it sits inside the central square where the lines intersect.

 “Making sure your subject hits one of those cross points on the rule of thirds is one of the most satisfying things,” explains Georgie.

Take advantage of portrait mode

Be sure to utilise portrait mode where possible. Doing this enables you to make the most of the entire screen, resulting in a shot that captivates your audience. This mode is particularly effective for Instagram story uploads. Here’s what Georgie suggests:

“Portrait is better for socials, but so long as you have enough space (negative space, perhaps!) around your image to crop, it shouldn’t really matter too much what orientation you’re shooting.” 

Include other objects within the shot

Whether it’s adding in a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, condiments, or stylish crockery, adding lifestyle elements to your arrangement can help create a foodie pic that resonates. Georgie tells us why it’s important to include other props within the shot:

“If you want to create a more stylised, lifestyle kind of image you see across Instagram and social media, adding in props can certainly help you achieve a more relaxed, ‘Instagram-able’ shot.”

Use trial and error to achieve the perfect pic

Even seasoned photographers don’t always capture the perfect shot on their first attempt, as evidenced by Georgie: “I shoot as many takes as I need to ensure I am confident I have captured the shot”.

Achieving the perfect picture takes time, so don’t hesitate to keep on shooting your foodie pic until you are completely satisfied. Adopting a trial-and-error approach will help ensure all elements of the photo come together perfectly. Experiment with different angles, lighting and props to refine and achieve the perfect photo.

Humanise your images.
 

Authenticity is key when composing your Instagram images, particularly in the realm of food photography. Introducing behind-the-scenes details will help to bring your photos to life, weaving a narrative around the image that your audience can relate to. 

“Adding sets of hands to achieve that cheese-pull on the pizza, or that group ‘cheers’ shot of a round of cocktails definitely adds that humanised element to any shot. Sometimes adding something as simple as a pair of hands can help the viewer identify how delectable a dish could be, or help allude to how the senses should react.” Says Georgie.

Do your pictures need to be consistent?

Absolutely! “Consistency is key”, says Georgie. “Make sure all the images you’re uploading are consistently good. That’s my only rule! I promise you; less is more. If you have 10 images for your carousel, but only 4 are out of this world, just upload the 4.”

Natural lighting

Georgie also stressed to us the importance of natural lighting. Good timing and a neutral backdrop are key ingredients for optimal lighting and capturing the perfect image. Aim to snap your picture during a golden hour, where there’s a soft glow of sunlight. It’s also worth considering the following lighting tips:

  • Context of the setting: Consider the context in which people would enjoy the meal you’re photographing, choosing lighting that complements the scenario. For a breakfast shot, for instance, seize the moment early in the morning when warm sunlight streams through your windows.
  • Shadows: Try to capture shadows within the photo— often referred to as a ‘sun-and-shadow’ photo. This could be the silhouette of a window frame or a plant on your kitchen table, for example. Including these additional elements not only enhances the aesthetic, but will create a story by conveying that invigorating early morning wake-up feeling.

Last but not least, be sure to accompany your image with the most-searched-for hashtags when you upload your picture to the grid. Below we’ve listed some of the top food-related hashtags in 2023, according to Sprout Social:

  • #foodporn (300 million)
  • #foodie (241 million)
  • #instafood (237 million)
  • #foodstagram (119 million)
  • #foodphotography (109 million)

For more food photography inspiration and to see some of Georgie’s work in action, follow Georgie @georgieglassphoto – and to get inspired on making your kitchen more Insta-worthy, check out our kitchen ideas hub.

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