The Handbook
The Handbook

From natural light to knowing your angles, here are the golden rules of making your food Instagram pictures scrummier than ever.

Call us basic but we are those people on the next table taking pics of our avocado on toast – it kind of comes with the territory. And if eating out in London is anything to go by, we’re not the only ones.

There is a fine line between a good plate of food and a bad plate of food and that rules applies to photographing it too. 

So if you’ve always dreamed of being the next Clerkenwell Boy (one of London’s hottest foodie influencers if you didn’t know) or just want to rack up those double taps on your next post, here are the insider tips to capturing your food in its best light.

Find the natural light

One of the secrets to a good Insta shot is natural light, be that a beauty selfie or a close up of your steamed bun. The golden rule is to never use the flash and seek natural light where possible. If that means asking your server for a table by the window them so be it. In fact, we can’t tell you how many food PRs have told us that many a food influencer and blogger request the window seat or outdoor area. Diva-esque? A little. Double tap worthy pic? Definitely.

 

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Use photo editing apps

The built in filters and editing options on your phone aren’t a patch on the downloads you can buy on the App Store.

VSCO is free but looks anything but budget, in fact, it’s used by many top influencers.

There’s also Foodie, which uses live filters so you can see what the filter will look like before you take the picture, although we always think it’s better to take the picture first and then add the filter on top.

And finally, Lightroom – great if you need to play with exposure and colour if you can’t find good natural light. You can also install presets so that all of your photos look the same – perfect if you’re after a consistent scroll of squares.

Move stuff around (including your fellow diners)

If getting it for the ‘gram means moving your Insta boyfriend out of shot so be it. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the table or temporarily move messy looking cutlery. Curate your condiments and add space and depth with a quick reshuffle.

Upgrade your phone

OK, not the most frugal of options but if you’re serious about capturing your matcha latte in its best light that crusty old iPhone 6 ain’t going to cut it.

Invest in a phone with a decent camera and practice using the portrait mode, even when your subject is inanimate.

Use your phone’s grid settings 

Most phones have a grid setting which allows you to overlay a grid map before you take your picture.

This will not only allow you to line things up in an orderly fashion and get your angles right  but also help when using the ‘rule of thirds,’ the photography theory which is essentially a rule of thumb that splits the image into three  parts to get the most aesthetically pleasing outcome.

 

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Adjust the exposure

You can adjust the level of exposure before you take your picture on your smart phone.

Simply open the camera, tap the screen and a sun icon should appear. Next to this you can up or lower the exposure to let more light into your picture, which will not only change the colours of your food, but the overall feel of the photo.

If getting it for the ‘gram means moving your Insta boyfriend out of shot so be it. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the table, temporarily move messy cutlery or curate your condiments.

Never zoom

Just don’t. Don’t be your mum and zoom in before the picture is taken, it will make the photo blurry. Wait until you’ve captured the image and then crop and zoom in edit as your please.

Know your angles 

Be that person who stands on the chair to get the perfect shot-from-above tablescape, crop in really close to up the ante of your food porn or come in at an angle to get that golden gooey egg yolk captured in all its glory. 

Change your background 

If you’re into Instagramming your freshly baked sourdough or Monday night dinner at home, make sure you have a gram-friendly backdrop. 

 

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Kitchen worktops a little less than chic? Buy a relatively cheap slab of marble from eBay or Amazon to take your pictures on, take your plate to the bedroom where the light floods in or head out to the garden if it makes for a better shot – no one need know.

Invest in good plates 

Similarly, no matter how good your tarte tatin turned out, it’s not going to look great on those plates you’ve been hoarding since the uni days. Invest in chic crochery – even better bag it in the sale – and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match, it will look suitably eclectic.

Anthropology, Zara Home and H&M all do really great pieces for an affordable price point on the high street.

 

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Anthropology, Zara Home and H&M all do really great pieces of crockery for an affordable price point that will elevate that homemade soughdough.

Use the negative space in the frame 

What we mean by this is you don’t have to put your food front and centre in the frame.

Crop tray bakes to the side to add some space and depth to your image or crop in close on plate of oozy pasta.

Sure, we all love the uniform precision of something like Symmetry Breakfast‘s incredible Instagram feed, but it’s very hard to recreate consistently and it isn’t supposed to look natural.

Playing with space can really help to make your images tell a better story.

Fake the reality

This is Instagram after all and if it means slicing into your cinnamon bun or perching a fork precariously on your plate to bring a sense of reality to your pictures while actually being utterly contrived, then it’s worth it.

Check out food writer Felicity Spector‘s gorgeous feed for ideas – she’s the master of a perfectly placed fork. 

Take tonnes 

Take a baker’s dozen approach to your pics and always prepare for more than necessary. Few foodie influencers get the shot in one take.