10 Ways to Be a Better Food 'Grammer


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Photo by: Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Let's face it: A lot of us share more pictures of food on our social media platforms than we do of our own families. But very few of us have had an actual lesson in the art of "Instagramming." Food Network Magazine devoted a entire section on that exact same subject in their October 2019 issue. Filled with tips and tricks from Instagram influencers and stars, here's everything you need to know to shoot like a pro:

1. Shoot in Natural Light

When you're photographing food, sunlight is always the best option. You'll want to get as close to a window as you can but be sure to position yourself so you aren't casting a shadow on the food.

Photo by: Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Photograph by Ryan Dausch

  • If you’re shooting at night: Use whatever light is available but try to avoid direct overhead light. Move a lamp if possible and place your dish so the light hits it at an angle.
  • If you’re shooting in a dark restaurant: Ask a friend to pull up a white screen (not the flashlight) on their phone and place the screen near the dish to help light it.

Pro Tip: “When we’re at a restaurant, we’re never afraid to go where the light is best. If we can do so without being rude, we’ll ask if we can take our plate outside quickly, and they’re basically always fine with it.”- Rebecca West and Greg Remmey, @devourpower

2. Try Different Angles

While many dishes look dramatic when they’re shot from directly overhead, sometimes other angles are best. Here are some options to consider:

The Overhead Angle

Shooting this fruit tart at an overhead angle gives you the best view of the berry topping.

The Three-Quarter Angle

From this angle you can see every detail in this cupcake's frosting swirl.

The Straight-On Shot

A straight-on shot shows off all the ingredients in this stacked sandwich.

Pro Tip: “I always use a small tripod, especially when filming video, because it keeps the shot steady and consistent. You can find basic ones on Amazon that fit your phone or camera. There’s one I really like that’s just $24!” - Chelsey White, @chelsweets

3. Crop, Crop, Crop!

We’re often tempted to capture a whole scene when we’re shooting food, but sometimes you should just get in there!

Too Pulled Back

Nothing stands out in this photo and there's a lot of dead space around the peaches.

Slightly More Cropped

We can see the food better in this shot, but everything still looks pretty far away.

Tightly Cropped FTW

Boom! We can finally see the peaches, and we want to dig right in!

Pro Tip: “I try a lot of crops and compositions until I find something that feels really good to look at and good to eat. Sometimes that means cropping in tighter than I ever imagined. If a dish has a lot of color or texture, cropping in gives it much more impact.” - Jerrelle Guy, @chocolateforbasil

4. Don't Be Too Precious

Get a little messy! Very few people can keep things pristine while cooking — and who wants to see that kind of unrealistic perfection anyway? Let sauce drip down your bowl or crumbs fall from your cake. It’ll add to the photo’s authenticity.

Photo by: Photograph by Con Poulos

Photograph by Con Poulos

Pro Tip: “Messiness can seem accidental and organic, but it can also look lazy. Take a minute to evaluate which bucket your image falls into — and keep in mind that what you see in person might look very different in a photograph!” - Jocelyn Delk Adams, @grandbabycakes

5. Be Your Own Prop Stylist

Dishes, utensils and linens can be just as important as the food. Here are some tips from the pros:

Use a Colorful Background

“Vibrant backdrops make my photos pop in people’s feeds. And they can be cheap: Try poster board or even contact paper.” - Kelly Egan Huibregtse, @asideofsweet

Choose Pretty Cookware

“I love shooting food in its cookware. It looks melty and hot — and more appetizing than when it’s plopped on a plate.” - Kadee Morrison, @ohsodelicioso

Show Your Tools

“People might not know that madeleines get their shape from a special pan. Incorporating the pan in the image helps tell the story.” - Becky Sue Wilberding, @bakingthegoods

Have Fun with Flatware

“I’ll coordinate utensils with the food, like gold forks for a gold-dusted cake. Matte finish is best — no strange reflections!” - Lindsay Landis, @loveandoliveoil

Use the Right Glass

“For cocktails, the glassware you choose should make sense. It’s as much about staying true to the drink as it is about looks.” - Elliott Clark, @apartment_bartender

Frame Your Food

“It’s helpful to add props around the subject that extend beyond the edge of the photo, to anchor it.” - Kayley McCabe, @thekitchenmccabe

Add Flowers or Herbs

“Greenery adds so much texture. And using seasonal plants connects the recipe to a time of year.” - Jenn Davis, @twocupsflour

Throw in a Towel

“A dishcloth makes an image feel spontaneous, like someone is ready to dig into the dish." - Ivan Solis, @ivansocal

Think Outside the Kitchen

“I get creative and bring in beach towels, totes and T-shirts as backdrops." - Erin Stanczyk, @erinstanczyk

6. Fake It Till You Make It

You can create any scene and any mood in a photo without revealing your secrets. Food Network Magazine Features editor Erica Finamore posted this luxurious-looking breakfast to her home decor account @decorofthematter, but the truth behind the picture: “The ‘tablecloth’ is a pillowcase from Target, the flowers are from a convenience store and the pastry is Entenmann’s!”

Photo by: Photograph by Erica Finamore

Photograph by Erica Finamore

7. Capture Motion

Syrup dripping down pancakes, milk swirling into iced coffee, cheese oozing from a sandwich…the more movement you show, the more captivating your image will be. Decide on an action and shoot constantly while it’s happening so you can pick the best shot to post.

Photo by: Photograph by Charles Masters

Photograph by Charles Masters

8. Invite People to the Party

Instagram is a social medium, and your photos should reflect the idea of sharing. Shoot multiple place settings or consider showing a dish with a few bites taken out of it — anything to make the scene feel friendly and welcoming.

Photo by: Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Pro Tip: “I hardly ever have faces in my photos, but I love hands. They show that people are enjoying the food, but they still create a little mystery.”- Bev Weidner, @BevCooks

9. Play with Your Settings

Instead of using Instagram’s filters, try the photo-editing tools: You’ll have more control over the finished look. Here’s how to save a dark restaurant photo:

Upping Contrast

Upping the contrast makes the difference between the light tones and dark tones more extreme.

Boosting Brightness

Boosting the brightness helps the shot look like it was taken with some natural daylight.

Increase Highlights

Increasing the highlights makes light elements, like the drink’s fizz, even more pronounced.

10. When in Doubt, Shoot Noodles

Is there anything more alluring than a photo of a big steaming bowl of pasta or ramen? Noodles are one of the 10 most popular foods on Instagram! Make a bowl of our Ramen with Charred Pork (pictured below) and see for yourself! Something tells us you'll rake up those likes.

Photo by: Photograph by Ralph Smith

Photograph by Ralph Smith

Pro Tip: “Photos of pasta are always a big hit. From an emotional standpoint, everyone loves pasta, and from a technical standpoint, noodles have a lot of texture, so they photograph well.”- Skyler Bouchard, @diningwithskyler

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