How to take drool-worthy Instagram food photos

Raise your hand if you've recently been out to a meal with your friends or family. 

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Okay... now be honest: raise your hand if you spent a solid 5 minutes or so trying to get the perfect shot of your meal when it arrived.

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Who else just sheepishly raised their hand?

We've all been there. Your amazing dish arrives at the table, and while all you want to do is eat, you still want to get that #foodporn shot. 

How to take drool-worthy Instagram food photos.png

And rightly so! Food photography is no longer reserved just for the pros.

Instagram is full of carefully styled photos featuring some of the world's most delicious dishes.

But the struggle for taking the perfect food photo is real.

From finding the perfect background to making the meal actually look appetizing, there's a lot more that goes into those drool-worthy photos than we see on our mobile screens.

So how do you up your Instagram food photography game?

I've partnered up with Abigail Hopkins from That Clean Life and Dani Meyer from The Adventure Bite to give you five of their best professional tips for crafting the perfect food photo.

So without further ado, here's how to style your Instagram food photos like a pro!

1. Never Lose Sight of the Light

It's all about the lighting in food photography.

No matter how much time you've taken to arrange the perfect composition of delectable treats, if your lighting is poor, your photo won't turn out how you want it.

Dani Meyer, food blogger, professional food photographer and recipe developer from The Adventure Bite, says to always use natural light as much as possible.

"Don't be afraid to ask for the window seat at a restaurant and tell them why. Light your food from one side or slightly from the back side."

 Photo from Dani Meyer at  T  he Adventure Bite  (@adventurebite)

Photo from Dani Meyer at The Adventure Bite (@adventurebite)

She also recommends playing around with diffused light.

"It has soft shadows versus direct sunlight which creates harsh, unflattering shadows. Shoot under an awning, under a tree, or back a few feet from a window in a restaurant if the sun is streaming through.

Avoid the ugly orange restaurant lights at all costs!"

2. Experiment with Different Angles

Think outside of the box and try new angles to help work out your food photography style.

Instead of taking a typical photo of a poached egg, break open the yolk to add some dimension that will make viewers hunger for your meal.

You could also take a bite out of your food or use movement like pouring a cup of coffee to make your angle more interesting.

Abigail Hopkins, co-founder of That Clean Life and a Culinary Nutrition Expert, says her favourite is the aerial shot.

"It's my go-to angle for food photography. It's easy, great for showing off the dish, and you don't have to worry about catching anything distracting in the background."

 Photo by  That Clean Life’s  recipe developer extraordinaire,  LeChing Vuong .

Photo by That Clean Life’s recipe developer extraordinaire, LeChing Vuong.

Abigail says, "In this photo of Mexican Street Corn Soup, LeChing uses the perfect amount of natural light and is meticulous with styling, using bright ingredients, a layered background and a colourful garnish. The overhead angle is perfect for capturing what’s in the bowl."

Whether you love flatlays (photos taken from that bird's eye view) or shots that focus on one dish, use angles to help create your Instagram feed's signature style.

3. It's All About Composition

Add character and dimension to your food photos by doing more than just snapping a picture of your food when it arrives.

Dani from The Adventure Bite says, "Food styling can be tricky when you add too many components.

Pick your hero and focus the photo around that by pulling that item to the front of your scene with any garnishes falling off behind the main focus."

 Photo from Dani Meyer at  T  he Adventure Bite  (@adventurebite)

Photo from Dani Meyer at The Adventure Bite (@adventurebite)

Does the restaurant serve its dishes with vintage cutlery or on beautiful wooden boards? Make sure to include these elements in your shot.

If you're cooking at home, stock up on interesting looking props. From napkins to marble worktops, it's small background details that can really make a food photo on Instagram pop.

Use these unique elements to your advantage to help your photos stand out from the masses.

But at the same time, you also need to know when to remove items to increase your photo's strength.

"Minimize distractions by choosing backgrounds that are simple in colour. Wood, concrete, plain tablecloths and even a city skyline can work," says Dani.

4. Think About the Bigger Picture

Feed design is one of the first things I teach my students in my InstaGrowth Boss course.

It's a minor thing you can do that will have a major impact on the success of your Instagram account.

Download a free app like Later, and start thinking about how each image will fit in with your feed.

Some food Instagrammers prefer doing the same thing for each shot to create consistency, while others like alternating between different shot angles, colours and textures.

One of my favourite food accounts is @naturally.jo.

  Naturally.jo 's Instagram feed

Naturally.jo's Instagram feed

He uses the same grey background for each of his shots, only rotates between two angles and doesn't change his editing style.

His followers know what to expect from him and sticking to this feed design has helped him create a strong and recognizable brand.

5. Edit Your Photos

You don't need Lightroom or Photoshop to edit your photos like a pro.

Snapseed is one of Dani's favourite apps. "It's easy to use and has lots of custom options available," she says.

 Photo from Dani Meyer at  The Adventure Bite  (@adventurebite)

Photo from Dani Meyer at The Adventure Bite (@adventurebite)

I really love using VSCO or A Color Story. All of these apps have a range of preset filters that make editing your photos quick and easy.

(Quick tip: while Lightroom for desktop is not free, the Lightroom app for Android or IOS is completely free! Amazing, right?)

But don't go overboard with your edits. When adjusting your contrast, exposure, highlights or colour saturation, make sure the photo still looks realistic.


Ready to put your new photography skills to use and grow on Instagram?

Sign up for my free Instagram Masterclass for all the growth tactics I used to grow my account to over 60K followers in a year!


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Elise Darma

About the Author:

Elise Darmanin believes that "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." That's why she makes beaches, coffee shops and co-working spaces her office by working remotely while growing Canupy Content. Canupy is a social media and copywriting agency for small to medium-sized businesses. The Canupy team helps brands grow through social media marketing, copywriting and content strategies that inspire audiences and drive sales.