I feel Instagram has revolutionized the food industry more than the mobile photography industry. Taking pictures of food for memories was considered ‘overdoing it’ at one point but now, people go to specific restaurants only to click pictures and share them on Instagram. Instagramming food is pretty normal these days, however even with better cameras on phones, the quality of pictures is horrid at times!
I have graduated from an amateur photographer to at least a semi-pro (that’s what I think so) in the last few years. Food being my favourite subject, I take a lot of pictures of what I eat and have learnt a few tricks to make the images look better than most on Instagram. While these are not the only tricks in the book, using any or a combination of these tricks WILL make your photos come out better and get more likes 🙂
DON’T USE FLASH. PLEASE.
Using flash for food photography is a big no-no! If the light is not right, you should consider – moving your food plate to a place with better light, add better light to the surroundings or not take a picture at all. You don’t just spoil the picture, but also end up irritating people on a romantic night out, with a gigantic burst of light!
Use the right camera app
While every smart phone is equipped with a camera app, you might be surprised with the difference in output by using an alternative. On Android, Google Camera, Cynaogen Camera and Color OS are some better alternatives to your in-built camera app. I am currently using the customized camera app that comes with the unofficial CM13 ROM by SultanXDA (root required) – the picture output is much much better than any other camera app I’ve used before. Will try and post an APK link of this app soon. On iOS, the in-built camera is perfect so stick to it.
Don’t use the Instagram app to click pictures. Use your choice of camera app and then share with Instagram.
Keep your hands stable
Stable hands are very important to take great food photos especially in low light conditions. You may not always notice it on your mobile, but you’ll see minor distortion when you view it on a laptop. Resting your elbows or hands on the table always help but the images may still shake when you try to hit the shutter button. To avoid this, use the timer function in the app to enable a 3 sec timer for auto clicking the photo.
Choose the correct angle
Angles maketh a photograph. Photography is all about perspective and choosing the correct angle is very important. You’ll need to consider the light, shadows, reflections, background without compromising the beauty of the food. Ensure the light is consistent over the food and there are no shadows.
Food laid flat on a plate looks better if you click from top and items like burgers would have to be clicked from the side to show the layers. Barbecues look good from a 45° angle with glimpses of the smoke flying out. These are just some examples of angles you can use while clicking. Keep experimenting, that’s the key!
Landscape or Portrait?
Similar to the angles I mentioned above, orientation of the photograph depends on what food item you’re clicking. Typically, food photography works better in a landscape mode as it helps capture a wider view of the table or other supplementary items. Portrait works for tall drinks or burgers.
Use add-on features/tools
Camera apps are full of features and tools that assist you click better. Something I use often is the Lens Blur function in the Google Camera that helps you capture a professional looking photograph that focuses on the food and blurs the background. Others include HDR (requires very stable hands and not ideal for all light conditions) or photo modes (night, indoor, sports etc.)
If you’re willing to take a step further, use tripods or monopods along with remote triggers to capture a stable image. Not recommended when you’re on a date! 🙂
Take multiple shots
Multiple shots don’t cost you money so capture 2-3 photographs from the same angle especially if you’re a rookie. Also advisable to take photographs from multiple angles and then choose the one that looks best. Over a period of time, you’ll start clicking better and reduce the need for multiple shots.
If you thought that the popular Food Instagram accounts just click and upload, you’re so wrong. Post processing is an important part of photography. I’m not talking about Photoshopping, but basic color, contract and brightness adjustment. These options are now available within Instagram as well but I prefer professional apps to do this.
Snapseed is a brilliant app for post processing. Adobe Photoshop Express is also great but there are in-app purchases to unlock the full potential. Both apps are available on Android and iOS.
Filters to use
There are 23 filters on Instagram but a typical Food Instagrammer will use 2-3 filters for over 90% of their photographs. Reason is simple – most filters are not good enough for food photography. The ones I use most often are Juno, Ludwig or Gingham. Also keep in mind that not all photographs need a filter – #NoFilter also works brilliantly at times!
Phew! A slightly long read that I hope will make you better Food Instagrammers. Do make sure you ping me back if you feel this article helped you. And yes, share it with your friends as well!
Do also check out http://www.instagram.com/khakefatgaye for my food photographs – #KhaKeFatGaye is an attempt to bring the true food lovers to the most awesome food makers!