Want To Take A Perfect Food Photo? Instagram Stars Spill Their Secrets

Contributing Food Editor By Liz Moody
Contributing Food Editor
Liz Moody is a food editor, recipe developer and green smoothie enthusiast. She received her creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody is the author of two cookbooks: Healthier Together and Glow Pops and the host of the Healthier Together podcast.

Photo by Stocksy

You know the experience—you scroll through your Insta feed, totally inspired by all the gorgeous food pics, but when you go to take your own it looks, well, meh. Dark. Flat. How do you get those vibrant pops of color, the beautiful backgrounds, the drool-worthy quality? We rounded up some of our favorite Insta foodies to reveal their secrets! Hint: There's something you can buy for $12 that'll totally take your pic game to the next level.

Tell a story

"A popular food photograph for Instagram usually tells a story. I try to do this with lighting, color, props, presentation, and motion. In this parfait, the bright light creates a clean mood; the black background contrasts and accentuates the black chia seeds; the red strawberries provide a spark of warm color; the scattered ingredients and leaning glass top create depth and texture. By blurring additional parfaits in the background and partially out of sight, it implies abundance, several people served and plenty for everyone. Finally, I also try to include impending motion in my food with a full spoon or an item perched precariously. It can be mesmerizing, imagining the movement. In this parfait, I did that by balancing a huge dollop of cream with sticky granola bits, giving the feel of an impending toppling, or a soon-to-be puncturing of this billowy top with a spoon." - Debbie, @greensmoothiegourmet

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Use a clean, white background

"My favorite tip for Instagram food photos is taking them in natural lighting against a light background to really make the food pop. Healthy foods and recipes tend to have bright, vibrant colors, so I love pairing them with a clean white background and natural sunlight to really give off a fresh, healthy vibe!" - Taylor, @simplytaylorblog

Be consistent

"Consistency! A consistent style on your feed is so key, whether that is the same type of background (for me marble or white is 90 percent of my photos). Consistent type of food or items in photos are also important because you want to be known for something (breakfast and desserts take up most of my feed). I also have a consistent look with the food I make itself and how I shoot it. I use all-white and natural-colored bowls and plates, metallic silverware. And not to mention add a dreamy nut butter or chocolate drizzle every so often. Stay true to what you love (in my case, I love to eat!)." - Rachel, @rachlmansfield

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Get to know the light in your house

"I've found the most important element in taking a great food shot is to getting to know the light in your house or wherever you shoot and using it to your advantage. You can take a great shot with an iPhone or a basic camera, as long as you have beautiful, natural cool-hued light. Experiment with taking shots in different spots and at different times of day, and after a while you'll start to notice what sort of light is ideal for shooting. I find that shooting midmorning is the best in both summer and winter here in Australia—before the sun has taken a hold on my shooting space, and the light is perfect for bringing out the best in your food." - Georgia, @georgeats

Fake marble countertops

"I bought marble contact paper for $15 on Amazon and put it on an small Ikea side table. Whenever I need to take photos, I drag the table next to the window and voila! Everyone thinks I have marble countertops." - Leigh, @leighweingus

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Frame your photo

"I can't emphasize this enough: Natural daylight makes all the difference. In the winter if I have to I use a daylight lamp, which works okay. You also want to frame your photo. I love using flowers, fruit, fabric, and other pretty things that contrast nicely with the food. The use of color is also really important. I find that either really colorful images or focusing a one or two key colors works the best. Pink and green are always very popular. For editing, some great apps are Lightroom, VSCO, and Aviary, with which you can enhance color, contrast, sharpness, and more. Finally—practice, practice, practice! It makes perfect, I promise!" - Niki, @rebelrecipes

Celebrate real ingredients

"I've found my most successful and favorite food photographs are ones celebrating real, vibrant, and nourishing ingredients—those bowls comprised from the different plant-based odds and ends living in my fridge, bowls that anyone and everyone could replicate in their own homes. These types of bowls not only photograph well, with their varying colors and textures, but on a more personal level, ensure a reduction in food waste and a balanced, nutrient-packed meal." - Alexandra, @tallulahalexandra

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Add a human element

"Adding a human element can greatly improve your photos and make your feed more interesting. It helps tell the story of a dish and makes it more real and appealing to the viewers. It also allows you to show scale and give a sense of perspective. A drizzle of syrup or sauce, a hand pouring a beverage into a cup, a dust of cacao powder, or simply your hands holding a plate or a spoon are all ways to incorporate a human touch to your scene. Use a tripod and the timer option of your camera to create these action shots, and make sure to use a high shutter speed to capture movement." - Sophie, @the.green.life

Make sure the food is the center of attention

"If your goal is to emphasize the food, make sure that food is the center of attention. It's easy for food to get lost in props or a background that's too bright. For example, if a wooden background is too yellow-ish or brown-ish, I desaturate it in Snapseed to be more gray so that food is the most colorful thing in the photo." - Ksenia, @breakfastcriminals

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Find your aesthetic

Photo by @thebalancedblonde

"Have an aesthetic that is so distinctly and recognizably "you," so when someone sees your photo they know it's yours before they even read your name! My aesthetic is typically bright, white and sleek with one of the same three VSCO filters every time I post. I don't really post anything outside of that because it just doesn't fit with my brand. If I have a photo I am dying to post that is more off-brand aesthetically, I make sure there's a super heart-felt caption to go along with it describing why the photo or the moment in time is meaningful to me. It is fun to switch it up like that sometimes and you never want your feed to get boring!" - Jordan, @thebalancedblonde

Pay attention to composition

Photo by @leefromamerica

"My favorite things to shoot are bowls. Composition is important here. I want to make sure I do not have food of the same colors next to each other and even more ideally, I want every vegetable to be a different color. Not only do I want the color of the food to be balanced, I want texture balance in my bowls. For example, I would not put avocado next to hummus in a bowl, because they are both have a creamy texture. Instead, I would separate them with some sauerkraut or roasted vegetables. I like to think about photographing food like how I get dressed in the morning: with balance. If I am wearing loose bottoms I opt for a tight top, and if I’m wearing tight bottoms I like to wear a loose top. When creating and styling my photographs for Instagram, I use the same concept. It’s really all the same, a balance of space and light." - Lee, @leefromamerica

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