Instagram Addict? How to take the Perfect Photo of your Dinner

Zoe Butters Social Media Leave a Comment

The digital age has high demands and keeping up with these is all the rage for the average social media addict. And yes, this includes that delicious photo of your dinner. Whilst some might say that images of what you filled your belly with is the worst of social media, it certainly doesn’t appear to stop the market for it.

The glistening sauces and fluffy chips, the perfect fondant. Who wouldn’t want to document it on social media and record their wonderfully mouth-watering culinary skills into the bargain?

They do say though that you eat first with your eyes, so here’s some handy hints and tricks on capturing that picture-perfect slap up meal and becoming the envy of your social-media-consuming, dinner-party-addict followers.


So, how can you capture that shiny glistening sauce?

Whether you’re shooting on your phone, or you decided to take your iPad out as your date, lighting can be used to improve any photo, whether you’re taking it on a high-end £40,000 DSLR or on an old disposable camera.

Establish and evaluate your environment.

If it’s yellow fluorescent lighting used in a restaurant, counteract it with natural light seeping from a window, this is one of the best ways to capture that fresh, organic look to your food.

Lets take a look at some examples, one good and one bad.



The image above was taken in a small restaurant in Norway. The lighting was minimal inside therefore natural light from the window is helping to light the scene.

Lets take a look at why this is a bad example.

The food is half eaten and messy and there’s clutter both in the foreground and background giving the impression of a messy photograph that has been given no thought. The camera needs to be at a lower angle and the plate needs to fill more of the frame in order to first draw the eye to where you want the viewer to look.

It appears to be what it actually is, a hastily grabbed lunch that someone has decided to stick on Instagram because hey, that’s what they do – put every single, tiny aspect of their life on social media. God damn the rest of us, they found it interesting enough and so it will do.



A better example shows a lovely punnet of strawberries.

The lighting source is from natural sunlight giving the photo a summer-esque feel. The colours are bright and the strawberries glisten. Whilst the fruit is presented in the most natural and almost dull manner (a supermarket punnet), you can almost taste them just because of how the image has been taken.

If this photo was taken indoors under a run of the mill dull light bulb hanging in the living room, it would feel less summery and the colours would appear much more muted and gloomy.

The reflections of the strawberries also help give the strawberries a fresh vibrancy that shimmers.

Another great way of creating that juicy glare is by using a spray bottle filled with water. Gently spray over the fruit, not overdoing it to the point where you create drips, and you have created a fresh, just-picked shot which evokes not supermarkets, but perhaps a pick-your-own-fruit farm feel to the shot.

If you’re taking pictures on your phone, avoid the flash unless you have a very soft fill flash or are able to take down the Flash Exposure Compensation. It can make the lighting harsh and create very light and dark areas that will detract from the delicate delight of your grub.

White balance can be a great ally, get it wrong however and it can turn into the enemy. The last thing you want is for your fresh culinary success to have a tinge of yellow.

Nowadays there are plenty of mobile apps to help edit your photos, most of which have a white balance corrector. Consider this tool even when you may think your photo looks fine. Playing with white balance can make you realise the error in colours and teach you to further edit in order to gain the best result.

If you’re taking photos of cute cupcakes, you may want to consider a pastel quality to the colours. Additionally, you can utilise soft coloured table cloth or rolling pins for example.


Taking a photo of a plate of food from directly above is not flattering for that plate of food and can make it appear plain and boring.

It’s times to get down low, play with those angles and make it more interesting. Separate yourself from the rest and be creative.

Make sure to clear the area free of clutter. Try to keep anything unnecessary out of frame.

cake on instagram pic

Experiment with different effects, use filters that are not the norm and make it your own.

Try and find colours that compliment the photo. The photo above has browns and whites and remains minimal.

Think about the feelings you want to provoke from your fellow followers. Is it envy or something artistic that you want others to enjoy? Or perhaps you want to showcase your cake-baking skills for your business or an upcoming marketing event?

Use props.

Organise that knife and folk in different positions. Draw the viewer in using props in the foreground leading to the food.

Try adding a few crumbs on the plate or a hint of sauce. This makes the photo look less pristine and gives an authentic look.

Try taking the photo as your forking up that goodness. Avoid the wide-open mouth however as this could be rather off-putting to your viewers.

If you’re baking yourself, spread a bit of flour around for example or place food colouring, hundreds of thousands or cake decorations in the background and foreground, take care however not to clutter the final image. If the composition doesn’t feel right, trust your gut instinct and change it.

Finally, be creative and pay attention to things around you. Forget about those dark, underexposed photos, they are a thing of the past with these simple techniques.

Food on Instagram

Go out there and show off your food photo skills to all of your admirers. Food images do well on Instagram and if your business is food-related, then you really should be getting some great shots to put on the social network and on Pinterest. Experiment and use props, take pictures from different angles, spread baking materials around and consider how best it can be presented. Get vintage with cupcakes or uber-modern with cake design – you have an audience that will appreciate something that’s not only cooked really well, but presented in such a way that they want to go and buy it right now.

Food is relatively easy to sell. We all love it and we all need it. It’s up to you to sell it online using imagery that invites the viewer (and the stomach) in.

Any food can be made to look good – make yours stand out with some simple techniques and watch the likes roll in.

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Zoe is a BA Hons Photographer who has sailed the world as a cruise ship photographer, honing her skills on Adobe products and creating wonderful landscapes and urban artwork. She enjoys teaching Adobe tips and tricks to markITwrite readers who want to learn design and its principles and art.

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