Why is it that some people's food photos rack up a million likes while others' look sad and dull, with maybe one or two pity likes from their friends? It might seem too good to be true, but there are actually really simple steps to getting photos in the first group. You'll instantly see more likes, more comments, more shares, more social media clout. And you can thank us later.
We already know which foods rack up the most likes. So for key advice about shooting said foods, we turned to Liza Gershman, an award-winning food photographer who has shot nine cookbooks in addition to images for top-notch brands like Williams-Sonoma. She's so legit that she reps Canon and its new T6 camera with a food mode that instantly adds brightness and contrast to make your culinary photos more appealing. We also asked our own weeknight dinners columnist and food stylist, Judy Kim, for her best tips. What we got was some serious intel that you can apply to all your Instagramable meals. And you don't even need a fancy camera.
1. GET TO A WINDOW.
Natural light is everything. Use diffused light whenever possible so that the sun isn't streaming directly (and harshly) onto your food. The key is light and bright. Whatever you do, don't try to fake it with restaurant lighting, lamps, or—ugh—flash. These will only make your dishes look dark, flat, and sad.
2. ADD AS MUCH COLOR AS POSSIBLE.
Think about the ingredients in your dish and try to play them up as much as possible. Look around your environment to see what's around for backgrounds, place a colorful piece or paper underneath your plate, or top your dish with bright garnishes like avocado or red pepper flakes. Once you get the shot, boost the saturation slightly to make those colors pop even more.
3. CHOOSE YOUR APP WISELY.
A few of our favorites are A Color Story, VSCO, and Snapseed because they offer lots of control over edits. Like Photoshop-level control. Try them all and play around as much as possible, brightening, adding contrast, sharpening, and cropping until you're comfortable with the settings. If you find a favorite, stick with it. (Keeping a uniform look to your feed also helps your following grow.)
4. AVOID FILTERS.
Nothing looks worse on food than a bad filter. It can totally muck up something potentially delicious with an unappetizing tinge. If you must quick-fix a shot, try the Pop, Sharp, and Everyday filters in A Color Story. They each add just a touch of brightness, contrast, and saturation to food without making it look sickly or grainy.
5. QUIT POSTING BASIC SQUARES.
Instagram dropped its silly square rule ages ago, so there's no reason to still be posting solely square shots. Especially because when you post a vertical image, it takes up more of your followers' feeds so they're more likely to spend a few more seconds on it and, more importantly, double-tap it. There's also something to be said for getting more goodness in the frame.
6. PLAY WITH FOCUS.
Don't rely on Instagram's blur tool to make your photos more dynamic. Instead, move your camera or phone so that the best part of your dish is in focus and the rest is soft or blurred. The result is a totally striking shot that narrows right in on the action—like that damn delish cheese pull.
7. MAKE IT MOVE.
Try out apps like Boomerang that creates fun, looping gifs from a burst of photos and Hyperlapse, which speeds up and stabilaize video so you can capture a super easy timelapse in seconds.
8. STACK IT UP.
Got a cheesy breakfast sandwich? Pan of brownies? Loaded quesadilla? Cut it and pile up the pieces to create a layered look that is totally enticing. Not only will you get to see what's inside, the toppling effect makes everything look that much more decadent.
9. TAKE A BITE.
Perfection can be boring. Spice things up by taking a bite of that donut or digging into that slice of pie and let the ice cream melt down the side. Messy makes it all the more real, and can actually be way more inviting when it comes to food. One bite out of that cookie and it's basically begging for second.
10. CHECK OUT ALL YOUR ANGLES.
Overhead isn't always best. While it can create beautifully composed photos, the overhead angle can be overrated. Looking at every side to determine your subject's best angle is essential and sometimes that means shooting at a 90-degree angle or even an artsy 45 degrees. Just make sure your lines are either perfectly straight or intentionally diagonal.
11. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF REPETITION.
Sometimes more is more. And that means you should shoot the entire pan of crispy chicken wings and not a close-up of just one. Or fit a platter of meatball subs together like a beautiful, edible Italian mosaic. Or a box packed full of cute macarons.
12. USE TAGS MORE STRATEGICALLY.
It might seem obvious, but plenty of 'grammers aren't using tags properly. Avoid overly general terms like "dessert" and opt for "chocolate cake." You should also pay particular attention to food holidays like National Ice Cream Day, trending tags in the Explore tab, and branded handles and tags which could get you that coveted regram.
13. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, ADD A CUTE PUPPY.
Or a kitten. No one can pass by such a cute face, especially when it's matched with good grub. I mean, remember how "Puppy or Bagel?" went viral? Just saying, this obviously works.