Indy’s Instagram Stars Share How to Take the Best Food Pics

Indy foodie photographers offer some beginner advice
Who needs exercise? If you want to work up an appetite in the age of social media, all you have to do is scroll through your Instagram feed and salivate over the awesome dishes your friends are eating (and posting).

But don’t just sit on the sidelines. You, too, can participate in the game of “make your friends jealous that they weren’t at that restaurant with you” by posting a killer pic of your meal on Insta.

There is an art to taking food pictures, though. So before you go snapping away, take some tips from Dave Pluimer, Ryu Teramoto, and Dawn Olsen—three of Indy’s best IGers who know how to capture the mood of their food.

Tip #1: Lighting is everything

“If you can get a table near a window, window light is a nice setting for most food.” —Dave Pluimer

Natural light is always your best bet. This can be hard to get when you’re eating later in the evening, especially in a dark restaurant. Teramoto says eating outside under an umbrella usually gives the best lighting opportunities. That way, you’re getting natural light without the light beaming directly onto your meal, which can make food look too shiny.

Olsen has noticed that some Instagrammers post dark, grainy pics of their food, which makes the food look unappetizing. Another reason to make sure you have natural light.

Tip #2: Ditch the flash

Flash is a big no-no when it comes to food pics. A lot of amateurs turn on their flash if they are in a darker restaurant, but Pluimer notes that it just doesn’t make for a flattering image.

Tip #3: Angle from overhead or to the side

An overhead shot needs an interesting table setting.” —Ryu Teramoto

The angle you take the photo from can make a huge difference in the visual appeal of the food. An overhead shot, Pluimer says, is a fairly easy angle to execute. Just make sure you’re directly above the food, which may require you to stand up. Olsen says she has even seen someone stand up on their chair to get a photo. Side-angle close-ups can also work well to showcase the ingredients in a burger or sandwich, Teramoto says.

Tip #4: Don’t overfilter

Keep it simple. Pluimer recommends using the VSCO app to edit photos because you can keep things consistent when applying effects to each of your pics. If you prefer to edit your photos inside Instagram, Teramoto likes the “Gingham” filter. Slightly changing the brightness and saturation can go a long way.

And no need to add a border. Teramoto stresses that they aren’t necessary and can take focus away from your food.

Tip #5: Keep food in its “natural habitat”

“I’m a big fan of natural photography. Don’t make it look too staged.” —Dawn Olsen

To showcase the true personality of your dish, try to keep it looking how it was originally arranged. If there’s a distraction, such as smudges on the plate or another item in the backdrop, it’s okay to make a couple of minor clean-ups before getting your shot.

Tip #6: Add a human element 

“Don’t be afraid to have a hand reaching in for a bite.” —Dave Pluimer

Having a hand in the picture can really drive engagement from your followers, and it connects the person to the food, Pluimer says.

This doesn’t mean that you actually need to be eating your food in the picture, though. A hand is fine, but Olsen says she would prefer to see the food right after it is served, rather than someone taking a bite out of a half-eaten burger in the pic.

Tip #7: Own it!

“Don’t be embarrassed! If you’re going to be the person who stands up and takes a table shot, own it.” —Ryu Teramoto

“Don’t ever post a photo just because you think you’ll get likes. If you don’t like it that much, don’t share it.” —Dawn Olsen

Yes, you might feel awkward attempting to get the perfect pic of your lunch, but at the end of the day, remember to have fun with it. If the content you’re posting is of quality, people will look forward to your next post and will admire your creative chops.

Oh, and once you’re done taking the picture of the food, don’t forget to actually eat it, too. Food in one hand, phone to check how many likes your pic has gotten in the other.