Instagram food blogger reveals the TEN rules to follow to make your social media snaps look as appetising as possible – including how to tackle pesky shadows
- Food blogger Giulia Mule shared her top 10 tips on creating better food shots
- Lighting, angles, food arrangement and backdrop are the essential factors
- Using friend’s torch to avoid shadows, use the menu to deflect any flashes
Food snaps dominate social media feeds – but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to take.
All to often dishes can be left looking messy and unappetising, and tables obscured by dark shadows.
Fortunately food photographer and influencer Giulia Mulè, who boasts more than 60,000 Instagram followers, has shared her professional tips to help you up your social media food game.
The Italian-born Londoner offered up before and after example photos of seven common set-ups and problems to show the best way to tackle each – and published her top 10 tips on how to take the perfect snap.
It comes as research reveals a fifth of diners check both a restaurant’s online menu and social media accounts before choosing whether to visit. This proportion increases to one in three when it comes to millennial diners.
Kirsty Morris, of Barclaycard Payment Solutions, which commissioned the research, said: ‘Simply being active on social media is no longer enough for restaurateurs, they also need to consider the quality of their content to avoid missing out on potential customers.’
Here, Giulia shares her Instagram food tips…
Giulia revealed the angle she took the shot from meant the light on the image was blocked and resulted in the colours not popping in the picture
This is a photo where the quality of the image I was shooting is reduced simply because of where I was standing when I took it.
By standing behind my friend to take the image, I was blocking the light which meant the wonderful colours of the food could not pop.
Simply by changing positions and photographing with the light behind the table, the picture comes to life and looks more vibrant
By moving to the other side of the table and shooting from another angle, I allowed the natural light from the window by the table to come through which helped to bring the colours of each dish to life.
Blogger Giulia has revealed her top tips to creating the best food pictures. In this shot the poor light has impacted the final look of the picture (before, seen above)
This image shows how important it is to get the light right when taking photographs for Instagram.
The poor light combined with spotlights against the dark and reflective table-top, resulted in lots of shadows and spotlights on the table, which impacted on the final image.
To improve the picture Giulia shot the food from a side angle and used the torch on her friend’s phone to brighten the snap and liven it up (after, seen above)
Through changing my position on the table and photographing the food from the side, I was able to cut out the shadows.
A handy hint to improve the light is to use the ‘torch’ on a friend’s phone as a flash so that with one hand you can direct the new source of light direct on the dish you are trying to capture (front or 45 – degree angle), while with the other hand you hold the camera phone.
This will help you to brighten up the image and add extra light to the table.
Giulia explained that there is too much going on in the above picture of an English breakfast, taking away from a potentially good snap
How you set the table for a foodie picture is of paramount importance if you are looking to create an interesting picture.
In this photo, the table is too full. There are too many dishes of different sizes on the table, including the main subject, the Full English Breakfast, which is served in a large serving dish.
To improve the snap she cleared the table and moved more of the food onto one plate to make for the perfect picture
In this case, I was able to achieve a much better image by simplifying the composition of the photo.
By removing some of the dishes on the table, and keeping just the one dish, a smaller dish and the coffee on the table, the final image looked less cluttered and the main focus of the photo is on the hero dish, the Full English.
White dishes from above
Giulia explained that her feet and bag at the bottom of the picture made this snap look messy and the white spaghetti was overexposed by being placed in the light
When taking an image of your food from above, always be sure to look at surroundings. In this image, you can see my feet and my bag which somewhat take away from the beauty of the picture.
Similarly, by placing the white, creamy pasta on the table next to the window, against the natural light, the dish ended up looking very over exposed
By ensuring her shoes weren’t in the frame and the white dish was moved away from the natural light, she achieved the perfect picture
Through moving the pasta dish to another section of the table, away from the natural light, the dish looks much better.
Similarly, from shooting from a different angle, I was able to remove my shoes and bag from the picture, while also blocking any spotlights.
Giulia is pleased with the overall look of this image but explained that the spotlight reflected in the plate ruins the overall look
This is a beautifully displayed chocolate cake. However the image is ruined by the huge spotlight reflecting on the plate.
By getting closer to the image to capture the different textures and reduce the reflection of the photograph she captured the perfect shot
By capturing the image up-close rather than from far-away and using a menu to block the spotlight I was able to reduce the reflection of the photograph.
This is another situation where moving the positioning of myself and the plate also enabled me to create a much better photo which helped to bring to life the delicious dish.
Giulia recommends getting a bar with an interesting texture in the picture but says different heights of objects on it can be distracting
If you are eating at a bar or counter it can sometimes be tricky to get a good photo of your food.
In this photo, the height of the glass is different to that of the dish and bread bowl – making it distracting to the eye. There is simply too much going on.
By getting closer to the plate and removing anything that was distracting, Giulia created a more interesting end result
Through getting closer to the counter and removing some elements from the picture, I was able to focus on the one dish set against the marble table-top, making for a much more interesting photograph.
Rectangular Dishes & Light
Despite being happy with the composition and positioning of the rectangular plates, the overhead spotlight cast a pink shadow on the overall image
I asked the waitress to bring all the dishes I ordered (starters and mains and sides) at the same time so that I could get a full food flat lay shot.
I arranged the dishes close together, which was a bit tricky given that the serving plates are rectangular.
I was happy with the composition, but the overhead spotlight cast a pink shadow over the entire table making it difficult to view.
By asking her friend to place the menu under the lamp hanging over the table, the light was reflected and cast a brighter light on the dinner
I asked a friend to hold the paper menu flat, right underneath the lamp hanging over the table.
By simply covering the lamp with a sheet of paper, the brightness and colour of the table changed completely, going from a pink / orange hue to a colder, brighter and natural colour which was ideal for my photo.
Natural light is the best tool a food photographer has, it’s as important as the quality of the camera lens.
Giulia Mulè’s top 10 tips to achieving fabulous food pictures
1. Do your research
When it comes to taking the perfect foodie photo, try and do your research and scope out the restaurant in advance. You can have the best camera in the world, but if the restaurant is dark or has no natural lighting, you’re not going to be able to capture your meal in its best light.
2. Choose a top table
A restaurant’s table top often features in Instagram food photos, so be sure to consider this when showing off your meal. Look out for restaurants with trendy table tops such as marble or scratched metal as this will add an interesting background to your picture and help make your meal pop.
3. Lighting hacks
These days you will be hard-pressed to find a restaurant or brunch place that doesn’t have spotlight lighting. While these are very cool, they can often reflect on shiny surfaces and leave specks on your photos. A quick remedy for this is to use the restaurant’s menu to block the light. Or choose a table by the window to take advantage of the natural light.
4. Menu choices
When choosing the food to photograph, think about what the dish is going to look like. Does it contain brightly coloured ingredients? What colour is the plate that the food is being served on? Choose dishes that have a mix of colours that will complement and contrast with one another to help your food stand out – for example contrasting the vibrancy of a sweet potato with a plain white plate.
5. Size isn’t everything
When you are a capturing a flat-lay image of several food dishes on a table, choose smaller starter plates over large dishes. These will be easier to arrange and can help to add balance to the image you are creating. Similarly, when arranging different plates on a table, use an odd number of dishes over an even number and avoid rectangular or square plates as corners are hard to photograph well.
6. It’s all in the timing
If you’re shooting coffee in an image, be sure to order it so that it arrives at the same time as your food rather than before. If it arrives before, your beautiful latte art will have disappeared and won’t end up in the final Instagram shot.
7. Landscape or portrait?
It’s best to post vertical photos on Instagram rather than square ones. This will not only make your final photo look better, but will also get more screen time on your followers’ feeds, covering 60 per cent of their screen, as opposed to 50 per cent in square mode and 40 per cent of in landscape mode.
8. Rule of thirds
When putting together a picture, follow the grid lines of the ‘Rule of Thirds’. Many smartphones have these built into their camera making it easy to follow. Simply use the grid lines as a guide to where to place your food on a table. Placing the hero dish on the focal points, where the lines intersect, helps to draw the viewer’s attention to it.
9. Shooting single dishes
If you are shooting one dish on a table, do not be afraid to get up close and personal, shooting it from overhead so that the plate stands out. Adding movement to the image will really help to bring it to life; for example, breaking a poached egg to reveal the vibrant yolk, or twirling pasta, or capturing steam coming off your coffee.
10. Edit your images
Use camera apps or Instagram filters to edit your images before uploading them. Through simply playing around with the brightness, contrast or shadows, you can enhance your images and show off your food.