We have ALL been there.
It’s fall, and you’ve just trudged home after a long day of work armed with the perfect take out scone and coffee, ready to pumpkin spice it up. But first….instagram. Because if you don’t share it with the people of the square, it totally didn’t happen. #right?!?!
So you whip out your phone and snap away. Shoot from the left, from the right, the fancy over the top. Maybe a peek of your new booties in the frame. The photo doesn’t exactly look great, but maybe some quick editing and filtering will knock it up a notch. Except it doesn’t. Why doesn’t your food look as good as those pro instagramers? It’s LITERALLY the same food. There are no retakes, because at this point you’ve emotionally eaten the scone and downed the coffee.
Who will save us?!
I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend, Kelly, who is ACTUALLY good at shooting these magical squares full of food and goodies. She dropped by recently to give me a few tips and help me use my phone to capture crave-worthy eats. I took all of these photos myself, in my kitchen, with my phone. Nothing fancy, no smoke and mirrors. I’m amazed at the results! Take it away Kelly!
- Natural Light is the best light for almost any photo! If it’s an option, find a set up that allows for plenty of light…by a large window is most desirable.
- Survey the direction the light is coming from, to assess where the shadows and darker areas might fall. If shooting at home, consider a reflector to balance the overall lighting.
- Avoid shooting during harsh afternoon light, as it can negatively affect the outcome of your photos, causing heavier shadows and over-or- under exposure. It’s not an impossible task, it just makes editing for a successful photo a bit more challenging.
Here’s a before (above) and after (further above) of our macaroons. Same kitchen, same time of day. One photo is take by a window, the other under my kitchen table light.
2. MOVEMENT & COMPOSITION
- When looking at a photo, does the eye naturally move around the picture or frame?
- Creating a smooth flow or a pattern of movement within a photo, will garner more attention.
- Simply adjusting the positioning of items within the photo, could greatly improve the movement. Think of the eye traveling in the shape of a half moon, a circle or even a diagonal line. If taking a photo of a natural scene, adjust yourself to garner the best angle or viewpoint.
- Consider angles. Will the photo be most flattering from more of a side view or an overhead, flat-lay view? When in doubt, try both!
In this photo above we removed the macaroons from original store packaging and arranged them on one of my plates. Using different angles and heights, we created more movement and interest.
3. COLOR & BACKGROUND
- Do the colors present, compliment or contrast each other in a beneficial way?
- Are there too many colors? Not enough?
- Does the color story compliment the mood of the photo? (i.e. – bright and cheery, minimal, or dark and moody)
- Does the background allow the focus of the photo to shine? A good background should only add to the integrity of a photo.
- Neutral backdrops are a great place to start. Examples include: light wood, marble, stone, grey or white tones, etc.
Here’s a shot of our yummy buffalo chicken wrap from the cafe down the street. Photographed just as we received it. Background is messy and cluttered, lighting is terrible (too dark and gloomy), and the wrap has no variation of color. It actually looks kinda gross (even though it tasted delightful!)
And here it is after! You guys! It’s so much better! The wrap is actually sitting in exactly the same spot, but we photographed from a different angle, letting the bright and cheery light work for us. We also turned off the harsh over head light. We added a little extra lettuce as garnish and spritized it with a tiny bit of water to make the lettuce come to life. The background is also now clean and neutral. And this looks YUMMY!
4. TEXTURE AND MOVEMENT
A beautiful photo will have texture, a good balance of color (both contrasting and complimentary), a good light source, and an easy flow for the eye. We’ve talked about light and color, now let’s address texture and movement.
- The goal is to keep a photo interesting, while maintaining the overall character and goal.
- When looking through the screen does the image look flat?
- Are the items garnering attention?
- Is there enough detail present, to make the photo interesting?
- Are there too many patterns or textures present? Are items competing for attention.
Here’s my salad from the cafe. Everything feels a but disorganized. There’s a lot of texture, but it seems to be competing. The lighting is obv a total mess, and the black background of the container is not helping anything. My eye is drawn to the chicken, but not in a positive way.
Here’s our after! The plate is again sitting in exactly the same spot. We turned off the harsh overhead lighting, moved the salad to a white plate and took time to arrange it properly. This is a smaller plate, so the salad looks nice and full. The texture is now evenly distributed and the chicken is orderly and a better focal point. We also added dressing and a spritz of water to bring the salad to life.
CAN YOU BELIEVE THE DIFFERENCE?!?!
Ok moving on.
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Keep the star of the show visible and the rest of the content balanced. You want to be able to see the focus of the image, whether that is a person, place or thing, without extensively searching. If you’re photographing food, show it’s characteristics off. Choose the most beautiful food you can find, and then keep it clean and simple. Using what is in season, is a great way to ensure quality and beauty.
In this example, we wanted to add to the macaroon story by adding representations of the flavors. Instead of showing ALL the things, we trimmed it down to two, chocolate and vanilla. By adding chocolate nips and a vanilla bean, we made the dessert really sing! The rest of the plate and background are all simple and clean, letting this vinette be the star of the show!
SET THE MOOD
- Define your preference for photos. Do you prefer bright, light and cheery? minimalist? dark and moody?
- If you’re not sure what look you like, search for images and inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest, favorite websites, photography books and magazines.
- Producing photos with a consistent mood, will offer a cohesiveness to your photo collection or feed.
Macaroons are such happy little indulgences, aren’t they!?!? So bright and cheery is the only mood in view here! A pumpkin spice latte in a dim and dreamy coffee shop might be the look you prefer! I love the tip here to really search for inspiration. Notice the photos of other people’s food that you like and break down all these tips to see what they did. How is the background? The lighting? The texture? Start to recreate those elements in your own way!
KNOW YOUR STORY
- Words and images, both have the power to convey a story.
- What are you wanting your image to convey? A specific message? A certain feeling?
- What is the purpose of the photo, and does it relate to the message you are wanting to share?
- If posting and sharing your photos, pair them with content. Use your words, your voice, to further express your message. Content doesn’t have to be extensive to be effective. A simple, well-phrased caption could have just as much of an impact as a caption twice as long. Choose what is appropriate for each photo’s specific message.
Be yourself! No one can tell your stories, the way that you do. If you have something to share, share it from your own voice! By publishing your own photos, the world will see your message specifically from your point of view.
Oh course we aren’t showing you captions here in this training. But this tip is too important to leave out! A great photo with out a story often falls flat. There are SO MANY GOOD PHOTOS on instagram. The caption can be the little nudge that pushes you over the top. Don’t leave this part out! Take some time to compose captions in your phone notes so you are ready on demand when you post the photo.
CHOOSE AN EDITING APP
- VSCO, Lightroom and Photoshop are the most common photo editing apps.
- Practice makes perfect! Play around with tones, exposure, saturation and contrast to find the look that fits your ideal photo mood.
- Moody Photos tend to have a cooler tone, less saturation, less exposure and greater contrast.
- Brighter photos tend to have cool tones, balanced saturation, and balanced contrast.
- For a bright and slightly overexposed look, up the contrast, the exposure and the saturation.
Editing photos is a MUST. These photos were all brightened and edited just a bit with the iphone apps above. Don’t worry if you don’t do it perfectly the first time. Keep practicing and remember to keep the inspiration photos/accounts close by so you can compare colors and lighting. Especially with food and skin tone, you don’t want to over edit and make something look strange.
Be sure to check out my real life pal, Kelly Barton on instagram! I promise you won’t be disappointed by her amazing food shots and travel destinations. You might be jealous, but not disappointed ;)
She also shoots for clients! Keep her in mind if your products could use a little insta-love.
Thanks again Kelly!