8 super-easy tips for better food photos on Instagram

Kenneth is a food and lifestyle blogger and often post drool-inducing food photos on his Instagram (@5meanders). Avenue One asked him to share his top tips for taking great food shots for Instagram.

I love to share what I eat with people. So, it’s natural that I take photos of food all the time. However, I used to take really bad photos of food, and then spruce it up with a filter. That is, until I learnt some pro tips from some of the more experienced food photographers out there. Here are a few of their tips to help you up your #foodporn game.

Tip #1: The Grid is Great


Gridlines are super important to help you compose your photo. You don’t need any special app for it, and it comes stock for most cameras and phones. The grid lines are important for a few things. First, it helps you ensure that your photo is horizontally level. if you’re snapping in a vertical format, then it helps all your vertical lines stay straight.

More importantly, the grid lines allow you to employ the Rule of Thirds, improving your composition dramatically. Grid lines guide your composition quickly, so you will know exactly which third your subject is in, and the kind of space you’re creating for an off-centre shot.

Here’s an example that illustrate what the Rule of Thirds mean:

take better food photos rule-of-thirds

Tip #2: Simple Shots!

Remove all elements you don’t need in the shot. In the case of food, I’ve often found it useful to take away all cutlery, additional plates and cups. If the tablecloth is patterned, remove that as well. A plain, simple background can do wonders for your food photos. If your photo is cluttered by objects other than your main subject, then viewers will end up with a wandering eye and split attention. A great example above: a striking food shot with a background that doesn’t distract.

Tip #3: Contrast with Colour

Sometimes, the plating isn’t as pretty or it’s just individual pieces of food. This is when you need to shift the plate elsewhere. Find a wall, table or surface that is interesting, and place the food against it to create a naturally contrasting background for your photo.

Use a red brick wall or a wooden table to create a roughness, or find a matte black surface for immediate contrast. Experiment with surface textures and colours, and you’ll find that your photos become more eye catching almost immediately.

Tip #4: Find Peaks and Valleys

An alternative way to say this is: look for ways to draw an invisible triangle. Visual variations make for eye-catching photos, and certain types of food might lack colours.

In the above image, you can tell that there’s a lot of yellow and brown, so nothing really stands out. In this situation, the beef slices and the pineapples in the background provide some angularity in the image, creating a focal point to draw the eye. 

Another example: A Salami Pizza might lack the green of vegetables, so you’re left with red and yellow. Lift up a piece of pizza, and shoot from an angle to emphasise the angularity (create a peak) of the food.

Tip #5: Project Depth


I like this one a lot because it is an easy way to catch the eye. Depth projection can be done by simply seeking for lines in the photo that draw away from you. If you shoot food items that are aligned in a row, then you’ll get that feeling of an “endless” row of food. Do note that this “line” may not be super clear at the onset, so you need to create it yourself. To get the photo above, I stretched over the counter at a Japanese restaurant, zoomed in on this row of spoons and focused on the one closest to me.  

Tip #6: Add movement to your photo

Instead of a static one-shot, experiment with movement. Noodle pull shots are particularly enticing, but I also love to experiment with sauce or liquid pours on dessert or food. Some of my favourite photos were taken in this manner. Get someone else to do a very slow, controlled pour over your food, and go full-on with burst shot mode for maximum effect.

Tip #7: Always try a second angle

Sometimes, the perfect shot is already there. You just need to move your body a little to snap a good picture. Most food is static, and most Instagrammable food items already have some points of focus. All you need to do is change your angle of approach so you get more definition, stronger visual lines or a better composition for your shot. Even with food items that are not “made for instagram”, by moving a little, you’ll usually get a different background or look, and that can make all the difference.

Tip #8: Manual Focus

Skip the auto focus on your phone and camera. Instead of allowing software to guide your photo-taking, decide early where you want your focus to be, and set it manually.

I tend to seek details in the shot which are easy to spot with the naked eye, and set my camera’s focus on that point before firing away. In the example above, I really wanted to just draw the eye to the part where the sauce hits the duck meat. So, I set my camera’s focus onto that point, and the let the depth of field do the rest of the work.. If you don’t have an iPhone X or 7+, focusing on the foreground creates a BIT more of a Bokeh effect, so you don’t need to add it in the post-edit phase.