It’s pretty much a ritual now when you go out  for dinner, meet up with friends for a coffee or simply just cook a delicious-looking meal at home – don’t even think about eating, out comes the smartphone. You rearrange the plates and cutlery, try multiple angles and add various filters all in the name of getting that perfect shot for Instagram before you’ve even had one bite. We’ve all been guilty at one point!

There is definitely an art to photographing your food – hey, even Martha Stewart has received flack for her terrible Twitter food photos recently – so SheSaid caught up with cookbook author and food styling pro Kate Gibbs to get her insider tips to capturing that perfect shot – and give all your friends and followers on Instagram ultimate #foodenvy, just in time for Christmas lunch.

1. Tell a story
Tell a story with the photos you’re taking. It’s all about those little details that make a difference – a twirl of noodles around your fork or a beautiful drizzle of chocolate across the plate. Think about where the photo was taken. Who made the meal? Who are you with? Try to come up with creative ways to incorporate the story, whether it is through the subtlety of a logo or a friend’s hand taking a slice of pizza: capture these moments to evoke a story in your photo.

Tip: If you’re struggling with busy background elements, find someone sitting near you with a nice coloured or patterned top and use it as the background instead.

2. Colour and lighting
Did you know that Instagram photos with predominately red and yellow tones actually receive less likes than images with cooler blue and white tones? In the post editing stage, Kate recommends focusing on lowering the saturation and temperature of your image to bring out those blue tones, then adjust the contrast until you find a balance you’re happy with.

Tip: Try and keep your shots clean and simple. White is always a winner – be it a white plate, tablecloth or serviette – lots of white space is appealing to the eye.

If you get stuck with a coloured plate, such as red or yellow, you’ll often find that these colours don’t shoot too well, especially if you’re shooting food with vibrant colours to begin with. Kate suggests moving the food to another plate or opting for a black and white edit instead.

Tip: Natural lighting is best when shooting food, but avoid direct sunlight, or you’ll risk casting a shadow across your shot.

3. Angles, focus, size and scale
Play around with multiple angles, sizes and scales until you find a shot you are really happy with. Try zooming right back from an aerial perspective to capture everything on the table, or zooming right in on the plate focusing on one simple element of your dish – it’s all about experimenting until you find what works for each different dish. Aerial shots work well for ‘flat’ items such as pizza or soup, but most often a 30-45 degree angle works best.

Find the ‘hero element’ of your dish and make this the focus of your picture. Remember you can always crop, edit and zoom in later, so always start by taking pictures from further away.

Tip: Rectangular plates are difficult to shoot; Kate suggests taking your picture from a corner angle or aerial perspective. Or, if the meal has interesting layered elements, like a burger or sandwich, you could also get creative and try shooting from a side-on perspective.

4. Props
Remember less is more. Don’t overwhelm your photos with too many elements or too many objects around – it soon becomes distracting and the food is no longer the focus. Be sure to choose props that work together size-wise. It’s important to make sure one prop doesn’t overpower the photo, so keep it simple.

Tip: De-prop. Once you have styled your shot, take a photo and then remove one prop or part of the dish and reshoot it again – you’ll be surprised at how well this stylistic trick actually works!

5. Kate’s ultimate tip – incorporate what you’re passionate about
Kate says, “Photographs drawn from inspiration are more likely to inspire your followers and potential followers, so go ahead and shoot what you’re passionate about, what you love. You’ll soon discover common threads in your feed, be it in shots of healthy food, or places you’ve been exploring in your local area. I follow people who inspire me, or whose photography I love, be it a fashion blogger in New York or a women on a farm in regional Victoria who is growing her own fruit and vegetables.

“Develop your own photography style, whether that’s lots of busy close-ups, or a cleaner look with lots of white space. It’s worth using similar filters, or none at all, to develop a bit of consistency in your feed. Potential followers will scour your entire feed, and it will look so much better if it looks like it was developed by one person, you!”

For some creative motivation, follow Kate’s incredible Instagram photos at instagram.com/kategibbs. Some of Kate’s favourite Instagrammers to follow are:

Kate Gibb’s favourite photo editing app:
Kate’s favourite photo editing app is Snapseed. Kate isn’t a fan of the standard Instagram filters, because everyone’s photos tend to look the same – Kate says you can always tell who has used ‘Lo-Fi’ or ‘Valencia’ and the point is to make your pictures stand out! There are so many different editing apps out there, try them out until you find one that you like the look of and that you are comfortable using.

So now you’ve learnt how to take food photos like a pro, it’s time to get snap happy! Try out Kate’s food styling tips and tag your photos #shesaid so we can check out your food porn and follow you on Instagram. And don’t forget to follow us at instagram.com/shesaid_editor.

kate gibbs instagram

Photos: Kate Gibbs