How to perfect the social media food shot with your smartphone, with tips from Instagrammer extraordinaire Allan Hinton.
The best camera is the one that you have on you, isn’t that what they say? With mobile phone cameras becoming so advanced, no-one needs a bulky professional camera anymore – just look at the iPhone X, Huawei P20 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S9. In fact, phone cameras have become so sick that you can even make festival and award-worthy videos on the same device you use to send your, let’s be honest, near constant WhatsApps.
With the rise of social media, we’ve also seen the rise of new kinds of photographic subject matter, from the insouciant-yet-totally perfected street style shot to the not-so-humble-brag traveller’s selfie.
And, of course, the salivation-inducing #foodporn shot, a colourful, luscious, beautified photograph of a dish, or meal, or the latest junk-food hybrid. Thing is, getting every meal look mouth-wateringly appetising and delicious is a form of art, and one that takes some practice, planning and scene-setting (as anyone who’s posted a disappointingly soggy-looking pic of their glorious-in-person Five Guys burger can attest).
We’ve collaborated with ‘professional Instagrammer’ Allan Edward Hinton (a.k.a @chaiwalla) on his top tips for creating the most gorgeous foodie shots the Web has ever seen. Warning: don’t read when hungry…
Natural light is your friend
Observe the room and think about where the light is coming from. Be prepared to move the table. Natural light from the window is best.
Just remember that if you start hauling tables around a restaurant, you might get kicked out.
Set the scene as much as the subject
Look online at food photography and you’ll see shots taken on antique wooden tables to create a nice, earthy tone. If your kitchen table isn’t quite right you could consider other surfaces that mimic a tabletop. You’d never know the photo wasn’t taken on an actual table…
Things that don’t work include pets, the sea, and also flat surfaces that are being used by other people.
Add a personal touch
Add hands into the photo to give some movement and life. Create a ‘story’. Use a friend that has colourful nail varnish or someone wearing a nice vintage watch.
Obviously one thing to watch out for is taking too much focus, so try not to use novelty pirate hooks or bear paws, etc.
Colour is key
Whether that be the food (red chillies, green mint or mini corn on the cobs for a BBQ shoot) or props. This will add extra impact and make the picture pop out from all those other Instagrams.
Is that why no one photographs porridge without a melange of fruity toppings? Makes so much sense now.
Shoot from above
It’s an easy way to show off a table spread. Make sure you are completely horizontal for a professional look. This also helps if you want to edit and rotate the image later.
Everything looks so much better from above. Birds must be constantly starving.
Heights are your friend
Shoot from a height and don’t be afraid to stand on a chair. If you shoot the whole table spread, you’ll be able to play around with cropping later.
We tried to take this tip and turn it around by lying on the floor under the table and taking some photos from there. Turns out that tables and plates are rarely transparent, and also you just look mental.
Shoot quickly whilst the food is fresh and hot. It will look most appealing and, of course, the quicker you snap, the quicker you can eat it!
Also remember to take pictures of your food BEFORE you eat it, not afterwards.
Main pic: Via Allan Hinton