5 Easy Steps to Take Better Food Photos on Instagram

August 8, 2013

This post is sponsored by Nestle Crunch Fun Philosophy


It”s amazing how food photography has evolved so much. Just five years ago, people whipping out their phones before every meal would”ve been a strange sight to see. Now, it”s almost a guarantee. Instagram”s popularity is solely responsible for this change. Just try browsing through the app”s #foodstagram or #instafood tags and you”ll see hundreds of gorgeous food photos from amateur users all over the world (though, on bad days, you do have to sift through a few thousand pictures of sad cornbeef sandwiches and badly fried eggs before you get to the good stuff). It”s clear that Instagram, with its social media aspect coupled with the ever more advanced (and expensive) phones everyone seems to be getting, has changed the food photography scene, and even photography in general, permanently.

Today, I”ll be teaching you how to take better photos on Instagram in 5 easy steps. This is for those of you who want take foodstagramming to the next level. Integrating professional food photography techniques into your instagram food shoots will get your photos more likes than you”ll ever know what to do with.

1. The Dish is the Star

Food1 copy

Always remember that the dish is the star.

It”s best to shoot it in it”s freshest state. So, regardless of how irritated you might be at your friends who shoo your knife and fork away from the perfectly grilled steak you just ordered because they want to take a picture of it first, I hate to admit it, but they”re doing it right.

Also, make sure you take a really good look at the dish and take note of all its elements. Pay attention to its colors and train yourself to notice all the little details. Feel free to include any side dishes or garnish that may enhance the photo further.

2. Pick your Color Palette

Color palette copy

Choosing a color palette is all about picking out the best color combinations that will compliment your subject. For those of you who have difficulty matching colors together, you can always refer to the ever reliable color wheel.

color wheel

If you”re not familiar with the color wheel, you should be composing a very angry letter to your gradeschool art teacher right about now. Here”s how it works, colors placed opposite each other are complimentary colors that could add exciting contrasts when used together. Colors that sit side by side one another can create more harmonious combinations. Using different shades of one color creates a monochrome color scheme that is easy on the eyes. A monochrome palette is a lot easier to execute as you won”t need to mix and match too many colors all at once.

For this dish, I decided to pick a very neutral monochromatic color palette playing on the orange-beige-brown scheme. I feel this best matches the color of the chocolate. I also decided to incorporate the color blue (according to the color wheel, blue is a good complimentary color to orange). I wanted to incorporate mint leaves in the shot as well, since the green would also contrast well against the neutral tones.

3. Use Simple Props

If you”ve read my previous article on prop styling, you”ll know that I”m the opposite of minimalist when it comes to creating sets. I love to fill up every empty space on the surface.

However, when it comes to prop styling for instagram photos, I”d prefer to keep it simple. Instagram photos come out in small 612 x 612 square and mostly viewed using phones with tiny screens. If you fill up the entire set with unnecessary props and utensils, people will have a hard time figuring out what the hell it is you”re taking a photo of.

For this set, I decided to go with a very rustic wooden surface to compliment the color of the chocolate.

Surface1 copy

I chose to use a blue checkered napkin to match the Nestle brand. It also provides a good burst of color to break the monochrome yellow-orange-beige-brown hues.

Cloth copy

I picked out a chopping board that is a lot lighter than the surface to create a nice contrast between all the elements on set.

chopping board copy

4. Shoot beside a Window

beside window copy

Natural light is best. I actually shoot with it 90% of the time. It is easy to control because, more often than not, what you see is what you get.

I usually position my table adjacent to the window as I want the light to all come from one side, creating nice shadows on the opposite side of the photo.

When working with window light, always remember that the farther your table is from the window, the darker the shadows become.

5. Take Overhead Shots

Nestle Crunch Foodstagram copy

It”s not that you shouldn”t take low-angled shots or shoot the subject head on, it”s just a lot simpler and easier to shoot from above. With overhead shots, you get a solid background(in this case, the surface) that defines your subject more. And since you”re shooting with a phone that has no background blur (unless you use a special filter app), the overhead angle allows you to maximize the sharpness of everything in the frame.

Furthermore, phone lenses often shoot wide and could distort the edges of your photo when up-close. Those distortions become less noticeable when you”re shooting overhead and a little farther away from the subject.


If you have any questions or have found this article useful, please leave us a comment below! We”d love to hear your thoughts!

Mylene Chung Mylene Chung Mylene Chung is a food photographer and prop stylist for Pepper.ph and PhotoKitchen. She’s worked with companies like Resorts World Manila, Reader’s Digest Asia, Manila Peninsula and has been featured in several publications and tv shows. Over the course of her career, she has already gained a whopping 20 pounds, which she has been desperately trying to lose. For more updates from her, you can add her up on instagram @mylenechung. FOLLOW
46 comments in this post SHOW

46 responses to “5 Easy Steps to Take Better Food Photos on Instagram”

  1. misshannamargherita says:

    I love you Mye! <3

  2. Pamela Cortez says:

    And yet my photos are still pangit

  3. Abbu Cabrera says:

    I could never get it right. My photo skills are garbage. *bows down to the master*

  4. gilberbuns says:

    I understand there are several possible reasons why you didn’t use the white plate. If you didn’t have a circular cutting board, would the white plate sufficed or would you opt for a different surface to “plate” on?

    • Mylene Chung says:

      I would have still opted for something more rustic, like a matte beige plate or a used baking sheet. The white plate would still work though it would be a bit inconsistent with the distressed surface.:)

  5. Jay says:

    Workshop please

  6. Thirdy Dolatre says:

    Idol! 😀

  7. Joyce says:

    Thanks for this! 🙂

  8. France Navarro says:

    I always take food photos from above 😀

    franceyfrance@gmail.com

  9. Gay says:

    I din’t know that a bar of broken up Nestle Crunch could be this beautiful.

  10. Miss Khee says:

    Very helpful! Thanks Mye!

  11. Clarissa says:

    Though I actually detest instagram (I really do), your tips will also work for regular shoots! Yay 🙂 Thanks!

  12. Jack says:

    your beautiful photos led me to pepper.ph ms mylene!

  13. Joseph Lingao says:

    Do you ever use filters? If not, do you process them somehow after?

  14. Lala Lita says:

    You’re my favorite contributor/writer here. No hint of douchebag. Great articles! Kudos 🙂

  15. Regina Macapinlac says:

    Love this article! An element of ‘art’ to my foodstagram no less starting today lol.

  16. Kisty Mea says:

    What if there’s a shadow cause of the poor lighting in the restaurant, and the window seat is already taken? Let’s say T.G.I.Friday’s lighting.

  17. Jezreel Joy Nicolas says:

    thanks for sharing Ms. Mylene… now i know how to use the color wheel =)

  18. Arya De Guzman says:

    i should write an angry letter to my grade school teacher then ahahaha

  19. […] 5 easy steps to take better food shots on Instagram. […]

  20. […] Want your photo to be on Fap-Worthy Food? All you have to do is include the hashtag #pepperph when uploading your food photo on Instagram. For tips on how to take better food photos, check out our 5 Easy Steps on How to Take Photos on Instagram article. […]

  21. melo ƪ(‾ε‾“)ʃ says:

    how do you take photos during night time?

  22. […] after every food shoot, today’s your lucky day. This is a follow-up post on last week’s 5 Easy Steps to Take Better Photos on Instagram. This time, I’ll teach you how to edit your photos effectively using your smartphones. When […]

  23. k says:

    *complementary colors. great tips, thanks

  24. […] Want your photo to be on Fap-Worthy Food? All you have to do is include the hashtag #pepperph when uploading your food photo on Instagram. For tips on how to take better food photos, check out our 5 Easy Steps on How to Take Photos on Instagram article. […]

  25. […] Want your photo to be on Fap-Worthy Food? All you have to do is include the hashtag #pepperph when uploading your food photo on Instagram. For tips on how to take better food photos, check out our 5 Easy Steps on How to Take Photos on Instagram article. […]

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