A plate of food is only as good as the number of likes it gets; at least, that’s what the Instagram-obsessed believe. In the past few years, restaurants have tried to ban patrons from taking and posting bird’s-eye snapshots of their meals, but that hasn’t stopped diners in their dedicated search for the perfect #foodporn pic. These ubiquitous images—of açai bowls, avocado toast, colourful baked goods, and the like—can be hit or miss depending on the lighting, colour, composition, and whether or not the Instagrammer in question truly understands what makes a beautiful, click-worthy dish. It may be called Insta for a reason, but there’s no shame in taking a little more time and care with a social media photo, especially when it comes to food.

Understanding the common mistakes in food Instagrams comes naturally to photographer Kristin Perers and baker, food stylist, and cookbook author Claire Ptak. Together they founded Violet + the Vicarage in Hackney, London, a space where they host immersive food photography and styling workshops. Below, Perers and Ptak point out the seven things that every foodie should be mindful of before sharing their breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert with their followers. Dig in.


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“It is always nice to give a feeling of the process and the person who has made the food that you’re shooting. Whether it’s a slice out of the cake with crumbs or the knife in the shot, I try to avoid showing used cutlery and utensils because you want it to look appetising and not like someone’s leftovers.” — Ptak

Bad Angles

“Always shoot your subject straight-on, as opposed to from the side. This is especially true of food images within a landscape because it creates a much better composition. Also, try a different perspective and vary your camera angle to create interest.” — Ptak

Artificial Lighting

“Remember to turn the lights off if they’re on. Artificial lighting will give your food an orange cast. Find the ‘half light’ in a spot near a window with natural daylight where light meets shadow. This is the magic place for photos of your food.” — Perers


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“Don’t get too close. Though some beautiful foods or plates can hold up to a close-up, formless foods like risotto, porridge, and soup, for example, all need some context. This is where props really come into play.” — Perers

Bad Props

“You should choose your props wisely. Remember that props are your supporting actors. A beautiful hand-thrown ceramic bowl, natural linen, and a cast-iron pot will make that coq au vin you’ve been cooking all day look like the work of art that it is.” — Perers

Wonky Cropping

“Be bold with your crops. Your image needs to stand out and a playful use of negative space helps with this. If an image has a clear composition from far away, you’ve got it down.” — Ptak

Too Many Posts

“Don’t post too much! Twice a day, max. Keep it special and remember, it’s rude to hog the feed, no matter how lovely your pictures are.” — Ptak

Originally published in American Vogue.