Get more likes and followers on Instagram with The Staff Canteen's food photography tips for beginners!

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2017

Take a look at our professional food photography tips for beginners using your phone or camera to get the best out of your images and increase likes and followers on Instagram and our app Chef+.

You’ve perfected a dish - it looks fantastic and you want to share it with your followers, feature it on your restaurant’s website or add it to an online portfolio. But how do you make the most of this opportunity?

The Staff Canteen spoke to photographers and chefs who gave their food photography tips on how to make your dishes look as delicious on the internet as they do in service.

Before the professionals offer their advice we thought we'd ask our editor what she looks for when choosing images from our Chef+ members to add to our Instagram account:

Cara Houchen, Editor of The Staff Canteen - @thestaffcanteen total followers 87K 

We get hundreds of images uploaded to Chef+ every day so it’s not an easy task picking out the images we think will do well on our social channels. The key points I look for are:
Is the image in focus? All the editing in the world won’t fix an out of focus shot.
Is the image file large enough? If you upload a small image it will pixelate when we move it across to Instagram and will not look good so it won’t get used.
Is the image style over substance? It might look pretty but if the picture is simply a selection of ingredients which look nice but shouldn’t be on a plate together our followers will pick up on it – expect some harsh criticism!
Is the image well-lit and what is in the background? We’ve seen some fantastic plates of food uploaded to the site but if there is a pile of dirty pots and pans in the background or a filthy apron we can’t use it. Equally please wipe your plates! No one wants to see greasy fingerprints all over the plate. And light your food well, natural light is best and if that means moving from the kitchen to outside or a windowsill it’s worth the effort.
Finally: after years of posting food images on social media you’d think we would have a formula for what will get over a 1000 likes or more. Wrong! Followers always have and always will have their own opinion, however simple plates of food, dishes with beautiful shiny sauces and food that just looks bloody tasty always seem to go down well.

tsc insta 3

Chef, Daniel Watkins - @chefdanielwatkins total followers 249K

Daniel Watkins, who is head chef at The Anchor Riverside which has held a Michelin Bib Gourmand for two years, has almost 250k followers on his instagram account.

  • The photos I take are handover dishes for specifications for my team and front of house. First and foremost the food does the talking, keeping things simple and clean. We are a pub restaurant so food is simple and Gastro.
  • Use natural day lighting – but not glorious sunshine, or direct sunlight – sometimes near a window in the restaurant or outside in the kitchen yard.
  • Angle and back drop, I take the majority of my pictures as the customer would see them which will show off the detail and layout of the dish. I take my pictures normally on a plain floor; not stainless steel as it's too shiny and does not give a good finish.
  • When posting on a mobile use the sharpening button to enhance the dish. This will give the picture a better finish.

Chef, Jason Howard - @chefjasonhoward total followers 132K

Jason was a quarterfinalist in the 2015 MasterChef: The Professionals and is a pioneer of modern Caribbean cuisine.

  • Natural light is always best for taking photos.
  • Camera phones are now really good which helps loads.
  • A clean white plate always helps bring out the full colour of food.
  • Learn to highlight your photos and edit your photos.
Golden apple, coconut and cranberry with Koppert Cress flowers
Jason Howard: Golden apple, coconut and cranberry with Koppert Cress flowers

Guy Hinks - @guyhinks,

Guy is a commercial photographer based in Glasgow and Ayrshire. He regularly shoots the Game Chef of the Year competition and has previously worked with The Staff Canteen.

  • Use natural light - position your plate beside a window and use a white piece of paper on the other side of the plate to fill in any harsh shadows. A dull day is better. On a bright day, avoid direct light from the sun.
  • Shoot from various angles - e.g. from above and at an angle.
  • Don’t overcrowd - keep it simple.
Inverurie Scotch Lamb, Mint Yoghurt, Peas, Bacon and Potato Terrine from Number One at The Balmoral Hotel
Guy Hinks: Inverurie Scotch Lamb, Mint Yoghurt, Peas, Bacon and Potato Terrine from Number One at The Balmoral Hotel

Dan Doherty – @dandoherty_ total followers 65.6K

Dan is chef director of the London restaurant Duck and Waffle.

  • The food needs to be tasty! Great food will always look good on a pic, so that's the absolute most important starting point. Never think of the pic first, concentrate on the food.
  • Natural light is so important. No flash or dark rooms. Lovely daylight is key, but be careful of glaring sunshine too.
  • Chill out on the editing and filters. If you are going to edit, less is more. Food should look natural, not over saturated.

N'duja butter roasted crab with samphire. Testing new dishes for something new coming up soon... ???? ????

A post shared by Dan Doherty (@dandoherty_) on

Stephen Perez Smith – @stephenperez70 

Stephen Perez is a professional food photographer. Stephen is a proud Foodelia International Food Photography Collection Winner and Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2016.

  • Lighting is the most important part in food photography. I recommend taking your snaps by a window but avoid direct sunlight as this will be to harsh. Never use flash. If more light is required, use the available light from the window by bouncing light back onto the food with a white card or foil.
  • Frame and compose. Me, personally when taking shots with a phone I like to take from overhead to capture all the key ingredients on the plate. Just really depends on what you are taking. A 30-45 degree angle and straight on both work well.
  • For brightening and sharpening your pictures, my favourite photo app is Instagram it's great.
Botrytis Cinerea from The Fat Duck
Stephen Perez: Botrytis Cinerea from The Fat Duck

Oli Harding – @oli_harding total followers 20.3K

Head chef Oli Harding has a stunning online presence with his beautiful pictures. He is currently working in Montreal, Canada but is orginally from Dorest, England.

  • A good quality camera is the most important. I actually use my Samsung S6 edge for all my pictures.
  • To have a nice clear picture, the next thing you need is natural sun light. Not direct sunlight, as the reflection can be way too bright and any 'manufactured' lighting can have different shades of yellow, which doesn't lend well to food photography.
  • The background is also important. Generally, a plain white background can make the food 'pop' but you can get a nice effect using maybe a slate or wood background! The plate that you present the food on definitely makes a difference. I like to use white most of the time, but slate and wood are also good too. I have other slightly tinted plates that I like and when I use them I make sure they have a matt finish so any light doesn't bounce off.
  • Finally, the way the food is placed looks better when it's naturally placed and not too forced.

If you have any food photography tips you would like to share with us we would love to hear from you. Let us know by commenting below.

By Chris Jones, Rachel Hocking and Thao Ly Nguyen

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2017

Get more likes and followers on Instagram with The Staff Canteen's food photography tips for beginners!