Capturing luscious images of bountiful banquets is nothing new – whaddayathink all those Renaissance still-life paintings were about?
Grape-laden Roman sculpture, Ancient Egyptian minimalist hieroglyphic flat-lays… I’m pretty sure even cavemen were trying to paint #paleo bison burgers onto their walls but just couldn’t quite get the perspective right.
You will not only build an audience – you’ll also join a community of eaters across cyberspace who are just as obsessed as you are, so that no matter what, you’ll never dine alone.
The difference is that now there
are a squillion more ways to capture and share that spread.
Heck, even my mum returned from a recent trip to Japan with a Facebook food album (titled “iOS 6”, because Mum).
So how, then, do we win at modern-day “still-life with food”?
A note on e-tiquette at the dining table
Though it’s no longer seen as a faux pas to whip out the camera-phone mid-meal – particularly in places where the experience is just as much dinner as a show – how do you know when to draw the line?
A spokeswoman from Crown’s recently disassembled Fat Duck laid it out straight: “Diners can capture their experience as long as it doesn’t affect the other guests’ dining… or interfere with service… (avoid) flash photography, guests shifting around the dishes and standing to shoot”.
So basically, show some decorum – and whatever you do, don’t enlist the waitress who’s mid-taking the next table’s order in getting a better angle for your happy snap.
Get your light right
Natural, indirect light is always best for bright, inviting photographs, so if you’re super-committed, choose to book for lunch rather than dinner.
If you find yourself trapped in a dark cage of gastronomic brilliance that you simply must share, there are options (but you may not like them very much).
You could use your flash, but we have already ascertained that restaurants don’t love that – and the resulting shot will likely be overexposed and fairly shoddy.
You could try fiddling with the shadows/brightness using a couple of apps (the names of which I will divulge to you in the very near future), OR you could go #neklevel and get a dining companion to be your (literal) photographic soft-box by getting them to download the “SoftBox” app to their smartphone.
You’ll not only score a better shot – you’ll also discover who your true friends are.
Sent from above
Not sure which angle to take? According to digital content consultant Rob Locke (@FoodWineDine) if in doubt, always aim from directly above.
This works particularly well for fine-dining plates. Why? Because the chef has gone to all the trouble of planning how she wants it to look (most culinary notebooks are filled with birds-eye sketches), shown the waiters which way she wants them to set it down, she’s practically handed you the shot on a silver (or stoneware) platter… The least you can do is avoid too much angle on that lens.
Live a little
What’s the difference between a catalogue shot and an editorial? It’s all in the zhoosh. Lived-in shots are great for casual dining, street-food or in-home entertaining snaps.
If you’re elbow-to-elbow at a dingy hole in the wall, if there’s a red-wine stain on your tablecloth, if your friends can’t resist digging in before the money-shot is secured… embrace it!
Hands, crumbs, cutlery, glassware, missing chunks – set the scene for us. The best shots are those that capture a sense of atmosphere and mood – and it’s often the elements of imperfection that make for the perfect shot.
The feed feed
Explore the feed (read: gallery) of the most prolific instasnappers and it’ll soon become apparent that their endgame isn’t so much about the shot as it is about the story.
On a recent visit to Australia, an Instagram rep sent to address some of Australia’s top social media engagers described this development of an effective feed using two words: remarkable and consistent.
If you’re into burgers, building a story using your favourite burgers around town is a perfectly acceptable addition to the social media-scape – this level of consistency will soon glean you a legion of fellow burger fans.
If your interests reach beyond a single food-group, or away from edibles entirely, that’s cool too! Just make sure that the pictures you choose to share are somehow remarkable enough to attain an interested audience.
If you find yourself scrolling through the feeds of food-bloggers wondering why your carrots never seem quite as carroty as theirs, I have one word for you: #filter.
It’s pretty rare to come across non-filtering types these days, because there are so many terrific apps on the market and because there’s only so much a camera-phone can capture without a little help from these friends:
Excellent for higher-definition shots, as well as situations where you know you’re going to have to hit up some brightening action later (like, say, a moody restaurant).
Building structure and depth to your dishes will make the picture seem like it’s jumping out of the screen. This app is also great for selective brightening (for when you accidentally let the phone cast a shadow across the edge of the plate).
I feel like bringing attention to this app will incur the wrath of The Alliance of Magicians, but this is THE best for instafiltering your snaps in a pro-am way. Once you find a VSCO recipe you like, it’s pretty easy to build a consistent story across your feed; hello carroty carrots!
Find your groove
It’s easy to look at professional looking portfolios and feel intimidated, but there really is no need.
Regardless of what your pics look like: blurry, smudgy, off-centre or dark, if your intention is to include others on your adventures, then the instauniverse will reward you.
Tell us what you loved about the dish, or how you got your sauce so creamy (even if we can hardly see it), or where we can find that hole in the wall, and you will not only build an audience – you’ll also join a community of eaters across cyberspace who are just as obsessed as you are, so that no matter what, you’ll never dine alone.