How to take an expert food photo, from Atlanta stylist Tami Hardeman

Make your Instagram pics more appetizing
Photograph by Tami Hardeman
Photograph by Tami Hardeman

Create leading lines
Your eyes naturally follow lines like a path down a winding road. Something as simple as a napkin or a utensil pointing toward the food can give the image focus.

Take a bite
After snapping a photo of an uneaten dish, take a bite or two and then snap another. It shows you’re enjoying the meal and brings the viewer into the scene.

Remember the rule of thirds
Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid and position the subject (i.e., the food) at one of the four intersections. This creates what the pros call tension or movement.

Skip the flash
Blasting your subject with direct light creates harsh shadows and washes out color. If the room is too dark, just skip the photo.

Try shooting from above
This angle gets every ingredient in the dish in focus. The exception: For food with layers (lasagna, casseroles, pies, cakes), cut a slice and shoot from the side.

Mind the square
Instagram automatically crops all photos into a square, so leave a bit of space around the perimeter of your photo.

If your photo needs enhancing, free apps like VSCO can sharpen the focus and adjust the contrast to give a visual pop.

Look for the light
Food looks best in soft, natural light, so sit near a large window. Avoid direct sunlight, which is similar to using flash.

Illustration by Jochen Schievink
Illustration by Jochen Schievink

Tami’s Five Commandments

  • Thou shalt not stand on a restaurant chair to take a photo.
  • Thou shalt not make dinner guests wait five minutes for you to find the perfect angle.
  • Thou shalt not neglect dinner guests to immediately share photo on social media.
  • Thou shalt not blind fellow diners with flash.
  • Thou shalt respect a waiter’s request to put your camera away.

You can follow Tami on Instagram at @runwithtweezers

This article originally appeared in our April 2015 issue.