ST. LOUIS — Tasty food, plated all fancy on a large shiny white dish with something saucy on the side. Who can resist taking a photo—or five—of that scrumptious meal you’re about to devour?
Pics or it didn’t taste good, right?
If you find yourself getting embarrassed just taking a photo of your food, remember this study. Research published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing found taking pictures of our food impacts how we enjoy the meal itself.
The study’s authors said taking a picture of your plate causes you to pause before eating it. The savoring feeling, the build up of excitement before your first bite surges, causing the food to taste better when you do finally dive in.
Here’s the even better part. That whole process works whether or not the food itself is indulgent. Meaning, you don’t have to have a $50 steak in front of you or be in a Michelin-starred restaurant for that food to taste extra good. Even that ‘blah’ salad in your lunchbox or the dry turkey your uncle makes for the family dinner tastes better when you take a picture of it.
So, now that we’re armed with the scientific data we’ve needed to justify all those pictures, how do you take photos that are worthy of sharing online?
After all, we’re all ‘doin’ it for the ‘Gram,’ right?
The Abby Eats St. Louis podcast team reached out to two people who would have the answers: a professional food photographer and a social media guru. They gave us tips on how to make the most of our food photos when taking the pics and sharing them on social media.
This story goes along with the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast episode titled, 'Pics or it didn't taste good.' Hear our interviews and get more tips in the by downloading the episode for free wherever you get your podcasts. Just search Abby Eats St. Louis in your favorite podcast app.
TAKING THE PHOTOS
ALL ABOUT THE LIGHTING
Great photos start with great lighting. When you can, grab a seat close to a window or a good light source—not just for the photo, but for yourself.
“I want to see what I'm eating, not only just taste it, but I want to be able to get the full vibe of what I'm eating,” said professional photographer Izaiah Johnson, a St. Louis native whose work is seen in Sauce Magazine and all over Instagram.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET IN THERE
Johnson said if the plate itself is distracting, ignore it and focus on the food. Macro shots show all those little details that you might miss otherwise.
“I enjoy those shots because you see so much weird detail in the food. It’s really pretty sometimes,” he said.
MAKE IT PRETTY
It smells amazing. And you know it tastes great. But, it just doesn’t look pretty. So, how do you convince your friends through a photo that the dish is worth ‘double tapping?’ Dress it up, Johnson said.
“Find a brighter plate to photograph this dish on or use really nice or pretty silverware, or let’s put a pretty drink in the background. Stage it a little bit,” he said. Make the dish stand out by giving it a little push in the background.
CONVEY THE EXPERIENCE
If you’re in a dark and moody restaurant, have your food photos match that vibe. It brings out the overall experience.
“It’s kinda like playing along with the food, but also using the restaurant as a mood board,” Johnson said.
KEEP IT REAL
It’s okay to apply a filter and brighten a photo, but don’t overdo it on the edits. You want to keep the food looking believable.
“Just a little cleaning up here or there, like making something a little lighter, a little darker, a little bit more contrast,” Johnson said.
SHOW BEHIND THE SCENES
Don’t just feature the food, feature the people behind it.
“Take pictures of your family while they’re [cooking],” Johnson said, adding that some of his favorite shots to get are of people preparing food. “There’s just something because for a lot of people, I think their brains turn off and they’re just doing something very casual.”
SHARING ON SOCIAL
Speaking of including people in your photos, don’t be afraid to include yourself.
“If you want to get more likes, include yourself in the picture because people follow you to see you, not what you’re eating,” said Sasha Sander, the social media and trending topics guru on Today in St. Louis. She’s not just an expert in title, Sasha has 80,000 followers on Instagram. Her bio says, ‘Let’s eat, take pics and adventure.’
Tag the restaurant you’re at or the store where you got the food and include hashtags for people who are seeking your type of content.
Pro tip: Don’t just go with the big hashtags everyone is using because you’ll get lost in a sea of snapshots.
“When you use a hashtag, the whole point is to be seen when people search that. So, rather than do #Thanksgiving when doing a hashtag, use one that’s less popular, like #Thanksgiving2019. It helps you get seen,” Sasha said.
FOCUS ON THE FOOD
When deciding which photos to share on Instagram, Facebook or your other social stories, pick the ones that focus on the food. Keep the rest of the photo clean with nothing else on the table, except maybe a drink or utensils.
Don’t try to list out every ingredient and nuance of the dish. When captioning a photo, it’s more about putting your own personality out there.
“Bring a little bit of you to the picture,” Sasha said, suggesting using an anecdote as the caption. “That way when people see the picture, it’s more than just that image. People get a behind-the-scenes look at what was going on during the time you took it.”
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About Abby Eats St. Louis
Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.
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