Design Hacks

Food Stylists Share How To Improve Your Food Photography Skills

Photo: Saute Magazine

Food is always judged by its looks. Its look is probably the third most important sensory indicator of its worthiness, following taste and smell; we call it eating with our eyes. 

Making a dish look its best is an important job for food photographers and stylists. In fact, many of the mouth-watering photos we feature here at Sauté are the result of talented visual artists. Ryan Haack and Aaron Shintaku of Foxes & Wolves PhotographyMarivic Divina, and Max Milla are just a few of our favorite people whose work we love to feature in our magazine. 

We caught up with these experts to ask them how they do what they do and what tips they have for people who want to try this too. 


We regard a food’s visual composition the same way we regard any type of visual art — a method of storytelling. Every visual aspect captivates us in some way, telling the unique story of the food in front of us: its origin, its culture, its meaning.

For Max Milla, “… it always helps to know what food items you will be shooting beforehand. It also depends on the theme or the look. For example, if you’re shooting an Acai Bowl and the theme is ‘Spring is in the Air’ then you’re most likely looking to shoot outside with a happy colorful feel.”

There are many ways to accomplish different moods and stories with food photography. Whether that be the background setting, the food itself, or the way people or things interact with it, you can manipulate any of these aspects to craft a story.


You might think that a certain dish looks delicious because of its colors or shapes. But when I asked about the most important tips to capture good food photography, our experts all touched on the same thing: light.

Of course, different situations call for different types of light. Haack says he, “Always looks for the light, what’s the source and where it is coming from? Is it too harsh? Do we need to soften it, do we need to bounce the light, diffuse it for harder shadows?”

Good light exposure is key to keep the subject from becoming too low-res or grainy. And not much effort is really needed. Max Milla says, “Daylight is your best friend.” Some of the best light comes from sunny days, especially with good cloud coverage that diffuses the light. When indoors, it is important to keep your subject in a well-lit area. If more light is needed, you can turn to artificial light sources (a simple phone flashlight does wonders for picture quality).


A small tip: when it comes to staging a picture, try not to over-stage it. Adding too many elements to a picture, whether that be in the dish or in the background, can diminish the quality of an image. It can distract from and over-power the story you are trying to tell.

The number one goal of a food photo is to make your audience crave what is in front of them, which is hard to do if the picture is unnatural, “I want my images to look natural, and my style is very simple. For me, too many food items or props would be unappetizing,” says Marivic Divina.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that one should be underprepared when it comes to staging a photo. For Foxes & Wolves, a photo set-up requires multiple steps to achieve a certain look, “We want the image and the food to look as real as possible and evoke an emotion that gets your taste buds tingling,” says Haack. Find a middle ground. Thoughtful planning goes a long way to perfecting the final product.

Ryan Haack and Aaron Shintaku  |   Foxes & Wolves   |   @foxesandwolves   |

Marivic Divina   |   |   @marivicdivina

Max Milla   |   |   @mxmlla


Considering all the steps above, many food photographers take further steps in the age of social media, like Instagram. We all wonder how to achieve that same professional-level of work seasoned food photography experts arrange for our visual pleasure. Husband-and-wife duo, Buddy and Tasha Clay of @FoodieOC, are masters at getting our taste buds tingling with their Instagram page.  We spoke with Buddy about how to get into the Instagram foodie headspace.

On Instagram, perhaps the only thing more important than aesthetic is consistency. “We have had this conversation with so many people who want to create successful pages. We tell them that they have to be very consistent. It also has to be of higher quality than just the average Joe,” says Clay. “The main thing is that content has to look just a little better than real life.” Select an identity: color, composition, style — these are all important things to consider when staying consistent.

Another thing is finding a balance between your personal interests and the interests of your audience. FoodieOC is no stranger to this. With over 45,000 Instagram followers, Clay has to keep current trends in mind when posting. Instagram success comes from pleasing the Instagram market. Still, you should remember that food photography on Instagram is about showcasing the food and the experience above anything else.

Of course, we mustn’t forget about the technical aspects, which in the case of Instagram, is all about post-editing. According to Clay, “Post-production, and using editing apps is 100 percent necessary and you should always take time making sure the pictures look similar to the one you posted before by having all the colors corrected properly. You have to take time to edit and make sure your pictures are perfect, otherwise, it will never catch anyone’s eye.” When asking Clay and FoodieOC about their go-to editing apps for social media, they suggested Lightroom and Snapseed.

Buddy Clay   |   @foodieoc   |

The visual aspects we associate with a certain dish can make or break our opinion of it. Taking these extra steps will definitely improve your food photography skills and make every dish you snap look even better.

Related Links:

24 Carrots: An Unforgettable Chef’s Table With Chef Nick Weber

Ways & Means Oyster House Is The Raw Deal 

One World Everybody Eats Receives Humanitarian Of The Year Award

Article by Francis Agustin for Sauté Magazine. Read the original article here.


This App Will Choose Your Best Food Photos To Post On IG For You

If you’re the type of person who takes 5,200 photos of a slice of pizza and looks back at every single one of them, trying to pick out the perfect one to post for your 47 followers to bask in, things are about to get a lot easier for you.

The photo editing app EyeEm, just released a huge update that will look at all the photos in your gallery for you, and using “Computer vision technology,” will pick out the best ones.

EyeEm’s primary purpose has always been to help photographers copyright and sell their photos, so their technology is based off research on aesthetics and a curation that has a pretty good idea of what it takes for photos to sell.

With that kind of power at your fingertips, it only makes sense to use it for something more useful, like posting the most beautiful Instagram photos of tacos and boba.

I just tried the feature myself, and out of the 1,100 photos in my camera roll, it picked out about 17 solid ones, so the feature is pretty selective to say the least.

We’ll see if it really translates into more likes, though it can’t be any worse than what you already get.

h/t mashable

Design Restaurants Video

10 Sneaky Food Photography Manipulation Tricks That Are Lowkey Brilliant [WATCH]

Commercial foods almost always look better than their real-life counterpart. You definitely won’t get what you see on TV in most restaurant establishments, but that’s only because there are some tricks to the food photography trade that a lot of consumers don’t know about.

YouTube channel Top Trending created a video that highlights 10 tricks that photographers use to manipulate their food pics and videos, reports Design Taxi.

These methods include substituting glue for milk to make sure the cereal that’s being highlighted doesn’t come out soggy. Another trick to getting the perfect steak is cooking it in an oven rather than a grill and then painting grill marks directly onto the meat. That way you get the picture-perfect grill marks and a perfect pink interior.

Even though we know what these shots entail, we still kind of want to bite into them. Is that bad?

Check out the video to see all the other sneaky tricks you never knew were used in food advertising. It’s actually pretty brilliant if you’re looking to elevate your food photography game.


What If A Restaurant Made Food For You ONLY To Instagram, Not Eat? [HUMOR]

Over the past few years, the culinary world gave birth to creations — like rainbow bagels and over-the-top milkshakes — that seem like they’re specifically designed to garner as many likes as possible on Instagram.

I recently had the opportunity to sample one of these trendy dishes myself when I dropped $8 on a Raindrop Cake.

To its credit, the “cake” tasted exactly as it was advertised, but because that taste was “water-flavored Jell-O,” the experience left me slightly underwhelmed.

At this point, it seems like some people care more about how their food looks than the actual flavor itself, and while the many “Iron Chef” marathons I’ve taken part in have taught me the value of presentation, there’s a reason it’s not the most important category.

This video from “Millennials of New York” features a chef who took this trend to its natural conclusion by opening a restaurant focused on making its food look better than it could ever possibly taste (which may have something to do with the hairspray it uses to make sure everything is picture perfect).

The future of food is here, and we can’t eat any of it.

Written by Connor Toole, Elite Daily


This Restaurant Created Their Plates With Instagramers In Mind


In this day and age, chefs and restauranteurs not only have to worry about whether or not the food tastes good, but also if it’ll look good on Instagram. People taking pictures of their meals when dining out has become the norm.

While it definitely irks some of the traditional diners who would rather enjoy their meal than wait for it to get cold, it doesn’t look like the trend is going away any time soon.

The Carmel Winery in Israel is well aware of this. Collaborating with Tel Aviv restaurant Catit, the two figured out a way to make the most of the trend by creating plates that are Instagram-friendly. Utilizing a variety of designs that both block out background distractions and focus on the food, the plates became a social media hit.

Check out some of the innovative designs featured.


London Pop Up Lets You Pay for Dinner By Instagramming It


Broke Foodie Hipsters Who Have No Business Eating Out So Much When They’re So Severely Underemployed, take heed: a new pop-up restaurant in London wants to put your particular talents to good use, by letting you pay for dinner not with your wallet, but with your Instagram account.

Frozen food company Birds Eye is hosting a pop-up in Soho called The Picture House, where food-loving Britons will be allowed to pay for their dinners simply by Instagramming it with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations. It’s a silly gimmick, designed to improve people’s perceptions of frozen foods as part of the company’s “Food of Life” campaign, though aspiring food-tographers will benefit from the guidance of pro-photographer Marte Marie Forsberg, who will be on hand to help diners arrange their oeuvres.

As it stands, it seems all diners will receive the same treatment regardless of their Instagram followings.

H/T Grubstreet + Picthx Telegraph


Apparently Staring at Food Porn Can Actually Make You Lose Your Appetite


Last week we wrote about this Japanese smartphone app that tricked you into fullness with the help of a fancy smell cartridge and some food photography. The idea was, if you couldn’t afford meat that day, you could just call up the app and enjoy the sight and smell of grilled Korean BBQ alongside your paltry bowl of rice.

Well, it turns out that science was actually right this time. According to a recent study from researchers at Brigham Young University, “over-exposure to food imagery increases people’s satiation,” or “the drop in enjoyment with repeated consumption.” In other words, staring at pictures of food porn too long tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already eaten that food.

“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,” the study’s coauthor and BYU professor Ryan Elder, said in the press release. “It’s sensory boredom – you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore.”

Elder and his fellow researchers came to this conclusion after asking 232 participants to look at 60 photos of either sweet or salty food, and then having those participants eat peanuts. They found the people who looked at the salty food enjoyed the peanuts significantly less than those who looked at sweet food, even if none of the photos they observed strictly featured peanuts. The familiar sensation of saltiness was still enough to register.

According to the BYU article, however, it takes a good amount of photographs in order for this satiation to set in, so there’s no need to shield your eyes whenever your foodie friend posts to Instagram. It doesn’t say whether the effect works when looking at photos of food you’ve never had before though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head over to flickr. I have a couple tasting menus I’ve been dying to try.

H/T + PicThx BYU


Science Says Those Who Instagram Their Food are More Likely to Be Obese


Next week’s talk: Those who Instagram their food are less likely to be obese.

Because it’s been a hot second since anyone’s given us a logical reason to stop being such tremendous douche-nozzles every time we go out to eat, Dr. Valerie Taylor, the mental health chair for the Canadian Obesity Network, has just delivered a talk on how “people who post pictures of almost every meal they eat to social media may have a deeper medical issue,” according to CBC.

“Deeper medical issue” meaning obesity and not overbearing narcissism, of course.

According to Taylor’s research, food has taken on a more “psychological role” in people’s lives, which she believes is one of the primary causes of obesity today. People are no longer just eating food for the nutritional value. In other words, because we actually enjoy and appreciate good food, we’re all going to die from high blood pressure and diabetes. Thanks mom!

Of course, CBC’s short summation doesn’t specify when exactly a regular eater’s Instagram feed begins to resemble that of a disordered person, and I’m sure that for some, compulsive food photography could very well be a telltale sign of a deeper medical condition. Still, I’m guessing Taylor’s talk caused more than a few conference-goers to not to whip out their smartphones at dinner that night. “I swear I don’t have a problem, I can stop whenever I want!”

H/T + PicThx CBC