The Pro Guide to Taking Better Instagram Food Photos

Step up your food-porn game with these essential tips.

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5. Use the “focus” function wisely.

Left: Drawing attention to one hot dog on the table doesn't work if there are others on the same plane, because the manipulation of the image is too obvious. Right: It's almost always better to set up your shot in a more natural way rather than trying to force the viewer's eye.

Using the blur tool is a great way to draw the viewer’s eye to something that you want to highlight—those glistening coins of housemade sausage on top of a pizza, or a plump marshmallow floating in some hot chocolate. But Ruben advises that it is too often used as a crutch to try to stylize a bad photo. Two key things to keep in mind:

  1. Get used to thinking of it as a blur tool, not a focus tool—the effect does not clarify what’s inside the part of the image that you highlight, but simply pulls everything around it out of focus. So remember that whatever you want to single out should be in focus in your original shot—you can’t use it to correct an out-of-focus photo.
  2. If you are going to highlight detail, make sure other objects/ingredients on the same plane are also in focus. “When two objects are on the same plane, they are at the same focal length, so it doesn't make sense that one would be in focus and one wouldn't be,” explains Ruben. “The eye would be confused by this and not accept it as a natural image.”

Rather than heavy-handed manipulation, what tends to work best is a gentle blurring of the fringes of your photo, to steer the viewer's eye without making them think about the technique. Here are a couple of successful examples:

 

 

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