The Uncertain Fate of Food That Doesn’t Instagram Well

As the food-photography craze reaches fever pitch, does delicious-but-ugly grub face extinction?

  • miseu_kaelli uni sushi
  • Shleehead poutine
  • paulodiary tartare
  • Msdianeg chili step by step
  • beefjerky
  • chowder
  • bone marrow
  • amberwashington blackbeansoup

Click through the gallery above for examples of foods that, while delicious, NEVER photograph well.

We currently live in an time when nary a dish can escape the celestial haze of an Instagram filter, and every meal is hashtagged within inches of its life. There has been hefty backlash from chefs, restaurants, and other fellow eaters, who cite reasons such as the fact that it can be disruptive to other diners, not to mention the foods getting cold, you idiot! Some restaurants have even gone so far as to ban picture-taking altogether.

Don’t get us wrong—we love some good food porn, and we’re partial to our favorite Instagram filters (shout out to Valencia). Social media, when used properly, can be a great way to discover new restaurants and to do a little #humblebragging about how delicious your life truly is.

The problems start to arise when people fail to appreciate that the name of the game is discretion. While a dish may be mind-blowingly delicious, that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s mind-blowingly photogenic. Not posting a photo of a dish doesn’t negate the fact that you were there and ate it. The whole “if you don’t ‘gram it, it didn’t happen” mentality needn’t apply to the food world. The rule is simple—if it looks like crap, especially after four layers of Instagram filters, don’t post it. The Internet will be okay without it, we promise.

While a dish may be mind-blowingly delicious, that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s mind-blowingly photogenic.

Not only are snaps of unphotogenic foods gross, but there may be reason to fear that they could—in some sicked, twisted version of the world that is actually not so far-fetched—discourage restaurants from serving them in the first place. Think about it: While some places are banning food photography, New York City’s Comodo allows customers to flip through an Instagram menu of their dishes with pictures submitted by other patrons. And apps like Foodspotting, featuring user-generated dish shots, are becoming a popular way for people to find new restaurants to try.

Are Instagram generated menus just the tip of the iceberg? Will we one day see restaurants formatted for optimal food photography aesthetics? It can’t be that difficult to install height-adjustable tables for the perfect overhead meal shot, or to embrace plating that easily fits into the phone-camera frame. Diners might even get the option of picking the plates upon which the food is served, or having the ability to swap out tablecloths for some next-level Instagramming. No doubt these changes would be accompanied by a menu filled with hashtag-friendly names and descriptions, plus an extra fast Wi-Fi connection for instant uploading. Maybe a list of wine pairings would be accompanied by list of recommended filters. Or perhaps restaurants will eliminate the hassle of having to shoot the food yourself altogether by offering a professional Instagram service.

Are Instagram generated menus just the tip of the iceberg? Will we one day see restaurants formatted for optimal food photography aesthetics?

Even in this futuristic, photography-optimized restaurant, some items would still look terrible. Often the most flavorful dishes come in the form of monochromatic slop—chili, poutine, stew, etc. But in a world where everything is Instagrammed, can they survive?

Newsletter

Feed your inbox.

Subscribe