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Alyssa Shelasky | June 6, 2019

Food | Inside Magazine

Your guide to snapping food pics like a pro

Our cultural obsession with taking photos of our food is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it allows us to share these delicious, joyful moments with the people we love, if not the world at large; and a curse because sometimes the obsessive urge to snap away distracts from the delicious, joyful moment itself. Not to mention most dishes are very hard to photograph in an appetizing way. It’s terrifically difficult to capture lusciousness and umami in a photo. And a lot of the best meals are, well, mostly shades of taupe, tan and brown (pasta, burgers, tacos, etc!) — hardly the most tantalizing colors in the rainbow. However, it is possible to take food pictures that are both pretty and conducive to a fun, stress-free meal. These five experts explain how.

Alexa Mehraban @EatingNYC

Eating NYC Pizza

“Food styling is definitely a big part of getting a great photo. Be sure to style the table for an overhead shot and decide on the best angle, depending on the dish. Something with depth, like a burger or a high bowl of pasta, looks great straight on, whereas a pizza pie typically works better as an overhead shot.”

Ali Rosen Author


“The main thing on taking food pics like a pro is this: Stop trying to take photos when you are dining out at night. Unless you are going to travel with extensive lighting equipment (which would be pretty antisocial at a restaurant), the photos just don’t ever look as good as they do in daylight. If you really want to Instagram your meals, choose times when there is still light outside — and sit as close to a window as humanly possible.”

Rosen is the author of “Bring It! Tried And True Recipes For Potluck And Casual Entertaining”

Jeremy Jacobowitz @BrunchBoys

Brunch Boys

“I think my No. 1 rule with food photography is ‘do anything for natural light.’ Food just needs natural light to truly shine, so I’ll do pretty much anything I can do to find it when I’m shooting at a restaurant. As much as I hate it, that does sometimes mean that I’m the lunatic outside taking photos of my food. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!”

Kelly Dobkin @KellyDobkin


“Try several dižfferent angles and take way more shots than you need. If you must photograph at night or in low light, have a friend turn his or her phone light on and hold it parallel to the table above the dish. Also, get creative and turn the plate around to see which angle looks best, especially for dishes with height.”

Dobkin is a senior editor at Zagat.

Dara Pollak @SkinnyPigNYC


“Avoid yellow lighting at all costs, which means NEVER use your flash! If you’re using your phone, grab a friend’s phone (with permission, obviously) and open the notes app or a blank email for nice white light. Anything with a mostly white background will work well. Then bump up the brightness on that phone to 100 percent. Use this as your light as opposed to the flash. It will be a more blue and white light, not as abrasive or yellow as the flash. Lastly, make sure all components of the dish are visible. This is key for food photos. If you’re shooting something with height, like a burger, you’ll likely want to get on eye level with it so you’re shooting it dead on to capture the stacked layers. If you’re shooting something symmetrical and round, like macaroni and cheese in a dish, an aerial shot (from the top down) will work nicely.”

Tips & Pics From Our Talented Employees

  • Caitie Pritchett, industrial engineering manager, Creative Contract Packaging Corp. in Aurora, Ill.

    “Use morning light if you can, change your scenery once in a while, feature some of the ingredients as details in the photo, keep your backgrounds simple, and remember that cupcakes always have a pretty side profile.”

  • Allison Wong, manager of industrial engineering, Algona Plant in Algona, Iowa

    “Try to use natural light, either give it a fun background or focus on the food with a neutral background, and play around with arranging the items in your photo a couple of dižfferent ways. Most importantly, be creative and have fun doing it!”

  • Ashley Krautkramer, team leader of business analytics, consumer products sales Corporate Office in Austin, Minn.

    “Natural light is your own natural filter! Above-angle photos focus on the actual food better and cut out your environment.”

  • Liz Lawton, product development scientist, Research & Development in Austin, Minn

    “Start offž with good-looking food or something unique from the menu, if not your own creation, then find the angle that catches the light or height of the dish. If your food is cooked, try to capture the steam coming offž of it for a cool effect.”

  • Beth Hillson, digital communications coordinator, Corporate Office in Austin, Minn.

    “Sometimes I am inspired by a neat table setting and take a photo even before the food comes out. It’s all about snapping what catches your eye.”

  • Katie Plumski, internal communications coordinator, Corporate Office in Austin, Minn.

    “I am always inspired by color. If you see colors that make you smile, take a photo! Don’t forget to be patient and let your phone focus before hitting the button.”

  • Kari Kuehneman
    associate systems programmer, IT services Corporate Office in Austin, Minn.
  • Simon Werner
    senior applied research scientist, Research & Development in Austin, Minn.
  • Kurt Lindsey
    senior brand manager, MegaMex Foods in Orange, Calif.
  • Michelle Soucek
    logistics order processing clerk, Corporate Office in Austin, Minn.
  • Michael Griesbach
    director of foodservice for the Asia Pacific region, Hormel Foods International Corporation
  • Linda Hahn
    computer analyst, corporate office in Austin, Minn.
In Focus
Cory Howe: the man behind the lens
Meet the Pro

Tips from a Pro

  • Let the food dictate your picture angle, and make sure to show the detail and all the ingredients.
  • Don’t zoom. Instead, move your phone closer.
  • Edit before you post to add a little bit of vignette, clarity and contrast.

This article was featured in Issue VI of Inside Hormel Foods magazine. Click here to explore these unique collections of thought-provoking and heartwarming stories, recipes and features on our employees and the different areas of our company, all packaged up in a beautifully designed digital viewer for you.