Taking food photos for Instagram that make your followers hungry isn’t as hard as you might think. We enlisted the expertise of food photographer and IG influencer, Ashley Rodriguez, who blogs at Not Without Salt. She shared her secrets for taking killer food photos using dishes created by chef Curtis Stone at his Princess Cruise ship restaurant, SHARE. Here are six tips to inspire your next food photo sesh.

Find the Light

Natural light gives food contours, highlights, and shadows that can make it sparkle. Rodriguez suggests walking the room and holding out your hand in front of you to assess the light, namely how highlights and shadows play off your hand. To get more light onto your food in a not-so-well-lit space, you can also hold up a white menu to bounce light onto the food. Better yet, if you’re dining out with food-obsessed friends, have one of them hold up a white napkin as the bounce. “Light is all about quality over quantity,” she says.

Tell the Story

What is the story you want to tell with the food? Let’s say you want to shoot a tacro (taco croissant). Rather than mimic someone else, think about your personal angle on the food. Maybe you want to show the flaky layers by taking a bite or perhaps you’d rather create FOMO by showing the full deal or an empty plate with just shards of croissant remaining. Rodriguez adds, “Sometimes a partially eaten plate tells the story beautifully.”

Set up the Shot

The server sets down your plate. Now you get to decide do you keep it in front of you and shoot straight ahead? Do you pool the condiments or plates just so to create a flatlay to shoot overhead? Rodriguez suggests not staying confined to the table. If the texture of the chairs is interesting, try shooting a plate of food there. Or, put a utensil in the photo like you’re going to take a bite. Are the napkins fun or pretty? Gingerly shake one out and lay it down, nestling it by the plate.

Using editing apps on your phone can take your food photos for Instagram over the top.

Edit Your Photo

You don’t need a DSLR to take a stunning food photo. As camera phones have continued to evolve, so have the lenses. The best thing you can do easily is to make some small edits to your photo before pushing the share button. Rodriguez recommends going off Instagram and trying out apps like Afterlight, Snapseed, or her favorite, VSCO. She cautions though, “[Photo] editing is like putting on makeup. You want people to say you look amazing, not your makeup.” Editing takes what’s best in your photo and amplifies it.

Ugly food?

The lentil soup is exactly what you wanted to eat, but how do you make that brown pool something to make others salivate? Rodriguez says to pull back from the plate and look for what else can help supplement the ugly food. Are there fresh herbs on hand? A wedge of lemon or lime to add a pop of color? Flaky salt? Try a dash of hot sauce. If the soup is served with crusty bread, tear the bread. Make the soup part of the shot without it being the focal point or give it some color to stand out. 

Props to Your People

Would your food photo benefit from having a personal element in the shot? Maybe it’s your friend’s hand reaching out for that matcha latte or capturing part of their face as they’re bringing a burger to their mouth. Part of what can make your post successful is also thinking beyond the plate. Rodriguez says that creating community on Instagram starts with sharing the love. So, double tap on followers’ posts you like, and you’ll keep cultivating community to dig your future food photos.

Head over to Instagram to feast on our feed!

(Photos via Annelies Zijderveld / Brit + Co)