7 Tips for Instagramming Food From an Award-Winning NYT Food Photographer

(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)
(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)

While it certainly helps to own a DSLR camera and have photography training under your belt, you don’t need either of those things to take beautiful, professional-looking photos of food. Whether you’re whipping up a home-cooked meal or at a swank eatery, there are a lot of simple ways to elevate any food photo, and we’re not just talking about choosing the right Instagram filter.

During an intimate press lunch at Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant in NYC yesterday, award-winning food photographer Daniel Krieger—who shoots for The New York Times, Eater and Food & Wine magazine—dished on his best tips for food iPhone food photography and took us aside for a photo shoot to show us how it’s done. Here are his tricks of the trade:

Lighting is key

Firstly, natural lighting is your best photography friend. Get by a window and take advantage of “the golden hours” (early morning and late afternoon), but do avoid harsh, direct sunlight.

“This lets the colors come out and makes the shadows proper. This is always one of my main objectives,” Mr. Krieger said.

If you are in a dim restaurant and can’t utilize natural sunlight, there are a few things you can do to make up for the bad lighting and the fact that your iPhone camera isn’t able to produce the proper lighting. For example, if you’re dining with a friend, have him pull out his phone, turn on the flashlight and hold it up. Have him move it around while you set up your photo and adjust hia position and angle until your shot is illuminated to your desire. If you’re even more ambitious, carry a small LED light with you and use that in the same way.

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(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)

Try the bird’s-eye view

Definitely play around with different angles and shots, but consider what Mr. Krieger believes is the single best way to take a food photo with an iPhone: the bird’s-eye view. It’s sharp and clear, and there’s no distortion, which occurs with phone cameras at certain angles. If you’re not a professional, it’s easier to take a professional-quality photo from this angle than any other.

Consider composition

What’s going on in the background? Is the photo balanced?

Try placing items in different configurations to achieve this. You don’t want the subjects too close together or too far away from each other, which could result in awkward spacing in your frame. Mr. Kriger’s next few photography hacks are especially helpful for improving composition.

(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)
(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)

Use negative space

You might think negative space like a tabletop or plate isn’t doing anything for your photo, but it actually draws attention to a subject and enhances composition. Try leaving plenty of plain, neutral-colored space around your photo for an especially appealing shot.

“With the iPhone, using negative space looks better than not using negative space,” he said.

Remember the rule of thirds

A photo can be sectioned off into nine equal parts, and keeping this in mind is one of the keys to better composition. For a visual, enable the grid on your iPhone camera and shoot so that your subject falls on a set of intersecting lines.

“When it’s along that grid and properly placed, people respond to it and click “like” or leave a comment. There’s just something about the human mind that’s pleased by it,” Mr. Krieger said.

(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)
(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)

Take a moment

Compose yourself, think about what you’re photographing and concentrate in on it. Give it a second rather than snapping as quick as you can and putting your phone back in your pocket right away. You’ll be surprised how big of a difference this makes.

Don’t stop at one

The key to taking the perfect photo is taking many, many photos. Get a bunch of snaps while switching up angles, lighting, your use of negative space, how the subject(s) are positioned—everything about the photo, basically. Even if you’re just looking to get a quick photo, try just taking five instead of one.


(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)
(Photo: Instagram/danielkrieger)

Filter wisely

Instagram’s tools are pretty great, says Mr. Krieger, but he does warn to filter wisely and use the app’s other tools. After you make your selection, adjust the intensity of the filter to prevent the photo from looking too processed. Additionally, adjusting the sharpness, contrast and saturation will help you brighten the colors and create a crisp and clean photo. 7 Tips for Instagramming Food From an Award-Winning NYT Food Photographer