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“The EYES Have It” - How to Take Mouthwatering Photos for Your Website and Social Media

There’s an old saying among chefs… “You eat with your eyes first.”

Sight is the first sense humans use when it comes to food. Gardeners pick the ripest tomatoes. Farmers pick the freshest eggs. And hungry customers-to-be decide what makes their mouth water by looking at images on social media and the internet.

Because our sight is the first sensory criterion we use when making decisions about the foods we eat, today, more than ever, the visual appeal of the way a dish is portrayed online plays a huge role in decision-making.

Great food photography takes careful planning and more than just a point-and-shoot camera. Consider these tips when beginning your journey into the realm of culinary photography.

Get inspired

Feed your inspiration by dedicating a few minutes each day to looking at the work of other food photographers. One of the easiest ways to do so is simply following Instagram and Pinterest photography accounts that feature these types of pictures. If you’re not sure where to find these profiles, check out the most popular photography hashtags on social media.

Choose the right gear

The first question that might come to mind when getting started on a new photography discipline is the type of camera that you will need; not to worry - pretty much any phone will do.

Because you’ll be working with a still subject that you can easily manage at will, and shooting in an environment with controlled lighting, all you need to do is learn about your phone’s camera settings and look into some great editing platforms.

Tripods not only help you avoid unwanted camera shake on your images but also help you take a step back and revise your compositions before you press the shutter.

Choose natural light whenever possible

When it comes to illuminating a food photography scene, natural light is the preferred choice. This doesn’t mean you have to exclusively shoot outdoors, but rather that you should strive for natural, soft lighting. When shooting indoors, place your composition near a large window and shoot during the “magic hour,” just as the sun is going down, or on an overcast day to avoid harsh shadows.

If overcast natural light isn’t available, softbox lights or inexpensive ring lights will do the trick. Try bouncing the light off the ceiling, or set up your artificial lighting on opposite sides of your subject. This can balance out the lighting and eliminate most shadows. Don’t try shooting photos with just your overhead lights. This can skew your white balance and add unwanted orange or yellow tinges to your food, making it look unappetizing.

Pay attention to color

Color goes hand in hand with light in terms of importance in food photography. In fact, this might be the only type of photography where black and white images are unheard of. After all, can you imagine any dish looking delicious once you strip it of its color?

There are two main ways to make the colors of your meals pop: neutral tones and contrasting colors. Using neutral tones for props and backgrounds will dull the surroundings of your main subject, thus directing less attention to them, and more to the dish itself. On the other hand, using contrasting colors between the dish and its surroundings creates vibrant dynamics that stimulate the viewer’s sight and draw them into the scene. The right choice for your images will depend on the characteristics and goals of each photo.

Use props, but strive for minimalism

Including accessories in your compositions can help you add a personal touch to the image, as well as strengthen its visual appeal.

The kind of props used in food photography tends to be related to the ingredients, origin, or cooking of each dish. Examples include items like rolling pins, cloth napkins, and natural herbs and spices.

Regardless of the type of elements that you choose to add to the composition, make sure that they serve only to support the main subject. They should not be more eye-catching than the dish you’re photographing, because, at the end of the day, the star of your food photography should always be the food.

Create an appealing composition

Your mom might have told you a million times not to play with your food, but this food photography tip asks for the complete opposite. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the pieces of food on your plate or mix in non-edible elements. Think of each meal as a canvas ready to be arranged, and use the different photography composition rules to guide the viewer's eyes across both the frame and the plate.

Include the human element

One way to draw viewers into the image as if they were a part of the story is to include people in the shot. This can include a chef cooking, a hand reaching out to the food, a family sitting together at the table, or a cute kid eating an ice cream cone.

By featuring a person, a couple, or a group of people in your composition, you’ll be offering your audience a way to connect with the image and tell a story. A group of friends eating ice cream together and having fun can spark an appetite for fun as well as food. A couple dining in a candlelit setting can invoke a feeling of romance. Use photography to tell the story about your restaurant’s vibe and mood by adding a human ingredient to your food photo recipe.

Hire a professional food stylist

Who hasn’t watched a food commercial that made you immediately crave what they were advertising, even though you weren’t hungry? That’s the wizardry of a food stylist! A food stylist is a creative pro who designs, prepares, and arranges food or props for presentation purposes. You often see the work of food stylists on restaurant menus, advertisements, cookbooks, and food displays. A food stylist doesn’t just make the plate or setup look pretty, they are educated and experienced in knowing which arrangements psychologically appeal to the audience.

They’re able to use that knowledge and expertise to skillfully design arrangements that look fresh, flavorful, and tempting. Stylists have the knowledge and skills necessary to make any dish look camera-ready. This can include using anything from textures and colors to props, tableware, and even plastic food.

Shooting for Social Media

FACT: Social media posts accompanied by photos are 10 times more likely to get engagement

Today’s consumers are flooded with more content than ever. As people rapidly scroll through their feeds, social media marketing efforts typically rely on a quick glance. To maintain aesthetic integrity, brands cannot have their images inadvertently cropped, resized, or scaled – which is why these visual elements must be correctly sized to each social network’s standards. Clear, fully visible images create a more polished look for brands, which builds consumer trust and appreciation. However, it’s important to stay up to date with each network’s sizing standards, as they change often as a result of new layouts and features.

Below are the social media image dimensions recommended for the key social networks in 2022.

Social Media Image Sizes by Network

Facebook image post size: 1200 x 630. Facebook highlighted image size: 1200 x 717. Facebook event image size: 1920 x 1005. Facebook group cover image size: 1640 x 856.

Profile photo - Facebook crops it to a square, but you can always choose which part of the image to crop. Facebook profile photos display at 180 x 180 pixels on computers and 128 x 128 pixels on most smartphones.

Cover photo - Facebook cover photos look like banners on top of your Facebook timeline. They display at 820 x 312 pixels on most computers and 640 x 360 pixels on most smartphones.

Image posts - If you upload a single image to your timeline, it’s best to stick either to a square image or a photo with a 3:2 aspect ratio because Facebook will automatically scale your image to a thumbnail.

Facebook ads - For image-based ads, whether they are single images or a carousel, keep photos to a 1.91:1 ratio with recommended dimensions of 1200 pixels wide and 628 pixels tall. Take note that you’ll have to submit your ad to Facebook for approval.

Twitter recommends a 3:1 aspect ratio, 1500px X px size and maximum file size of 5MB. Images can be in JPG, PNG, or GIFs (but not animated GIFS).

Profile photo - Twitter will display your profile photo as 200 x 200 pixels square image. However, it is recommended to upload a 400 x 400 pixels image for better quality.

Twitter header - The optimal Twitter header size is 1500 x 500 pixels with an aspect ratio of 3:1. Maximum file size should be 10 MB.

Image post - Twitter now allows its users to attach media such as photos, GIFs, and videos. Twitter allows you to add up to four photos at a time. Images are displayed at 1024 x 512 pixels and have a maximum file size of 5 MB.

All images will be cropped to a square in the feed. The ideal size for square posts is 1080px by 1080px at a 1:1 aspect ratio. For landscape posts, use an image that is 1080px by 566px, with an aspect ratio of 1.91:1. Vertical images should be sized at 1080px by 1350px with a 4:5 aspect ratio. 1080px by 1080px

Profile photo - Your Instagram profile image should be 160 x 160 pixels with a minimum size of 110 x 110 pixels. Take note though that Instagram will crop your photo into a circle.

Square images - For a while, Instagram only allowed square images at 640 pixels but now you can upload images as large as 1080 x 1080 pixels. You can still upload smaller images but using the full resolution ensures every detail of your photo is captured.

Landscape and portrait images - Apart from square images, Instagram allows you to upload landscape and portrait images. For both orientations, it’s recommended to keep your image at 1080 pixels wide. Portrait images would look best at 1080 x 1350 pixels while landscape images are best displayed at 1080 x 566 pixels.

Stories - You can also post stories on your Instagram account. These are photos, images or even text posts that’ll last 24 hours before “expiring” and can be accessed by tapping or clicking on your profile or image. Instagram stories are displayed in portrait orientation with the best size for display being 1080 pixels wide by 1920 pixels tall. This is an aspect ratio of 9:16. You can scale down by retaining this ratio to sizes like 900 x 1600 pixels or 720 x 1280 pixels.

While a Pinterest image size of 735 by 1102 pixels is considered ideal, there's a lot of flexibility: Pinterest will display anything down to a width of 238 pixels with an appropriately scaled height, which allows for longer images to be posted and pinned.

Profile photo - The profile photo you use is particularly important because Pinterest has no header image. The recommended size for your image should be 280 x 280 pixels square which will be cropped and displayed as a circle.

Pins - Pinterest’s interface is portrait-oriented so vertical pins with a 2:3 ratio are best. The optimal image dimension is 735 x 1102 px pixels, however, pins will be displayed with a width of 238 pixels with scaled height. This means Pinterest allows you to upload longer images since only the width is fixed.

Board cover - The first thing your followers see when they visit your Pinterest page is your collection of boards. Aside from naming them properly, you also need to pick an interesting or relevant photo among your pins as your board cover. The board cover frame is square with a recommended size of 600 x 600 pixels.

Check out our blog post featuring more information on the Top 5 Social Media Platforms for Restaurants.


By Eileen Strauss



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