Instagramming a picture of your meal has almost become part of typical mealtime rituals. If you’re sitting down to eat, chances are you’re snapping a photo of your food and posting it to Instagram. The craze has gotten so big that some restaurants have even banned patrons from taking pictures of their meals, concerned that the time diners spend taking photos of their food detracts from the overall dining experience and restaurant ambiance.
However, snapping photos of your food can be a fun way to remember a favorite meal, or share a delicious find with others on social media. Who wouldn’t want to share photos of the amazing meal they had at a new restaurant, or show off the yummy dish they whipped up at home? When you take a food photo, you want the subject — your food — to look its absolute best.
Some foods are challenging to get good photos of, no matter how great they taste. Pizza, for example, always tastes delicious, but taking a good picture of your pizza is much easier said than done. Through a phone camera lens, your salty, gooey cheese can look waxy, your spicy, savory pepperoni can look like plastic and your warm, flaky crust can look dull and flat.
With the right photo techniques, you can take great food photos of your delicious, comforting slice — or three — of pizza.
Tips for Great Pictures
Lots of social media users immediately turn to filters to turn their shots into works of art. But there are so many other techniques foodie photographers can use. Follow our tips to make your “pizza-grams” look their best and become the envy of your Instagram feed.
Visualize the Shot
Before you get to snapping pictures, think about how you want your shot to look.
Decide what you’re going to include in the picture and how it’ll look in the frame. Do you want the photo to just be of your pizza, or are you going to include other objects to enhance your shot and set the scene? Remember, Instagram pictures appear in a square frame, so make sure you can fit in everything you want without making things look cramped.
You should also think about what type of aesthetic you want, and what will make your pizza look most appealing. Do you need a certain light, filter or color scheme? Does the shot need to fit in with an overall aesthetic of your feed? All of these factors will influence how you approach taking your picture.
Once you’ve got an idea of what you want, actually set up your picture to see how everything fits together. Look at your subject through your phone’s camera and play with elements as necessary until you get the look you’re going for.
Your planning and setup doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it’s a good idea to have an idea of how you want the picture to look before you take it.
Think About Colors
Think about the overall color scheme of your picture. As a general rule of thumb, don’t use more than three main colors at a time, as this can be overwhelming to the eye.
It’s also great to add some color contrast. Try putting your slice of pepperoni and mushroom on a bright blue tablecloth, or your arugula and prosciutto-topped pie on a dark wood cutting board.
You may want to think about how your picture plays into the overall color palette of your Instagram feed. If you’re taking a series of photos, choose a palette that’s either warm, cold or neutral, then try to have your photos fit into that theme. This will help your feed look cohesive to a viewer scanning through.
Pay Attention to Lighting
Lighting has a significant impact on the quality of your photo, especially those taken with your phone. With the right lighting, your pizza picture will make its subject look delicious and appealing. If your lighting is poor, the image is likely to look grainy, overly harsh or flat.
When possible, look for the best source of natural light. In most cases, natural light is the best option for food photos, so seek it out whenever possible. Indoor lighting is often harsh or fluorescent, which can make photo subjects look flat, blurry or discolored. Try taking your photos outside, or find a nearby window. Ideally, you want the light hitting the subject of your photo. If the light is hitting the camera directly, it’ll make the image too bright or cause a glare.
Also, be careful with flash. While the flash function is intended to make your photos brighter, it’s often so bright that it can bleach out your picture, especially on a phone’s camera. On food especially, flash can make subjects look shiny and like they’re made of plastic. This is especially the case with photos of meats and cheeses — key components of any good pizza. So, keep the flash to a minimum. The last thing you want is for your picture of warm, delicious pizza to look plasticky or unappealing.
Rather than using your flash, try using another phone’s flashlight to illuminate the subject of your photos. Enlist a friend to position the flashlight behind your phone, or between your phone and the subject, so the flashlight casts light onto the subject. Your friend can adjust the distance between the light and the subject to make the spotlight softer or more intense. If you get creative, you can even use the flashlight to create shadows or illuminate your food from different angles.
If you’re really in a pinch for good lighting, wrangle the best light source you can — whether it’s a friend’s phone or a candle on the table — then add filters to the photo to brighten. Instagram filters like Amaro and Walden are good options for photos that need more light.
Follow the Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio, also known as the Rule of Thirds, is a ratio used by photographers and other artists to balance their images. When taking photos for Instagram, this is a great guideline to follow to keep your photo looking balanced and focus your viewer’s attention on the most important elements.
To apply the Rule of Thirds to your image, imagine your image divided into nine equal parts — like you’ve drawn a tic-tac-toe board that divides your image into nine equal squares. The four points where the lines intersect are the primary focal points — your viewers’ eyes will naturally gravitate to these points. Put the most important elements of your picture on these intersections. When there’s only a single object in a photo, the strongest point to use is the left hand line.
Luckily, most phones even have a function to help you do this! Find the “grid” function in your phone’s camera settings, and you’ll be shooting your photos like a pro in no time.
Organize Your Space
When you’re taking a photo in a small, condensed frame, like with Instagram, it’s important to use your space well. You want to fill the frame, but not overwhelm your viewer or distract them from the main subject of your photo.
As a rule of thumb, a simple background is the way to go — this way, your viewers can focus on your food! Any additional objects in your photo should be there to add texture and depth to your photo, not to create clutter. Play with some options to see what works — a good background choice will enhance the photo and not distract from the main subject.
In general, viewers like photos that look neat and organized. Coordinate colors and make things symmetrical if possible. Make sure the objects in the photo look clean and attractive. For food photography, this mainly applies to any objects surrounding the main subject — keep greasy napkins and paper plates out of sight!
But, there’s a balance. While you want to keep your image looking organized, you also want it to look natural and not overly styled. Organize well, but keep it real.
Be Willing to Move Around
Great Instagramers go through surprising lengths to get their beautiful shots. When you’re taking your photo, put yourself at the best angle possible to capture your photo. You might need to stand up, crouch down or just angle your phone differently to catch the best light.
Unique angles can help your photo look more interesting and exciting. With a close-up, you can highlight the food’s best features. With an overhead shot, you can give the viewer a full view of your dinner plate or brunch spread. Leave some negative space, or try putting the focus of your shot in a corner.
Use Filters With Discretion
Filters are fun — but you don’t want to go overboard. With the right filter, you can enhance your image and make the subject look even better. However, relying too much on filters will make your photo look overly manipulated or unnatural.
When using filters, consider your setting and the look you’re going for. What does your light look like? How bright are your colors? Do you want the photo to look dreamy and subtle, or sharp and dramatic? All these factors should be considered so you can pick the best filter for your photo.
Here’s some general guidelines for using filters:
- Amaro: This option is best for brightening photos taken in dark settings, like candlelit restaurants or bars, but not for photos taken in bright lighting, since it can wash out your subject and make the photo look overly shiny or fluorescent.
- Rise: Rise is perfect for making images look soft and dreamy and blurring out any minor imperfections, but isn’t ideal for photos where you want vibrant colors to shine through.
- X-Pro 11, Lo-Fi, and Hefe: These filters are your best options for making subjects look colorful and dramatic, but stay away from them with photos that already have lots of depth and color.
- Earlybird: Use Earlybird when you want to add a soft, vintage feel to a photo, but avoid it for photos of food that should look fresh — think fruit slices, salad or other foods where natural colors or textures should shine through.
- Brannan: This filter is the best for making your accidentally-blurry photo look sharper and more crisp, but shouldn’t be used for photos with vibrant colors, since the filter can add a muted or metallic hue.
As an alternative to filters, you can manually adjusting color, saturation, warmth and other tools to enhance your photo. You’ll have to experiment a little more, but it’ll give you more control over specific changes to your image, so you can get the exact result you’re wanting.
The blur tool is also a great way to get your food image looking its best. Shoot with a short depth of field and use the blur tool on the background, keeping the food sharp and in focus. This will help draw the viewer’s eye directly to the food and make it look even more appealing. You can also use the blurring tool to attract a viewer’s focus to something you want to highlight — maybe a golden-brown, crispy crust, or a unique topping.
With blurring, the best technique is to blur the edges of your photo to steer viewers’ focus toward a focal point near the center of the image. Decide where you want viewers to focus in your photos. That subject should be in focus, while other less important elements are blurred out
Pizza-Grams We Love
Looking to start snapping pics, but don’t know where to start? Take a look at the work from a few master pizza Instagrammers for some inspiration. Warning — you may get hungry!
Our favorites pizza-grammers include:
- @pizzablonde: This Bostonian is on a quest to experience Boston’s best pizzas. Her images are colorful and natural, letting the deliciousness of each cheese-covered slice be the focus of each picture. Her account also often features pizzas from across the U.S.
- @pizzalovesemily: With a slightly darker, more rustic aesthetic, @pizzalovesemily is a great account to follow if you have a taste for the gourmet. Run by the popular NYC pizzeria, Pizza Loves Emily, it features a delicious selection of wood-fired pizzas, as well as some other foodie delights, like gourmet burgers and loaded onion rings.
- @the_pizzaman: This Instagramer’s love for pizza is so heartfelt, his descriptions often sound poetic. He’s also a great account to look at for some editing inspiration — his deft use of filters makes each yummy pie or slice look its most delicious.
- @scottspizzatours: A self-proclaimed “Pizza Historian,” Scott Wiener, the Instagrammer behind @scottspizzatours, posts snaps of the best pizza in New York City. He’s also a Guinness World Record pizza box collector, so he’s definitely an expert when it comes to pizza.
- @pizza: We can’t forget about @pizza, whose owners dub it “The Official Pizza Instagram.” With more than 630,000 followers, this account features nothing but mouthwatering pizza pics. It even includes a #dailypizza feature, showcasing a specific pie of the day.
Testing Your Skills
If you’re hankering to test your pizza Instagramming chops and enjoy a tasty slice, stop by a Giordano’s, where you can practice your photo skills and enjoy some of our delicious stuffed deep-dish pizza — and our pies aren’t your typical deep-dish pizzas.
We layer crust, toppings and cheese, top it with another thin layer of crust, then finish it with a layer of sauce on top. We then bake it for nearly 45 minutes to allow all the flavors to combine. The result is a cheesy, flavor-packed pizza with a flaky crust and delicious interior.
With locations in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and our original shop in Chicago, Giordano’s is sure to satiate your pizza cravings and have you coming back for more.
Visit a Giordano’s and start pizza-gramming today!