3 Food Stylists Reveal Secrets…
Tips on getting likes on social media
Your chef shopped for several hours at the farmers’ market, and victoriously returns to the restaurant with the most magnificent tomatoes, blueberries and asparagus you’ve ever seen. What’s he going to do with all that great produce?
He creates some specials for the week, and you cannot wait to promote them on social media. You excitedly get out your phone, snap shots of each entrée in the kitchen and dining room, and post them on Instagram. But wait. You’ve got more than 10,000 followers and only 20 people “like” each photo.
What went wrong? You might want to rethink those photos, say food stylists, whose job it is to make dishes look as appetizing in the images as they are in real life.
“Putting a terrible picture of your food up on social media has the opposite effect of doing nothing,” cautions Mary Valentin, a seasoned food stylist who serves as an adjunct instructor at Chicago’s Kendall College and works with the likes of Food Network, Godiva and the National Pork Board.
“Food is such a sensitive issue,” she continues. “Beautiful food makes you hungry and makes you desire it. Terrible food photography can look like medical specimens, especially meat products. I think it’s important for people to learn a few things before they power ahead and post photos on social media.”
Investing in better photos doesn’t mean spending a lot of money, she emphasizes, offering a few key tips certain to make an impact in social media images:
- Seek out cheap apps for $2.99 and up that can assist you with editing photographs.
- Shoot food images in soft, natural lighting always. Harsh lighting, including direct sunlight, does not translate well.
- During the hiring process, inquire about skills that have nothing to do with the position. Some candidates may have dabbled in photography at school or as a hobby.
Culinary consultant Denise Vivaldo, who also authored “The Food Stylist’s Handbook,” travels the country leading seminars on how to improve professional food photos. A large percentage of the participants works in the restaurant business, and many have benefited from her advice.
The 30-year veteran from Los Angeles divulges some of her best-kept secrets:
- You need to leave room for the food to breathe. If there is too much food on the plate, it looks crazy for the camera.
- During an evening photoshoot, linen or beautiful wooden tabletops will immediately make the food look better. Avoid busy, patterned tablecloths.
- Make sure your camera is in focus. Get close to that plate, so the camera picks up details.
- Create social media buzz with short videos of bartenders whipping up specialty cocktails.
Connie Pikulas’ biggest issue of food photos on social media is that everyone is doing the same thing. “When you go look at someone’s feed, you don’t want to see the same shot over and over again,” says the 16-year food stylist veteran. Her advice encourages variety:
- Hands (in images) are always good, especially when they are reaching in and interacting with the food.
- It’s always good to have drinks in the background. That makes the image look warmer and more approachable.