Guest post: Make your food Instagramable

By Elise McKillop

May 31, 2016

I’ve been surrounded by food photography most of my career, although up until a year ago I had never photographed a single item of food!

Working as a Graphic Designer in the packaging design industry I was exposed to everything that was related to food packaging and food photography. From the client brief, concept, purchasing of props and working with a cast of people including; food stylists, photographers, art directors and clients. Then onto re-touching, artwork production, printing and finally seeing the product released for purchase. Often this process would take many months of planning before a product appeared on shelf and that’s not taking into account the research and development of the actual product.

I’m now a Mum of 3 children and while I may have left this corporate world behind, I’m able to draw on my experience and knowledge to explore my newfound love for healthy eating and food photography.

Food photography allows me to feed my creative energy and who doesn’t love an excuse to get innovative in the kitchen using natural and yummy products. Thanks to Mayver’s who have invited me to be this Months Taste Tester, I’ve now got the perfect opportunity to do just that, and while I’ve been cooking up some fun recipes, I’d like to share some photography tips that I’ve learnt along the way.

Firstly, I use a basic DSLR and the standard lens which came with my camera. If you normally use a phone camera, you’ll still benefit from these tips.

Lamb Roast for 2 Simplicious


  1. It’s all about the lighting. Natural light will give you the best results. Don’t use your camera flash, ever! Find a room with good natural indirect light. Direct light will cast dark shadows and burn out the highlights. I photograph in a room, which has a number of windows giving me great indirect light. I also use a reflector, which I purchased from ebay for less than $15.
  1. I like to add colour to my photos by using some raw ingredients to the background, such as fruit, vegetables, garnishes or coloured props that compliment and not distract from the food. The raw ingredients also hint at the meal inclusions.
  2. I also add props for additional dimension and interest. For example, a small dish, jug, cutlery, folded napkin or a cutting board. Most of my props are purchased from my local opportunity shop, which have a lovely vintage feel. Just keep in mind adding too many props could clutter the image rather than add interest.
  3. Use an interesting tabletop or offcuts of fabric (tea towels work well) and wrapping paper in neutral tones (recycled and scrunched is fine). These make for great background textures as long as they’re not too patterned. You want your food to pop, not the background.
  4. So that I can build a ‘scene’ into my photographs, I’m conscious of what I’m photographing so the props I use create a story for the food. Such as using a gingham tea towel or wire cooling rack for that homely look when photographing muffins and biscuits. So that I have room to use my chosen props, I often use entrée sized plates and dishes and fill the plate to the edge with food. Food such as pancakes, muffins, biscuits and fritters are cooked smaller, they just fit better into the composition.Pulled Pork Salad (1) copyFor example, pizza’s take great overhead shots, while a burger dripping in sauce is better taken front on. Also try cropping the dish to one side and experimenting with 45° and 60° angles. No need to rely on expensive lenses to give you depth of field. Composing a shoot at eye level or 45° angle, try pushing your props, additional serving dish etc. further back, so they are out of focus and the meal in the foreground is sharp and in focus. Avoid zooming into your food too closely as it’s difficult to make sense of the meal if it’s too tightly cropped.
  5. Finally, have fun; play around with props, textures, angles and food styling with what tools you already have on hand.

    This guest post was written by Elise McKillop. You can find her website here ( and keep up with her on her Instagram @healthyfamily5 and @craverealfood where she shares healthy recipes and beautiful photography.