Picture Perfect: Tips for Taking Photos and Instagramming Food

I am in the business of words.  Writing copy, press releases, emails, sales materials, etc. If it needs to read, then it usually falls on my desk.  Words are important — the pen is mightier than the sword and all that jazz. On the other hand, there is another saying — a picture is worth 1,000 words. Can you get more out of a picture in  marketing efforts or is it that you need both working in tandem?  Either way, words and pictures are an important part of any comprehensive marketing strategy.


Social media in particular marries these two mediums together. One of my favorite platforms is Instagram. In the restaurant space, this is a critical channel. People are naturally taking pictures of their food and talking about your brand, and Instagram is the photo-friendly platform that they are using.

First Things First

Welcome to the world of IG. I’m assuming you have the account, followed your best buddies, and posted that first, slightly awkward photo. You’ve got filters and editing tools, you can also do video. With anything, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to jump in and figure out what pictures do and don’t work.

Quick and Dirty Photography Tutorial

The picture itself says so much and how you take that picture will help or hurt what you’re trying to say. The more creative and visually interesting the shot, the better.

  • A lot of people take the big picture view with photography… everything including the kitchen sink is in the shot. With the small picture view, you can give a new perspective to an everyday object. If you get your phone within six inches of the subject, tap the object on the screen and it will focus on it and blur the background. As a photographer friend told me, those blurred backgrounds are the shots that bring in the money.
  •  If you want to communicate size and scale, step far away. Think of a new angle to take that big picture shot. I took a pic in a warehouse of dozens of pallets stacked up high. Instead of just standing there, I nearly got on my belly to get a little bit of the floor in the picture and the shot was more interesting than if I just stood on my feet.  Maybe you want to take a picture of your store front –Get down low and fill the shot with the building and the blue sky.
  •  Regardless of shooting the big or little picture, you need to pick one thing to be the star of your photograph. This will take your skills up a notch by finding one person or item to frame your shot around. There are times you need pics of more than one person, but make sure you have a grouping of people, which in a way creates that single object or focal point.  Again, don’t just point your camera and take the shotgun approach. If you are going big with a scenic picture, what is the main thing in the scene you want people’s eye to fall on when they look at your picture. In the case of a restaurant, find one thing that stands out and frame in into your shot, but that focal point doesn’t have to always be smack in the middle of the shot.
  • Let’s talk composition. There is a rule with photography to divide your shot into thirds.  Once you have chosen the subject for your photo, put it into one of the thirds of the shot: right, center or left.  You want that big view of your busy restaurant.  Pick a willing server to frame into the right third with all the activity in the background.
  • Speaking of crazy angles and contortions, start observing things and look for a different perspective, that crazy angle. Your pics will communicate creativity. Also, what is interesting in your life or business? People by nature are voyeuristic so play it to your advantage. Give them a peek of your unique world.
  • Use plenty of light. Natural light will make your pics look their best. The more natural light, the less you will need to rely on filters.
  •  Don’t shoot toward a light source or window.  Unless you are going after a creative shot, you’ll get a whole lot of light and a silhouette of your subject.photos

Hashtags Are Key

Instagram started working for me when I started using hashtags. This is how people search other images on varying topics. Try for about 11, but don’t exceed 30. Make sure they are relevant to your business and picture. As you type them out IG will give suggestions with the use count. Shoot for the big numbers. Also, throw in one unique hashtag that represents your business, event or topic that is unique to yourself.  My go-tos for our produce group is #producelife and #goforfresh. 

Tag Thy Neighbor

At first, I was shy about this. Should I tag other businesses and users? I realized: it helps them, it helps me, it is stupid to not do it. If you have a product, search for that business’ account and show them love. You want your followers and customers tagging you, so give it first. It’s the golden rule.

IG Search and Stalk

As you build your account, know who you are wanting to reach. If you’re a business, who are your ideal customers? Once you have a base of that, watch for the active and successful accounts. Go in and look at who they are following and start following them. On that note, also look at the hashtags they are using and start adding them to your pictures. If you are in your niche market, this will build you a great account and following.

Get Social

Another way to get some traction building your account is to "heart and chat" on other accounts. This goes right back to the golden rule … do to others what you want done to you. Besides it is fun. Think of encouraging comments and make some friends. The best part to these platforms is the community you can build and really cool people you meet, and if you aren’t incorporating genuine appreciation and service to your customers and potential customers, you will be found out. There is a lot of transparency that comes with social media and those that are out for the other person’s good will be just fine.

It’s About Industry Love

One thing with IG for business is that you will stumble across competitors. One way to think about this is industry love in addition to love for your brand. A lot of people are out there doing cool things in your space and you can balance competition with cooperation. Interact and have fun with your competitors — what’s good for your industry is good for you.

Make Your Picture Count

Pictures should complement your brand’s written message by reinforcing it. If you tell people your business is focused on customer service, show real pictures of your team serving customers and working happily.

Does your messaging tell people that you are the expert? Take pictures of your team doing their thing and what they are skilled about. You can also take pictures of industry best practices and shoot some video as well for an Instagram story. This is exactly why pictures are worth 1,000 words, they are proof of action and back up the things you are writing. Shoot for posting three to five times a week.