Having a food Instagram seems really fun, and it usually is for the most part. But sometimes, to get that perfect shot that you want, it can be a little embarrassing and even stressful. I run my own food Instagram (@hungrygirl325 – casual plug) and even though my photos look polished and perfectly imperfect, there’s a lot of work and stress that goes into creating my online persona.
My Instagram didn’t start out as a foodie account (and it still isn’t a full-on foodie account). It started out as a way to seek support when I was struggling with anorexia. A lot of food accounts are there to promote different businesses, and I respect that a lot because it can be hard work to make your pictures stand out while also making people feel like they’re not being bombarded with what seems like ads.
Plus, I do that too, so I understand how much work goes into each post. I still incorporate the recovery aspect into my posts here and there, though, because I personally prefer that relatable personal touch.
#SpoonTip: If you’re just starting out, don’t do it because you want to be “Insta-famous.” Do it because you’re passionate about what you post. Put time and thought into your posts and people will recognize that. Your engagement will be a lot better and you’ll be a lot happier because of the bond you make with your followers and companies.
That being said, since I discovered how to set up food to make it look aesthetically pleasing, it was a whole new game. I started entering competitions on Instagram to practice basically playing around with my food (sorry, mom) and just to have fun. When I was doing these competitions and transitioning my account to more of a food and recipe-type account, I had no idea what it would turn into to.
#SpoonTip: Be patient with your following growth, and remember life isn’t all about how many likes you get or how many followers you have. In the meantime, “like” people’s photos, comment back if you can, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles.
The Planning and Scheduling
When you see food accounts Snapchat and posts, it seems like people are just eating free food everywhere, and it seems awesome – and it really is! But the scheduling beforehand, the time to take photos, and all the editing afterwards can be a lot of work, especially when you’re trying to balance it with work and/or school.
When I go back home from school, my weekends are taken up by media events, which is so much fun, especially when I have my boyfriend, Paul, by my side. However, the planning and aftermath can be quite the process.
It first starts out with getting contacted by the companies or contacting the companies myself (or with Paul, since we usually go together) to schedule a day and time. Then we create a schedule so we are using minimal driving time in order to capture all the pictures we need to, talk with the managers or PR, and drive to the next place on our list. We usually go to about six places in one day, so we have to be careful about our time so we don’t miss the sun.
#SpoonTip: Natural lighting is always the way to go.
Then, when you get home, you have to sort through all the pictures, decide which ones you want to use, edit all of them, send it to your phone if you used a camera (I prefer a camera, especially since I don’t have an iPhone 6), edit some more, write all the captions, make sure you get the hashtags and tags right, and then you can finally upload it. Uploading it also requires timing because some times are better to post than others.
Taking the Actual Photo
This one is my favorite part since you get to play around with the food, and get as creative as you want. But it can also be the most embarrassing part because sometimes (a lot of the times), you have to walk around with a plate of food in your hand to get the best background and lighting for your shot. Also, sometimes (a lot of the times), you have to stand on chairs or stools in order to capture everything you want. It’s quite hazardous, but worth it.
Also, sometimes you have to move things around a little. For example, I got a grilled cheese sandwich from a place in San Francisco, and it just didn’t look epic enough.
But then I stretched the cheese and tucked it under the bread, and it changed the picture.
Other things you can do are popping the yolk on an egg, bringing ingredients a little more to the front so they pop, holding burritos/sandwiches/wraps/burgers from the back to make them look bigger, and asking for more garnish to get color into your photos. Also, be prepared to crouch, get cramps, and bend in ways you didn’t think was physically possible.
#SpoonTip: Don’t be afraid to do what you can to get your shot. At first I was really embarrassed to play around with the food and climb on chairs, but people won’t make fun of you. If anything, they’ll come up to you and ask you what you’re doing, and you’ll have the chance to advertise yourself.
Know Where to Draw the Line
When I started getting emails from companies and restaurants asking if I could come in to take pictures, or feature their products, it was surreal. My account was actually turning into a business, and I couldn’t believe it.
I still feel very honored when I am contacted. However, there comes a time when you need to draw the line. There are companies that might want you to review something, and if it’s not in line with your personality/what you stand for, you don’t have to accept it.
The Sorting and Storage
Most people have numerous pictures of friends and family on their computer and phone, but my storage is being kept full with pictures of food. I tend to be a picture-hoarder and keep pictures I don’t use just in case I change my mind and want to use it.
This means that there are folders on folders on folders of pictures in my computer, and sometimes it can get quite overwhelming. My phone is constantly out of storage, too, because of all the photos I have for posts and screenshots for inspiration. But at the same time, it’s kind of necessary because you never know what you want to use.
#SpoonTip: Don’t delete pictures off of your camera or phone when you’re out. Wait until the day is over, because you’ll have more time to actually inspect the pictures and edit them to your liking. A picture you might not initially like could turn out better than you think.
Eating the Food
I get asked a lot how I eat at upwards to 12 places in one weekend, and the secret is…to not eat everything. It would be really fun, but kind of ridiculous to eat a gigantic burger, fries, donuts, ice cream, and more in its entirety in one day, even though I wish I could.
I sample as much as I want from what foods I want, then pack it to-go so my family or Paul’s family can enjoy some of the food as well, or we give it to someone. I also work out on a regular basis so I can use that fuel for the gym and maintain muscle mass. But also, the biggest thing is just everything in moderation. Especially with my past, it’s vital to practice just living in the moment and enjoying the food and company.
But at the End of the Day…
I love what I do. I love my “job” (even though I don’t get paid), and the opportunities I’ve had that come with running my account. Being able to discover and learn about new eateries and companies is a fulfilling and humbling experience.
It’s always exciting to be able to learn about different dishes, ingredients, and other ways to take photos. I also met some really awesome people online. Social media can be such an amazing place to make new, lifelong connections, and my life wouldn’t be the same without my Instagram. It’s always on my mind, but in a good way.
It took a lot of time, practice, and modification to get to the style I have right now. I’m still learning as I go, and every adventure is an opportunity to get creative.