When my real-life friends find out that I run a food Instagram account with over 17,000 followers, usually the first thing they ask me is “Oh my gosh, how much time does it take for you to do that?!” which is then followed by some other questions, usually asking me if I really do eat everything that I post (yes) and if I ever get sent free stuff (yes).

To answer their first question, it does take some time to take photos of my food. I can feel pressured to produce creative content at times, and my sink is filled with dirty pots and pans more often than not. But people make time for the things they are passionate about — and I wouldn’t change anything about my crazy, food-filled life.

Instagram is so much more than just a social media app for me — I’ve found a place where my creativity can flourish,  I discovered veganism and how awesome it is for both my health and the planet, and I’ve met countless friends (both online and in real life!). With that being said, there are a lot of things you may not realize about life “behind the ‘gram.” Here are a few. 

It takes a lot more time to plan a post than you may realize


Maybe I’m just OCD, but I’m not going to post two photos of a similarly-colored smoothie in a row. I’m also not going to bother taking a picture of my meal if the lighting is crappy (I mean, you can, but no one is going to like it).

If you have a good eye, it’s not hard to spot that every account has a theme — whether it’s accents of a specific color, alternating scenery photos with food photos, or always using the same bowl/dish. All of the successful accounts have a specific “brand,” and you can easily recognize a photo and who it belongs to without having to look at the username.

That blueberry smoothie probably isn’t that bright

All of the popular accounts are going to use editing apps and filters (most likely VSCO or Afterlight) to make their photos look brighter, more colorful, and more mouth-watering. I personally see nothing wrong with this, as I like all of my photos to have the same color balance and theme. Keep this in mind when you’re making recipes, though — I’ve definitely made a bowl or two of vegan mac and cheese that turned out more brown than orangey-yellow.

Not all posts are what they seem


I’m not sure if you saw that “Social Media is Not Real Life” article blow up, but it’s true — many ‘grammers receive money to post photos of products. Personally, I have never been paid to post any content, but I have received free samples of various food items.

I am always honest with my followers and would never support something I don’t like, but be wary — many accounts do. Those detox teas you see everywhere? Yeah, they don’t work. Sorry.

Every comment/like is appreciated


A photo posted by Amy (@clap4food) on Nov 12, 2015 at 2:28pm PST

I originally created my food account to encourage myself to eat healthier, and it still blows my mind that over 16 thousand people follow me and like what I post. It warms my heart whenever someone leaves a positive message on one of my photos, or tells me they’ve tried one of my recipes.

With that being said, I do read all the negative comments too — so the next time you’re about to comment on a photo of a meal I really enjoyed and say it’s “nasty AF,” please think twice. 

Everyone starts at the bottom

Hey, even Kim Kardashian had 0 followers at one point. The point is, if you genuinely love food and enjoy taking photos of it, what’s stopping you? Here are my tips for people just starting out: be authentic, focus on quality over quantity, and be sure to interact with other companies and accounts — you never know what awesome people you’ll meet! And if you wanna get more followers, check out these tips.