5 Hacks to Create Drool-Inducing Food Pictures

Leela Cyd, author of Styling for Instagram, joins QDT to offer some essential advice on the best ways to snap those savory dishes before they get cold. 

Leela Cyd
2-minute read

leela cyd's styling for instagram book cover

If you love to eat, chances are you're going to want to photograph your creations (#tada!) and dining out experiences. I see food as shape, texture, and color when creating an image of my favorite subject.

And yet it's so much more than simplistic art principles—food is attached to emotion, nostalgia, and our tummies. Seeing a lively food image can inspire hunger in a matter of moments! It's a magical topic that deserves to be captured beautifully.

Here are some tips to get you started.


Rearrange. Rearrange again. Edit, remove, and then add plates or pans. Play until you see something unexpected and striking emerge. Take some time to be silly; try scattering colorful petals across a cake. Most importantly, be flexible and let go of what you think your food image should look like; something far more interesting can appear when you’re experimenting.


The best food pictures start with the best-looking natural ingredients. If you have the desire to make the food you’re styling, start with beautiful produce from a farmers’ market; it makes all the difference. Real food looks natural, romantic, and alive—so much better than grocery store or big-box stuff.


A fun way to get out of a rut is to try lining up a series of little plates of food, a tea set, or raw produce in a square, circle, or more complex mandala shape. You can try arranging objects from small to large, in a grid, or group by shape or type of item. Just try it; you’ll get something fun.’

image of a beautiful instagrammed cake


It’s easiest to shoot food from above, in an aerial view—this aspect flattens food and plates into a 2-D plane and emphasizes patterns and shapes. Move the setup around to see if you can find a better angle, such as super close up or straight on. Let the food you are shooting guide you, and use the shape of the food as a starting point. If a wine glass is tall and thin, you might start with a vertically aligned photo to echo the shape of the glass.


You have control over the entirety of the picture plane. You’ve styled the food and plates in an overall composition—but you can also control the life happening on the plate. Watch food programs on TV to see how chefs are plating and use this as inspiration to make a statement with food.

For more tips on how to get the perfect Instagram shot, pick up a copy of Leela Cyd’s Styling for Instagram, now available wherever books are sold!

image of a beautiful instagrammed salad bowl