PORTLAND, Ore. — Everyone is taking pictures of food nowadays, and posting them to social media.
A well-done Instagram account with the right hashtags can score you free plane tickets, meals, even a hotel stay. There's a food professional in Portland who's hosting an upcoming class on how to do it, so you don't annoy your friends.
Judiaann Woo is a former chef and now a marketing consultant for brands such as Olympia Provisions and Straightaway Cocktails. She and her family travel all over and she expertly documents every gorgeous meal and camping trip. Scroll through her Instagram account @judiaann, and you'll see the famous noodle pull from a bowl of ramen, ever so slightly dripping ice cream cones, overhead shots of perfectly lit bowls of salad or dessert, and cheese melt photos from pizza and sandwiches.
"These are the types of photos that elicit almost an emotion. People want to eat that food!" Woo says.
While everyone is doing it now, there is an etiquette, whether you're in a restaurant or at home, so you don't annoy your dining partners. Don't keep them from eating their food while it's hot.
"I see people putting food on the floor. I see people standing on chairs. I see people getting all obnoxious with their cameras," Woo laughs. "It kind of gives everyone else who'd like to take pictures of food, a bad reputation. So I tell people, anyone I know, especially if I'm hiring them, to be discreet."
Judiaann Woo is hosting an upcoming food photography and social media class. They sell out quickly and only require your smartphone. It's Saturday, April 4, at Cookshop on Southeast Clinton in Portland. Get tickets here. Read up on a few of her big tips below:
1. Find the light!
No matter the subject of your photo, light is key to making it look good. "If it's a dark restaurant, I'm getting all the candles together on the table or a friend will help with an iPhone light in the corner, but you can usually find light. I'll sit by the window or make a reservation and request to sit next to the window if I know I want to take photos, or I'll eat at 5 p.m.," Judiaann says. After taking the photo, she will retouch it and add brightness or contrast or brilliance in the camera phone app, and then a second slight retouch within the Instagram app. But her rule? Never retouch it so much that it doesn't look natural.
Composition means looking at what else is next to the object being photographed, what angle is it shot at, seeing if it's partially off-screen or centered up perfectly. "When I walk into a restaurant, I kind of see the best situation and I work out my composition before the food comes," says Woo. Every dish is an angle. A burger should be shot from the side to show all the layers, a bowl of something should be shot from overhead, handheld food like ice cream cones, hot dogs, pastries can also be held up to show fun context of where it was photographed. Ask yourself, would it be better as a vertical or horizontal shot? Take both! Woo says to take several photos of the object or dish at different angles before you take a bite.
"Rotate the item, look at the subject and figure out what the best angle of a dish is. Even by just moving that lettuce leaf over a little bit, or taking away a utensil the waiter puts on the plate, or wiping off a distracting smudge, can make a big difference."
3. Pay attention!
Woo says use both hands to hold your phone for a steadier shot. "You won't believe how many people just hold their phone over a plate of something, they can't even see the screen and the phone is moving around as they reach for the button to take the photo," Woo says. "Do not post anything on your Instagram that's blurry. Unless you're shooting a photo of Bigfoot, it must be sharp, always."
Get different angles before you dig in.
If you're one of the thousands of people to use the hashtag #foodintheair and are holding up something to show the location of where it comes from, be sure to tap on the item on the screen so the phone can focus on that foreground item, and leave the background just out of focus. Each time you re-position the phone or item, you need to re-tap on that foreground object to refocus the camera.