Natural light & pretty plates: Photography tips for drool-worthy Instagram pics

Taking a good foodie photo is harder than it looks. There are so many factors to consider; the background, the lighting, as well as the food itself... It's easy to feel a bit daunted by food photography when you consider all the elements that it involves.

Fear not, however, because whether you simply want to up your Instagram game, or if you plan on going full-force with your own food blog, we’ve got some super-simple tips from celebrity chef Donal Skehan to help you set off on the right foot.

Scroll on for advice that'll have you snapping eye-popping, drool-worthy foodie pics in no time!

1. Keep it natural


Arrange your layout beside a window, outside or in a room filled with bright natural light. Overhead lights, camera flashes or lamps will never give you the same mouth-gasmic image you’re looking for, so keep it as natural as possible.

2. Background ground rules

As a rule, when it comes to what you’re presenting the food on, it is best to use something that looks somewhat realistic; i.e. the kind of thing someone would actually sit down to. If you’re conscious that your own kitchen surfaces don’t look good on camera then source a nice wooden plank to plonk your plate on, for a gorgeous rustic dinner table look.

Top tip: If you want to go for a more fun feel and make your dishes really *pop*, then consider having a selection of large A1 coloured paper on hand to act as a striking backdrop whenever you need it.

Related: IMAGE presents an evening with Donal Skehan

3. Plate up

Donal has one simple rule when it comes to plating up food; “Pick something that’s not your generic IKEA plate.” A quirky, stand-out plate will give viewers the eye candy they didn’t even know they were hungry for. Donal stresses that you needn't spend a huge amount of money sourcing this quirky crockery, either. “You can buy gorgeous pieces in charity shops and flea markets for next to nothing, you just need to keep out an eye for it.” So long as it’s visually appealing, that’s all that matters.


Props such as a jug of water, napkins and other details can also add a nice feel to the overall image.

4. Tricks of the trade

A lot of the old-school food styling in the past involved chefs adding elaborate garnishes, not to mention a serious amount of artificial glazing in an effort to make their food look appealing. As far as Donal is concerned; “If you think it looks delicious coming out of the oven, then you’re better off sticking to your guns and leaving it as is.”

For Donal, the only secret “trick” he does with his food is using a spray bottle with meat. “Basically, right before you’re going to snap the meat, you spray it with a few spritzes of water. While oil can look artificially glossy, water will make things look that little bit juicier without looking fake.”

5. Food for thought...

Spend time with the food – play around with it; see how it looks from different angles; cut in different ways etc. With curries, stews and bakes be sure to cut the key ingredients into large chunks, otherwise, it won’t be seen it on camera. “You want nice big chunky pieces of food that look delicious and that practically leap off the plate.”


The main aim with food photography is figuring out how to make it as visually appealing as possible, sometimes you need to experiment with different presentation methods, and sometimes you’re better off doing nothing at all with the dish.

“Often I find that all you need to get the money shot is good lighting and a steady hand.”

Donal was one of Ireland’s first ever food bloggers and it was his keen eye for food photography that got him his big break. He has since written multiple cookbooks, with his latest Meals in Minutes being launched this September.

Tickets now available for "An audience with Donal Skehan"

Join us for an evening with Donal Skehan at the Alex Hotel on Thursday, September 6 to celebrate the launch of his brand new book - Meals in Minutes.

WHEN  Thursday, September 6


Drinks & canapés from 6.30pm

WHERE The Alex Hotel, Dublin


*Including gift bag & treats for all plus a few surprises along the way!


To book tickets, click here and for all enquiries call 01 271 9609

The image newsletter