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Hi there, it’s Nisha. Today I’m going to
show you how to edit food photos for Instagram. I’ll share my top ten tips for
food photography editing, including all of the techniques I use every time I
post a food photo to Instagram. If you’re looking for more food photography
resources I have another video on my youtube channel where I take you behind
the scenes on how to style and edit a particular scene. I also have a series on
my blog for beginner food photographers. and on my Instagram page @rainbowplantlife, I share lots of food photography tips and tutorials, so you
can find the links to all of those resources in the description box below.
I’ve got a lot of requests to do a video on how to edit food photos so I hope you
enjoy this one. And I’m also working on a video specific to Lightroom on how to
edit food photos there, so stay tuned for that. My first tip to improving your food
photos for Instagram is to get off Instagram. I know that sounds a little
confusing but when you have a photo you’re ready to edit, your first instinct
might be to just open the Instagram app and start using the different filters
and tools there. While instagram filters might look good for your selfies or your
travel photos or your fashion photos, unfortunately they generally make food
look pretty unnatural most of the time. And that’s because food photography is a
really specific type of photography. It’s not like travel photography or lifestyle
or landscape. It’s really dependent on light and white balance and color in a
unique way, so when you’re editing you want to keep that in mind. And
Instagram filters just don’t cut it when it comes to food photography. So if
you’re not editing food photos in Instagram, where should you be editing
them? And that is my second tip. Lightroom is a photo editing software
from Adobe, and I think it’s the best and most powerful way to edit food photos.
and the reason I said invest in Lightroom is because it’s not exactly
cheap. It’s about $150 for Lightroom, so I know that’s
not affordable for everyone or maybe it’s not in your budget right now, so I
will mention a few alternatives in a minute. I do recommend it as an investment because it’s an investment in your work,
whether you’re professional or an amateur. it can really transform the
quality of your photos and that’s why I’ll be putting together a how to edit
food photos and Lightroom series, so stay tuned for that. Some photographers use
Photoshop for editing instead of Lightroom but I find Lightroom a lot
easier and more intuitive to use, and I feel like it has everything there. The
only reason I would use Photoshop is if I wanted to make some sort of
transformative Photoshop effect, like combining photos or something like that,
which I don’t do, so Lightroom is definitely sufficient for most food
photographers. And the two alternatives I wanted to mention are Google Snapseed
and VSCO Cam. They’re both mobile apps and they’re both free, and they both can
really make your food photos look better even if they don’t have all the
capabilities of Lightroom. I like to start editing in Snapseed by making
adjustments to contrast and clarity and color and vibrance and all that kind of
stuff, and then VSCO Cam is better if you want to kind of use filters and evoke a
particular mood. I will say that most of the filters in VSCO Cam are not good
for food photos, but there are a couple that are really good. my favorites for
food photos are in the A family and E family of presets. Now let’s talk about some basics. before
you can learn how to edit food photography, you have to know some basics of photo editing. The tools you’ll probably use the most in food
photography editing are exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows,
saturation and vibrance, clarity, sharpness and white balance. First,
exposure. Exposure is actually critical to photography as a whole, not just
editing, so if you want to brush up on what exposure is and how it works, you
can find a description in my food photography tips for the beginner series,
which is linked below. Unfortunately some apps treat brightness
and exposure as the same concept but they are not. When you increase or
decrease exposure, for instance, you’re going to affect the entire image in a
more balanced way than if you were to increase or decrease just brightness, so
that’s why I always recommend to increase or decrease exposure and not
brightness. So if you have a brightness tool, don’t use it. I would use the exposure
tool. Editing the shadows and highlights in your food photos can really
transform them, in a good way or in a bad way. Shadows are the darkest part of the
photo that have less detail there and highlights are the brightest part of the
photo that also have less detail there. When you shoot in RAW format, which I’ll
talk about in the next tip, you’re able to recover a lot of the lost details in
those really dark shadows and in those bright highlights, so that’s why I
recommend shooting in RAW and I’ll talk about that in a minute. You’ll want to
edit your shadows and highlights and increase them or decrease them depending
on the mood and the look you’re going for in your photo. So if you’re looking
for a dark and moody look, which is really popular in food photography right
now, you’re probably going to want to decrease your shadows and kind of
embrace those dark shadows, but if you’re looking for something bright and airy
and summery, you might want to increase your
highlights and not decrease your shadows. Now for contrast. I don’t want to get too
technical in this video with definitions, so the one thing I’ll say is usually
food photos can benefit from a slight increase in contrast. And I say
slight increase because you don’t want something super high contrast because
it’s going to look unnatural. Now let’s talk about vibrance and saturation. Like
exposure and brightness, vibrance and saturation are similar concepts but not
the same. So I always recommend increasing vibrance a little bit to make
your photo pop more with more color, but I don’t recommend increasing saturation
most of the time. Because when you increase saturation
it’s gonna give it a more intense look and when you increase vibrance, in
contrast, it will increase the intensity of the colors but in a more balanced and
natural way. White balance is super important for food photography. It’s also
referred to as temperature, and it basically means how cool or warm a photo
is, with cool photos looking more blue and warm photos looking more orange. Your white balance will be affected while you’re taking your photo and it’ll be
determined by the source of light, the type of light, the direction of light,
time of day, and so if you don’t get it perfectly during your first time when
you’re taking the photo, you always have an opportunity to change it in editing.
Like I mentioned before, food photography is very specific and sensitive, so if you
change your white balance a lot, it can make your food look a lot different. It can
make it look unappetizing or it can make it look really nice. Finally, sharpness and clearing. These concepts are similar but not the same.
Increasing clarity will give your photo darker edges, more detail and more
texture. I would increase clarity very slowly, if at all, because too much
clarity can give your photo a really hard, defined sharp look, which is usually
not desired in food photography. You usually want something soft and light
and kind of natural, so be careful with that tool. And sharpness is basically,
sort of, how sharp a photo is. But don’t think that you should just automatically
increase it to the maximum value because that can create a lot of unnecessary and
unwanted noise, which is kind of like fuzziness and grain in your photo. So
there’s really a happy medium there, so don’t take it too far. Now for something a little more
technical. My fourth tip is to shoot in RAW format. A RAW file is the complete
data from the camera. Itt hasn’t been processed, it hasn’t been compressed like a JPEG. And that means it has a higher quality
and that also means you have more freedom and flexibility to edit it. You
can edit the values as much as you want or as little as you want in a way that
you can’t do as much with a JPEG. So that’s why I always recommend shooting
in RAW format. You’re gonna get higher quality photos and you’re going to be able
to edit them more. Just FYI you can’t upload a raw file to Instagram. You first
have to process it and edit it in a software like Lightroom or maybe a
software on your computer, and then export it as a JPEG. Also RAW files are a
lot bigger than JPEG, so they’re going take up a lot more storage space. SoI
don’t recommend just storing them on your laptop because you’ll run out of
space pretty quickly. I use an external storage drive that keeps all of my
photos on there so I will put that in the description box below in case you
want to check it out. Food photography is a very intimate type of photography because everyone can relate to food. You might post a photo of pasta and someone 10,000 miles away might see your photo on Instagram. They might not speak the
same language, they might not know what the dish is, but they can still relate to
the food if it looks good, if it looks comforting, and if it looks like food. And
that’s why you want your food to look natural – so people can relate to it
people can identify with it, and people can even see themselves eating it. what
you don’t want to do is edit your food photos so much that they look unnatural
or not real or sort of unidentifiable. You want people to know what it is that
you’re cooking and presenting. Here are some tips to steer you away from
unnatural food photography editing. Do not oversaturate your colors. Again, I’m
all about bright colors. My name is rainbowplantlife, my page is very bright
and colorful, but I think there’s a natural way to enhance your colors and I
think there’s an unnatural way. Increasing the saturation too much on a
food photo can make it look gaudy, harsh unattractive, ugly, you name it. So just
just don’t do it. Similarly, don’t alter the hues or the
colors too much. If you’re posting a photo of an orange, let it look like the
color orange. That’s its name, after all. Don’t try to make it look red or pink. Wnd while it’s okay to make small adjustments here and there–
sometimes it can really help–you want to be very methodical about it and very
cautious about it. While HD editing can look really cool with maybe a landscape
or architecture, it is not designed for food photography. It’s gonna make it look
unnatural and like four dimensional. And similarly be cautious when you’re
increasing clarity. That can make your photo look really dark and unnatural,
especially if you have a bright, sort of white looking photo with an airy look,
you really don’t want to be increasing clarity there. It tends to look better if
you increase it a little bit in a dark kind of photo. If you use any of the
techniques I talked about today, leave me a comment below and give this video a
thumbs up. And find me on Instagram at @rainbowplantlife if you have any more
questions about editing. And if you haven’t subscribed already, please go
ahead and hit that red subscribe button because very shortly I’ll be releasing a
Lightroom food photo editing tutorial and I know you’ll want to see that, so
stay tuned, and I’ll see you in the next video. Bye!


  1. What a wonderful tutorial! I don't know too much about food photography but I have an old Canon from my father that I like to play around with. Never tried editing my photos but I would love to start trying!

  2. I first found you on Instagram and was always struck by your photography. Thanks for sharing your secrets with us!

  3. Oh Nisha! How great it this! Well done!! I love how much brilliant information you fitted into it in under 10 minutes!! So good! Lots of really great tips and information here I'm sure lots of people will love it!

  4. It’s so interesting to see how you do this, your pictures are so vibrant and make the food look super delicious 😍😋

  5. Nisha, you're the sweetest for sharing this info! Your pictures are insanely stunning! Just got into Lightroom, and like you said: sooo worth the investment! ❤

  6. That's a beautiful point about the universal reliability of food😊 This was lovely, I can't wait for the rest!

  7. Forget about Instagram…let’s talk about your food. All of it looks amazing amazing . So colorful and healthy looking! More recipes please 🙂

  8. have a question if you dont mind, while shooting for 2-3 hours in natural light, the best way is to keep the white balance on auto or set it right (kelvin)? thank you!!

  9. Nisha, you are just fabulous! I love your diction, your tone and sweetness in your voice, just a great pleasure to watch and listen to you! Thank you so much for all your tips! 🙂 <3

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