Fancy yourself as Instagram's next big star? We spoke to some of the UK's top foodie influencers to see how you (and your food shots) can become Insta-famous.
“Natural light is key”, says Kar-Shing Tong (better known by his Instagram handle @KS_Ate_Here) when I ask him to share his top tip for any would be food influencers. “Natural light is always worth hunting out for food pictures, but you’re better off avoiding direct sunlight as it is too harsh!” For a man with over 94,000 accounts following his hunger-inducing Instagram feed of stacked burgers and gooey pasta dishes, this seems like a rather obvious tip to offer up.
He clearly knows what he's talking about though, as proved by the number of likes Kar-Shing’s shots receive, which often run into the thousands. It's not just about finding the light though, it's also knowing how to use it: “you’ve got to try and keep the lighting as consistent as possible across the shot to really show off all the components. It’s important to remember to be careful of any shadows too when taking the shot, including your own!” Sounds like a lot of effort for just one Instagram picture, right? Or maybe not, as Instagramming your food is big business these days, and many Londoners are looking for a slice of the lucrative pie.
KS Ate Here is known for his love of stacked burgers
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Despite the controversy surrounding Instagram stars and transparency (how much are they actually getting paid? Does their approval of a product really have that much swing?), the influencer life is still one that many Londoners aspire to. Kar-Shing is one of a small group of top food influencers in the capital, a social media success story who manages to juggle his Instagram career with a finance job in the City. He's also refreshingly transparent about the opportunities his Insta feed has given him. He regularly posts about the #gifted food he tries and has partnered up with dozens of restaurants to promote giveaways to his followers. It’s an exciting life to lead, especially for those who love to eat out, and he’s not alone in his efforts.
At the time of writing, there were over 187 million Instagram posts which have used the hashtag ‘food porn’, while #LondonFoodie can be found under almost 800,000 posts. With so many people snapping shots of their dinners, how can you make sure your social media posts stand out among the crowd?
Xander tucks into a sarnie
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“There are three key things, in my opinion, for Instagram success” says Xander, a 20-something influencer who rates and slates London’s sandwiches under the guise of @The.Xandwich. His reviews range from praising a pork katsu sando at hip London eatery Fat Baby in Hackney, to a scathing critique of the Starbucks Christmas sarnie. “Engagement is key” claims Xander, “you should engage with every single person who interacts with you.” For the uninitiated, ‘engagement’ in social media terms doesn’t just refer to people who have seen your post, but rather those who have interacted with it in some way – given it a like, left a comment or even sent the post on to a friend via direct messaging.
A quick scroll of Xander’s feed will show you that he replies to pretty much everyone who comments under his pictures, and has thus far amassed a following of over 20,000 people. So if you’re looking to step up your Instagram game, it seems a friendly approach is the way to go. As well as replying to people who comment on your posts, you should also make sure to leave comments on other people’s pages, especially those who have a large following – this is because it will increase your own visibility, and show that you’re an active user.
Aside from just being friendly, Xander also recommends “keeping your vibe consistent”, whether that be through a colour scheme, a themed grid or a hashtag unique to your account. Most of all though, he urges budding influencers to have fun: “don’t be afraid to show off your personality!”
Giulia checks out the interiors at LINO London
It’s not all about food shots though, as some influencers mix up their feed by posting dreamy shots of restaurant or hotel interiors too. Just look at Giulia Mule, or @MondoMulia as she’s known on the ‘gram. Giulia is a food and travel writer who boasts 60,000 followers, as well as another 18,000 on @IGBrunchClub, the Instagram page she runs along with several other big-time foodies, including the anonymous godfather of London’s foodie grammers, @ClerkenwellBoyEC1. Much like Kar-shing, Giulia stresses the importance of good lighting when shooting in restaurants: “Always shoot during the day. That way, you can take advantage of natural light and bring the colours of each dish to life.”
She recommends a proactive approach to dining too: “When taking photos in a restaurant, ask for a table by the window or underneath a skylight. Take the photos facing the window to allow the light to come through without any shadows over the food.” But what about that tricky artificial light in restaurants, which can ruin a good shot? “Spotlights and hanging light bulbs often reflect on shiny surfaces such as marble tables, ceramic plates and silver cutlery, leaving annoying orange spots in your photos. While you can retouch this later, it’s always best to fix the issue at the source. I often avoid spotlight reflections like this by placing a restaurant's menu underneath the light to block it.”
It seems like being an influencer isn’t as easy as Kar-Shing and co make it look. If you’ve been bitten by the Instagram bug though, their top tips should have you well on your way to becoming #InstaFamous.
SquareMeal’s three golden rules of Instagram:
- Make sure the lighting is good (natural light is best) and avoid shadows
- Engage with your following – show them that you’re interested in their comments, as well as their own posts and stories
- Have fun! No one wants to follow a bland Instagram feed – make sure your content is aspirational and shows off the best bits of your day-to-day life.
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