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Food Stylist Karina Matalon Shares Her Top Tips for Taking Amazing Food Photos for Your Instagram

by Stephanie Koathes Dec 31, 2018

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Law student Karina Matalon fell into the mouthwatering world of food styling.

Yello had a chat with her about how she ended up in food styling, her blog Karina’s Kitchen, and some insider tidbits on the industry. She also shares her top tips for taking the best food photos for your Instagram.

Where and what did you study?

I went to McGill University where I pursued a BA in international development with a specialisation in economic development. Following that, I attended UWI Mona where I pursued an LLB. I am presently a student at Norman Manley Law School.

Are you a foodie?

Most definitely. If I’m not cooking or eating, then I’m watching Food Network.

Food styling isn’t a typical job in Jamaica. How did you get into the business?

To be perfectly honest, it kind of just fell into my lap. A friend of mine came over, and I was making dinner. I plated as I usually did, took a picture and we jokingly put Karina’s Kitchen as the location tag. So many people started to message us asking if it was a real restaurant and they kept urging me to start a food account. I finally did, and my Instagram page, Karina’s Kitchen started to get a lot of followers. Companies began reaching out, and from there it took off.

Is this something a person can get training for?

There are courses and seminars available, but like a lot of creative jobs, many food stylists (like myself) are self-taught.

How important are photos in the food industry?

They say, a picture is worth a thousand words for a reason. Beautiful photos attract customers, and followers and that’s a fact. Aside from good photography skills, the subject of the picture also needs to be beautiful. That’s where the food stylist comes in.

What is a typical food photo shoot like?

Very long hours, lots of standing, some tasting, and a ton of fun. We shoot dish by dish and “build” the scene. You begin with choosing props and décor and laying them out, then plating the food.

Is the food real?

The truth is it depends on the food stylist. I firmly believe in using real food apart from ice. You may not always want to eat the food after (usually it has been out way too long or has been brushed or propped up with other types of food that may not taste great together), but it is real.

What is your absolute must-have tool for food styling?

It’s a toss-up between tweezers and a dish towel.

What are you five top tips for taking an amazing food photo for Instagram?

  1. Lighting. Lighting. Lighting. If you don’t own a huge collection of photography equipment, daylight is your best friend. I take my photos for my own Instagram beside a window or outside on my covered patio between 3-5pm. That’s when I find that the light is natural and soft.
  2. Clean plates. Organised chaos is beautiful, but even in those shots the “chaos” has been carefully thought out and executed. Wiping the edge of the plate once the food has been arranged makes a huge difference in presentation.
  3. Choose colours, props, backgrounds, and decor that complement the food.
  4. Negative space. Don’t overcrowd your shot. It can take away from the main focus — the food.
  5. Take multiple pictures from every imaginable angle. It is better to have lots of options to choose from to post.

And here’s a bonus tip: be consistent with the theme/mood of your Instagram.

What kind of recipes is your favourite to develop?

Anything dinner related. It’s my favourite meal of the day.

Sweet or savoury?

Savoury all day, every day.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Way too hard to choose!

What’s your favourite foodie Instagram page?

Favourite overall: @hartwoodtulum

Favourite drinks: @barprints

Favourite vegan/vegetarian: @jessicainthekitchen

Try out Karina’s tips so that your Insta will be the envy of every foodie in your life, and be sure to check out her food styling and recipes on Karina’s Kitchen.