Foodstagram: A Guide To Achieving Your Best #InstaFood with Hasani Arnold

Words by, Igee Okafor - Hasani Arnold

Photography by, Hasani Arnold at Loosie Rouge, New York

With Hasani Arnold (founder of Movements by Arnold), it's almost impossible to take a bad food photograph or so it seems. If you don't believe me, do yourself a favor and take a look at his instagram feed. From the delicious looking croissants to the Acai bowls that inspire clean eating, there is no second guessing that behind the flourishing compilation of unstained plateful stills lies a skillful strategy. 

If you're one of those Instagrammers who incessantly look forward to mouth watering food posts from your favorite influencers - wondering how to achieve such #InstaFood goals, a fleeting query session with the food influencer, Hasani extends below.

  • What is your favorite cuisine?

I am a fan of anything with curry in it. If we are speaking about a specific food then it's a little challenging but I would say Barbecue Pork Ribs. 

  • Your favorite restaurant to visit for the best food photos?

It's a toss up between Reynards and Loosie's Kitchen both in Williamsburg. Can't ever take a bad photo at those places!

  • What is the best meal you have ever eaten?

During my last trip to Taiwan, I found this amazing cafe and had one of the best meals I can remember. It was called "Nom Nom".  

  • Did you share on Instagram?

Indeed, I did. 

  • Why is food presentation so important?

I am a firm believer that the extent to which we are able to both enjoy and indulge in food is directly linked to that food's presentation. Yes, it is true that food can be delicious albeit not very aesthetically pleasing; but well presented and ornamented food allows the prospective consumer to vicariously enjoy the food before they have even eaten it, which I believe heightens their sensitivity to taste and flavor.

  • How do you decide how to arrange or compose a shot?

There are a plethora of key aspects to pay particular attention to such as compositions and shapes. Because most plates and cups are round, it is important not to have too many collinear plates and cups. This can create an overly curated and unnatural feeling in the photo. When you're looking at the table, always imagine it to have horizontal and vertical lines running across the top, if there are two or more items of the same shape on any of the lines then it is usually best to rearrange the table until the table looks more natural and unplanned. And of course this rule can always be broken depending on the particularities of the photo, play around with it! 

  • How important is lighting in this case and what do you do when the lighting isn't too flattering? 

Light, light, light. Without at least decent lighting photography in general is difficult and food photography is rendered particularly rigorous. It is first important to understand what you would like the ethos of the photo to be. Moody? Contrasty? Delicate? Once you figure this out then you will know in which type of light(and what time of day) to take the photo. Generally speaking, my food photos tend to be dark and heavy on shadows so I usually like to take my photos either between 8-11am or 3-5pm as the lighting during this time tends to be the most dramatic and cast the most shadows. If you are going for a stark, contrasty look you will probably want to shoot around 12pm when the sun is highest in the sky, this will create a very profound and uncanny look. But as a general rule, midday is generally not the best time for photography because the sun generally casts very harsh(and unpleasant) shadows onto everything during that time of day, and as another general rule, try not to go to restaurants or cafes for food photography after 6:30pm during the summer and after 3pm during the winter to ensure the best lighting. You will usually find the sultriest light during the time right before the sun sets!

  • Are all your food photographs taken at restaurants? or do you cook as well?

While most of my photos are taken at cafes or restaurants, I do cook a fair amount as well. Unfortunately though, my house is not very gracious when it comes to light so I tend not to post photos from home as much but it is definitely something I want to incorporate more into my blog/Instagram!

  • Do you upload before or after you eat? 

Because my food editing style generally requires a decent amount of post processing, I tend to wait until after I eat to upload. This way I can completely engage with and give full attention to whomever I am eating with and enjoy my food while it is still (relatively) warm!

  • I see you shoot from a variety of angles. Which one is your favorite? 

Generally speaking I am a huge fan of the flatlay angle. However I do try to throw in a few different angles from time to time to help mix things up a bit. 

  • Do you use a DSLR or your iphone? What versions do you have and how do you edit?

I actually get asked this question very frequently! About 95-98% of my food photos are taken with my IPhone 6s Plus. As far as editing is concerned, because each photo has different lighting and different composition, each photo has to be edited based on its particularly needs. However, the first thing I do when editing food photos is upload them into Snapseed! It is by far my favorite app for editing food photos, a few other favorites are Photoshop express, Lightroom, and Polarr.

  • Which one of my Instagram food photos is your favorite? Why?

I really love the shot you took at Rosemary's! A prime example of obeying the collinear rule, the shot looks unplanned and natural! I always enjoy incorporating elements of "real life" motion into my photos. This can include introducing hands into the photo to create a sense of movement and liveliness or placing objects on the table that represent the time I had at the eatery. This photo is one of my favorites because it incorporates all of my favorite elements of food photography and simultaneously tells a story about how my time spent at this place was. 

  • What are your favorite food hashtags?

Some that make the cut for every food photo are: #Eeeeeats #Onthetable #Food52grams 

  • What is your checklist for an appropriate Instagram food photo?

Make sure the lighting is great.

Make sure that not too many of the same dish are ordered.

Decide which accessories (Card Cases, Wallets, Sunglasses, etc.) will accompany the food

Augment the dishes in a way that is natural and interesting.

And most importantly, be sure to enjoy the food and have fun with whoever you are with, too! 

For More, Follow Hasani Arnold here.

Thank you for reading!