The figure of the moustachioed hipster hovering over their plate of food with their phone out – or worse, taking their dish over to the window for better lighting – might receive a lot of scorn, but psychological science suggests they might actually be enjoying their food more than the foodstagramming naysayers.
A recent study revealed that those instructed to take a picture of a red velvet cake before eating it perceived it to be tastier and more enjoyable than those who tucked in straight away. The theory goes that taking the picture first, along with all the angle-finding and lens-focusing that goes with it, increases anticipation, making us enjoy what we eat more than we would otherwise. This gels well with a collection of studies in 2013 that found performing a short ritual, such as prayer, before eating positively influenced perception in the same way.
The Rise of Picture Perfect Meals
However, a tendency to display the food we eat is having more widespread effects on dining than just our own enjoyment of it, encouraging a greater emphasis on presentation and the inclusion of fashionable ingredients. One way this shift towards picturesqueness has manifested is the popularity of bowl-based cuisine, with the now ubiquitous Buddha Bowls being the most obvious example. Dishes in which a wide variety of ingredients are displayed in distinct sections, rather than mixed together as in a stew or curry, make better and more neatly composed pictures. Instagram and our plates are thus full of fruit-topped bowls of oats, the aforementioned Buddha bowls and poke salads, a dish that takeaway delivery service Deliveroo notes has been rapidly gaining popularity.
Instagram might also be inspiring healthier culinary choices by associating healthy food with social capital and encouraging a wide range of colours in the produce people select. Those aiming to create vibrant images by including ingredients such as heritage carrots or beetroots may inadvertently be consuming the ideal range of nutrients since some dietitians suggest that “eating the rainbow” may be one way to ensure a balanced diet.
Do It Yourself
Luckily meals like this that frequently consist of raw or steamed ingredients are easy enough to make. You can find a huge number of recipe books focused on bowl-based cuisine on websites like Amazon and there are numerous ways to make your dish more presentable, such as thinking carefully about plate size, shape or colour and what garnishes to use.
Articles on food photography also recommend shooting in natural light – meaning the obnoxious hipster standing with his plate by the window really is onto something – and taking the picture from above in order to clear the shot of any distracting elements. Food is also best photographed against a neutral background, such as dark wood, and the photo can be made more interesting through arty placement of cutlery or the addition of a human element, such as a hand.
There’s no guarantee you’ll rake in the likes from your friends but you may just find you like what you eat more yourself.