"Do you eat all the food you take photos of??"

By Grace Gavilanes
December 21, 2018
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

In a world where Instagram feeds are almost always inundated with memes and cat videos – not a complaint, just an observation – it takes a really remarkable photo to end the mindless scrolling, at least temporarily. Enter: an overflowing plate of chili fries that makes us forget about all the mediocre salads we’ve half-heartedly consumed.

We have food Instagram influencers to thank for these voyeuristic shots.

These bloggers spend most of their days documenting their filled-to-the-brim, picture-perfect noodle dishes, tiered cookie platters, and in-your-face animal-style burgers in hopes of increasing their like and follower counts. Despite sharing what they ate (or didn’t eat …), food Instagram influencers rarely show what goes down behind the scenes – until now.

We reached out to four different food influencers that regularly create content for their loyal followers. Here’s what they had to say about life behind the camera, how often they eat out, and if they ever cook at home.

WHO: A New Yorker who posts photos of his favorite restaurants and bakeries in Queens, Manhattan, and beyond for his over-300K followers.

Do you eat all the food you take photos of?

Definitely. I try everything that I post photos of because the real reason I do it all is to enjoy the food that I am seeking out and photographing.

Do you get paid to go to restaurants?

No. I sometimes get food comped, but most restaurants worth visiting don't really pay for posts or visits.

Do you bring leftovers home? How much food goes in the trash?

I always bring everything home. I never throw out food if it can be wrapped up.

How often do you go out to eat?

Pretty much every day, either lunch or dinner and sometimes both.

Roughly how much do you spend on food each week?

At least a couple hundred dollars, but it can vary a lot.

How often do you cook at home?

Almost never.

How long does it take to get the perfect Instagram shot?

One or two minutes. I try to do it quickly too, especially because I don't like eating cold food nor melted ice cream!

What do your friends and family think of your life as an influencer?

Friends and family enjoy the perks of getting free food every now and then.

WHO: A Chicago food influencer who chronicles her delicious encounters in Chicago for over 26K followers. 

Do you eat all the food you take photos of?

When I first started my account, yes, I was eating everything. However, after a year or so, I gained probably 15 lbs. so I decided I really had to cut back. I actually did Whole 30 for a month to reset my system — for that month I didn’t eat any of the food I posted. Now, I definitely try at least a bite or two of everything I post, but I’m much more cognizant of not going overboard. It’s a hard line to draw when you’re presented with basically unlimited free food all the time.

Do you get paid to go to restaurants?

Usually, no. Often I’ll get invited in for a free meal (usually like a $100 value), but I don’t ask for more on top of that. Some people do. If I have a larger following someday, I probably will, too. It’s fun, but it’s also time-consuming work to travel to different restaurants, shoot, edit, and caption a photo. I do participate in paid opportunities pretty regularly, although paid stuff is usually with larger, national food or restaurant brands, not your typical stand-alone restaurant. It’s kind of two different worlds and cultures in terms of payment.

Do you bring leftovers home? How much food goes in the trash?

Yes, there are lots of leftovers! Luckily, I live with three roommates, so I’m always able to offer up extra food. I will say though, depending on the event, there can be huge amounts of food that’s either used for photos and thrown away or just left at the event, which I assume means is thrown away shortly after. It’s tough because people don’t really want to eat the food that has been touched by five other influencers or has gone cold after 15 minutes of photo taking. Unfortunately, that means the “prop” food usually goes in the trash.

How often do you go out to eat?

Maybe like 7 to 10 times a week, give or take? Again, it changes depending on how busy I am, what events I’m invited to, how hard I’m trying to diet/cook my own food, etc. But there is definitely a constant feeling of “I need to go out to eat to get content to post on Instagram, so I can keep up with other accounts and keep my followers engaged.”

Roughly how much do you spend on food each week?

I think what would surprise people is that I probably spend more than the average person on food. Yes, I do get a lot of free food, but I also buy a lot of food on my own. I don’t want my account to only have photos from restaurants and brands that pay me/give me free food. That wouldn’t be authentic or fun for me. I got into the food-Instagram scene because I loved finding and trying new spots; at the end of the day that’s still what I love to do, and usually that means the food isn’t free. I also have expensive taste, so, I would say I typically spend like $200-ish a week. I am trying to cut down on that though.

How often do you cook at home?

It really depends on how busy I am and how many events I’ve RSVP’d to for the week. Over the summer I was interning downtown, having an RXBAR for breakfast, eating out for lunch, and going to a food event most nights, so … no cooking at all. However, that was super unsustainable for me health-wise. Lately, I cook around two or three meals a day, which is a lot more balanced. I’m not a great chef though, so it’s hard to eat my own rather bland food when I could be getting something amazing elsewhere.

How long does it take to get the perfect Instagram shot?

It really depends. Lighting is the biggest factor in a good shot, so depending on the time of day and the restaurant’s setup, it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes finagling with light and shadows and stuff. However, even if the lighting is perfect and the food looks great, I still take a ton of different shots and angles just to be safe. There is nothing worse than getting home and realizing you don’t like any of your photos. So, it probably takes like five minutes on average.

What do your friends and family think of your life as an influencer?

They all think it’s really cool! I’ve definitely become the go-to friend to ask for restaurant recommendations which is fun. They all love hearing about my adventures and being my +1 to events. I think it feels very VIP and fun for them. The only negative thing is I’ve become a bit of a food snob, so my family does roll their eyes at me sometimes… but overall, it’s something everyone is really interested in.

WHO: This N.Y.C. resident, who works in financial services by day, moonlights as a food blogger with over 46K Instagram followers.

Do you eat all the food you take photos of?

I try to at least taste what I can! Sometimes if I’m at an event with a lot of people and many dishes, it gets hard to. But everything I post is something I’ve at least tried and enjoyed.

Do you get paid to go to restaurants?

I do a handful of sponsored posts, but those are very infrequent. I work full-time in finance, so Instagram is just a hobby and has been a great way to try a lot of new places I normally wouldn’t have gone to try.

Do you bring leftovers home? How much food goes in the trash?

I try to waste as little food as possible. When ordering, I don’t go too overboard, and choose only dishes that I would actually eat. I bring leftovers home frequently – and it often becomes lunch at work the next day!

How often do you go out to eat?

Every day – and frequently, several times a day (especially on weekends).

Roughly how much do you spend on food each week?

I’d say on average, $50 a week. This doesn’t include gratuity at places I dine in at, but I usually only have to worry about a few lunches a week at work, as well as a once-a-week grocery store trip for fruits, veggies, and a few snacks.

How often do you cook at home?

Usually once, sometimes twice, a week.

How long does it take to get the perfect Instagram shot?

It depends on a lot of things! If I’m at a larger event with more people, it will take more time since everyone is trying to get their shot at the same time. It also depends on the dish itself, how it’s presented, if I’m shooting indoors or outdoors, and if I need to make any plating adjustments. I’d say it ranges anywhere from two minutes to seven minutes for a dish, but I try not to take more than one or two minutes.

What do your friends and family think of your life as an influencer?

They’ve been surprisingly supportive! My parents have been very positive about it and my longstanding love of food, but they also know I don’t prioritize it above my current career in financial services. All of my friends are also food lovers, so it’s been a great channel to bring them to new places to try – and many of them are extremely patient and understanding if I take longer or need their help to get that perfect shot.

WHO: An N.Y.C.-based couple with a joint Instagram account that’s over 55K followers strong.

Do you eat all the food you take photos of?

Yes! We grew up in immigrant families, so we are very mindful of how much food costs and try not to waste anything. We always take leftover food home and will also give leftovers to homeless people. We're not always posting a dish the same day we eat it. We take a ton of photos when we shoot, so we can have an archive of images to pull from and post.

Do you get paid to go to restaurants?

Very few restaurants pay for content. If they do, it's either a very large brand or a very small amount of money. Most restaurants comp meals though in exchange or in hopes of a social feature through an influencer's account.

Do you bring leftovers home? How much food goes in the trash?

We try to never waste. If I can't finish my portion, my partner usually will. Or, we'll take it home with us if we aren't able to finish it.

How often do you go out to eat?

We've cut back on eating out as much. We don't do that many restaurant comps because we don't want to have to post food we may not like. We'd rather pay for food, love it, and feature it on platform organically. We go out to eat probably two to three times a week, sometimes a little more if we go out to Flushing, New York for a food crawl.

Roughly how much do you spend on food each week?

On groceries, probably $150. The eating out budget really depends on the places we go to that week or if it's a comped meal from an event, etc. We generally eat in Chinatown so we don't spend a crazy amount. Also, BYOB in Chinatown helps save a s--- ton of money.

How often do you cook at home?

A lot. We usually cook all day Sunday. We shoot content for the week and meal prep lunches. We eat most dinners at home during the week unless we have events.

How long does it take to get the perfect Instagram shot?

Depends on what we're shooting! Sometimes it's a few frames and sometimes it's 200.

What do your friends and family think of your life as an influencer?

We have been extremely grateful and humbled to have such supportive friends and family, and even our parents support our content creation platform (probably our biggest fans). My dad was at a recent shoot we did and was surprised and excited at seeing what happens behind the scenes. He didn't realize how much work goes into creating content. Now, he's even created an Instagram account to follow along!

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