How to Take Instagram-Worthy Tabletop Photos

There’s nothing else…just us and the cameras.

Grab a glass of Snap, and listen in as the supremely talented shutterbug Monica Buck shares her tips for making all those #tabletop photos we’re posting on Instagram stand out from the crowd. With more than 20 years of experience shooting home, food, and tabletop tableaux for everyone from Elle Décor, Veranda, and Food & Wine to Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren Home, and Rizzoli, Monica knows a thing or two about how to take photos that gain exposure. So, algorithm schmalgorithm, Instagram. Follow Monica’s ten photo-editing tips, and we guarantee your pix will pop to the top of everyone’s feed in a flash.

1. Get familiar. Tap on the edit function in both your phone’s photo library and your Instagram app to get familiar with the options and what they do. Do the same with the filters. Even as a professional photographer, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what’s possible.

Monica Buck Shares 10 Tips for Getting Great Tabletop Instagram Photos on The Salonniere

2. Tap into your focal point. After you have lined up your shot, tap the screen at the exact spot that you want to be the focal point of the photo. A yellow box with will appear. Slide your finger up or down to lighten or darken the photo. Your phone is set to an average exposure, so this can be very helpful in creating the perfect photo. If that doesn’t capture the light you’re looking for, use your flash.

3. Brighten up. Bring up your photo, and then go to the edit function in your iPhone’s Photo Library. Then tap light and then brightness and brighten the photo. This will likely leave the photo looking a bit washed out, so tap black point to bring your blacks back into the photo while retaining the brightness. This is my best tip for achieving a gorgeous tabletop photo.

Monica Buck Shares 10 Tips for Taking Great Tabletop Photos on The Salonniere

4. Backlight the scene. When shooting your tabletop, make sure that the light is coming from behind the table. This will highlight any glass or translucent objects on the table, and give the photo a beautiful, glowy effect. Also, shoot your tabletop in the morning or the late afternoon, since midday light is harsh and unflattering. When photographing a candlelit table, shoot it before it gets too dark.

5. Work the angles. To capture the scene best, take your photo from overhead or do a low skim across the table.

Monica Buck Shares 10 Tips for Taking Great Tabletop Photos on The Salonniere
6. Add pops of color. My current obsession is hot pink! It goes with just about everything. Tie a brightly-hued ribbon around a white napkin or your silverware, or use colorful, vintage bracelets as your napkin rings.

7. Use white for contrast. White is my go-to color for table settings because it contrasts so nicely against just about any background. Black and white is an especially striking, high-contrast combination that photographs well.

Monica Buck Shares 10 Tips for Taking Great Tabletop Photos on The Salonniere

8. Rough it up. Texture is a key component in a good photograph, so consider incorporating natural elements like linen, burlap, rustic wood, and canvas into your tabletop design.

9. Emulate what you love. Check Instagram for feeds that inspire you. Some of our favorites are L’Objet, Elephant Ceramics, Ashley Whittaker Design and India Hicks. Are you drawn to light and airy looks? Moody looks? A ’70s vibe? For a vintage, feel try Instagram’s Nashville filter.

10. Try and try again. Take an image, look at it, make adjustments, and then take another image. Take as many as you need to get just the photo you love!

Photos: Monica Buck

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