What to Know About the #Struggleplate Hashtag

The Saddest Looking Food Plates on Social Media

The perfect #struggleplates are found at a potluck party

GettyImages / Jena Cumbo

What makes particular foods appetizing is a matter of personal taste, but there's certainly ways to avoid posting photos on social media that make your cuisine look inedible. The hashtag struggleplate (or #struggleplates) is used to spotlight the saddest looking food plates on social media—mostly Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. They often flare up suddenly (and unappetizingly) around holidays that center around food and culinary traditions, especially Independence Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. A typical #struggleplate looks like this: a huge pile of sloppy lasagne topped with cucumber eyes, and a carrot nose, all served on a patterned styrofoam plate, photographed in yellow light. Here are the elements that often guarantee a #struggleplate and how you can avoid them.

Styrofoam Plates

Just don’t do it. Even the most appealing meal is despicable served on styrofoam plates. This is why New York City is enacting a ban on these horrid take-out containers. Since we are on the subject, plastic or paper plates and utensils do not cut it either. The worst offenders are the ones with patterns or comic characters. Use a real plate and flatware. You can do it.

Muddy Filters

Please, do not put a “sunrise” filter on your food. It might look tempting for a second, but it does not enhance your food photo at all. It makes it brown, bleached, or otherwise sucks the life out of it. If you want to enhance your food photos, stay away from filters. Take ten more seconds and manually adjust the color temperature and brightness, add a little contrast, crop the image well, and make it your own.

Using Your Camera Phone’s Flash

This move will guarantee a #struggleplate. The burst of light will create harsh, unnatural shadows and highlights that are unappetizing. Move your food near a window during the day or a lamp in the evening and turn off the flash.

Mushy Food

Unfortunately, most of the popular party foods, mashed potatoes, and gravy, macaroni, and cheese or pizza, are served in blobs that are not photogenic. Also, stay away from pre-made frozen foods. They have lost most of their shape and color (not to mention nutrition) in the industrial creation process and will turn into a big ugly mush when you place them on a plate. It takes a professional team lots of tricks and time to create agreeable images. It’s not worth trying at home.

Questionable Shapes

Bear in mind that, in terms of their shape, some foods photograph better than others. Please be aware of this when photographing phallic foods. If you must take a photo, cut foods like sausages into slices first. Alternatively, you can also obscure the shape of certain foods by placing some pretty sides in the foreground.