The hashtag struggleplate (or #struggleplates) is used to spotlight the saddest looking food plates on social media—mostly Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. They flare up suddenly (and unappetizingly) around American food holidays, like Independence Day or 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 will guarantee a #struggleplate.
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.
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.
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.
Food Faces (or Other Body Parts)
It’s probably cute for your kids, or funny for your friend, but not attractive on your social media stream unless you have mastered the craft. Put your phone down, enjoy the laugh, and stop playing with your food. Please be aware of photographing the sausage phallus on your plate, especially served with mustard or ketchup. If you must shoot it, have at least a couple on the plate or cut them into slices. An attractive dish and pretty sides, such as a crisp salad or hand-cut fries that can overlap with the sausage, and hide it a little, can help too.