Welcome to “Is It Ever Okay,” Bon Appétit’s questionable etiquette column. Have a question? Email email@example.com.
How much can you edit a photo of a sandwich? —Tinkering Ted
Our social media team prefers barely a touch of editing to enhance the sandwich’s natural beauty. But I think we’ve double-tapped every sandwich out there at this point, right? Now we need ART. Amp that saturation till those folds of deli meats glisten. Tune up the warmth; I want to smell that toasted bun. Inch up the contrast until the lettuce has more definition than a dictionary. When it feels right, you’ll know. Post.
Is it okay to post something if it looked really, really good but didn’t taste very good? —Superficial Sullivan
YES. Once you accept that Instagram is a performance space, an app for entertainment, decide which role you will play. Selfie savant. Eater of food. Fitspo quad killer. Parent of a three-month-old who will soon be a four-month-old. Meme Lord. They’re all unreliable narrators. Best to trust no one and nothing in general but especially on Instagram. Assume that any marble is vinyl contact paper. Suspect every pot pie of hiding something (ugh, turnips). Only then are you actually living in reality.
The shot of an ice cream cone against a cool wall seems overplayed. What else can we shoot food in front of? —Background Bernard
Very large cows
Someone’s air-drying bed sheets
Any novelty T-shirt but especially the tuxedo ones
Cheerleaders in full pyramid
Shiny elevator doors
A passing train
The vast expanse of a human back
How long can you make your friends wait to eat while you take the perfect shot? I hate myself at the time, but sometimes it takes a while. —Self-loathing Layla
Any advice for getting the perfect food shot? I only have 1.5 minutes! —Blurry Benicio
Crowd-sourced from people with WAY more followers than I:
Get to a window or take it outside. Natural light above all.
Overhead shots are the safest.
Shoot on a neutral surface that isn’t too dark (so we can see the food clearly).
Take a bite of food to make it more “lived in.”
If your silverware is reflecting you taking your photo, move it.
Always keep Instagram’s 4:5 ratio in mind, which really just means that you should shoot vertically.
Add elements that give a sense of place or tell the story behind a dish (the grass you’re picnicking on, Grandma’s recipe card…).
Can I post a photo of plain cottage cheese eaten straight from the container? That’s what I ate today. —Zealous Zahra
Large or small curd? Just curious. I think large is better. If it will make you happy, post it.
Are you obligated to share a recipe if you post a delicious pic of something you cooked? —Indifferent Ira
Instagram makes it cumbersome to share links for nonbusiness accounts, and even those are annoying (who likes the likeshop?). You should happily assume that if you cook something and share it, you’re inspiring someone else out there in the universe to make it too. Cool! Make it easy on them. Give them the info they need to find it on Google or write “GOOGLE ‘super moist chocolate mocha cake’ for the recipe!” in the caption.
Is it rude to comment, “This looks gnarly, but I’m sure it tastes GREAT!”? —Cheerful Chandler
Once I posted a photo of a cherry pie with a cutout-hole crust pattern and was swarmed with angry commenters freaking out about their hole phobia being triggered. AAH LOOK AWAY, they screamed. GONNA FALL IN THE HOLE AND DIE, they all-capped. It’s a real thing. It’s called trypophobia. I thought the pie was beautiful!! I was kinda hurt, on behalf of the pie. People transfer their emotions to the food they cook, so when you call out the hideous plop of corn pudding on my plate, I’m immediately concluding you think I live a hideous, ploppy life. And maybe I do! You’ll certainly never find out from my Instagram! Save your criticism for the New York Review of Books and instead simply comment, “That looks delicious.” Just do that. For the love of God, please just do that.
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit