10 Simple Tips for Capturing the Perfect Cafe Lifestyle Shot for Instagram (Free Video Guide)

Check out my new SkillShare course on Instagram Café Photography!

Lifestyle photography is a beautiful thing. It has the power to convey a very powerful mood or story, and can be quite compelling. But capturing good lifestyle photos of your daily cafe adventures isn't always as easy as it sounds. Here is a list of 10 simple tips that will help you post the perfect Instagram photo that will make even the most seasoned cafe hopper jealous.

1. Identify good locations

Hate to say it, but not all coffee shops/cafes are created equal. Some have gorgeous interiors that are complimented by proper lighting, while others suffer from terrible artificial light that will make your photos look orange and boring. Hop on Instagram and find popular Instagrammers in your area who are knowledgeable about the local hot-spots. Browse their pages and choose a few places to go. Searching through popular hashtags is also a good option. Every city has Instagrammable locations, you just need to find them!

2. Find Good Light

You've arrived at your first café, but are not sure where to shoot. Stay close to the windows! Natural light is a million times better than artificial, and light coming through the windows is often beautifully diffused and perfect for photos. Many cafés or coffee shops have areas with extravagant decorations, but poor lighting. Don't get sucked into these parts of the café. Stay where the light is good, as it's the most important aspect of a photograph.

3. Order Pretty Food

It isn't necessary, but ordering good-looking food makes your job a lot easier. Subject matter is important for conveying a mood or lifestyle in your photos, and certain dishes look better than others. For example, a latte with good latte art looks much better than a boring black coffee. You can make anything work, but having something beautiful to photograph won't hurt your cause!

If you happen to find yourself in SF, don't skip this place :) @reveillecoffee

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4. Styling

Styling is the way you organize your subject matter in your frame. Simply placing your food or coffee on a table and photographing it isn't as interesting as creating a scene. Put your phone on the table, grab some books and lay it all out in front of you. Styling takes time to learn, but in time you will find what works. Try new things, and take note of some of the styling techniques your favorite photographers use.

 

5. Try Different Angles

Many young photographers get sucked into shooting food straight on. This can present a dull scene. Move around and shoot from different angles. Try shooting from above, from each side, and even from behind objects. Placing an object in front of your camera and keeping the focus on your subject matter can yield some very interesting foreground bokeh (blur). Every angle presents a different opportunity for an interesting photo, so try them all.

Breakfast is served 😌

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6. Be Creative

Think outside of the box, and experiment. Stack objects, use a model, incorporate plants or anything else within your reach. Don't worry about taking bad photos, we all do it. Have fun with it and keep trying new things. A good way to enhance creativity before the shoot is to check out some of your favorite Instagram pages before hand. Need some recommendations? Check out @bankpyt, @torthanit, @sxnflxwer_, and me! (@seandalt) - all of which are lifestyle Instagrammers.

7. Be Confident

Don't worry about what other people in the cafe are thinking. They might be watching you, but who cares? No matter what type of camera you have, you are a photographer and you are there to capture your vision. Don't hesitate to stand on your chair and get that overhead shot, or move some props to your table for styling. Of course, it is always important to be respectful of the cafe. Ask the workers if you can use the decorations for your styling, and if it is a relatively quiet cafe, ask if you can take pictures. You are using their space for your art, so treat it with respect. 

Barista from above ☕️ check out @sightglass coffee if you're in SF. You won't be disappointed :)

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8. Know the story you are trying to tell

What kind of story do you want your photos to tell? Having a vision before you start shooting can give you a good place to start. Know the stylistic characteristics of photography that you like, and the type of emotion each one appeals to. For example, I like my photos a bit dark with dramatic lighting. This gives them a relaxed, calm, and mature tone, all of which are themes or moods I like to express in my photos. Some people prefer bright photos that might relate to terms such as "clean" or "fresh". Come prepared with the story you want to tell, and capture it with intent.

Cold mornings call for hot coffee ☕️

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9. DOn't overthink your gear

Of course there are Instagrammers with the latest and greatest photography gear, but some of them shoot only with a smart phone. With the current state of smart phones on the market, that is totally okay. The main goal of lifestyle photography is capturing a mood or telling a story, something that you can certainly achieve with a wide angle iPhone or Samsung camera.

A timeless medium.

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10. Editing

Editing your photos properly is crucial for your success on Instagram. Edit all of your photos in the same style, and don't deviate. This means if you use a filter, always use the same one and adjust lighting and exposure afterwards. Editing plays a large part in the mood and theme of your photos, so take the time to make sure your photos are edited in a way that supports your story. If you are curious to see how I edit my Instagram photos (@seandalt), subscribe to my mailing list below and check out my short and easy Instagram photo editing guide :) Also, I want to hear from you! Post your Instagram account below with short comment about what you like to photograph. I will visit your page on comment on my favorite photo :) 

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