How 2022 Instagram Killed The Food Post

Until recently, scrolling through your Instagram feed usually yielded dozens of beautifully shot food photographs, even by amateur cooks and foodies. The food post of yore was highly curated, scrupulously staged, and totally devoid of people. The new food post is still all about mouth-watering dishes, celebrity aspiration, and filthy martinis, but with a more relaxed vignette. For an example of what we're talking about, look at the Instagram feed of the Insta-famous celebrity chef Alison Roman, who shared food photos from a trip to Paris that included a nearly-devoured rare-plus steak, emptied escargot shells, and previously-pristine plates smeared with sauce.

We are past the art of pickles being placed just-so with tweezers, holding the guests off from digging into their dishes, and a dozen strategic iPhone flashlights being used to get perfect ambient lighting. Here are the days of the New Food Post of — dim lounges and camera phone flashes, takeaway noodles swimming in sauce, and half-drunk glasses of champagne dotting the perimeter of a coffee table-turned dining table. Once unimaginable, 2022 saw the end of these glossy food photos on Instagram. So how did we arrive here at the funeral of the once-loved, ultra-sanitized, highly-curated food post? 

The shift in food aesthetics

One of the biggest changes in Instagram food photography is the presence of actual human hands. Whether they're grating parmesan, tucking into a bowl of mashed potatoes, or pouring a glass of Merlot, people are visible in food photography. Previously, Instagram food photography favored aerial shots or meticulous studio shots. One reason for this may be the ongoing cultural response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, in which there was a period where sharing a meal with a friend or loved one was prohibited. According to a 2021 survey by Butcher Box, there was a 25% spike in interest from Americans to host at their homes when compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

NPR reports that many folks continue to eat at home more often since 2020, especially given inflation, which means getting together and having a meal often means potlucks and dinner parties at a friend's place. This has made the social aspect of enjoying a meal more heavily emphasized, as well as giving nods to the human labor that went into preparing a meal. 

How the other side lives

Another thing you may notice in more food photography is, well, folks actually eating. The body positivity movement is no longer a fringe movement and even the rich and famous can't avoid it, notes Vox. This has led to an increasing interest in showing food as pleasurable, not just locked in time, untouched and perfect. And while Instagram users are still hungry to see what's on celebrity's plates, their photos have also gotten a lot less magazine-ready. More influencers and celebs favor photo dumps over single-shot posts — eight out of Kendall Jenner's 10 most recent Instagram posts are multi-photo series at the time of this piece. 

These are meant to show more of a composite of a celebrity's day in the life, and demonstrate a certain "Celebrities! They're Just Like Us!" quality. And that extends to food and restaurant photos — like Bella Hadid's photo dump at a restaurant which includes gloved hands digging into spaghetti carbonara, two blurry and nearly-identical candid photos, a poorly exposed shot of the cocktail menu, and so on. As influencers strive to come across as authentic and typical, their food photography has followed. 

And with that, at the close of 2022, we say goodbye to the ultra-curated, painstaking food photos we used to know and say hello to the subjectively-improved new food post.