Niki Webster, better known as RebelRecipes – the vegan blogger and Instagrammer who has over 244K followers and growing daily is known for her ultimate and outright delicious #foodporn feed which showcases her simple to create vegan dishes. Here she talks to Hip and Healthy on how she creates each image and teaches you how to entice your own hungry audience with her top styling and photo hacks.

“It’s all about research and staying true to yourself!” Niki comments, whose platform has increased from just a few hundred followers to over two hundred thousand and sparked her career in the food industry. Her debut book, which shares the same name as her blog Rebel Recipes launches in December 26th [Bloomsbury]. “Being a Food Instagrammer is much more a serious and professional job than when I started a few years ago – not only has the level of creativity and photography improved massively but it’s now a respected field of work, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today… awaiting the launch of my own cookbook! But it isn’t as easy as you would think. There is a lot that goes into shooting the image before you even pick up a camera!”

Talking to us, Niki mentions that “you need to find a common ground between telling a visual story and giving something back to your audience; you need to make a community of like-minded people on your feed. I regularly share tips, recipes and behind the scenes insights with my followers and constantly engage with other creators, brands and friends across the platform. It’s about networking and supporting other people – but most importantly it’s about enjoying it!” 

“My favourite part of shooting for my Instagram [and website] is coming up with the story behind the image – and sourcing different products, props and backgrounds”, Niki comments, before telling us she has a whole cupboard dedicated to just shooting materials! “Creating a successful Instagram account is more than just shooting and uploading. It’s a personal reflection of your passion, hard work, determination, good-eye and a key focus and message, as well as being able to adapt with the times!”

Finding your personal style
“Finding your own personal style is what will help you stand out from the crowd. It can take a while to develop – which is perfectly normal. You have to stick to your guns and stay true to yourself. Spend some time trying to find out what inspires you and makes your mouth water. Is it a certain colour, cuisine, seasonal produce or a type of meal? Experiment with what you love and see how your audience responds.”

Food Styling
“It’s no secret that we eat with our eyes – which is why the styling and use of colour when it comes to photographing food is so important. Each aspect will be able to help you emphasise your subject in the best light. By adding texture, colour and movement into a shot can help elevate a dish. Layering neutrals such as placemats, tea-towels and old news or greaseproof papers can help the colours in your dish pop and add a subtle depth to the image. Always try to have at least 3-5 layers in your image – try adding stacked bowls and plates to the final shot plus fresh herbs and toppings to the dish to give it some extra height; try and keep things around the same tones of colour.”

Props galore!
“People relate more to an image when they can imagine it in a real-life setting – so those bowls/plates or having cutlery/utensils in your shot can persuade someone to want to grab a taste themselves. Because your audience is unable to actually taste or smell the dish adding in key flavour ingredients into the shot will help them imagine the citrus tang or the peppery taste of rocket as they salivate down their feeds. I also love using natural surfaces such as wood or tiles as this offers a familiarity of a kitchen or dining room (and doesn’t distract too much from the food!)”

Equipment, planning and editing
“Fancy equipment isn’t essential – I grew my first 100,000 followers just shooting on my iPhone; a lot of the final details can be created post-shoot. Editing tools can transform your images. Play around on them and find one that suits you – I personally love high contrast moody shots, but you can really use these programmes to develop that aforementioned personal style.”

“And don’t let all your hard work go to waste – invest in a decent planning tool to curate your feed. This helps to keep a consistent style and cohesive colour palette and ensures you’re not uploading the same style of images one after the other and boring your audience. You need to mix them up to keep them consistent. Try and upload a polar opposite to your last image by picking one or two key factors I.E Simple vs Busy, Singular vs Repetitive, Movement vs Still and Left/Right Aligned vs Centre. For example… yesterday’s shot was a simple sandwich, today’s shot will be a busy moving dinner plate, with lots of hands in play and tomorrow we will have a still shot of multiple slices of cake – this trick allows you to keep each photo edited in your specific style but keeps it from becoming too repetitive and predictable. You want your audience to be excited each time you upload.”

Rebel Recipes [Bloomsbury] launches in December 26th. Pre-order here.