In today’s social media culture, you can’t sit in a restaurant for more than 20 minutes without seeing someone taking a picture of their food, and probably posting it to Instagram. There’s really no downside for the restaurant to it (unless the food is ugly, but then no one would photograph it) and many have signs and posters around encouraging people to post them with their hashtag.

Metro Diner has one of the biggest presences on Instagram, with their dishes like chicken and waffles and Yo Hala popping up under any search for Jax food on Instagram. Dan Deleon, the owner of the Jacksonville Beach location, regularly checks Instagram and Facebook to see how the food is looking.

“Any negative that could come from it is me seeing something that doesn’t look right,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a homerun when they bust the camera out before they start eating. It’s usually our pretty cool items, like the chicken and waffles, which get the wow factor.”

Anytime someone posts a picture it’s essentially free marketing for that place. If you love that restaurant and what you ate, it’s like a giant “thank you.” The more local places you do it the better. Sure, posting a steak from Outback looks tasty, but posting a pic from Metro Diner or any local restaurants that you support is lot better than repping chains and franchises.

Not only that, but talking about the food with a picture tops any ad, since you’re not getting paid to snap it or say something about it.

“The best, most honest advertising is straight free advertising. People using Instagram saying how great the chicken and waffles were, or our Charleston shrimp and grits,” Deleon said. “People know that’s genuine and they take it for a lot more value than us printing an ad.”

One of the reasons Metro Diner caught on so fast on social media, aside from their food and its presentation, is that they started with mostly word-of-mouth advertising — something similar to today’s version of posting pictures and getting likes. That, and the love for local business in Jacksonville, has caused them to be Instagrammed more than the average place. The creativity of their dishes and even the pictures doesn’t hurt either.

“Some people are very creative. I look for placement of the chicken in the right spots, the waffles facing the right direction,” said Deleon. “Put maybe a cup of coffee next to it and paint the whole scene.”

How to take the best food pics

Lighting Good

Do this.

Lighting Bad

Not this.

Lighting:

Make sure it’s well-lit to properly portray your food. It’s the most obvious thing to think about, and natural light is the best type of light.

 

Angle Good

Do this.

Angle Bad

Not this.

Angle:

Don’t use just the standard right on top of the food angle. Angle the pic diagonally or another creative way, maybe from the side of the plate or table.

 

Background Good

Do this.

Background Bad

Not this.

Background:

Include the first bite on your fork or the whole table with your drinks in it, or your friend in the background. Painting the scene and atmosphere in the picture can make it stand out from a regular food pic.