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Will Work for Food: The Unconventional Art of Instagram Food Blogging

The term “foodie” and the number of people who identify with it has grown staggeringly since the breakthrough of social media. In fact, its popularity is so rampant that it has infiltrated the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tracing its origins back to the 1980s with the official definition as “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads.”

Several terms have been developed in the English language to describe such human beings, such as “gastronome,” “gourmet,” or even simply “food enthusiast.” There are different terms for varying magnitudes of enthusiasm, whether eating food out of interest or dedicating their online lives to discussing it with a broader community worldwide.

Whatever they call themselves, these connoisseurs have taken over the Internet – particularly Instagram. And unless you’ve been living off-the-grid for the last decade, you’re probably already well-aware of this. In fact, you probably have friends or family who regularly inundate your social media feeds with photographs of their most recent meals.

Regardless of what you think of this phenomenon – whether you are fascinated, annoyed, or indifferent – your perspective on it will change as we explore the world of Instagram food blogging.

Image credit: Nathan Praticante – @nathanp_photos

Instagram Food Blogging 101

Food blogging, simply put, is the art of creating and publishing food-related content on social media. The most popular platform for foodies is Instagram, likely due to the fact the platform allows bloggers to post both images and videos alongside lengthy captions. 

Posting photographs of food has always been somewhat popular on Instagram since its early days, before food blogging on the platform was even really a thing. Before Instagram was the powerhouse it is now, those who knew it way back when will most likely remember it as nothing more than a fun photo-sharing platform for people to post pictures of what they had for lunch. But now, it has grown into a developed industry with its own ecosystem of subcultures. 

If you have ever taken a photograph of your food and posted it on social media, then you have partaken in this foodie subculture. Plenty of people do this occasionally for fun with their friends. but there are also those who take it much further than that, creating whole pages and blogs devoted to cuisine. For some people, it’s simply an enjoyable hobby. For others, it’s how they make their living.

Image credit: @hungrylittleoren
Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

The key to success among many food bloggers is finding their own niche, whether it’s cultural cuisine, desserts, baked goods, beverages, vegetarian/vegan, expensive delicacies, health and fitness, or just the strange and the novel. Individual blogger personalities also make an impact on the audiences that they draw in as they reveal themselves through their content.

Now this probably doesn’t seem all that strange as today’s culture allows virtually anyone to blog about anything, but its highly unusual popularity and seemingly-universal appeal makes this phenomenon worth noting.

The Statistics

Food is an extremely popular theme on Instagram, only rivalled by the likes of travel, fashion, and cosmetics. According to social media research from 2019, 69 per cent of millennials surveyed take a picture or video of their food before eating, with Instagram in particular being the most relevant platform for this demographic.

  • Foodies consume four times more content than the average Instagram user.
  • Foodies connect to Instagram an average of 18 times a day.
  • There are more than 250 million #food posts made every month. 
  • 27 per cent of Internet users on Instagram share food content.
  • 38 per cent of Instagram users view food content.
Image credit: Nathan Praticante – @nathanp_photos

Although there is no official title, among the most popular foodie blogs on Instagram are the likes of Foodgod, Minimalist Baker, Skinnytaste Healthy Recipes, Yumna Jawad, and Fumino Kimura, boasting at least over a million followers each.

Instagrammability

Have you ever made any decision by asking yourself, “Is this Instagrammable?”
You probably have. Or if you haven’t, you definitely know someone who has.

Yes, it’s a word. In fact, the word processor that I am writing this article on didn’t even bother putting a red squiggly line under it. The concept of Instagrammability is whether or not it would make a valuable post online. And if you’re even slightly active on social media, it has certainly affected your decisions at one point or another, whether it’s where you go on vacation, the activities you do on dates, and yes, even the food that we eat.

Image credit: @hungrylittleoren
Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

And this is a phenomenon that business marketing has grabbed by the horns and exploited. Restaurants, cafés, and eateries optimized their Instagrammability, maximizing whatever visual factors will prompt you to post photographs of your food online, from how the food is presented to the aesthetic and/or novelty of the food itself.

As an example, Starbucks has become known as a notorious practitioner of this with their menu items, much to the delight of many food bloggers and common consumers alike. Photographs of Starbucks drinks are among the most popular posts on Instagram and food blogs in general, ranging from photogenic pastries, colourful sparkly cups to colourful sparkly drinks. Perhaps this owes to their success, and they have their public relations department to thank for that. Making our food “Instagram-worthy” has over time grown into a lucrative business, and it probably won’t be slowing down any time soon.

The Art of Blogging

Ultimately, the reason why people blog is because they have something that they want to share with the world. This is universally true regardless of content, platform, or niche.

The Internet has allowed people more vessels for utilizing their freedom of expression, and food blogging is yet just another one of these overall positive manifestations.


Blogging has secured people creative freedom and the ability to express their thoughts, their interests, what is important to them, and few niches have accomplished this to the level of commercial success and cultural popularity as foodies.


Most bloggers – and food bloggers in particular – will profess that what brings them the most joy out of food blogging is the community. And this in turn, allows them to be part of a community and experience the camaraderie.

An Interview with Oren Ngullie (@hungrylittleoren)

Oren Ngullie is an Instagram food blogger. Originally from Kohima, India, she is currently a fourth-year civil engineering student at the University of Ottawa. Her work on social media over the last three years has made her a prominent part of the foodie blogosphere, having amassed almost 7,000 followers as of February 2022.

EMERGE was fortunate enough to speak with Ngullie to gather insight to the world of food blogging as she talks about herself, her love of food, content creation, the foodie community, and nuggets of wisdom she’s acquired along the way.

Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

Background

Tell us about yourself.

Hi, my name is Orenvungi Ngullie, you can call me Oren instead. My family is currently in India and I’m here in Canada as an international student studying civil engineering at the University of Ottawa. 

I have a niche food account on Instagram called Hungry Little Oren where I post my own healthy breakfast and dessert creations while also collaborating with and reviewing brands, restaurants, cafés and other content creators. I named this page Hungry Little Oren because I’m petite and short, and I’m always just snacking and eating.

How and why did you start the blog?

When I first came to Canada, back in 2018, I was just really overwhelmed by the country’s incredible food scenes and diversity of cuisines. It was really exciting for me because I love food and I’m very adventurous with it and will try everything and anything. Wherever I go, I was always snapping photos on my phone to the point where I only had photos of food and hardly any of myself even to this day.  So I figured it would only be a good idea to create a food account like a lot of people do. 

During this time, I was also in my recovery journey from an eating disorder, so that really propelled me to creating the account since I wanted to document the food I was eating and make it sort of like a journal. That’s why you’ll notice that it has evolved into a blog where I review dishes from restaurants and cafés along with a healthy twist of breakfast hacks and recipes, just to present my opinion on a fun yet balanced lifestyle. Starting Hungry Little Oren has only changed my life for the better.

Do you have any favourite Instagram foodies?

Yes I have so many of them I don’t even know where to begin, haha! Some of my favourites are Ambitious Kitchen, Natasha’s Kitchen, Pinch of Yum, Half Baked Harvest, Sally’s Baking Addiction, The Big Man’s World. Additionally, because I’m a quote unquote “gym rat” and I like to experiment with protein rich recipes, I look up to a lot of science based fitness athletes/influencers with my favourite being Natasha Oceane, Will Tennyson, Greg Doucette and Stephanie Buttermore.

Why Instagram?

I found and still find Instagram to be a better platform compared to Facebook. It also worked for me since I wasn’t really into writing long entries or reviews like I do now and I only wanted to get the photos across. Instagram was also booming then and people were starting to move away from Facebook so I didn’t really have much of an option. Now, Instagram serves me a greater purpose because I’m able to not only share my original photos but also publish content that has a lot of text while also maintaining quality.

What do you love about having a food blog?

I really love that I have creative freedom and I’m in control of the content I put out without having to worry about time limits and brands/sponsorships stressing me out about certain posts and stuff. I’m just a small food page but it’s always the most satisfying and gives me that sense of accomplishment when I’m the one creating everything from start to finish. I also love that I get to build a relationship with restaurants, brands and foodies and influencers from around the world. This food account introduced me to the beautiful blogging community here on Instagram and I’ve been really fortunate to make some real connections. There’s a lot of perks like getting invited to restaurants and cafés for tasting events or for promotion and being able to monetize on certain sponsored posts.

What do you dislike?

As far as disadvantages go, there are many. For me, because I’m just an amateur at photography and editing and still learning about food, I question the quality of my pictures and posts a lot. I’m also a student so I don’t have the luxury of backdrops or lighting to help enhance my photography. With stress from school and work, I always have to be smart in dividing time for shooting, editing and writing. Yes, this page is a lot of fun but there’s a huge amount of frustration that comes with it.

Image credit: @hungrylittleoren
Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

Content Creation

What is your content creation process?

I don’t really have a specific research process to be honest. 

For my own creations, most of the stuff I put out are simple and easy to follow recipes that I have tried or have been making for some time. Since I also work out a lot, I try to create healthy and high protein options that are highly satiating and delicious while providing a good amount of healthy calories. As such, I spend a significant amount of time putting recipes into a calculator to obtain nutrition facts. I find my recipe inspirations from food bloggers and I try to adapt from them – going through multiple trials, using different or substituting ingredients and methods and always making sure to credit them. Of course, it goes without saying that consistency and texture changes in doing so but that is expected since I’m altering recipes to make them healthier while also making sure they taste good. All these take a while so I dedicate certain time slots during certain days when I’m not busy with work or school, mostly around 10 am to noon/2 pm or 3 pm depending on the lighting outside since winter lighting is really harsh and it’s hard to predict how much natural light I’ll be able to work with. And during summers, its usually mostly morning to noon because it gets too bright after.

I don’t plan my days and I’m usually spontaneous with my routine. I’ve found that to always work for me. 

Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

As for dish reviews, the most research I put in is in trying to find the actual dishes from restaurant menus and double checking descriptions. I like to create a list of restaurants and cafés and get recommendations from foodie friends who live in those cities or around when I’m travelling or even within my own city of Ottawa. I’ve regretted not having my camera with me several times so now I make it a point to carry it everywhere. So I literally just take photos of whatever I decide to eat or order off the menu. I like to write down key points of what I think the food tasted like and make sure that I’m not the only one who thinks so. I know this might sound so weird but I do this thing where I try to smell the food through my tongue. I think it’s a case of  functional olfactory receptors or something? Pardon me if I’m wrong, I haven’t double checked it. But yes, I do this thing where I taste it a couple of times and then just write a few key points and words that I want to include in my caption. But all to say that, I’m no chef or connoisseur and it’s really just my opinion and my taste buds telling me.

That’s why I always visit these places with a friend or a group of friends. At this point, all my friends are aware and expect that I take photos of food so I could say its become quite normalized. I don’t even have to tell them and they wait for me to take photos and at most times, one person or the other will offer to be my hand model.  I try my best to take as many photos as I can because it’s much safer to have a full camera memory than going home and realizing the shots did not turn out well and regretting everything. By the time I get to actually eat my food, it’s cold and solidified hahaha so I also try to be mindful of the people with me.  However, a couple of my friends are also huge foodies and they love taking on the role of being my hand model so if I’m out with them, they are always just open to doing different posts and waiting for me till I get satisfactory shots. Bless their hearts. 

A slice of cake with flowers atop the icing.
Image credit: @hungrylittleoren

I’m not gonna lie, shooting photos in restaurants is quite tough especially because of limited space, bad lighting, multiple light sources, bright spotlights or even all of them. And there’s stress from people watching me take photos in the most uncanny positions. If the conditions are so difficult, I just put your camera away and enjoy the food. On the other hand, when it comes to recipe stuff, I do everything myself and that’s a huge stressor. Sometimes, I’ll have one hand pouring a syrup or something and the other hand trying to focus on the dish and simultaneously taking photos.

When it comes to writing captions, sometimes I research for catchy phrases to start off the post with. Once I have an inspiration, everything just flows naturally since I’m describing the dish or the pictures. But I do try to make it quirky, funny and easy to read without sounding really sophisticated and also try to use minimal emojis. I know some people love reading posts that are filled with emojis but I find that unappealing to the eye and makes it even more hard to read. 

I couldn’t really imagine following current trends and posting what everyone else seems to be posting. Yes, I see them everywhere on my feed and make them on my own but I haven’t really been one to follow popular trends. That’s just not me. Say for example, the really tiny cereal pancakes. When the trend started and friends in the food community were jumping on the trend, I only tried making it myself just to see what the craze was about but did not really jump on it myself. However, I guess you could say that my smoothie bowls are some sort of a trend itself?

Community

Q: How did you build your following?

I can’t really remember how or where it all took off. Even when I first started my account, I think it was the summer of 2019. I vaguely remember it. I still somehow had followers from out of Ottawa. Kinda funny but I think I started building my account first through the hashtag “food bloggers” and “Ottawa Bloggers.” The algorithm fed my more accounts from Toronto than Ottawa and which is why, ironically, I don’t have much of a following from bloggers here in Ottawa and instead majority of them are from the US, Australia and UK, Asia – specifically Hong Kong and Singapore – and also a huge part of the west coast of Canada.

Q: What do the numbers mean to you?

Since we’re on Instagram, I’ll also relate it to the numbers. Accounts with high follower counts are given preferential consideration a lot of times in the form of sponsorships and collaborations by brands and restaurants. It’s a common misconception that the higher number of followers equates how much of an influence a page has. But that doesn’t turn out to be the full story in all cases. People really have to stop looking at follower counts as an indication of influence, because followers can be absolutely everything or absolutely nothing.

Q: How do you engage with your community?

It’s hard to get people engaged if you don’t actually know who you’re talking to. Online, you need that give and take, you know? So I make it a point to understand my audience and I really try my best to engage with everyone who comments and replies to any post or story on my page. Additionally, I organize giveaways with local businesses just to spread some cheer and to boost awareness and conversation in the form of tags, mentions, and shares. 

We’re all looking for slices of happiness, and the online community definitely gives me just that by being an incredibly supportive constant.

Q: What does the community mean to you?

This may sound corny but my page wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of my food blogger community. They have helped me push through challenges with love, motivation and encouragement and have really helped me steer clear of negativity and criticism. A foodie community can be online, like mine, or it can be a group of local foodies who meet in person to support each other. It’s just that being in this community takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline. It’s so easy to just not study and get distracted by “busy” work that’s not the real nitty-gritty work that actually needs to be done, like school. 


Advice for Bloggers

Honestly, I’m such a small food blog and so I may not be the best person to seek advice from. There’s really no magic secrets or shortcuts to share, but the truth is that food blogging or any type of blogging be it travel, fitness, health, etcetera, is hard work. But these are all my suggestions and I hope someone would find it useful.

Q: Networking?

I happen to be a really extroverted person who likes having people to connect with, and talk to in order to make a decision or to gain feedback. So I don’t find it difficult connecting with other food bloggers and influencers but one of my biggest tips would be to make friends and connect! Connecting and cultivating friendships with other bloggers who share your interests is really invigorating. Small acts like leaving thoughtful comments, chatting with them on social media and promoting their content goes a long way in building those friendships.

Q: Attitude?

Be real, present and participate in conversations with your followers or your fellow foodie friends.To grow, it’s so important to show appreciation to our followers and/or readers.

Q: Content?

We all eat with our eyes and I can say with 100 per cent honesty that my account did not start to grow until I started using the camera my dad gifted me, actually learned how to use it and edit the after photos. Photography is what draws in the crowd.

Q: Work Process?

Something I’m absolutely horrible at, but have been forced to improve upon – but still bad at – is time management. I guess I have school as an excuse but that being said, it’s always advantageous to stay on top of schedule and spend more time on what is most important.

CategoriesFood
Leonardo Carretas

Leonardo Carretas is the editor-in-chief of EMERGE 2022 Web Magazine.

Ever since he was a child, Leonardo Carretas had set his sights on a singular dream: to become a musician. Journalism was the back-up plan, but that's all right too.