Circle City Food 'Grammers
On the culinary scene, creative individuals from cities all over the world can become famous on Instagram for the gorgeous and even edgy photos they post. Indianapolis is increasingly gaining recognition as a foodie destination—it is rated number 22 on Zagat’s list of 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America 2017. And as our local food community flourishes, evidence of its expanding presence can be found on Instagram.
Followed not just by Hoosiers, but across the country and internationally as well, there is a virtual community of talented Indy-based photographers and bloggers. They are infused with a spirit of camaraderie and follow, mention and share each other’s work. And they are creating a culture of food photography worth noting.
Four Degrees of Separation
Dave Pluimer, an insurance company analytics manager and Edible Indy contributing photographer, is the purveyor of @the.dirty.dishes and @daveplumier. Based in Indianapolis, he relays that his first food photographer find through Instagram was @heatherschrock, the feed of photographer Heather Schrock. “She has a style that’s consistent and that’s what hooked me,” he says.
Then Pluimer met Ben Pyatt, the cofounder of @circlecitysupperclub, and Lauren McDuffie, the blogger behind @harvest_and_honey and a contributor to @circlecitysupperclub, at a sponsored event for Instagram influencers. “I was introduced to Lauren’s work through @circlecitysupperclub. And, like Heather’s, her style, use of light and mood are the draw,” says Plumier.
Schrock, who is a contributing photographer to Edible Indy Magazine, concurs: “I was aware of Dave at least two years ago. His work is so gentle and warm and engaging.”
“I met Lauren,” she adds, “when we were on a photographers’ panel speaking about the art of shooting food. I had been aware of her work prior to that, mostly because of her unique style and amazing [Instagram] feed.”
Virtual Word of Mouth
When Pyatt travels out of town, he turns to Instagram to decide where to grab dinner. Perusing photos of eateries, identifiable as local by their hashtags, he can figure out if the food looks delicious and the atmosphere is worth experiencing. A captain with the Brownsburg police department by day, Pyatt modeled @circlecitysupperclub after similar Instagram feeds in places such as New York City.
Posts from influential Instagrammers get the word out and promote restaurants as desirable places to visit. The feed @circlecitysupperclub is actually a conglomeration of several Central Indiana individuals who have at least one other Instagram handle of their own. Managed by Pyatt, the ’grammers meet up once a month at a restaurant, where their group indulges in a meal—from appetizers and drinks to dessert.
“People at other tables just stare at us,” laughs McDuffie, whose own feed @harvest_and_honey has over 18,500 followers. “We are all on our iPhones, brandishing cameras, and sometimes we even bring in additional light sources.”
“We don’t make any money off of this,” says Pyatt. “We just have fun by getting together and sharing where we were and what we ate.”
What does a restaurant get out of hosting a flock of Instagram influencers? They receive a blast of free advertising (minus the cost of the comped meal) from the mouthwatering images and Instagram stories that appear on not only on @circlecitysuperclub but on each individual ’grammer’s feed.
McDuffie, whose cookbook, Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest, is due to be released April 2019 by Chronicle Books (see article and cover story in our Winter 2017 issue), concedes that styling is her favorite aspect of shooting food photography. Her images evoke a rural, Midwest country look. “I’m influenced by vintage objects and even Flemish paintings,” she says. “But for a while I made a point of not looking at other people’s work, in order to develop my own style.”
Schrock advises not to be afraid of simple. “Don’t overthink it. Often, I shoot something, and then subtract props to see how the subject holds up. The final shot reveals itself only after I’ve seen all the variations.”
Summing it up, Pyatt confesses that the posts that get the most attention on his feed, @brownsburgben, are “food that just looks delicious.”
’ G r a m m e r School Tips for Taking Fabulous Food Photos
Ben Pyatt and Dave Plumier feel that lighting is everything. When a photo is too dark, it is never Instagram worthy. Try to sit close to windows to catch indirect light coming from the side or behind the food.
Lauren McDuffie and Dave Plumier recommend downloading the VSCO app for iPhones to give photos a consistent look and feel. Play around with it to learn its capabilities and figure out some presets.
Heather Schrock and Lauren McDuffie advocate taking time to style the food, but not to go overboard on the staging. It needs to look real, as if the viewer were actually looking at it right on a table.
Dave Pluimer and Heather Schrock stress the value of having a cohesive feed. Gain inspiration from other photographers who are on Instagram but also note the importance of stepping back and developing a unique style.
Lauren McDuffie and Ben Pyatt know the power reaching out. Edible Indy Magazine “discovered” McDuffie when she tagged @edibleindy and used #edibleindy on Instagram. Pyatt’s restaurant location tags attract followers who are interested in the Indianapolis restaurant scene.