Nailing the ‘gram

Photo by Erin Alderson
naturally ella

Erin Alderson, the creative mind behind the vegetarian cooking website Naturally Ella, is also an accomplished photographer whose photography studio, Grove Haus, celebrates the unforced beauty of fresh ingredients. Her images, like her recipes, stand out for their authenticity—a rare quality that contrasts starkly with the overly stylized food porn that tends to dominate social media. “My style is attainable, approachable, a little messy, with a kind of homey feeling,” says Alderson. “At the end of the day, I want someone to look at what I’ve been cooking and think ‘that’s pretty close’ when they make it for themselves.” We connected with Alderson recently to uncover how she achieves drool-worthy Instagram shots that look utterly natural and effortless.

The right props

“I do think serving something on a beautiful dish heightens the look of the meal,” says Alderson, an avid ceramics collector. “I seek out beautiful plates and bowls and collect them as I can. I like that it allows me to support other crafts that run parallel to what I’m doing.”

Pro tip: She scours local thrift shops and garage sales for budget-friendly ceramics and rarely spends more than a few dollars for a single piece.

The right light

“A lot of what goes into a good shot is the lighting,” says Alderson. “If I’m not shooting in the studio, I find myself walking around my house to find the best light. It takes a little bit of extra effort to find where the best light is, but it’s worth it. As a photographer, lighting control is three-fourths of what you do.”

The right attitude

“Don’t overthink it,” she advises. “Try and make good food and worry less about how it’s going to look on Instagram. The point is to try and have fun cooking and really enjoy the meal.”