Surviving the Instagram battlefield

What does it take to make it big on the ever-popular photo sharing site?

Updated - May 07, 2016 06:12 pm IST

Published - May 05, 2016 05:07 pm IST

Cocktail party chatter has hit a new low. Apparently, these days, you are your Klout Score. I quietly Google mine under a plate of suitably stylish sushi. It appears I’m doing everything wrong. Nobody is really expected to eat at these parties anymore. There’s a reason the food is so assiduously primped and prettied before being cunningly positioned against aggressively chic trays: Instagram. And woe betide the person who dares to eat a potato chip before the pictures are taken.

Of course, as always, I’m that person. But before you judge me, walk a mile in my stilettos. (On an unrelated note, I’ll buy you dinner if you can walk a mile in those torturous contraptions.) Obliging waiters line up the food on a table in front of me, and there are truffle salt-dusted French fries within pinching distance. As I dive in, a group of fastidiously lipsticked divas wail in unison. I look up startled, only to see them brandish their iPhones at me angrily. I’ve ruined the picture, and thereby the party. Fortunately, the light is apparently perfect for duck-faced selfies, so I manage to slink away when they get distracted by a group pout.

Lemon cake with cream cheese frosting and strawberries by Shivesh Bhatia

It’s also an even playing field. Shivesh Bhatia is still in college and his account (@Shivesh17) currently has 72.6 thousand followers. After two years on Instagram, he’s become a sought-after ‘influencer’, and has worked with a slew of big companies from KitchenAid to Tupperware. “I just wanted an editing application, and was posting pictures of my plants,” he chuckles, over the phone from Delhi. Since he baked as a hobby, he also posted pictures of his desserts. “When I saw the response, I concentrated on those.” Instagram then featured him on their official account.

Paneer tikka kebab by Uma Raghuraman

Posting every day does throw up some unexpected complications. “I have so much cake at home!” he chuckles. On the plus side, it’s made him very popular at college. His most popular picture? “Hmmm, I think it’s the time Martha Stewart featured me on Instagram,” he says nonchalantly. “I got more than 6,000 likes.”

You don’t have to be a wunderkind to stand out. Homemaker and mother of two, Uma Raghuraman, is a good example. Her account @Masterchef Mom has 10.4 thousand followers after just one-and-a-half years of posting the food she cooks for her family. “My son is in college, and my daughter is in Class IX. We all love food, and I blog, mostly to record my recipes. They suggested I start using Instagram,” she says. She adds that she doesn’t worry about food styling or photography. “I have my phone in my hand when I cook, so I just take shots. I cook South Indian food at home, and I don’t make anything special for Instagram.” Attempting to explain her loyal following, she says, “I connect with youngsters who want simple recipes. It’s for them that I post regularly. They communicate a lot — my inbox is always full!”

Persian love cake by Ankiet Gulabani

This is why he posts. “I want to have intelligent conversations on food. I want to change attitudes towards cooking. I will handhold you through every recipe.” To make those recipes interesting, he’s always on the lookout for unusual twists and ingredients. “I’m trying a hummus made of jackfruit seeds now. You boil, skewer, roast and then blitz it. It has a hazelnut texture, but very unique flavour.” His tricks for memorable pictures? “Natural light. And constantly challenge yourself.”

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