Ever wonder what it's like to be an Instagram Influencer living in NYC? We sat down with Ana Colliton, the blogger behind @BitesoftheBest, in Zibetto Espresso Bar to watch her in action. Here is what she had to say about Instagram's algorithm, making content, her inspiration, and more. Keep reading to learn about her journey to Instagram success!
CG: What was the inspiration behind Bites of the Best?
AC: I have been obsessed with food since I was a child. We have so many photos of young Ana radiating with excitement while eating a giant slice of chocolate cake or ribs with BBQ sauce smeared all over the face.
At the same time, as I grew older, I got very into photography. At first, it would only consist of spending hours taking random photos of flowers outside my house (so useful, of course), but really got into it once I discovered Instagram. Eventually, I realized that my personal Instagram feed consisted mostly of food photos, so one afternoon in college (while procrastinating doing my homework), I decided to start a food blog. Totally just for fun, out of the blue, and random. I texted one of my friends to ask if they would walk down to the food-paradise of Arthur Avenue with me (which was located right down the street from Fordham where I went to college), I stopped into a few places to try out some food—and the food blog was born!
CG: When did you start your account?
AC: I started it during my freshman year of college at Fordham! Right when I moved to NY—the melting pot of the world's most amazing food!
CG: What was it like when you first started VS now? And, did any of your photo techniques or equipment change over time?
AC: Instagram is very different now than it was when I first started. For instance, at that time, Instagram was growing pretty steadily. Because of that, accounts like mine would grow alongside the growing community of users. Nowadays, the Instagram world is so saturated with fake accounts, bad content, and just so many users that it's almost impossible to grow in the exponential way that accounts like mine were able to. So, I feel fortunate that I started my page when I did, but still always think about how much better my account could be today if I had just started it a year earlier!
My photo techniques have remained pretty constant even though I've transitioned from a Nikon DSLR to a Sony Alpha Mirrorless camera over the years. Investing in some new lenses is always a plus, but my style has remained the same overall. For editing, I've played around with a few apps like VSCO and Lightroom but never really got into them. I am a big fan of Snapseed, though, which is an app I recently discovered.
CG: How do you know when you’ve taken the best picture?
AC: I try to know what my followers like—they go crazy over pasta, scallops, and sandwiches especially, but sometimes the photos that do the best are not the most aesthetically beautiful photos and the ones that a photographer would appreciate. What I've learned is you want to make the food look as appetizing as possible, even if that means zooming in super close, or using the iPhone for certain shots. Lighting is always key, but making the food drool-worthy is the goal.
CG: What is the caption making process like?
AC: It can be stressful at times, but over the years I've learned to have fun with it. The tricky part is thinking of something of value for my followers to read—just saying "yum penne vodka" is fine every once and awhile, but captions like that don't tell the full story of how good an experience may have been, or why a food (or a restaurant) is worth trying. I like to think of something meaningful—even if it's just a short sentence—that lets people know why this one thing is worth their time checking out.
CG: Is there a formula for when you post?
AC: No, sadly. The Instagram algorithm is honestly terrible in that it is now completely unpredictable. You could post at the same times for months and still some of the photos will get a high reach, and some will be barely seen. It's annoying to deal with because I take so much pride in all of my posts—but I always remind myself that good content is good content no matter what the algorithm may decide to show or not show.
CG: How do you know if a place is Instagrammable?
AC: There's Instagrammable in the "blogger" sense, meaning things are bright, usually marble tabling, etc., but for me I tend to just check a restaurant's account before I decide to go somewhere. I'll look at tagged photos that other people will have documented as well as the ones the restaurant has posted. That doesn't mean that any of those photos need to be professional quality or anything, but that's how I generally gauge what type of photos and food I'd get out of a visit. However, it's important to note that many times the best food is found at restaurants that are not in fact very Instagrammable at all.
CG: When you first started out, did you think Bites of the Best would grow so much?
AC: Not at all! I started it out completely for my own enjoyment. All of my friends were doubtful and said "Ha, we'll see how long this lasts!"
And I am now the one laughing, proving just how passionate I am about it. I can't imagine my life without thinking about food constantly and going to events every week...
CG: Which restaurant in NYC do you think is the most Instagrammable?
AC: That's tough. For pizza, I would say the pepperoni slice from Prince St. Pizza is a classic. I prefer places that are less "blogger" Instagrammable (which usually means white tables, small portions, overpriced but colorful food and drink), and more drool-worthy.