Plant-Based Instagram Superstar Christine Wong Shares Her Secrets: Food Styling, Photography & Managing IG Accounts
How did your Instagram journey begin?
I started my Instagram while I was in nutrition school to record my food journey, and to inspire others to cook. I also started because my then tween daughter wanted to start an account too.
What was the turning point for becoming such a popular account? Was there any one event you can point to?
People are always drawn to colorful images as well as ways to make comfort foods healthier, so feature accounts started taking notice. Whilst writing my 10-day reboot program, I definitely became more focused on highlighting plant-powered eating on my Instagram page. The turning point was on April 11, 2016, when I stepped out of my comfort zone and made a Ratatouille’s Ratatouille (one of my favorite dishes) for a @thefeedfeed snapchat takeover. This image went viral and it never ceases to amaze me how popular it is whenever I post it.
How did you come to found Yommme®?
Initially, the name of my blog was “C is for Cooking” to promote the ease of cooking foods from scratch. From there I realized that being conscious about food choices is all a part of being a good homecook, hence my Instagram handle @conscious_cooking. Yommme® is a word I created to encompass the practice of eating mindfully and deliciously. Similar to yoga (or anything else for that matter), the more one does it, the stronger one becomes.
What was your background before what you are doing now?
I’m a Graphic Designer/Creative Director who graduated from Parson’s School of Design. I founded my own design studio in Hong Kong-Ant Co, and then formed little red hen with Asia City Publishing. We created logos and marketing materials for financial institutions, retail clients, and many, many HK F&B establishments. I still freelance as a designer, and have integrated my design with food by creating content for myself, as well as for professionals and products who hire me.
Did you plan to become an Instagram personality?
Believe it or not, I’m a super shy person. I am humbled that so many people have chosen to follow my journey. Not everyone is on Instagram, so on the street (IRL), it doesn’t really make a difference what my numbers are. However, when people do recognize me and speak to me about my page, I am truly so grateful.
How important of a tool is Instagram for the healthy food movement?
For me, Instagram is continuously a source of inspiration. Whether it’s a recipe, or a beautifully captured image of fresh produce, I love this global community. For the most part, the people I follow are healthy inspirations. I don’t follow accounts that feature junky foodporn, though I understand why these accounts are popular too. Instagram is a great tool for creating community. If you are healthy, or want to be, surround yourself with this inspiration.
You have so many followers and your posts are shared far and wide. Do you have any advice for our readers? What is really important?
What’s most important is to be true to yourself. It’s great to be inspired, and this can be done without being a copycat. Secondly, it’s important to always take note that numbers don’t matter. If you love a post you’ve shared, and it has meaning to you, then that’s all that counts. And finally, never ever suggest for someone to follow you. If you want someone’s recognition, genuinely comment on their posts often.
Do filters matter? How important are hashtags?
Filters are good to help fix the coloring or lighting of a photo. They can be adjusted from 1% – 100%; I find the full filter is usually not very natural. Some accounts are very distinct because they use the same filter, which gives them the advantage of being easily recognized. Hashtags are a great way to reach an audience outside of the people who follow you. Thirty tags is the maximum amount or tags and it’s usually best to use them all.
Your photos are stunning! Do you use special equipment such as camera or a lightbox? How much editing do you do?
Aww, thank you! For the most part I use my Samsung phone to take photos, and just on my windowsill. In the winter, I may use a portable lightbox because the days are so short, but I definitely prefer natural daylight. Sometimes I use a metallic tray to reflect light if an area is too dark. A good natural backdrop to shoot on is always helpful. And a tripod is handy for shooting videos.
I always edit my photos slightly just within the Instagram app by sharpening the photos, adding more contrast, and increasing the brightness. For client work, I might do minor touch ups on Photoshop.
Can you share some food styling tips?
Colour is important, always try to use a variety…note that brown foods are really difficult to make look appetizing. Food styling is something that is unique to each person. It’s important to find what works for you, by looking at images that you appreciate, and then playing around to discover your own style. For me, I can’t do super messy, and when I’ve really tried to make it look perfect, it looks too contrived (but orderly images look great on other accounts that I follow.) Somewhere in between works for me, and I like to keep it simple. Food can also look great with beautiful tableware. I am lucky to have my own personal, and very special collection of ceramics that my daughter @skyceramics makes. Oftentimes, people also style with linens, flowers and ingredients to create their signature look. Most importantly though, everything you make should be something you actually eat.
How long does it take to create the recipes, take the photos and manage your Instagram account? Is it a full time job?
We’re full-time eaters, so there’s always food to photograph, haha. When I create recipes or food images for clients, it takes a few hours, but I try to group projects together so that I am cooking and shooting for clients for 1 or 2 days a week. Managing the IG account does take time because it’s nice to interact with your community, both your followers and the people you follow. You can really lose track of time doing this, so it’s best to try to limit this.
How do you stay healthy on a daily basis?
I drink water, exercise and try to ensure that each meal is nutritionally balanced with proteins and an array of vegetables. I always try to ensure incorporating leafy greens for every meal.
Your Instagram account features plant-based recipes. Are you a vegan? How did you first become plant-based?
Getting older, I had been gradually eating less meat anyway, and then with my nutrition school course I watched a short PETA video that pretty much turned me off altogether. Plus, knowing the negative impact on the environment because of meat production is even more of a reason to hold off on consumption of animals and animal products. I’ve been plant-strong for three years now and feeling vibrant and full of energy. I don’t say I’m vegan, even though I eat this way 99% of the time. This means that if I am out at a restaurant, or a guest in someone’s home, I won’t have people go out of their way to make something just for me. Anyway, I can usually find something to eat no matter where I am. It’s important to have a good relationship with food, without the guilt that sometimes is attached to it, for myself and for others.
Meet Christine and learn from her at our special Instagram Workshop on Tuesday August 8th 2017: How To Grow Your Instagram: Boosting Audience & Engagement + Food Styling. Update: The Event Is Now SOLD OUT
Christine Wong photo courtesy of Abbey Corbett. All other food photos courtesy of Christine Wong.