food photography

10 Tips to Improve Your Food Photography Styling  

10 Tips to Improve Your Food Photography Styling  Improve your food photography today!When you delve into the world of food photography, you quickly learn that it is far more than grabbing some food and snapping away. The best food images often take hours of hard work by a whole team of people to capture.   

In this post I will take you through my top 10 tips to improve your food photography styling, giving you all the tricks that food stylists employ to make dishes look delicious. You can try all of the tips or try out just a few it’s up to you  

1. Sell the Story   

Like any photography, food images are little stories. Snapshots into another world. And as a food photographer, you need to be able to sell the story. Using props around your dish that tie into the food helps your viewer imagine themselves sitting down to tuck into the dish.   

Photographing a dish on its own has its merits, it keeps things simple. But, photographing a dish with the ingredients around it, or the utensils used to cook it, or even the wine you would drink with it, helps to tell the story.   

2. Use Contrasting Backgrounds  

Make your food stand out with a contrasting background. There are times when using all one colour can add interest to an image. But when you’re just starting out, helping your food to “pop” with a contrasting background really helps.   

If you’re photographing a very pale, light dish, make it stand out with a dark background and bright garnishes. On the other hand, if your dish is very vibrant, use white crockery and backgrounds to help the colours jump out.   


3. Use Stand-Ins   

When you’re setting up your shot, don’t let your food spoil or go limp sitting around for hours while you get everything perfect. Us an object roughly the same size and colour as your food to stand in for it while you get everything set up.   

When everything is ready, you can swap the stand-in for the real thing and your dish is fresh and beautiful.   

4. Add Bulk   

When working with liquid food like soups, cereals or saucy pasta, often the chunks fall to the bottom of the bowl, leaving you wrestling trying to get them to stay on the surface long enough to snap the photo. This is where a ramekin or smaller bowl comes into play. Adding another smaller bowl, turned upside down into your soup bowl will add volume, making the bowl appear fuller, and allow any garnished to sit on top appearing as if they are floating on the surface of the soup.  

This is a really old and well-used trick in food styling as solid food sinks when suspended in liquid. This is also a great way to make the bowl appear fuller when photographing things like pasta. The weight of the food has a tendency to make it squash down and the bowl does not look as full. Simply piling the food on top of the upside-down ramekin prevents it from sinking down to the bottom.   


5. Get Messy   

Letting a little food spill over the bowl, or a few crumbs scattered on your surface adds life and a sense of reality to images. Especially if you’re trying to sell a recipe. A little mess in your images can go a long way to convincing your viewer that they can make the recipe. The food is more realistic and attainable to the viewer if it’s not perfect.   

Try letting a little sauce drip down the bowl, or scattering a few crumbs around the scene and have a look at the effect it creates.  


6. Add Texture  

Using napkins and cloth to add texture to your scenes adds another level of depth to your images. They’re great for breaking up the horizon (the line between your surface and hour background) and they help you tell the story. They can also add a much-needed pop of colour if your image needs a little something.   

The great thing about napkins and cloth is that they are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of space. Most food photographers have an army of different napkins at their disposal.   

7. Use Simple Bakeware and Crockery   

Whilst brightly coloured and patterned crockery can be beautiful to look at, highly patterned china can be very distracting for your viewer. They distract from the visual impact of the food and that’s definitely not what you want.   

When choosing bakeware and crockery for your images, plain is usually best. I like to stick with neutral colours and add my colours into the image with other props and garnishes. You can’t go wrong with a plain white dish.   

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8. Create a Sensual Experience   

As photographers, it’s important to remember the senses. Food is a sensual experience, we smell the beautiful aromas, we view the plate and see the colours, shapes, and textures. We even hear the food when it sizzles in the pan. When we taste it, we feel the texture with our mouths and we feel the temperature, is it hot or cold? As photographers, it’s our job to capture that experience in a single image, we have to encapsulate that entire sensual experience using only sight.  

When you’re setting up your images, try to keep all 5 senses in mind, how can you show your audience that the chicken is juicy and the texture of the crispy skin? Can you think of a way to highlight the crunch of that granola?   

9. Use Less Food  

It may seem generous to serve plates piled high with food, and we would certainly prefer this at a restaurant. Have a think about the last time you saw a beautiful dish, was it piled high? Or was there less food on the plate allowing for the food to be arranged artfully?   

Minimalist plates tend to look more appealing than overcrowded ones. Use the space around the food and the plate to your advantage, add cutlery, sauce or a garnish to add some interest.   

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10. Never Give Up   

Always my most important tip, never give up! If your image doesn’t look the way you wanted it to, start over, that’s the beauty of digital photography, you can always take another snap.   


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Now it’s time for you to let me know your favourite food styling tips! Let me know in the comments your favourite tips and tricks for styling food.   

For more inspiration don’t forget to check out my Blog or Pinterest!