Looking to level up your food photos? Other than understanding camera settings, food styling is one of the most important things you can learn. Here are some styling tips from seasoned food photographers:
Keep the food the focus, and use props and styling to create the surrounding mood.
Keep in mind that the focus should mainly stay on the food. The main purpose of props is to artfully take up space in the composition while at the same time, adding to the feel and ambiance of the photo. So they should be used selectively, when needed to fill up negative space or to create a mood.
Styling questions you might ask yourself to get your creative juices flowing: What colors will best compliment the food and/or go together? What look or feel are you trying to achieve? For example, romantic, fresh out of the oven, comforts of home, holiday traditions, kid favorite, bright and fresh. Is this food generally made during a specific season? If so, what props or colors will best portray that season?
- Jen Bacher on Click It Up A Notch
Use small plates and bowls.
When you style food, it can often drown on a huge big dinner plate. If you, for instance, are styling fish cakes. Putting 3 fish cakes on a dinner plate (like you might when you are serving dinner for your family) would make the fish cakes look teeny tiny and rather insipid. But style them on a smaller plate with a lemon wedge, some fresh herbs and perhaps even a little bowl of dipping sauce ON the plate, will make the plate look full and abundant. The same goes with bowls. Using a huge bowl for ice cream will mean that you will need to empty the entire container of ice cream into the bowl to make it look nice, using a smaller bowl will require 2-3 neat scoops and will look a lot more appetizing (especially when topped with a drizzle of caramel or chocolate and some chopped nuts).
-Alida Ryder on Simply Delicious Food
Get a little messy.
This one requires skill and practice to get right; it’s where food stylists and photographers really sing! The idea is to make your dish look as natural as possible, and that requires a little mess. If you’re serving a salad with a poached egg and a little yolk oozes out, leave it. If you cut a slice of banana bread and some crumbs fall onto the plate or even the tabletop—let them be. If a piece of arugula wanders to the edge of your dinner plate, resist the temptation to move it back. This is where your serving, or photograph, comes to life. A touch of salt or bread crumbs in the corner of an image can also add interest to empty parts of the frame without stealing the show.
-Julia Millay Walsh on My Domaine
Choose a complementary surface.
The surface you shoot on can really make a difference to the mood of your photo, and there are so many different options out there. If you have a nice table, there’s nothing wrong with starting with that and branching out over time. Countertops, floors, and chairs make good surfaces too, depending on the material. I’ve shot on top of old, beat up sheet pans, oversized metal trays, marble pastry slabs, pieces of slate, fabric covering a table, and even my wood floor. By far my favorite option though are wooden backgrounds designed for photography.
-Steph Gaudreau on Stupid Easy Paleo
For more in depth tutorials, consider Trisha Hughes’ Eat Pretty Things guide or Lindsay Ostrom’s Tasty Food Photography guide.
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
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