How does Food Styling for Photos work, 35 Tips & Tricks
Silvain • updated November 9, 2022 • 10 min read
Silvain • updated November 9, 2022 • 10 min read
Food styling is the art of arranging food so it looks good on camera and looks fresh during the photoshoot. It involves making food look perfect so it can be photographed for things like social media, advertisement, etc.
Good food photography depends on a lot of things, like your photography skills, how well you use light, how much you know about cooking, etc. But one of the most essential skills is one that people don’t always think about: how to style food.
When you’re going to take a picture of a dish instead of just eating it, the way the ingredients look is a lot more significant. Not everything has to be picture-perfect, but if you’re going to show off raw ingredients, look for ones that are clean and have good shapes.
Want to take your food styling to the next level? Below is a list of things that can help.
Top food photographers prefer to use full-frame DSLR cameras with one of the following lenses:
Every photographer has his or her own favorites, but the mentioned lenses give you nice, sharp pictures and gorgeous bokeh around your food. Also, look for macro features because you will likely be getting close to your topic. Read more about lenses for food photography.
A food stylist’s job is not to just make food look tasty; it’s also to make it come to life.
In other words, try to make sure your props, colors, and setting match the mood you want to create with the dish.
When planning your food, try to imagine how it will turn out. If you are making a cheesecake, try to imagine how you want it to look and how you will serve it.
Whether you want to take a picture of it in a cheesecake (in which case you’ll need to find an interesting cheesecake recipe and make sure the topping is perfect) or serve it on a white porcelain plate.
Keep your prop usage to a minimal level. Try not to use more than 3–4 props besides your hero plate. Make sure that the props you use fit the situation and tell a story about the dish that is being served.
For example, a vintage cheese grater, a block of cheese, and a napkin can be placed next to a dish of pasta.
A peach ice cream can have either a few peach slices or a whole fresh peach next to it, along with a picturesque knife and an ice cream scoop. With a metal turner as a prop, a stir-fry noodle dish can be captured on camera in the wok itself.
Choose white, black, grey, darkish blue, or beige plates, bowls, or pots to photograph your food in. The color theory for food photography is a good staring point.
Imagine that your shooting area is made up of a 3×3 grid with two horizontal and two vertical lines. Place your subject at one of the four intersections or in the top or bottom thirds of the screen.
Make sure that square and rectangular objects, like containers and platters, are set up diagonally when you want to take a picture of them. Read more about the composition rules.
When you’re taking a picture of an antipasti dish or canapes with a lot of different parts, it’s a good idea to structure your dish by putting all the parts on a tray, big plate, serving board, or even a piece of baking paper or newspaper that has been cut in half. This helps calm down how busy the picture is.
Always use natural light from the outside. Find your main source of light and make sure it’s a window with soft light coming in. Don’t shoot when the sun is too bright. The optimal time to shoot is first thing in the morning or a few hours before sunset.
Style can do amazing things until it doesn’t. We recommend not using too many props or thinking too much about your scene. Even if you can put another napkin, fork, or decoration in the frame, that doesn’t mean you need to.
When space gets so full of things that the eye doesn’t know where to look, it’s time to take a step back and make it less cluttered. Also, there’s really nothing wrong with trying out new things.
Food photography is more than just taking pictures of food. Professional stylists are an important part of making photos look as appetizing as possible.
Try to put your table near the window or use natural light that comes in from other places to light your food. The ideal time of day will depend on where your home is, but try to shoot with natural light that is soft and even around noon.
Think about the composition of your food photos in the same way you would think about the mat around a picture. The white space around your dish makes it stand out, kind of like a frame.
When it comes to style, try to keep your shot as simple as possible and leave a lot of space around the plate.
When a dish is very simple, like a beige bowl of oatmeal or a creamy white bowl of yogurt, use garnishes to make it look nice. To make things more interesting, use cut fruit, herbs, flowers, nuts, seeds, and other things with different textures. Look at the list of ingredients in the recipe for ideas.
Assure that your dish is the star on the table, in terms of size and scale compared to the other items in the scene. This makes the main dish stand out right away to be a #foodporn winner on Instagram.
If you put white rice in a colorful bowl or styled ice cream on a black countertop, both will instantly look better. Pick serving dishes that are a different color than what you’re putting on them. You can do the same thing with tablecloths and counters.
When you cut bread and crumbs fall onto the plate, don’t pick them up. It’s always a good idea to sprinkle a little bit of each ingredient around the edges of your frame.
For example, if you make chocolate chip cookies, leave clusters of chocolate chips around the edges of your photo. This makes it easy for the eye to move around the picture without taking away from the main meal.
Put your silverware down as if you were already going to eat. To add contrast, bunch up a linen napkin around the plate in a gentle way.
If your image doesn’t work and you don’t know why, remove the props one by one and try again before adding more. When we use too many things at once, they often end up fighting with each other and making a mess.
Take away the things that don’t belong and work on the composition before you add more things. If you have no props jet, check out important props for beginners.
You won’t use the same angle to take a picture of a pizza and a burger. A top-down shot of a burger isn’t very interesting, and a straight-on shot of a pizza won’t work unless it has a lot of toppings.
When you plan your shot, think about what angle will show off your food the best. The overhead shot(flat lay) is a very popular one.
Don’t try to find an avocado that is just right for your shoot. Choose one that is just a little bit under-ripe so that it keeps its shape, is easier to work with, and doesn’t turn into guacamole right away.
A little under-cooked food will look better because it will keep more moisture and won’t look dry or mushy. Make sure to take it out of the heat a few minutes before it is due. You can always cook it more when it’s time to eat.
Light has a color temperature, and depending on the time of day, it can look bluer or more yellow. When you photograph and edit, keep this in mind. In general, a blue temperature makes you feel clean and fresh, while a yellow temperature makes you feel cozy and comfortable.
If you like to use lemons in your photo, keep in mind to cut several lemons into slices, one into wedges, and one into halves. Then, to make your shot more interesting, use the variations of those shapes.
Avoid busy patterns when choosing your backdrops and props. They will take attention away from the real story, which is the food.
This is a big part of how people see you. You can make an interesting picture by combining different textures, like the smoothness of a napkin with the fluffiness of a pancake. You can add more texture to your set by scattering blossom petals on it.
When you’re styling a scene, make sure that all the different parts are at different distances from the camera. If you put them all in one line, the frame will look very flat.
But when your elements are in different places in the frame, you give it a lot of depth and make it very interesting. Lenses control the background blur, see our article best lenses for food photography.
You can give the food you’re photographing charcoal or even grill marks. With a crème brûlée torch, you can burn your food to make it crisp or cook it a little more. You can also add grill marks to food with an electric charcoal starter.
Keep in mind that not all food photos have to be perfect. Add some mess or crumbs on purpose, like the sprinkles on a birthday cupcake. Sprinkles add atmosphere and make the whole scene look more festive.
Setting the mood for your dish ahead of time is important so you can get all your props ready. Most recipes will tell you how to set the mood.
For example, a winter dish like a soup works best with relatively warm props, lighting, and styling. In the same way, a salad or smoothie goes well with a lighter, brighter setting.
Try to set up a few pictures while the food is cooking. For example, you can make a composition out of raw materials. You could also make a piece that shows how the food cools down after it comes out of the oven.
And feel free to think outside the box. You don’t have to style the food on a regular table. Instead, you can work with the food on the stove-top or even in the oven.
Just remember to use the techniques I’ve talked about in this article, and you’ll get great results no matter where you work.
Reading cookbooks and food magazines is a great way to get ideas for styling. Just flip through and make notes about what looks good and what doesn’t. Don’t copy them exactly, but make a list of ideas you might want to try in the future.
Most coffee smells good, looks good, and tastes good. The problem is that when it’s photographed, it often looks greasy, which isn’t very appealing. Soy sauce, brown sauce, and a little gelatin can be used to perk it up. Most likely, the amount of caffeine will be close to zero.
Whether you’re roasting a turkey or a chicken, everyone wants the skin to be golden. In reality, to get the perfect picture, the meat is rarely cooked all the way through. Instead, the skin is lightly steamed instead of roasted, and a little paint or varnish is put on it to make it shine. Teak furniture varnish is just perfect.
Taking a picture of food that is good enough for a billboard can take a day or more. It takes time, and food gets cold fast. Soups and pies, which are hot, are often photographed cold, and the swirls of steam are added later.
Need a soft drink with just a good amount of condensation dripping off of it? Or a cold beer that can’t be missed? Just spray some deodorant on the glass and put small dots of glycerin on it to make it look like those refreshing beads. If you want to add fizz, sprinkle some antacid powder in.
In the world of food styling, you can’t beat the heat, whether it’s ice cream or glasses with frost on them. Take out the real ice cubes for fake ones made of clear plastic. Now you have plenty of time for the shoot.
Margaritas are a great way to start a party, but they are harder to photograph. To keep its shape during the shoot, the usual lime and salt rim is often replaced with a thin layer of vaseline and salt.
When a food stylist wants the taco to remain open to show off its delicious contents, the food doesn’t always want to play ball. But if you put little sponges on the inside and spoon the filling on top, the taco will stand up nicely.
Taking a shot of cereal for breakfast? Milk quickly makes the cereal look soggy on camera. How to fix it? If you mix white PVC glue with water to make it look like milk, that cereal will still look perfectly puffed.
More than just the meat needs to be thought about when shooting burgers. A photographer can get nice layers by placing cardboard and toothpicks like hidden scaffolding.
One of the most well-known tricks used to make food look like it’s hot. A wet ball of cotton wool is put in the microwave and then put into the food. It has been said that wet tampons keep the steam for longer. All of a sudden, steam is rising from the dish.
When the chocolate cools down or is taken out of the fridge, it usually loses its shine and shine. With a quick sweep of a cook’s blow torch, you can get that sheen look back. Chefs also use this method. Interested in taking photos of cake? Check how to photograph cake!
When using a smartphone to take a picture, take the shot with both hands. Do not use the flash. Make sure you’re wearing neutral colors like white or black so that your shadow doesn’t show up on the food or plates.
Top-down shots work best for bowls and platters that hold soups, smoothies, and roasts. Pizza, cakes, drinks, and desserts in glasses work best at an angle.
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