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Tips for great food styling (in the kitchen, not the studio)

Tips for great food styling (in the kitchen, not the studio)

Food photography is perhaps the most challenging of all. It’s about striking the right balance between that which is real and the type of imagery we call art. Just like painting a picture, the photo is constructed in layers. It encompasses everything from making and styling the food to the actual act of capturing its entireness with the camera. The only way to take food photography to the next level is to develop a story behind the image. 

Size matters

Smaller is better. An elegantly decorated plate is nicer than a giant dish of grub. The camera isn’t that into big portions and will make such photos look clumsy and disproportionate. Start off simple, you can always add to the plate later.

Composition and spacing

Place your food in the middle of the plate. Make sure to leave a thumb’s length of space between the centre and plate’s rim. Build your food within that imaginary circle. If the meal consists of multiple components (e.g. potatoes, vegies, a steak, etc.), stack them all close together to create one unite. Then comes framing. You can do so by leaving some negative space around the food. As the saying goes, what you leave out is as important as what you include in the shot. 


Weapons of choice 

Bowls, cups, plates, cutting boards… whatever your preferred choice, matt wins over glossy. A matt surface will bring out that sparkle you’re looking for.


Pick your colours

You always have to start with foods’ predominant colour. Does it need a helping hand from a tablecloth or cutlery, or is it vibrant enough to stand alone? If it’s bright coloured, it’s best to place it on a neutral backdrop. This is done for one simple reason: the background will detract from the food, and we need the food to be doing all the talking. So choose neutral backgrounds like those below.

Create the atmosphere with backdrops

Play around with different background surfaces – wooden boards, different kinds of papers, rusty metal surfaces, slate stone, etc. If you own a restaurant and need to present your food, the best way is to get yourself a few rollable PVC backdrops like these, as they create an amazing illusion of the real surface backdrop and are also stain proof and water resistant. You will be amazed by the results and get tons of likes on social media! 


Improvise. If the proper tools or props aren’t available, place dishes in other locations or hold them in your hands. For instance, if you don’t find the table suitable, use a chair or window ledge, be bold, create the background by manipulating with what’s available.

From top or angle?

There’s been a real trend for flat lay in recent years. It works really well with Buddha bowls, Asian food, cookies, anything that looks good from above. But with a burger we want a nice side-angle, so we can check out those nice layers. You can also incorporate a little DOF in angle pictures for extra deliciousness.

Speed is your ally

Foody pics are meant to be shot quickly. Salads won’t stay fresh long and meats have that nasty tendency to dry out, so stay on your toes and snap those images fast. Be brave and trust in your styling. Once the scene is laid out, shoot it before it spoils!


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