Friday, July 8, 2011

Photography Tip: Styling Your Food

Styling your food can be fun.  Always use the best ingredients and the freshest product or food when taking your images.  You want them to POP off the page.

Last week we talked a little bit about lighting and how important this is when photographing food.  It is also important for other subjects, but since this is a food blog and I shoot food most of the time, all of the tips and suggestions will be for food photographers to use on their blogs, personal shots or for aspiring professionals.  I do have to give a disclaimer: I am not a food stylist, BUT, I have been doing this for a while around some pretty amazing people and you learn a lot from watching, listening and doing (sometimes you learn by fire whether you want to or not..LOL).

Like most photographers we surround ourselves with other like minded people, read tons of books, practice every day and pretty much obsess about our hobby or job...or maybe that is just me...LOL.

Taking pictures of food is an ART.  I say this because, like an artist, we have a story to tell, a vision, a feeling or/and an inspiration that drives us.  We have our own style.  Some of us shoot simply (very few props), others shoot romantically (soft light/ outdoors), vintage (old props/rustic) or action filled (picnics/movement).  Or some of you combine all of the styles and go with the mood, you listen to your does speak.  Like an artist, we have to learn to listen to our food, read it and produce this image for those around us to enjoy.

I love seeing and admiring other food photographers.  I get a bit star struck with certain images and food photographers.  Find those whose images you like and try to emulate the look.

I love this quote by Adrian Mullen,

"If you want to eat the photo, 
then the photo is dead on. 
It is good."

Now, I know that there is a difference between a food blogger and a professional photographer..or is there? I am a food blogger most of the time, but I want my images to look their best.  I want people to love my recipes but to also love my pictures.  This might just be me, but I think we all want to take pride in our images.  After all, our images are what showcase our recipes.  They are the first thing that people see when they open your blog.  So how do we get our images to POP off of the page and make people want to EAT your food?  

This is a short list. We don't always have the time to set up the perfect shot every time, but you should try once in a while to practice and take the time to learn your craft.  I know for me, I am also entering different recipe contest and for those times, I want my images to look as professional as possible.  


1.  Pay attention to color and texture.  Your food should not all be the same color, or the same texture.  Try to combine rough textures with smooth.  Try to use colors that compliment your food.  Your food is the star.

2. Character and Style.  Decide in advance what you want your picture to look like.  If you see something you like, try to copy the "look" with lighting or props.

3.  Find the balance between "boring" and "over done". Learn to play with your set.  Move your food around, add food, remove food or props.  Take several images as you build your perfect image. Often times  less is best and some times more is the "aw" factor.

4. Enhance the main ingredient.  This is your star.  Let it shine. 

5. Pay attention to detail.  Smudges, drips and spills can make or break a picture.  Juice from a peach is expected, but juice spilled from a glass looks messy.  

6.  Use small plates.  Negative space (sense of emptiness) looks great in an art print, but not on a food plate.  People want to feel like that piece is perfect for them, they want to feel "full" if they were to eat your shot.  

7.  Don't over use sauce's in your picture.  Always start taking pictures at the beginning of adding any type of sauce or syrup.  You will find that there is a perfect balance between great and drowning your food.  

8.  Garnish.   Use it wisely.  Pair the garnish with the ingredients in the recipe.  Don't use too much.  Move it around.  For some images it looks great on the top of the item, but others, it looks beautiful just tucked on the side.  

9.  Create a depth of field when necessary.  Images can be a single item or multiples.  Depending on your angle you might be shooting into a cutting board or back 4 feet.  Do you want it clear or blurry.  

10.  Your camera is not always seeing what you see.  This is why to constantly check the view in your camera.  I see my set up and I think it is perfect, that camera shows that it is not.  The fork is too far away or too close.  I have to move it so it looks good in the picture.  When I look at the shot the fork is WAY over here or there...the camera is the boss.  LOL

11. Shake up your angles. I try to create a story.  This story has a beginning, middle and end.  I capture this story by taking different images, changing the angles, looking for interesting shots.  You are walking people through your experience.  Tilt your camera a bit, get low, shoot from above. works.

12.  Use props to help shape your food.  Use make-up sponges or cotton balls to hold up those pancakes, to make that sandwich look even.  Toothpicks and skewers can hold things together.  

These pictures are all from a client I use to work with in Utah.  They own a candy company.  Chocolate is very hard to work with.  It melts, get sticky, impressionable when touched and changes color when lights hit it.  Dark chocolate can look like milk with's crazy.

I used a skewer to stack the candy and then edited the skewer in PS.

Using the same ingredients from the image above, I moved the raspberries around, re-stacked the cups, removed the filled cup.  It doesn't make the image better or worse, just different.

The star in this image is the candy.  We kept the background very monochromatic for a reason.  I blurred the props in the back to draw your eye back to the chocolate.  The negative space in this image is because of the LOGO for the company.

Simple.   Let your food shine when necessary.  Convey the feeling you want your readers to have.

The list could go on and on...but I know your busy with your blogs and pictures.  I hope this will trigger some ideas, changes and new thoughts to help you with your pictures.  If you have any specific questions please feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer them.  My pictures can be viewed at Simply Gourmet Photography on facebook. ENJOY!


  1. Beautiful pictures - so creative. Would you consider linking up to my blog hop for creative bloggers?

    Hope so. Enjoy your weekend. Shah ,x

  2. Thank you for stopping by. I went to your link and signed up for the hop. Thanks again.

  3. Cool blog! I especially love the monochromatic winter photo.

  4. Thank you Erin...that is one of my favorites too.

  5. Thanks again, Sherron! More great tips!

  6. Styling and angles are my biggest problems. I can put together a good plate but translating it into a great photo now that's an art.. But I keep on keepin on

  7. Great post Sherron! I truly appreciate your knowledge!

  8. Thanks everyone for the kind words! If you ever have a question let me know...I would love to help! Remember, practice is your best teacher. EnJOY!

  9. Yet again, I'm loving your tutorials. Thanks for pouring your knowledge into this blog. It's fabulous.



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