The internet is dominated with food photos, and it’s a trend that just keeps growing. According to the 2023 Instagram Trend Report, 68% of Gen Z social media users learn about new cuisines through food photos they see online. That’s just one of the many audiences that are interested in seeing photos of food on the internet.
What this means is that if you want to share photos of your food online, then you need to know how to make them stand out. This is true whether you run your own food blog, want to be a social media influencer, or work with other food-related magazines and websites. That’s where food styling comes in! This is an art where you work with props, backdrops, colors, garnishes, and other artistic elements to decorate your dish before a photoshoot.
In bigger companies, a food stylist won’t necessarily be the same person as the food photographer. If you’re running a food blog, you’re likely doing all the work yourself – but don’t worry, as you can easily learn the fundamentals of food styling. In this article, we discuss 15 easy food styling tips that you can easily implement at home!
What Tools Do I Need to Improve My Food Styling?
For the most part, you don’t need any fancy tools to style your food with gusto. However, as with anything else, if you really want to take food photography styling seriously then you should have a few tools handy to help you with the finer details. Some of these will be tools that you already have at home, especially if you’re regularly working in your kitchen. These are the most common food styling tools:
- Knives: Having a selection of knives will be handy as you can use them for different tasks. You’ll need a sharp knife to make clean and precise cuts. For example, if you’re cutting a cake, you want to ensure your knife doesn’t mess up the frosting as it cuts through. If you need to get into tiny spaces, you should also have a utility blade handy. Smaller knives are great for creating details, such as creating patterns in baking pastry.
- Brushes: A brush set is essential for keeping clean surfaces, especially when working with powdery ingredients. You can also use them to manipulate liquids and droplets for extra fine details or add a smooth glaze to the top of completed dishes.
- Scissors: Specifically, you’ll want a pair of small scissors that can accurately cut parchment paper to the correct size. You may want to buy a sharpener at the same time to ensure you always make clean cuts.
- Tweezers: If you need to arrange small, delicate objects in your scene that are close together, then a pair of tweezers will be helpful as you’ll be able to move them around without accidentally moving or knocking over other elements. There are obvious situations where tweezers will come in handy, such as if you’re creating a gingerbread house!
- Ruler: You’ll also want to invest in a ruler or measuring edge, as this will allow you to use the space you have intelligently, and map out the composition of your dish as you’re working. If you’re aiming for perfect symmetry, a ruler is a must!
- Offset spatula: Lastly, an offset spatula is perfect for when you want to smoothen out condiments, cream, or icing.
Note that in addition to these tools, you may also want additional props for your shoots, and we’ll cover a few of these in the next section. Popular food photography props could include plates, backdrops, boards, fabrics, and so on.
Our Top 15 Food Styling Tips For Bloggers
1. Use Smaller Plates
Big bulky plates generally don’t look very good in food photos, so we recommend sticking to smaller plates. If you’re shooting food photos where the background is prominent, then smaller plates will allow for a cleaner, more spacious composition.
2. Go Small With the Portion Size
Don’t worry if the featured dish is smaller than your standard portion size. Using less food makes it easier to create a nice sense of negative space on the plate, and it also makes every individual ingredient stand out more. For example, if your dish features potatoes, include just 3 potatoes that are differently sized so that they don’t simply blend into the dish.
3. Garnish Your Scene With Ingredients
You can also spice up your food photo by adding the raw ingredients you used in the dish to the scene. Place them on the dish itself, on the surrounding table, or on parchment paper close by. Readers who want to make the dish for themselves will find this appealing as well as helpful, as they can see what certain ingredients look like if they’ve never heard of them before.
Additionally, if the dish you’re highlighting might be a little indistinct (such as a curry, which is just one color), then you can use spices and herbs to show what went into it and give more context about what readers are looking at.
4. Height is Important
Not all dishes are three-layered cakes, but you ideally never want a picture to look flat. The best images offer volume.
There are some obvious reference points here you can see all over the internet. For example, if you’re shooting a photo of pancakes, you’ll want to style them into a stack. This approach lets you showcase them in all their glory. Overhead shots are trickier, but there are workarounds. For example, you can add blueberries on top of the pancakes to give the impression of stacking.
5. Your Brand Matters
When it comes to food styling, it’s not just about what looks good; it’s about your brand and the story you’re trying to tell. For example, if you’re a professional baker, you might want to feature consistent elements like flour and rolling pins. On the other hand, if your website colors are mustard and black, you might want to use plates and backgrounds with those same colors for brand consistency.
6. Take A Bite!
Munching on food in your photos isn’t always the right choice, but it can work in specific situations. For example, if you’re cooking something homely, like a plate of cookies, or something with a gooey center, like chicken kievs, then taking a bite is a great way to show the cross-section and give the impression that the food is delicious.
7. Play with Textures
Subtle contrasts in texture will make a food photo much more interesting to look at. For example, if you’re playing with a very smooth white plate, consider adding textured napkins as another element. Another tip is to add solids to liquids. For instance, top soups with croutons, add sprinkles to ice cream, or finish fresh juice with a lemon garnish.
8. Create Negative Space
Food photos with too much clutter are unappealing. Therefore, concentrate on creating “negative space” – or void areas – around your creations.
Try positioning your food in the center of the plate, and leave some space around the edge. This way, you can make the food the focal point. Alternatively, position the food on one side of the plate and minimally decorate the other side with dots or a smear.
You can also put a full plate on a relatively empty surface. Placing a small bowl of tacos on a white table adorned with a few decorative chilies also creates negative space.
9. Use Matte Surfaces
Glossy surfaces will reflect light, which is never ideal. So when experimenting with plates and backdrops, keep this in mind and opt for matte plates and dishes. Alternatively, if you already have glossy surfaces in your kitchen then it’s a great opportunity to experiment with fabrics and wooden or slate boards to cover them.
10. Make A Mess
Ultimately, food is for eating, so it should look realistic. If your cupcake’s ganache is spilling over or your burger’s juices are running, that’s perfectly fine! It makes the food look moreish and DIY. Just remember the golden rule: don’t make the photo cluttered.
11. Shoot with Fresh Ingredients
If you’re shooting with ingredients like herbs and vegetables, you’ll want to make sure they’re fresh as any browning or wilting can show in the photo. In some cases, especially with fruits like bananas and avocados, you’ll want to choose ingredients that are underripe.
12. Get Fake Ice Cubes
This prop makes it so much easier to shoot beverages! As ice cubes melt, they look less enticing and can also affect the color of the drink. You’ll use fake ice cubes over and over, so they’re worth investing in.
13. Think About the Color Temperature of Your Photos
Depending on the time of day, light can be bluer or more yellow. Keep this in mind when styling your photos.
Blue lighting will be a good choice if you want your dish to look fresh, while yellow lighting will make your dish look more comforting. Summer dishes work best in natural light, while autumn and winter recipes look great with a red or orange glow in the background.
To calibrate lighting more accurately, you may wish to use a lightroom. These let you customize the level of lighting dishes receive.
14. Use Cutlery
You can also use cutlery as a prop for your food photos, either in the background or near a plate. Cutlery helps to make images look more theatrical. It also provides extra height when placed on top of a dish.
The type of cutlery you choose changes how photos come out. Therefore, you’ll want to choose knives, forks, and spoons that complement your brand. For instance, pink plates and matching cutlery will give your dishes a modern look, while going for silver is more traditional.
The most important tip we can give you is this: don’t be afraid to play around and try different things. Though we’ve given you a list of food styling tips that are sure to work, you might want to try being more unconventional! Rules are there to be broken, so don’t feel like you just need to stick to our tips above. They’re an excellent foundation for your food styling journey, but the more you experiment, the more you’ll find your own unique approach to food styling.
How to Make Your Stylized Photos Stand Out on Your Food Blog
Food styling takes work, so once you’ve taken photos that you’re proud of, make sure you use them to their maximum potential.
If you run a food blog on WordPress, the best way to do this is with WP Recipe Maker. This plugin lets you create and display recipe cards so your readers can easily see the ingredients and steps needed to recreate your dishes. Here’s why WP Recipe Maker is a great choice for showcasing stylized food photos:
- You can customize your template with the template editor. Your template will affect how your featured image you display in the recipe card, and this is the best spot for you to show off your final dish.
- The plugin integrates with lightboxes, so you can make sure your fancy recipe images open up in a lightbox when readers click on them. This feature lets readers see all the detail and effort you’ve put into your photos.
- The plugin lets readers pin images: either a featured recipe image or a custom one you set. You may find this option helpful if you want a planer image for the recipe card itself but want to add your more stylized images to Pinterest and set your Pinterest image as the pinnable image.
Try Our Food Styling Tips to Improve Your Food Blog!
Food content makes up a massive part of the internet, so if this is an avenue you’re interested in then you really need to make your food photos look good! In this article, we’ve looked at 15 easy tips used by experts and professionals. With some basic tools and your imagination, you now have the foundation to hone your food styling skills and take captivating photos for your food blog.
Once you take great food photos, we suggest using the WP Recipe Maker plugin for WordPress websites to display them in recipe cards. Choose your favorite photo, add it to your dish’s recipe card as the featured image, and you’ll inspire your readers to recreate it for themselves!
Get WP Recipe Maker and make your recipes more attractive and easier to follow!
My name is Brecht and I’ve been working several years on making WP Recipe Maker the very best recipe plugin it can be. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Ready to make your food blogging dreams come true?
Leave a Reply