Food Styling Guide #1: TEN Tips


As with most forms of photography, the backdrop is key. A good backdrop is classy and rustic, nearly pigment-less in design so as to highlight the colors of the food. Choosing a good background can be difficult, and many food photographers have opted in to buy pre-made backgrounds. However, if you look hard enough, you may find that there are many potential objects that are great backdrops for food photography. Some of these include old wooden or stone boards, cutting boards, marble counters, your bedsheets, the flooring, etc.

One of my favorite backdrops for food photography are old sheets of paper. This includes newspapers, pages from a book (sorry book), or other hand-written notes. I first started to use newspapers when I was shooting breakfast foods like my Taiwanese Dan Bing, thinking that newspapers are typically found on breakfast tables. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with using old paper in my food photography because they give such a rustic, homey feel. The more wrinkled they are, the more those cracks and layers surface when light shines upon them.

Tip #1: Draw Lines

Something I always do with my sliced scallions is that I draw lines on the picture with them. See how you can trace a line from the table to the food?

Tip #2: S-Curves

This is the same idea as drawing lines, except you draw S-curves! Here I’ve drawn an “S” shape with the black sesame seeds.

Tip #3: Put hands in the shot

Putting hands in the shot allows you to tell a story about the food. In this picture, I include hands in the shot not only show that someone eating the food, but how the food is eaten (in this case, the falafels sitting on top of pita bread are supposed to be eaten like a sandwich).

Tip #4: Show that you are eating the food

I do this a lot with chopsticks, but it depends on what kind of food you are shooting. Showing that you are eating the food tells the audience that the food is delicious and that you like the food you made.

Tip #5: Plate more than one portion

When you plate more than one portion, it is as if you are inviting the audience to dine with you. Better yet, in this photo of my Hainanese-style Shroom Rice, I have a whole dinner spread set up, making the whole picture look even more welcoming and homely.

But of course, you want to convey this only if your cooking is more oriented towards home-cooking. If your cooking is more oriented towards gourmet food, then you would plate tiny portions in large plates to convey that the food is precious and expensive.

Tip #6: Create Motion

I’m a huge fan of creation motion in shots — it really feels like you’re freezing the food in time. To create these kind of shots, you simply need to increase the shutter speed of your camera. But be careful, the photos might become too dark as you’re letting less light in!

Tip #7: Minimalism has VALUE

Sometimes, it’s best to just keep it simple and just showcase the food. I like to alternate between shots that have a lot going on and shots that are minimalist like this.

Tip #8: Showcase Ingredients with the Final Product

In the first picture, I added some raw almonds throughout the shot because the pancake recipe calls for almond flour. In this second picture, I simply spread some flour and basil on the table. By putting the final product with its constituents together, you illustrate sort of a transformation of the initial ingredients into the final product.

Tip #9: Create Depth

Creating depth is crucial and applicable to all kinds of photography. You can create depth by either putting things close to the camera (first picture) or putting things far from the camera (second picture). I feel that the former is very under-used but produces beautiful results as well!

Tip #10: Don’t Style the Food

Yep, you read that right. This is my final tip: sometimes, you don’t have to style the food. In the picture above, I let those roasted Spaghetti Squash wedges shine in their natural glory. I love taking pictures of roasted vegetables that are fresh out of the oven and still in the baking tray – they are so aesthetic!

If you like this guide, be sure to give this article a rating below! I would know to do more of these types of guides then.

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4 months ago

These are some awesome tips! I love seeing your creations and hope to see more of it!

4 months ago

Love these tips! Learned some new things from this post 🙂

2 months ago

Thank you for such great tips! I wonder what lens you use to take your pics? They’re very sharp!