Whether you’re working for clients in a studio or cooking for your own blog at home, there comes a time in every food-stylist’s career when it’s the food that lets you down. Imagine that: camera set up perfectly, backdrop, base and bounce boards in place, fabulous natural light, beautiful props….and food that looks like something you’d get in a school canteen!
As you know, I am a firm believer that food bloggers should not resort to styling techniques that fool their audience into thinking their food will look different to how it will; I always state on my blog that I want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you cook my food – and so I try to keep “finishing” to a minimum. That said, there are times when it will be impossible to get any shot unless you employ a little creativity, so here are my 8 Genius Food Hacks you Should be Using – and 3 you definitely Shouldn’t!
8 food hacks you should be using:
#1 Corn syrup or icing to help things stick together
Corn syrup is a classic food-stylist’s trick but you can’t really get it here in the UK so I use icing where appropriate to stick things together: cakes on board, food in stacks and even loose food on forks.
#2 A spray bottle of water or oil to bring salad or meat back to life
Sometimes your food sits there so long that it’s gone past the “fresh cooked” stage and is heading towards “dog’s dinner”. But don’t give up just yet! Spritz it with some water or oil and see if that doesn’t bring it back to life just long enough to get the shot.
#3 Hidden dowels and cocktail sticks to hold up towers of food
Everyone does this with cakes (in fact, it’s vital to avoid collapse – I found this out the hard way with my WEDDING CAKE!), so I feel no qualms about encouraging you to hide some dowels or cocktail sticks in your food to keep it all together. Just remember to remove them before tucking in 😉
#4 Squeeze bottles for drops of pesto/sauce
Have you ever tried to artistically garnish a plate of pasta or meat with a few drops of pesto or sauce…and then accidentally flooded it and had to re-plate the whole dish? *sheepish look* Get hold of a few squeezy bottles, like the kind they serve ketchup in in traditional diners, and drizzle your sauce beautifully, just where you want it.
#5 Flaked salt and fresh-ground pepper
There is no dish that can’t be improved with a little sprinkling of salt and pepper (yes, even some of the sweet ones). It tells your audience that the dish is fresh and ready to be eaten and provides contrast in terms of texture and colour.
#6 Cardboard layers in cakes and pancakes to keep them flat/high
Similar to the dowel trick, a few cardboard layers in between your pancakes will stop the pile sagging. I justify this to myself by remembering that when my readers come to cook my pancakes, they’ll never leave them sitting around as long as I have to – because they’ll want to dive right in!
#7 Bowls of lemon water for colour and freshness
If you’re cutting fruit or veg for a salad, tart or garnish and it’ll be truly on display, then you want the best colour you can get. Keep a little bowl of water with a few drops of lemon juice by the side of you and put your cut fruit and veg straight in there until you need it. It’ll guarantee the colour and freshness – and even works for avocado and apple.
Similarly, keep your fresh salad leaves and herbs under water as long as you can. It’ll perk them up no end.
#8 Frozen herbs, cheese and garnishes
I always keep bags of chopped herbs (like curly parsley), pre-grated cheese and unusual garnishes such as pomegranate seeds in my deep freeze. Not only does this guarantee I have them ready year-round, but it might just be the addition I need to up the “wow” factor in my photograph.
And 3 you definitely shouldn’t:
These are really just for your reading pleasure, but did you know that food stylists sometimes use:
#1 piped soap bubbles to look like froth on coffee
#2 boot polish to put brown on meat
#3 dyed mashed potato in place of ice cream?!
Want to take your food photographs up a notch?
Get your FREE email course “Improve your Food Photography 5-Day Challenge” right here!