Food Styling Tips for Beginners

Food styling is one of the most powerful tools that can help you with your food photography. It can make your images spot on, or it can ruin the whole image. It’s a powerful tool you need when you are interested in food photography. If you don’t have a professional food stylist working with you, then you just have to learn how to do it yourself.

Today’s post was written for Food Blogging Collective by the incredible Laura from HealthyLaura.  I contacted her and begged her for a guest post when I realised that most of the images and articles I was pinning on Pinterest were actually hers!  She takes the most beautiful minimalist food shots that make you want to go on a health kick right away and she maintains a cohesive look across all of her portfolio.  She’s definitely “in the know” about food photography and food styling, and I’m delighted to say that she put this Food Styling Tips for Beginners together, especially for us.  You can find her hanging out on Instagram and Pinterest too 🙂

 Pin me for later!

If you feel like you don’t have an artistic mind, then don’t worry! I can tell you that I don’t have that spirit either!

You can learn food styling by reading, watching videos and most importantly practising. Learn more about food photography, and you will learn the styling at the same time. You just have to find your creative side; I think that every one of us has a creative mind that needs to be discovered.

Over the past few years of practising food photography almost every day, I can say that I have made some progress. As you can see in the image below from 2015, my food styling “skill” wasn’t the best (if we are going to be polite):

I’m not saying that I know everything right now, I’m just saying that you can get better by learning and practising.

Even though I have been practising for some time, I still feel like I have so much more to learn and I don’t know everything. It’s a journey, and I like to think that I’m at the beginning of mine. All I need to do is to enjoy the process.

I have to remind you that food styling is one of the things that is very subjective and everybody has their preference and style. Think of it as fashion or interior design. Some people like jeans or hats, others don’t. Some people like certain curtains or chairs, others don’t. In the end, all you have to do is to develop a style that makes you happy.

My 7 top food styling tips for beginners

#1 Negative space

Leave some room for the viewer. When the image is too crowded, then usually I feel like I don’t know where should I look. Think of it like you are styling an expensive house. Probably you are not going to pack the house so full of furniture that you can’t even move around. Leave some room for your viewer so that he or she can move around in the “house”.

use of negative space; All photographs by Laura

#2 Make a mess

The classic example here is a breadcrumb on the table. The aim is to put something from real life into the images and find the “soul”. My favourites are seeds, nuts, and pepper. Bring something from real life on the image. Imperfect is just perfect. However, try not to overdo it, and instead find the balance.

making a (beautiful) mess!

#3 Layers & texture

This is one of the most useful tips in food styling. Use some towels, napkins, linen or extra plates to add some touch to the image. Play around with your texture, and you can build a fantastic image. You don’t want to know how many towels I have at home – it’s almost criminal 😉 Play with heights, and you will get the texture that makes your images more interesting.

layering up with textiles

#4 Tripod

Put your camera in one spot and then start styling. Look inside your camera or use your computer or phone with wifi. Work out what should be on the images and what should you leave behind or add.

shooting on a tripod

#5 Storyline

Photography is all about the story. Probably every photographer will say that you have to tell the story with your images. It’s a basic rule that I often forget. Capture the moment and ask yourself what’s the story and purpose of the image. You can put a soul on the image with the story. The story might just be comfortable weeknight dinner or pancakes with your grandmother. You can always include people in the scene or tell the story with light or props.

a healthy breakfast in bed

#6 Framing

You don’t always need to put the whole plate or whole scene on the image. Just leave something to the imagination, and you will get something more interesting.

Just showing part of the frying pan

#7 Garnish

Look what chefs are doing. How do they plate the dishes?  Make it look pretty with green leaves, pepper, oil or seeds. My personal favourites are flowers; they always give you that little “something” you might feel is missing.

A final garnish of rose petals

top takeaways

Food should look “lived in” and “real” for the most effective pictures.  Before you set anything out, spend a little time thinking about what you’re trying to do and say with your photograph, then add in the necessary props, garnishes and textures to make it happen.

Thanks, Laura, great advice!  And if you want to improve your food photography, then check our Laura’s brilliant e-book!

What’s your top styling tip? leave a comment and let me know!


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