Today I want to share some tips on styling food photos. A blogger friend asked me about this topic recently and so here I've put some thoughts together.
Fresh Ingredients: The recipes I photograph are typically pretty simple, but the main element in all my food photos is fresh…….straight from the garden, farmers market, or best grocer. This applies to flowers too if I include them in the food shoots. Fresh foods and flowers have the best colors and are just the most appealing, which is usually the whole point of food photos.
Color Palette: It's best to stick to one basic color palette, using just a few colors that complement each other. Think about the background and foreground as well, using a scene that goes with the colors of the food. For example, I use a rustic dark wood background for the ice tea below, you can see it's an outdoor backyard type scene. The backyard roses add just a little pop and contribute to the setting, but match the gold in the lemons and tea, and accent with red and pink.
Lighting: Always use the best light for food photos. When indoors, I use window light enhanced with reflectors and outside I like open shade or soft evening light. Use the lighting to enhance the mood or emotion of the photo. For example, when styling a summer salad, you may want a bright, light colored scene. But for a chili or soup, maybe you want a lower light and dark colored setting, see my previous blog post on creating moody style food photography.
Layers: When styling food, I love layers. For example, I use one of my distressed wood etsy backgrounds, then maybe a towel, then a dish, or cutting board in a different type wood than the background. Not only can you layer props, but the food itself. For example stacking cookies or sandwiches on top of one another is a great way to make an interesting food photo.
Fill the Space: I like to use the vertical style photo orientation, and try to fill every part of that space with some of the visual story. Everything pictured should look like a natural part of the scene, see the next tip below on accessorizing.
Accessorize: Food photos are so much fun to accessorize; flowers, dishes, utensils, garnish, bits of ingredients, linens, and kitchen tools. Just stick to the main color palette/style and have fun!
Balance: I mostly just eye my set up and keep making adjustments as I shoot, but I've read it helps to use the grid in your camera that breaks up the scene into 9 squares and place items along the grid lines. Mainly I look for the photo to have balance to my eye, in color, spacing, texture, and proportion.
Movement: Even food has movement associated to it, try to capture a stir, pour, drizzle, or even a hand in the scene. I want to practice more movement this year with my food photography!
(photo above to the left) Ice Tea Blackberry Popsicles:
2 cups of sun ice tea (see recipe below for sun tea)
1 cup of fresh blackberries
3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
2 tablespoons honey
juice from a couple of lemons
Puree the blackberries in the blender and then strain out the seeds with a strainer. I ended up pouring the 2 cups of sun tea through the strainer on top of the pureed berries to push the pulp through a mesh strainer and remove the seeds. Mix the tea, blackberry juice, lemon juice, honey and sugar well and then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Pour hot water over molds to loosen and remove pops for serving.
(photo above to the right) Organic Fruit Salad:
Chop an assortment of seasonal fresh fruit with complementary colors and then mix together with a few tablespoons of raw honey and juice from a couple of lemons. Serve chilled.
Couple big handfuls of carrots
Couple big handfuls of kale or seasonal greens
1 or 2 apples
small piece ginger
Juice together the chopped fresh veggies and fruit, drink immediately.
5 black tea bags
50 oz filtered water
3-5 tablespoons honey
In a 50 oz glass jar with sealed lid place the cool water and tea bags. Leave outside in the warm sunshine for about 4 hours then remove tea bags and chill sun tea in the fridge. Serve the same day with lemon slices and honey over ice for a cool treat on a hot summer day.