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10 Food Photography Tips and Some Styling Tricks

By on April 24, 2013 — Updated on March 28, 2014

I have read my friend’s status on Facebook which says, “ I don’t some to love me. All I need is to have a burger that is as delicious as how it looks in the ad!”

I do not know what came in her mind to post that kind of update, but it make sense. Food on ads are well-styled while the actual products in fast food counter have not. That is why the burger in an ad rally looks delicious. Let us talk more about that below.

After few years that digital DSLRs were available in the market, many people have taken to photography as a hobby and are getting good results. The cameras available in the market now are of high quality and help the photographer capture the real essence of the image being photographed.

Although, the normal scenes captured are people and places, food is the new item being clicked by many. The evidence can be found your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Picasa and different blogging platforms.


In its commercial sense, food photography is done carefully. It is done with group of professionals including nutrition specialist, food-stylist, chef and the photographers. The health benefit, taste and beauty are being looked into before deciding to publish the picture.

But since we starting to learn the Art of Food Photography, let us start from the basics.

Common Food-styling Techniques

There many tricks in food photography to make a yummy-looking food photographs, and some of them are consolidated on this five techniques below.

1. Apply artificial steam. Use nebulizer (a device that converts liquid into a fine spray like humidifier), combination of chemicals,  cigarettes, smoke pellets, incense stick or hot wet cotton balls to create steam effects.

2. Make it fresh. Spraying food with water or other liquid like corn syrup or cooking oil to enhance the freshness of the subject. Use blanched vegetables instead of completely cooked once. To avoid the sliced fruit and vegetables turning into brown quickly, dip them into water with little amount of oxalic acid.


3. Use substitutes. Heavy cream or white glue instead of milk when shooting with cereals; icing instead of real ice cream; acrylic cubes (see photo above) instead of ice cubes ; motor oil for dark syrup and many other substitute.

4. Fasten the parts. Pins, toothpicks and glue are most popular materials to use to ‘pose’ the food in front of your camera. Tiny parts like sesame on a burger bun can be glued while little bit larger like raising and berries can be pinned.

5. Enhance the color. Browning agent can be used but if you are not satisfied with the result, you can manually paint the it using food coloring. Other photographers uses shoe polish for this purpose like what Haje Jan Kamps says. For beverages that are too dark, water is being mixed to lighten the color and add sparkle to it.

Food Photography Tips

Aside from the techniques that are presented above, I have here additional tips to make food shooting interesting and produce more appealing shots.


1. Consult the graphic designer and concerned individuals.  Before you start your shooting, know the purpose of the photos. Is it for a menu, for cook book, stock photos, poster, banner or what? In case that the it the photos are to be incorporated in a graphic design, consult the graphic designer of what particular shot he or she needed for the project.

Maybe the the food is needed to be shoot in white background, in narrow depth of field or perhaps the crisp details are necessary.

2. Choose appropriate tableware and cutlery. Always remember that the food is the star of the shot, not the surroundings. So, instead of using expensive and decorative China ware that draws the attention away from the dish, a subtle plain self colored plate makes the dish visually appealing.

If you can notice in cookbooks and stock photography sites, white tableware and stainless cutlery are being used.

3. Use less food.  We all hate getting small portions of food when we are eating in a good restaurant but there is a reason for this. Serving food in small amounts makes the plate look neat and thus makes the food more appealing. The same goes with photography of food as the clean background of the plate provides a great frame for the perfect shot.

4. Contrast with background.  When clicking for food styling for product photography, setting contrast into the shot is very important. When the food on the plate is vibrant and colorful, the background should be a plain white. In the same way, for pale looking food, a dark background makes the dish come to life (not literally).

5. Allow natural spilling.  Spilling of food can make the dish look untidy and dirty but natural spilling or sprinkling of food adds a bit of freshness to the shot. But note that this should not be overdone if not it will look too messy. There is a fine line between styling and mess.

6. Use paper for texture. A clean pate looks appealing but sometimes can look boring. Food styling for product photography requires the viewers to shift their full attention to the shot. Paper adds texture to the plate and the dish and gives it a rustic look that can never go out of style.


7. Emphasize on the beauty of natural food. Do not over the food styling tricks that are being mentioned above. When people order something, they should get what they have pictured in their heads and not something totally different. This is very crucial when you are shooting for a menu book.

Keeping the natural beauty of the dish is very important. An example of this is keeping a roast duck whole instead of carving it into tiny bits. Bear in mind that people will at least get what they see – do not exaggerate your styling.

8. Consider work-in-progress shots.  We mainly focus on the finished dish and forget what it took to get there. Getting some pictures of the process of cooking the dish is also very important. The preparation and cooking process are good shots for food styling for product photography.

9. Be ready for ideas all the time.  A photographer must be ready for any kind of instance. While eating, a great idea may pop up and the photographer must be prepared for the shot. The best shot is not a pre planned one.

10. Eat and shoot again. Taking breaks is the best way to get ideas into your head. Go to a café or a snack bar and have a bite of something and I assure you something will hit you for an amazing shot. A good photographer never goes hungry.

Bonus Food Photography Tips

Take advantage of the ‘Photoshop’ power. If you have good Photoshop skills, you have one leap ahead of the crowd. The tricks and special effects on the photo can be easily added in the using Adobe Photoshop.


If your shooting props, material and equipment are not enough, Photoshop can surely help you to achieved the kind of photo you wanted to have. Think about this things:

  • Think about adding artificial smoke in using the your computer instead of using chemicals during shooting time.
  • Shoot the product in plain-colored background, white in particular, and simply change that background with a desirable one using the editing software.
  • Cleaning of unwanted elements is also easy in Photoshop.
  • Lens blur and tilt-shift? Of course, Photoshop can do that.
  • Morphing, adjustment on color, contrast and brightness, noise reduction, temperature, monochromatic effects are only some of the basic things you can do for your image in Photoshop.

These were just a few basic techniques for food styling and product photography tips. Following these simple steps will definitely give you a good shot for your products. So, go ahead and keep clicking. Cheese!

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