For Lauren: Styling and Photographing Food!

As you all may know, my friend Lauren and fellow blogger of Mirepoix is an amazing chef, and I’ve done some photography for her blog in the past (in exchange for some gourmet grub).   I really don’t know too much about the business of photographing and styling food, but I’ve been looking up some ideas and found this GREAT article that describes different ways to style your food for photography WITHOUT cheating and using motor oil as maple syrup.  Your food will not only taste delicious, but photos of your food will make people’s mouths water.

Laurens’s amazing fig, goat cheese, and carmelized onion spread. It was scrumptious!

Heather Baird wrote this blog for and she’s an accomplished pastry artist and food blogger. (Who wouldn’t love THAT job?) Here’s a link to her article:

Baird’s tips detail how to plate your food, use colorful food, and pick the best dishes and backdrops that will help your food shine. To add to her blog on styling the actual food, I’m going to talk about some tips for photographing food.

1. Lighting – With the proper lighting, ANYTHING can look good. Try not to use harsh flash when photographing food, unless of course you have studio lighting set up for illustration purposes.  In fact, try not to use flash if you can OR filter your flash in some way to soften it. Soft window light is always nice too, and I always like to give food photographs a bit of a warm tone. Oh! And use reflectors to fill in the shadows from your light source. But whatever you do, try not to photograph under flourescents unless you have a proper filter or set your white balance accordingly because this will wash out your delicious food and give it kind of a sick green hue.

2. Props/Surroundings – This one is kind of similar to one of Baird’s tips, but let me expound from the photography standpoint. Some of the overall styling will be up to the chef, but a lot of times, food might be photographed with a prop to enhance the composition and, you know, make it look fancy. If you’re photographing on a paper plate in your kitchen and you can clearly see your sink full of dirty dishes in the background, that might not make for the best composition. Try photographing on a pretty tablecloth or nice clean surface, and try including a fork, flower, or a fluffy cloth napkin (depending on the food).  Think about the color of the scene and whether that compliments the color of the dish.  Think about where the dish/flower/chopsticks/etc should be placed in relation to the food. The chef may have garnished the actual dish, but you can add your own garnish to the scene that you are photographing.

Mmmmm…..cherry pie. This one illustrates both of the previous points. That fork just makes me wanna start eating. And like I said, check out that soft pretty lighting! Really gives that pie some dimension.

Or you can just use toy stormtroopers! Those go with cupcakes, right? (Photo by Stephanie Stiavetti, food blogger for No but seriously, if you don’t have stormtroopers, it’s not a biggie. They do help though.

3. Use a Tripod – Especially if you’re indoors and using natural light (which looks better, trust me!) you might want your tripod to make sure that you can get nice sharp focus where you want it. If you don’t have one, make sure you have plenty of light, or try rigging yourself one by finding something you can steady yourself with. (i.e. elbows on the table, set your camera up on something solid, or shoot table level. With some dishes it really works!)

4. Enhancing Post-Process – If you have photoshop, a little saturation and contrast go a LONG way to making it gourmet. (look at me, catch phrases!) But seriously, take up the overall saturation by 5-10, boost the contrast just a little with curves and suddenly that juicy bowl of strawberries became THAT much juicier. Other things you can do is change the overall color effect (like I said I like to give mine a bit of a warm tone) or blur the background a bit to enhance the subject more. (Do this by creating a mask on a background layer, painting black the area you want to blur and go to Filter—>Blur—–>Gaussian Blur. That’s one way to do it, but I just like masks.)

Mmmm, bourbon peach bread pudding. Here I just took the saturation up by +6, and lightly adjusted the color balance. Then I just vignetted the edge a bit. Not too much. On on this one I wanted to get in real close with my composing and make it all about the food, which leads into my next point…

5. Composition – Kind of related to point #2, think about your perspective when photographing food. Instead of photographing down onto the plate from the top (which makes it look very one-dimensional most of the time), try getting down to food level, or just barely above.) Get in close, and maybe push it off-center. Get creative. Use macro settings. Move around the plate and see how the light hits from different angles. Take your time composing the food in the most appetizing way possible (try not to eat it while you do this).

I tried giving this one a little context by including more of the surroundings, like the chef/artist himself. The sushi is gorgeous (I tried not to make the fish roe look quite as radioactive, but it was really bright!) but doesn’t this just make you wanna go to a sushi place right now and order up a heaping plate of spicy tuna roll? If you do, this photo was taken at Bodeli Sushi in Franklin, TN. *wink wink*

Anyway, those are just a few tips for your food photography endeavors. If you need to cheat, there are always some great tips out there for food stylists and photographers that will help you even more. For instance, try making your dish look nice and steamy by soaking a few cotton balls with water and sticking them in the microwave. Then place them behind the dish. Shazam. Or brush a little vegetable oil to give food a little glisten. But I like to be able to eat the food after I photograph it, so I try not to do too much of that.

I’ll let you get to eating now, as I’m sure you’re now wanting to do. 🙂


This entry was posted in Tutorial.


  1. kellie March 17, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    ur pictures say “a thousand words” and these say YUMMY and DELICIOUS ! luv, luv the stormtroopers but the cherry pie is my fav! the melting ice cream and the individuality of the cherries…yum! the fork is screaming my name to reach out, grab it and take a bite of deliciousness! cant say it enough….Your talent is AMAZING!

    • Heather March 17, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      Thanks Kellie! Writing that blog made me super hungry.
      The stormtrooper/cupcake picture is actually credited to Stephanie Stiavetti, who is a blogger at! Her blog is totally adorable. 🙂
      Thanks for reading!!

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