8 Practical Tips for Captivating Food Photography Styling
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Use natural light
  2. Focus on the food texture
  3. Play with angles
  4. Include human element
  5. Color theory in food photography
  6. Use props effectively
  7. Learn to edit your photos
  8. Practice consistency

Who doesn't love scrolling through appetizing food photos on Instagram or Pinterest? These eye-catching images can make anyone's mouth water in an instant. But, have you ever wondered what goes into creating these captivating visuals? Well, it's all about the art of food photography styling. Today, we're going to share eight practical tips to help you elevate your food photography styling game. So, grab your camera, and let's dive into the flavorful world of food photography styling ideas.

Use Natural Light

One of the most effective ways to make your food photography styling pop is to use natural light. Sunlight, in its raw form, brings out the best colors and textures in food. It's like the secret ingredient that makes everything look fresh and appetizing. Let's see how you can use natural light to enhance your food photography styling ideas:

  • Place your food near a window: This is a simple yet effective way to utilize natural light. The diffused light from the window can cast gentle shadows, highlighting the texture and depth of your dish. Remember, the aim is to make the food the star of the show.
  • Use a reflector: A reflector can be a piece of white cardboard or a professional photography reflector. The idea is to bounce the natural light onto the shadowy side of your food, making it evenly lit and more visually appealing.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: While natural light is great, harsh sunlight can create strong shadows and overexpose your shot. It's best to photograph your food in diffused light or during the 'golden hours'—morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is soft.

Using natural light might seem a bit tricky at first, but with practice, you'll see how it can transform your food photography styling ideas into appetizing images that engage and impress. So, let's keep this light shining and move on to our next tip!

Focus on the Food Texture

Imagine biting into a crispy fried chicken. Can you feel the crunch? That's the texture, and it's one of the key elements that make food enticing. By focusing on the texture in your food photography styling, you can evoke a sensory experience that goes beyond just visual appeal. Let's explore some ways to bring out the texture in your food photos:

  • Get up close: Sometimes, the magic lies in the detail. Don't hesitate to get close to your dish to capture the intricate details, whether it's the flaky layers of a croissant or the juicy seeds of a pomegranate. An up-close shot can showcase the texture and make your photo mouth-watering.
  • Use side lighting: Lighting from the side can accentuate the texture of your food. It casts long shadows and highlights, creating a contrast that brings out the depth and detail. It's particularly effective for textured foods like bread, meat, or vegetables.
  • Play with focus: Using a shallow depth of field can help to highlight the texture of the food while gently blurring the background. This technique draws the viewer's attention to the food's texture and details.

Remember, the goal is to make the viewer feel like they can almost touch and taste the food through your photo. So, take some time to experiment and see how focusing on the texture can add a new dimension to your food photography styling ideas.

Play With Angles

When it comes to food photography styling ideas, playing with angles can make a world of difference. The angle at which you shoot can drastically change the appearance and feel of your food photo. Let's break down a few popular angles and when you might want to use them:

  • Top-down: Also known as bird's-eye view or flat lay, this angle allows you to capture the entire dish and its context without any distractions. It's particularly great for dishes served in bowls, or when you have an interesting table setup or props to show off.
  • 45-degree angle: This is the angle most of us naturally use when we're about to dig into our food. It works well for dishes with layers or height, like burgers or stacks of pancakes. It gives a sense of depth and shows off the food's features.
  • Side view: This angle is excellent for capturing the height and layers of a dish, like a multi-layer cake or a towering sandwich. It can be a powerful tool to highlight the textures and colors inside your dish.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all angle for every dish. The best angle depends on what you're photographing and the story you want to tell. Don't be afraid to move around and experiment with different angles. You might be surprised by the results!

Include Human Element

Another often overlooked aspect of food photography styling ideas is the inclusion of the human element. By this, I'm not suggesting that you need to have a full-blown portrait session with your dish. Instead, it's all about subtly incorporating human interaction or presence in your food photos.

  • A hand in the frame: This could be as simple as a hand reaching for a cookie, stirring a spoon, or holding a mug. It adds an inviting touch and makes your photo feel more dynamic and real.
  • Evidence of human activity: Think crumbs on a table, a spoon left idly on a saucer, or a napkin casually tossed aside. These small details suggest that there's a human presence, even if they're not visible in the shot.
  • Personal belongings: Including personal items like glasses, a book, or a smartphone can also hint at the human element. It adds a personal touch and can help to tell a more complex story about the setting and the person who might be enjoying the food.

Remember to keep it natural and unforced. The goal is to make your viewer feel as if they could be the one enjoying that delicious dish. After all, food is something we all share, and including the human element in your food photography can make your images more relatable and engaging.

Color Theory in Food Photography

Color plays a huge role in food photography. Not only does it make your images visually appealing, but it can also influence the mood and feel of your photos. But how do you use color effectively in your food photography styling ideas? Let's break it down.

  • Complementary colors: These are colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel. Think red and green, or blue and orange. When used together, these colors create a vibrant contrast that can make your food pop.
  • Analogous colors: These are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They create a harmonious and soothing look. For example, you could style a lemon tart with yellow napkins and a light blue plate for a calming, summery vibe.
  • Monochromatic colors: This involves using different shades, tones, and tints within the same color family. It creates a cohesive and stylish look. Imagine a bowl of tomato soup styled on a red tablecloth with a dash of red chili flakes on top. It’s simple yet striking.

Understanding and applying color theory in your food photography can take your images from good to great. It's all about creating balance and harmony in your images. So, the next time you're planning your food photography styling ideas, don't forget to consider color!

Use Props Effectively

Props can be a game-changer in food photography. They add depth, tell a story, and can make your image much more interesting. But remember, props are there to enhance the food, not distract from it. Here's how you can use props effectively in your food photography styling ideas:

  • Choose relevant props: Props should make sense in the context of the food you're photographing. For example, if you're shooting a bowl of pasta, a cheese grater with some Parmesan would be a fitting prop.
  • Keep it simple: Less is more when it comes to props. Too many can clutter the image and take focus away from the food. Stick to one or two props that complement your dish.
  • Consider the color and texture: Props can help create contrast or harmony in your image, depending on their color and texture. A blue napkin could make the orange hues of a shrimp dish pop, while a rustic wooden table would complement a homemade apple pie.

Using props in your food photography can help you create more intriguing and captivating images. But remember, the star of the show is always the food. Choose your props wisely to enhance your dish, not overshadow it.

Learn to Edit Your Photos

Even the most well-composed food photography can benefit from some thoughtful editing. Post-production is where your food photography styling ideas truly come to life. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Master the basics: Understand the fundamental editing tools such as exposure, contrast, saturation, and white balance. They can help you brighten a dull image, add depth, or correct color imbalances.
  • Use selective editing: Tools like the brush, radial, and gradient filters can let you edit specific parts of your image without affecting the rest. Want to make that raspberry tart stand out more? Brighten it up without touching the rest of the photo.
  • Don't overdo it: The aim of editing is to enhance the image, not transform it. Keep changes subtle and strive to maintain the natural look of the food. Remember, you want the food to look delicious, not artificial.

Learning to edit your photos can greatly enhance your food photography styling. It lets you fine-tune your images and bring out the best in your food. So go ahead, play around with those editing tools and watch your food photography soar to new heights.

Practice Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to food photography styling ideas. It's what transforms a group of photos into a cohesive portfolio. Here's how you can achieve consistency in your food photography:

  • Stick to a Style: Whether it's rustic and homely or sleek and modern, find a style that resonates with you and stick to it. This doesn't mean every photo needs to look the same, but there should be a clear, identifiable theme that ties your work together.
  • Use a Consistent Light Source: Lighting plays a huge role in the look and feel of your photos. Whether you prefer natural light or studio lights, try to use the same light source for all your photos. This will give them a consistent look and feel.
  • Be Consistent with Props: If you're shooting a series of photos, using the same or similar props can help tie them together. This doesn't mean you need to use the same plate in every photo, but try to stick to a consistent style or color palette.

Consistency might seem boring, but it's a secret ingredient in successful food photography styling. It helps you to build a recognizable style that sets your work apart from others. So, next time you pick up your camera, remember, consistency is key.

If you're eager to expand your photography skills beyond food styling, consider checking out the workshop 'Working In Fashion Photography' by Marlen Keller. This workshop will offer you valuable insights into the world of fashion photography and help you develop your creative eye in a different genre.