One of the reasons I love food photography is that I enjoy styling food and making it look desirable! Often I get compliments on food presentation, and many people say, they were hungry after looking at the pictures. A well thought food scene can sure arouse food cravings! Since websites yet don't have facility to "scratch and sniff" or "Taste Before Trying" ;), it is very important to work on look of food to make it appealing to eyes and make people curious to try!
Food styling is part art and part imagination. You don't need a whole lot props and break the bank to make food look good. Per my experience, time is the biggest investment one makes in clicking a tempting photo. For the rest, we need to be smart, savvy, and thoughtful!
When foodie minds, like you and I, visit a Home Improvement or Food Prop Store, we just want to grab everything we see! Don't we? But, thing is: we don't need a whole lot. and what we need can be bought under-budget if we just try to be shop-savvy and buy smart.
Here is my "Blog Closet", some secrets, a few tips and a question to help you achieve that goal!
1. Small and White Plates are my favorite: It is a proven fact that food photos look pretty in small plates. In beginning of my food blogging journey, I used to buy big plates/dinnerware to click pictures. To get back the value of money I spent, these days, I'm using all those as my every day dinnerware.
a. Use small plates or bowls.
b. Wherever possible use white or off-white or light colored plates.
Can you take beautiful pictures with dark colored plates?
Answer is: Yes, you can take really good pictures in colored plates. But, that's a whole new post.
For now, 70% of the times, white and lite dinnerware is your best friend.
Don't Break the Bank Tip:
1. Wait for your popular stores to declare off-season sale, then buy the stuff you like. Pick up their catalogs, mark stuff you need, check back when sales start. Every popular store has an off-season sale.
2. Whenever I visit stores like Home Goods, Williams Sonoma, I first head to their bargain section. That is the place, from where you will not come back "empty handed", yet buy stuff under-budget.
2. I love Jars and Small Glasses: I love using mason jars, small glass filled with water, or small salt/pepper or condiment bowls as fillers in my food styling. You can use these to fill the frame or to create scene. Remember, food photos are clicked in two scenes. (in my vocabulary...) One, "Quiet": Keeping minimum props around the object (food plate) for creating a "quiet" photo scene. Second, "speaking or busy": filling the frame to make it look like "speaking or talking to you"!
However, too quiet or too busy scene is big no-no!
Small glasses or condiment bowls, when used in right setting, bring out the beauty of food in focus.
I never... never buy a whole lot yet always keep any eye on single items.
Don't Break the Bank Tip:
1. Only buy one or two mason jars. one/two glass or tea cups are always spot-able in bargain sections of most stores. Target, Walmart, or even stores like Kohls have dinnerware, jars, and bowls in "sale" section.
2. Small condiment bowls are very readily available in Asian stores for very nominal price.
3. My addiction for Spoons and Silverware started with my cookbook : I spent whole lot time in salad/serving spoons hunt when I was writing my Salad Cookbook. Spoons, or spatulas are good assets to both kind of food scenes, quiet as well as busy. I have learnt that matte-finish spoons or dense-wood handles cause less glare or double-shadows.
Don't Break the Bank Tip:
Issue with fancy silverware is: only available in set of 12 or 24 or are very costly. I invested in one matte-finish set initially. Now, I just keep any eye on stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, or Home Goods where you can find single-piece silverware or serving spoons or salad spoons. Trust me, these you don't need a whole lot.
4. I will never have ENOUGH Napkins and Towels: One of the easiest way to add color to a food is: colorful napkins and towels. Interestingly! You will know the recipe you are planning and you will have an idea what bowl/plate/spoon you will need.... but.... highly likely, you will not know the color of napkin to go with it ;) Unless, of course, if you are master of table-setting which I'm not :) So, I always keep a good stock of colorful napkins in-hand.
Don't Break the Bank Tip:
Mostly, beautiful napkins either come in set of 4 or 6 or more.... and are often high priced. I freak out when I see a Napkin for $6. Here is what I do:
In stores like Walmart, Mitchell's or Tuesday Morning, you will find napkin-size cloth pieces on sale in "Crafts" section. A packet of 6-8 napkins (low quality yet enough to get color in food photo) for about $2-3. All you have to do is pick the one with most appealing colors.
How good does that sound? A lot of napkins in this pile above are low-quality craft cloths. Go figure!
6. Vishal is "guru" of all Boards and Base Table Designs: Vishal always has great ideas in Base Board Designs and I have been consistently big ZERO in it. It will take me a complete post to share this part with you. So hang on! Follow the link to DIY Food Photography Boards.
For now, remember, food background is as important as food. Using one tone, less textured, and one color background will make post-processing of image easy and less stressful.
7. Better late than never! I have started to maintain a Clean and Organized Work Area: This has been a learning experience for me! These day, I opt for a wider work area/picture-shot area. This gives me space to move things around efficiently, and help take pictures from various angles.
One small tip: Never, unless absolutely needed, arrange food on final photo scene setup. Chances are, you might spend more energy in cleaning and re-organizing rather than clicking good pictures.
To organize, I use not-currently-in-use transparent take-out boxes for keeping ribbons, sticks, colors, or anything/everything I might need when working on scene for Food Photo. Earlier, I used to look in every nook and cranny for items while my food waited for next click. Sometimes, I just had that last 10 minutes of sunlight.... and I was like.... Ah! I wish I could find that red ribbon! After I started using boxes, these day it is: Here it is! All at one place :)
8. I started to take it Easy: I have messed-up a lot... I mean, A LOT... of pictures in hurry! These days I always remember to relax, have a cup of coffee, munch on a small snack, take time and then start clicking the pictures. My idea: Food photography should be smart, yet not stressful.
9. My Advice - Follow Your Instincts: Never over think a scene. Use your imagination, and try be natural. Sometimes, over thinking results in very "busy" picture which may look okay to you, but the real focus is missed by the end user. That, my friends, might leave you wondering, why didn't anyone noticed your beautiful creation?!?!
10. Share Smart: Once you have clicked beautiful food photos, don't forget to share them. When you create a new recipe, are you not excited (at least I'm) to share it? Don't you think: this is going to do blast! everyone will go WOW!? For that blast, my friends, reach out, tell people what have you just achieved to get that WOW you are waiting for.
Here are few of my favorite places to share photos in no particular order. Sometimes, I'm lazy, I share at one place and just don't share at others for many days... but that's just me! All of these websites let you register free.
1. Food Gawker
2. Finding Vegan
3. Taste Spotting
4. Healthy Aperture
PS: I will update this list with more links.
Now, Question for you all!
Based on what I shared today. Look at the below picture. Can you tell me Scene Type for this picture? Is it "Quiet" or "Busy"?
And what one thing you liked or disliked about this picture?
I hope you enjoyed a peek into my blog closet today! I'm glad to share it with you. Hoping to bring something delicious on table next week in blogging series.
Here is the list of Previous Posts in this Series:
Food Blogging Basics
Have a great day!
Leave a Message:
Nilofar IyerIt is a quiet scene definitely. But is there too much empty space around the mug and saucer that could be utilized? Or have you left it empty to create an impact and focus on the mug, saucer and cookies? Wonderful read by the way. I share the same predicament when I am struggling for sunlight! :))
SavitaNilofar, thanks for your kind words. Well, I just wanted to show how a quiet scene looks like and it does create a focus on things in scene. In one way, this kind of scene is very good for portraits or for writing Text on empty space. However, for food photography, I would fill this picture a little more.
AnupamaI like the picture because of the lightning which is perfection. I like the contrasting mug and plate. It's a quiet picture. That's another reason why I like it. Oh also the fact that I can't see the face of the spoon which makes it less on the face. Like the fact that the angle is nice and comfo.
SavitaAwesome! Anupama, I love when someone takes time to read complete post :) Yes, you are right, this scene is "quiet". You know why I made it less on face? Because cup is empty yet it does not look like. Spoon is just that silent prop which making it look more realistic...
AnupamaSuch a useful post explained in such a calm reassuring manner. Loved it! Tx for sharing Savita:)
SavitaThanks, Anupama, I'm glad you liked it.
Ritu ahujaA very helpful and informative post dear. Love reading it. Thanks for sharing wonderful insights of food presentation. :) and about the question you have posted, scene looks quiet to me. :)
SavitaThanks, Ritu! Glad you found it useful :) You are right my friend, the scene is "quiet". I'm happy you took time to read the post.
nusrathLovely share, thanks savita for sharing it
SavitaI'm glad you like it, Nusrath! I'm happy to share!
padmaLovely share savita..very informative and useful:I...Just loved it:)..Thanks for sharing:)
SavitaPadma, I'm happy you found it informative. thanks for stopping by!
Anu-My Ginger Garlic KitchenThank you very much for these AWESOME food styling tips, Savita. This is indeed a great insight. In my opinion a good food styling is a must to make food photo look appealing. Very informative and useful article for all food bloggers. Thanks again for this lovely share! :)
SavitaAnu, I agree with your opinion. Food styling is so very important. I'm happy you like it, my friend :)