My Favorite Food Styling Tips and Tricks

Food styling is hard. I learn so much about it with every job and on my own time. I am constantly researching different ways to make my job easier. Most of the time, I don’t have a food stylist on my shoots so the client is relying on me to make sure their food looks picture perfect! I’d love to share my favorite food styling tricks and tips that I’ve learned as a photographer!

The hardest things to photograph, in my opinion, are sandwiches/burgers, salads, and pastas.

Why are burgers and sandwiches so difficult? Because you need to make sure that the customer can see every ingredient in that sandwich or burger, without it looking sloppy. This is especially hard to do when you have to balance sauces, juicy tomatoes & lettuce that could wilt!

photo for San Diego Brewing Co.

Honestly, it’s best if the patty/protein in the burger or sandwich isn’t piping hot. It’s just going to make the rest of the ingredients not look as great. We want the greens to look crisp and fresh and we don’t want the sauces melted everywhere. If I’m ever photographing sandwiches or burgers, I usually ask them to bring the ingredients out to me so that I can assemble it in a way where everything is visible – plus, it’s less time that the dish will sit and possibly start to fall apart!

photo for Donna Jean

I think salads are pretty tough too – you want to make sure you can see approximately an equal amount of each ingredient & also for the dressing to not be overwhelming. It’s usually a good idea to chill the dressing so its a little less runny than if it were at room temperature so that you can place it a bit easier where you want it!

photo for Donna Jean
photo for Donna Jean

I like to call pasta a “controlled chaos” dish. It’s hard to style these longer noodles because it’s like they have a mind of their own and they go where they want to go – which in my eyes, can be a good thing. I don’t like for dishes to look so styled that they look fake, but I do prefer them to look neater than if you just scooped it onto a plate. If there is any sauce, it’s generally best to use less of it if the pasta is tossed in it, or you can always drizzle it over the top once you get the pasta in place. Since both of these pastas have vegetables and garnishes on them, it was important that the garnishes are placed last to avoid wilting. and the vegetables are placed evenly throughout the dish.

A lot of people ask me about using non-food props (i.e. – glue for milk in cereal, motor oil for syrup, things of that nature) – and those types of tricks are kind of staples with larger-scale commercial shoots, but for my particular style and what I do – I really try to focus on the product itself. It feels almost deceiving in a way to use something that enhances the product or makes it look a way that it couldn’t on its own. It’s fine to prop things up with a piece of a potato or melt some chocolate with a hair dryer – but using non-food is really not my thang!

Thanks for checking out my favorite tips and tricks for food styling.

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