9 Tips to Creating the Best Food Photos

There is a real art to food styling for photography.  Don't expect to take photos that are @hippilane or @thekitchenmccabe quality on your first shot but with practice and the help of these 9 tips you will be on your way to that coveted instagram page and thousands of followers. 

My first interaction with a food stylist was for a photoshot I was art directing for a popular Las Vegas Strip restaurant. I was absolutely blown away when the artist showed up two assistants carrying three large cases of tools and props. 

The chef would create two of everything. One was a food sit in that we would use to set up the perfect shot. The other was known as the "Hero" it would be quickly taken away by the stylist to get the movie star treatment and create the perfect dish. The stylist work station looked more like a painters studio than a photoshot and when she would finish our hero would be brought in to get the perfect image.  

Her tricks included adding glycerin to the outside of a glass to create the perfect long lasting condensed wet look or painting red strawberries with red lipgloss to make them shine, bacon was glistening with the help of WD-40 and the coffee froth lasted longer than it should have with the help of liquid soap.

We are NOT suggesting you go out and create two of everything or start McGyvering your dishes, but what we learned that day by watching the stylist use out of the box solutions to create the hero made us realize just how much work goes into the "perfect" food image.

9 Tips to the perfect food image.

  1. Use a camera or photo editing app.
    Believe it or not most of the really great food photography on Instagram is taken with the camera not a phone but if you're using your phone use apps like snapseed or Polarr to get that rustic film texture. 
  2. Use ingredients
    Ingredients serve as great props. Cut things up, lay them out and stage your food with them. 
  3. Use different types of plates.
    Different patterns and textures help to create visual balance. Also use smaller plates to give your image a edible perspective.
  4. Use props.
    Props can be anything from old books and plants to kitchen utensils. Pickup sample pieces of materials from places like Homedepot which sells wood and marble in large square sample pieces to use as your background. Also purchase various small pieces of burlap and other materials from fabrics stores to serve as backgrounds and props. 
  5. Use natural light
    This will help keep your shots from looking flat or having unappetizing color casts. Try & find your best source of natural light in your house. 
  6. Organized chaos
    It does not need to be perfect but it does need to be styled intentionally messy - crumble ingredients around lightly on the plate and take the shot with food on the fork. Don't eat half your dinner then shot it. 
  7. Find your style
    Pay attention to the kinds of images you like and mimic what you see. Try to continue in that as you hone your style. 
  8. Shoot from different angles
    Great shots can be taken from above and remember the rule of threes.
  9. Fake it
    If you are seriously considering making the focus of your instagram be food. Then consider using some of the stylist tricks I mentioned above. Making food look its best for the camera, just like girls do for a selfie, is part of the food stylist's repertoire. 


Rachel zimbelman