Food Photography and Styling Tips

I’m so excited that Denise is sharing these food photography and food styling tips with us!!!

During the BlogHer 2011 Conference in San Diego last weekend I was lucky enough to have a coveted spot in the Hillshire Farm Food Photography and Styling Workshop, where I learned lots of tricks and tips from a celebrated panel of experts, including award winning food photographer Sara Remington, noted food stylist William Smith and media editor at Saveur magazine Helen Rosner.

I’m excited to have learned a lot from the distinguished panel and I wanted to share some of their excellent tips with you.  Whether you take pictures of your recipes for a blog, want to record a memento of your culinary masterpieces, or just like to Tweet pictures from a restaurant you could benefit from their knowledge!

  • Sara recommends using an inexpensive white foam core board from a craft store for bouncing the natural light in your kitchen.
  • She also uses a black foam core board tilted like a tent over the food for a more dramatic look.
  • Since restaurants are typically dimly lit, try asking for a window table and going early if you plan to photograph the food.
  • Keep the props simple so they don’t overpower the food.
  • Shop at Goodwill, Salvation Army or flea markets for vintage plates, dishes and linens to use as props.
  • William talked about using Plexiglas over fabric, such as black velvet, in lieu of a plate or other dish.
  • Add glasses, dishes, cutlery or other items to expand the story of your shot.
  • Styling doesn’t have to look perfect, casual shots are more natural.
  • If the food is really “ugly” then get close to it – for example, from far away meatloaf isn’t very interesting, but up close the texture is beautiful.
  • If you spend too much time placing things for your shot then the food will no longer look fresh.  Try using a stand-in until you find the perfect shot, then get a fresh plate of food.
  • Helen recommends challenging the boundaries between text and image by adding some text features to your shots.
  • She says that too many photos is like over salting a dish – it may be pretty but it doesn’t taste good.
  • Choosing the right shot for your lead photo is very important.  Think about which shot best serves your post and make sure the visual cues you’re providing match the verbal cues.
  • Visitors reading in a standard vertical scroll tend to lose interest after 200-300 words, so break up longer posts with photos, but don’t go overboard.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you on your food photography journey.


  1. says

    Very insightfull article! I recently got into photography and I understand now that the lighting must impecable. I never knew that a simple shadow can make a dish look “less” yummy than it is. I’ll be sure to use your tips – because I love photographing food! Thanks again!!!

    • says

      Thank you John – I love posting recipes here at $5 Dinners and I want my photos to look “tastier” so I can’t wait to start putting these tips to good use!

  2. says

    I’m just starting to get into food photography… who knew there was this whole otherside to food/cooking and blogging. These are all great tips! I’ve started raiding the clearence shelves at stores and keeping my eyes open for vintage pieces for props and dishes…. Plexiglas over fabric… great idea!


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