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Food Styling: The Art of Making Food Photogenic

submitted on 19 August 2023 by


As we live in a world inundated with food-pornology, the art of food styling has become an essential skill for anyone who wants their culinary creations to have the looks to match their tastes. Gone are the days when a dish's flavor alone could guarantee gastronomic success. Now, if your food is not Instagram-worthy, you may as well not even bother to serve it.But making food look good enough to eat on-camera is not as easy as one might think. It takes a particular set of skills, a keen eye for detail, and an innate ability to bring out the most photogenic qualities of even the most unassuming of dishes. So let us delve into the world of food styling and discover how to transform your culinary creations into veritable supermodels of the food world.

The Tools of the Trade

To become a food styling maestro, you must first arm yourself with the appropriate tools. Just like a painter needs brushes, paints, and a canvas, a food stylist needs tweezers, cotton swabs, and a variety of other seemingly odd but essential tools to make food look its best.
  • Tweezers: Forget using your fingers to meticulously place each ingredient. A pair of tweezers will help you achieve the ultimate precision when positioning your culinary elements.
  • Cotton Swabs: These simple, disposable tools are perfect for dabbing away unwanted grease spots, smudges, or any other unsightly blemishes that may detract from the overall beauty of the dish.
  • Spray Bottle: A filled spray bottle is essential to add moisture to your food, making it appear fresh and vibrant. Nothing ruins a food photo faster than a dry, wilted piece of lettuce. A quick spritz will bring it back to life.
  • Brushes: Small paintbrushes are perfect for applying a touch of oil to make your food glisten or brushing on a bit of sauce to add depth and interest.
  • Blowtorch: For those dishes that require a little extra heat to achieve the desired look, a small blowtorch is indispensable. Goodbye, pale and underwhelming burger buns. Hello, beautifully browned, caramelized glory.

Understand Your Ingredients

No two ingredients are the same, nor should they be treated as such. Before diving into styling your dish, take a moment to consider the unique characteristics of each ingredient, and how best to highlight their natural beauty.For example, fresh herbs and leafy greens tend to quickly wilt under the heat of camera lights. To preserve their vibrancy, keep them on ice until the last possible moment before adding them to your dish. On the other hand, proteins like meat and fish can quickly dry out, so use a spray bottle to keep them moist and juicy-looking.Additionally, consider the textures of your ingredients. Smooth, shiny surfaces (think avocados, tomatoes, and olives) can benefit from a quick glaze of oil to enhance their glossiness, while coarse, textured foods (such as bread, nuts, and seeds) may benefit from a light dusting of flour or sugar to accentuate their graininess.

Embrace the Chaos

While precision and attention to detail are essential aspects of food styling, sometimes the most beautiful dishes are those that appear slightly imperfect. Life, after all, is not perfect, and neither should your food be. A tiny crumb here, a little dribble of sauce there – these small imperfections lend a sense of authenticity and relatability to your dish, making it more appealing to your audience.So go ahead, embrace the chaos. Let that spaghetti strand dangle precariously from the edge of the plate. Allow that drip of chocolate sauce to meander its way down the side of your cake. In the world of food styling, sometimes less is more.

Accentuate with Color

A pop of color can bring a dish to life and make it infinitely more appealing to the eye. Strategically incorporate bold, contrasting colors into your dish to make it stand out and command attention.For instance, a simple green salad can be utterly transformed with the addition of vibrant red tomatoes or bright yellow bell peppers. A drizzle of ruby red pomegranate seeds over a pale, creamy rice pudding not only adds visual interest but also suggests an added layer of flavor and texture. Experiment with different color combinations to find what works best for your dish and the image you want to achieve.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any art form, the key to mastering food styling is consistent practice. Each ingredient, dish, and photography setup presents its unique challenges, and the more you practice, the more adept you will become at problem-solving and finding the perfect balance between art and reality.So go forth and create! Experiment with different ingredients, textures, and colors. Play with light, shadow, and composition. And above all, have fun. For in the words of the immortal Julia Child, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” We think the same applies to food styling.
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