10 Food Styling Tips to Making Any Food Photo Look Appealing

Food Styling Tips 1This is a guest post by celebrity food stylist Denise Vivaldo. If you would like to write for learn food photography, visit guest post page to learn more.

Sometime back we interviewed celebrity food stylist Denise Vivaldo and in that interview Denise explained how to approach restaurants and build your food photography/styling business. In today’s guest post, Denise shares 10 food styling tips from her more than 30 years of food styling experience.

10 Food Styling Tips to Better Food Photos

  1. Undercook your food. As food cooks it looses moisture and shrinks as it cools. Cook food only long enough so that it no longer looks raw. You can always color too-light areas or apply heat with a kitchen torch or heat gun.
  2. If you can afford it, buy two of what you’re shooting, i.e., chickens, pies.
  3. Make sure your prep is meticulous. Go through product and get rid anything wilted, old or unsightly. Cut, chop and slice precisely.
  4. When designing a plate, consider color (contrasting or complimentary), texture, and balance.
  5. Create elevation and movement. Prop pieces up from the back to create definition. Make a hidden base under food to hold it in place using shortening, damp paper towels, cosmetic wedges, or even mashed potatoes.
  6. Plan for the use of garnishes. Have appropriate herbs, lemon or limes, or extra ingredients to use if needed.
  7. Know that cool food photographs better than hot food. You can make cool or room
    temperature food can be made to look hot by adding moisture and shine with spraying with PAM, or with brushing oil. For highlights spray your food with PAM or water or brush with a little Karo syrup.
  8. Use any available light. If needed, use a shiny sheet pan, a white cutting board, or a hand mirror as a reflector for added light.
  9. Study food photographs you like. What do they have in common?
  10. Less is more. Appreciate how the camera’s eye is different than your eye. You don’t need to have a sliced mushrooms in every square inch of your food to know that it contains sliced mushrooms; one or two will get your point across without making the image messy.

Add Your Tip

Add your advice on food styling below. Share at least one tip on how to make food photos better with food styling.

If you didn’t listen to one-hour class on how to build your food styling and photography business go to this food styling interview. This interview has some great tactical advise on how to approach restaurants and understand what they need.

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  1. 1st tip makes a lot sense! When food is a bit undercooked, their color is still saturated and very vibrant. Clever.

    • Hi Anna, Thank you for stopping by. Denise is a celebrity food stylist. Loved her tips too. Creating elevation almost always works… specially when food does not have any other special feature.

  2. Good how to tips that I can use in prep and planing to make a more appealing shot.

  3. Hello! Great Article!
    Any tips or advise for pictures of FROZEN seafood products….??

    Problem A: The product must be inside of the packaging (is for a catalog and website)

    Problem B: The packaging (Bag) has a window, and the product inside must look good.

    I thought about treating the seafood with chemicals to make them resist (And not sweat) inside of the bag…. any ideas? PLEASE HELP….

    Thank you.

  4. So very helpful! I’m learning the ways of photography and am hoping to go in to it as a career after I graduate. :) Any critiques you would have for anything on my blog would help so much!

  5. Really great info. I don’t do food photography, or any commercial work, however this post (and the rest of your site) is really interesting and I will sure be back. The problem is you make it look too easy (and tasty!) but I know it must be pretty hard.

    Great job though!

    • Mark,

      Thank you for stopping by. Appreciate your comments. You are right… like any other photography, it’s not easy.. at least for me.. other may disagree, but for me this is tough every time…

  6. My most favorite item here is Tip #5. I could care less how the food prepared, whether it’s burned or not, decorative materials help make the photograph appealing. If I was an expert cook, I would be able to give my shots a delectable preview, but that’s not the case since I usually rely on side dishes and condiments to help my photos stand out among the rest.

    • Hi Shin,

      Tip 5 is my favorite as well. It is interesting. Although I have used actual food to create that elevation…

      Using side dish for helping your photos stand out is an interesting tip. But then does that not distract from main dish? It would be interesting to see how you maintain the balance between directing your eyes towards main dish and using side dish as well…

  7. great tips – especially #5 and #7. I write a food blog and always trying to find ways to make the pics pop..sometimes it looks so much better in reality but I can’t make it look like that in the photos!

  8. Hi! Exellent tips, smth I knew, but a lot of info for me is real revelation.
    But I have a question: what is PAM? I saw it’s site but I don’t understand what for does it need?

  9. ouuch… i would expect from the “celebrity” food stylist to show a better pic. the pic embedded in this article is amateurish … the tips are cool though

  10. Hi I’ve found this post really useful, I like this blog very much.
    I like tips n° 10 very much.
    Less is more.
    I love essential shots.
    It makes the food really stand out.


  11. The styling tips mentioned are certainly valuable when it comes to food photography. Are there more mouthwatering photos other than those presented above? I am looking forward to seeing them.

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