If you are like most food photographers, you probably looooove props. Am I right? Fantastic photo backdrops, dishes and linens can really make or break your shot, though, so it's important to get them right.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when styling your next food photo:
Question #1: Are my props the right size?
When I was first choosing salad servers for this image, I immediately reached for the gorgeous blue and silver set I had purchased from Anthropologie a few years back. The problem was the set was way too large. It just wasn't proportionate to the food so I had to find something smaller that made more sense with the size of bowl I was using. Hence, the silver set you see above.
Question #2: Do my props fit the vibe of the shot?
It's always so tempting to gravitate towards using new or favorite props for a shot without really thinking through whether or not they fit the overall vibe. Is your shot modern? Rustic? Homey? Pick items that "go" with each other. Make sure that each prop you choose is cohesive within your scene so that it doesn't distract the viewer.
Question #3: Do my props make sense?
I will always fondly remember a photographer who attended a food photography workshop I was teaching several years back, who was so in love with all the props he got to play with during class that he incorporated a turquoise photo surface, a vintage scale, an old Coke bottle and some modern dinnerware into his shot of....a sandwich. 😂
Look, I get it. Props are FUN! But your shot also needs to make sense. You can absolutely be creative and take embellishments with the story you create, but adding, say, cute forks to a shot of soup is going to be distracting because THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.
Question #4: Do my props distract from the food?
As always, it's our job as food photographers to make the food the star. And if we use the wrong food photography backdrop or too many items or really brightly colored or patterned props to our photo, they may just end up taking the focus off the food, which is not what we want. Always remember that THE FOOD NEEDS TO SHINE.