Working with a great food stylist is one of the best things you can do to elevate your food photography. However, that's not always in the budget or feasible so it's helpful to know a few basic tricks:
1. Make your soup unsinkable
One of the challenges with soup is that everything sinks to the bottom. You want to really showcase the ingredients and all the various shapes and textures to help the dish shine.
A simple trick is to “lift” everything up in the bowl by placing a smaller, inverted dish in the bottom. This gives your ingredients a shelf to sit on if they insist on sinking. Sometimes this isn’t necessary and you can simply add more of the vegetables and meat (or whatever) and less broth and you’ll be fine. But you want to make sure that all the ingredients are represented somewhere on the surface of the soup, without making it look too staged or perfect. Additionally, fresh herbs and cracked pepper go a long way towards making your dish look complete.
2. Shine up your chocolate
Did you ever notice how chocolate often comes out of the package looking dull and scuffed? A simple solution is to gently warm it, which will shine it right up and remove most of the imperfections. I usually use a heat gun on low and hold it a good distance away from the chocolate (it will get shiny FAST.) I have worked with several chocolate producers and a heat gun is used in those shoots almost every time, (sometimes to excess, in my opinion!) NOTE: if you are using one of our surfaces, keep the heat gun away because it can damage and warp the background. Also, heat guns are like hair dryers so be mindful of any strategically placed crumbs that you don’t want blown away!
3. Nobody likes dry meat
Meat is one of those tricky subjects, where you want to see some glisten on it but not *too* much; it needs to looks moist and juicy but not oily. Once meat sits out for a bit, the juices tend to dry up, so it’s helpful to add a little moisture before shooting it. But what’s the best technique? Water evaporates quickly and oil gets re-absorbed into the meat. You know what works well? Corn syrup! Simply brush on a bit of corn syrup in the places you want to add a touch of shine and you’ll be good to go.
4. Dressing for the camera
Salads are one of my favorite things to shoot because you really can’t go wrong with fresh produce. They are also my favorite thing to eat. However, how I dress my salad for eating and how I dress it for the camera are two very different things.
Salt and acid make greens wilt so it’s important not to add either to your salad before shooting it. Additionally, dressing weighs down veggies, making them look lifeless and not appetizing so, when photographing a salad, I never toss it in dressing the way I would before serving it at a meal. Rather, I plate the salad in a way that showcases all the ingredients, picking out the best looking greens and veggies, and then paint on dressing in select areas right before snapping the image.
5. Pins and sponges
Two of the tools my food stylist and I use most for food styling are pins and wedge makeup sponges, both cheap and easy to purchase online. Pins are used to hold things together and keep them in place, like layers in a sandwich, and makeup sponges are used for propping things up or, in this case, creating more structure in the sandwich so it doesn’t tilt or sink. Check out the handy diagram below the gif to see where we placed both.