Top 10 food styling tips for bloggers

March 3, 2011 in Tips

Following on from the IFBA food styling and photography workshop with Sharon Hearne-Smith and Donal Skehan in November, Sharon has sent us her top 10 food styling tips.

These could be very useful for anyone interested in entering our competition to represent Ireland at the From Plate to Page food bloggers’ photography and writing workshop.

(c) Lis Parsons

1. Beautifully styled food starts with your shopping. Be fussy about choosing the most beautiful, vibrant, interesting and aesthetically pleasing fresh and dry produce.

2. Your propping needs to be thought about before you even start on the food. Decide on a style you like and start a small collection of props that you can mix and match in shots. You don’t have to spend a fortune – many of the best and most interesting props can be found in skips, junk yards, charity shops, auctions or your granny’s cupboards! Look out for interesting shapes, textures and patterns, but never allow the props to overshadow the food, which should always be the star!

3. Prepare your food with love and careful consideration. Good knife skills, interesting shapes and thought for how you want the end result to look will help bring out the best in your food and style. Cut food differently to how you normally would and watch out for interesting patterns, shapes and textures in the food.

4. It’s important to think about the beauty of the end result when assembling food for cooking. Don’t just throw something together, especially if it can’t be changed once set from cooking. Be careful when mixing ingredients so as not to damage or squash them. Create peaks and valleys when filling pies or tarts to add interest to the shape. We like drips and splodges, as they are rustic, homely and help the food look yummy!

5. Be open to shooting stages as you go, especially if your raw ingredients, assembly techniques or process steps are beautiful. Step-by-step shots can help explain a process more easily than words, can make for an interesting story montage and could even be used on their own if the end result is less than perfect!

Clam Pasta (c) Lis Parsons6. Do a little cooking test first where appropriate. That way, you can decide the best method for the most attractive result. Keep a close eye on food while it’s cooking, as you might just rescue that lopsided cake or almost burnt chicken! Try and retain the bright colour of fruit and vegetables as much as possible, even if it means saving a handful back that have been barely cooked to use as ‘hero’ pieces when assembling.

7. When plating up, view the food roughly from where the camera angle will be. Carefully place each component of the dish on individually. Consider a good balance of colour and shape. Watch out for dark holes or gaps and favour oozing, succulent, golden, vibrant and delicious-looking pieces of food (the ‘heros’) on top. Ensure you see at least a piece of each of the components of the dish.

8. Save final flourishes until you are completely happy with your arrangement of the food, camera and props. Last-minute flourishes include glazing with oil or honey to give instant vibrancy, warmth and yumminess to the food, the addition of sauces, herbs, sprinkles of salt and pepper and dustings of icing sugar or cocoa powder. Add these a small bit at a time, snapping after each addition. It’s easy to add more, but not so easy to take it off!

9. When it comes to photographing the food, think about the composition of the shot. Are people involved in holding or eating the food? Is there an elaborate table setting or a simple plate of food? Or maybe the food is on a tray or in a lunchbox on someone’s lap? Consider your angle too – you might shoot from straight overhead, close in on the food, a very symmetrical shot where the food is lined up or even cut out part of the dish to avoid symmetry altogether. Your composition is as important as your food styling and photography skills.

10. Finally, look closely at other food photography, picking out what you like most about a particular shot. Be inspired by this as a starting point for your own creation, then work with what you have and all of the tips above and you are well on your way to improving your food photos for blogging!

Happy propping, cooking, styling, photographing and blogging, but most of all, don’t faff about for too long and get eating and enjoying!

Find Sharon Hearne-Smith online at, or (Photos (c) Lis Parsons)

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2 responses to Top 10 food styling tips for bloggers

  1. This is a great article- very helpful and as being relatively new to photographing food I know I’m very guilty of using same props and shooting on my kitchen counter too much! Need to gather up some simple props.

  2. Great tips Sharon – especially number 5!!! ; )

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