Food Styling: Making It Real

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Chicken Salad with Square BreadThere is no one right way (or wrong way) to style your food.  When I am photographing food, the only area of the food I really pay attention to is the side or piece that is being photographed. I like to sketch out my image, either mentally or on paper, and then I can take care of the styling with a specific photograph in mind. For instance if the image needs to show the front of the food, it doesn’t matter to me what the back looks like, as long as it isn’t in the image.
I will also use the Live View feature of my camera. It helps me to see how the camera sees the setup. This is also helpful to quickly edit what is in the scene. Are all the garnishes showing up how I wanted them? Is the fork in the right spot…etc… This is just a quick way to frame the image. I like to think of it as my “on the go” composition step. Once I’m good with the composition, I then turn off the Live View feature and continue with the job.
Also when photographing food, it is important to showcase what is being sold. We recently photographed chicken salad for a local deli. For this project the chicken salad was the most important piece. They could buy it by the pound or have it prepared in a sandwich. So for all the images, the chicken salad needed to be the most abundant food in the image.

Once we finished the job for the client, we then went to play with other compositions for the chicken salad. This is where the creativity really comes into play. It’s amazing how many different ways you could showcase chicken salad. The choices were unlimited:

Black Background

White Background

Traditional Sandwich

Creative Shot with Circle Bread

In a bowl with square cutout bread.

Forks In the Image

As you see from all the images, there was no one way to create this image. The most important piece during styling is that everything that ends up in the image, was meant to be there. A crumb on the plate, was put there specifically for the image. A fork dug into the food, makes it look more real and attainable to the viewer. Sometimes it adds balance to the photograph. These are such small details, but so important to a successful photograph.

Round Toasted Bread and Chicken Salad

Three Square Bowls of Chicken Salad

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