Eat with Your Eyes - Food Styling Basics

Food, glorious food!  Do you ever get the sense that your social media feeds are being overtaken by images of food?  We do, and for the most part we love it.  Instafoodies and Foodbookers keep us entertained, inspired and hungry- most of the time.  But it only takes a few dark and dirty looking food pictures to put us off our meal.  The old adage that we "eat with our eyes" is a golden rule for social media. 

One of the most common questions we get asked is how to improve phone camera food photography.    So we tried a little experiment to see if how food is styled and photographed affected people's desire to eat it.  Have a look at the two images below.  Same meal, same phone camera (Samsung Galaxy Note 3), same photographer.

We then asked our friends, family and social media audience which dish they would rather eat.  It's no surprise that the dish on the left was chosen 100% of the time.  No one was even slightly tempted by the dish on the right.

Now, have a look at your social media feeds.  Have you seen people posting images similar to the dish on the right (or are your guilty of it yourself?).  It's not the worst photo ever....but its not enticing, engaging or doing this tasty dish any justice.

Sometimes it's simple changes to make all the difference.  The dish on the left was a clear winner, and we never even told anyone what it was they were choosing to eat!  So if you like sharing pictures of your meals, here are a few things to consider.

Set the scene

Before snapping your food photo, consider these questions:  Where was it made? How was it made? What else am I eating it with?  If you are taking a photo for a recipe or promoting the dish as homemade, consider including some of the raw ingredients with the finished product.  If you are at a gorgeous restaurant think about how you may capture the scene in your photo.

Placement

We were careful to place our dish to create a line of sight to fill the frame.  The dish was in the foreground as the main focal point, from there we led the eye with the handle, to the magazine and to the casserole dish on the stove top.  Taking a picture of your food from a slight angle will generally provide a more appealing result (*unless you are specifically styling your food for a flat lay, but that is not the style we are working with here).

Add colour

Sometimes food isn't the prettiest colour, and brown food tends to be the hardest to look appetizing in photos.  Make your food photos pop by adding a few touches of colour.  This could be from the dish, a napkin or even the garnish. 

In this image we picked a yellow dish with white interior.  The white interior made sure our food didn't take on a yellow hue.  Next, we added some spinach leaves, grated carrot and a lemon wedge. However it wasn't until we added the bright red capsicum that the dish came to life. 

If you did not make the food yourself, have a look at the meal and your surrounds to see how you might incorporate some colour.  You might pull the lettuce and tomato ever so slightly from the bun on your amazing burger, add a drizzle of mustard to your gourmet hot dog or place a folded red napkin under the edge of you plate.

Lighting

Be aware of where the light is falling on your meal, always shoot with the light behind you.  Look for a shadow or a highlight and move around the dish to find the light. Then ensure your own shadow isn't in the way.  If you don't have enough light, turn every light on, open doors and curtains.  If there still isn't enough to light up your dish, fake it!  We used an  LED torch to wash some extra light on our dish and bring out the colour and texture. 

If you are dining out your lighting options may be limited.  In that case use your best judgement- does it do the meal, the chef and the restaurant justice to take a dodgy photo?  Probably not.  Instead, put down your phone, live in the moment and enjoy your meal.

Now, here is the best part of our little experiment.  That tasty meal that everyone said they would be happy to tuck in to was.....DOG FOOD!  With a bit of clever styling and applying a few simple photography tips we were able to make the most unappetising of foods look delicious.

Do you love taking pictures of food?  Follow us on Instagram and share your best images or food styling tips.  If you want some additional help with improving your food photography or styling, contact us.

Want more?  Here is a behind the scenes look at how we styled this shoot.

Social Media Photographers - Food Styling Basics

*A big thank you to everyone that played along with our little experiment.  Ginger the WonderDog (and our Chief Furnancial Officer) was very happy to help us with the washing up!

 

 


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