3 Food Styling Tips to help your food blog stand out

3 Food Styling Tips to help your food blog stand out

Before we start with food styling tips to help your food blog stand out, let’s answer the question: What does food styling mean?

What does food styling mean?

It is the act of helping food look attractive, often for photography and video. It can include placement, props, garnishes, backgrounds and food plating. It can also mean moving away from a recipe in order for all elements of a dish looking their best, such as cooking meat and vegetables separately for a one-pot recipe so that the meat is brown and the vegetables retain their colour.

If the idea of changing a recipe to make food more attractive doesn’t fit with wanting to stay real and relatable, here are three top food styling tips for authentic food styling for your own recipes and food blog.

Food Styling Tip 1: Colour

Brown foods such as stews and chilli are one of the banes of food styling and photography. Brown food is rarely attractive on its own, and needs a lot of love as well as great lighting to show how delicious it can be.

One technique used by food stylists to add interest to brown food is use complementary colours which bring  contrast and interest. Complimentary colours are those that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. Brown (or the reds and warm yellows of the colour wheel) sit opposite green.

What that means is that your food photos will perk up if you sit your meat or chocolate cake on a green plate, next to green vegetables or use green linens. The same goes for putting orange food or drinks on a blue background and purple or violet food on a yellow background.

Using complimentary colours in your food styling can perk up dull areas such as the brown of stews and other meats.

Food Styling Tip 2: Break it Up

When plating up your food, there is often a large expanse of one colour. While our eye doesn’t see that as a problem, within the frame of a camera lens, it can be. This is when garnishes are your friend. Green herbs on your meats and stews (see also complementary colours above) or pistachios on the top of smoothies can break up that large area of a single colour.

Garnishes come into their own on large areas of white or very pale colours such as feta cheese or pasta salads. The areas can look VERY contrasty and an ideal way to deal with that is break up the area with garnishes or flecks of colour. Feta cheese works well with chopped mint or chives, pasta salad would be great with herbs, finely chopped jalapeños or yellow and orange peppers. A bake with a béchamel sauce and/or cheese might have bread crumbs sprinkled on top and browned under a grill.

Food Styling Tip 3: Negative Space

Negative space helps the eye be drawn where you want it to go – your plate of tasty food. Negative space clears the clutter and allows your plate of food to breathe, in a design sense. It also gives you a break from finding more props or garnishes to fill the space. Just have a look at any of the professional food photos on Instagram – row after row of photos have areas of blank or empty space – negative space – around the plated food and props – the positive space.

If you want to use the principles of negative space, but not have it completely empty, you could use toning props such as a bowl or napkin the same colour as your background.

So there are three food styling tips to make your food photos better quickly and authentically. If you would like more tips, just click the link below for a PDF of 9 quick tips that you can print out and use to improve your food photography today.

Divide + conquer: the low-stress food shoot

Divide + conquer: the low-stress food shoot

There’s a LOT going on when you’re shooting for your food blog. And there’s a tiny window to get it all done. So here’s one technique to take that pressure off and give you a low stress food shoot.

Divide and conquer.

Yes, that battle strategy is just perfect for your next stress-free food shoot.

Plan your low stress food shoot or recipe shoot with these simple instructions.

Imagine (or remember) your last food shoot. You had already been cooking or prepping food, probably an unfamiliar recipe or one you’d created. It most likely had a ‘best before’ window before it melted, wilted or simply looked tired. And you were hungry and wanted the shoot done so you could eat. Ditto your family or friends. Yes, hangry is real.

That’s a lot of pressure on top of all the things you need to do to take beautiful food photos. So let’s list all the tasks involved in a food shoot:

– Choosing/creating your recipe
– Finding styling inspiration (e.g. Google images, Instagram)
– Planning your props and plating
– Choosing where to shoot
– Buying/finding ingredients
– Getting your props ready (plates and glasses shiny, napkins ironed, background set)
– Deciding the angles of photos you need for Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, your blog post and possibly sponsors
– Modifying the light for your shoot (e.g. bouncing it with reflectors or white boards, diffusing it with muslin/fabric or soft boxes, blocking it with black boards)
– Building your set-up, arranging your props
– Prepping your camera: making sure you have space on your memory card, battery charged and your lenses are clean and nearby
– Cooking your recipe
– Plating your food and prepping your garnishes/styling fresh items
– The shoot itself

Plan your low stress food shoot by dividing your tasks before and during your shoot. Your list may look a little different to this with more or fewer steps, but the chances are this is pretty close. Feel free to pat yourself on the back for having done all of these things in past shoots.

Have you noticed that EVERYTHING except the final three can be done beforehand? There is no need for it to happen at once, especially when the pressure is on.

You could even set up your props and backgrounds weeks ahead so that they look the way you want before finalising your recipes or blog posts and take test shots.

If you’re finding your food or recipe shoots a lot of pressure, try separating out the planning, styling and lighting from your actual shoot. Even if it is done moments before you step into the kitchen to cook your recipe, at least you are only concentrating on a few things at once. If you try this out, do let me know how this works for you.

If you want more help with your food photography, you can get the Food Photography Quick-start Templates to help you with that. The templates contain three templates for taking food photos including styling, lighting set-up and camera settings. 

Plan your low stress food shoot by dividing your tasks before and during your shoot.

Food Styling: Rule of Thirds

Food Styling: Rule of Thirds

Food styling is a hot topic with one-to-one mentoring clients this month. There have been many questions around general principles, especially when you’re just starting out. So today we’re talking about the Rule of Thirds for food photography – a great tool to have in your pocket for styling your recipes and food.


The Rule of Thirds is a technique or principle that many photographers use to make their work more attractive. Designers and other creatives also use the Rule of Thirds to help make their work look more pulled together.

If you divide your viewfinder/photo into three vertically and horizontally, you’ll have nine identical blocks. The four main intersections are ideal focal points in your photograph – the places you want your readers to look.

How to use the rule of thirds for food styling and food photo composition.


Look at the four intersections in the photo at the top of this post. You are going to put your featured plate or bowl of food in one of these intersections. Set up any layers such as background, linens or chopping boards first, then add your plate. This is the main place you want people to look.

Now add your supporting items such as cutlery, side dishes, garnishes and drinks. You can try adding one of these to another of the four circled intersections. How does that look? Try taking vertical and horizontal photos of your set-up.

The four dividing lines themselves are useful for horizon lines such as the edge of your table.

By using one or more of these four focal points for your food photos, your composition will tend to have a natural sense of balance. And by using the rule of thirds for your food photography, you’re offering an alternative to the common photo of one central plate shot from above.

You don’t have to be exact with your thirds. But do note that some cameras allow you to switch on guidelines in your viewfinder, which can help and Lightroom’s crop tool also has the lines built in.

It can take a few tries to become completely comfortable with using the rule of thirds, but once it is second nature, taking more stylish food photos becomes easier.

Try out this principle for your next recipe or food shoot and see how it affects your photography. Does it make for better photos for you? How do you feel in yourself while you’re using this food styling technique? More confident or comfortable?

I’d love to know how this works for you and see your photos. If you post on Instagram, please use the hashtag #livingabstracts so I can find your food photos and say hello.

If you want more help with your food photography, you can get the Food Photography Quick-start Templates to help you with that. The templates contain three templates for taking food photos including styling, lighting set-up and camera settings. 

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