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.