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How to style food for photography – 11 top tips

Jennifer Joyce writes and styles recipes for olive magazine, BBC Good Food and many other top UK publications. Here she teaches us how to style food like a pro in 11 easy steps. Remember to keep your plate simple, buy in seasonal veg to use as props, and live by the mantra, 'less is more'!

KEEP PLATES SIMPLE

Your dishes will shine when served on white, light blue or sometimes black plates. Don’t be tempted to use the pottery you bought in Italy last year, as the colours compete with the food and it becomes too busy. You can always throw in some colour with napkins or other colourful bits.

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PICK YOUR PROP STYLE

Make sure your props reflect your style and stick with the same theme. If it’s retro, slick modern, country chic or ethnic funk you like, keep it consistent. Don’t worry if it’s the same pieces – as long as they’re beautiful, that’s what counts. 


THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

You don’t always have to plate your food. Show it in the pot, place it in three bowls, stack it with paper in between or show it on an old baking tray.


LESS IS MORE

Don’t overload your plate or serving dish. Too much food and not enough plate looks bloated and heavy. It will appear bigger than you think on camera. Always show a fair amount of rim when plating up.


SHOW SOME ACTION

A static plate of food is a bit boring; shake it up and put some action in the photo. Show herbs being chopped, parmesan being shaved, scoopfuls being removed, knives cutting slices, and cake slices removed.


DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A MESS

Throw a few crumbs or blobs of oil on the plate; let it get a bit messy. Don’t take it too far or it can have the opposite effect. But a few rocket leaves, seeds or black pepper on the side is beautiful and real. 


BUY FABULOUS SEASONAL VEG

Mini cucumbers, baby yellow beetroot, wild rocket leaves or rainbow chard can lend heaps of beauty to food photography. Shop at Natoora or your local greengrocer for eye-popping beautiful veg to pimp-up your food.


GET THE TOOLS

Invest in some professional tools to take your food to the next level. Zesters, mandolines, piping bags and julienne peelers can help create a special touch, so pop over to Divertimenti or start scanning Amazon.


IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE BROWN

Use colourful garnishes to perk up brown food. Rocket leaves, yoghurt, lemon and lime wedges, red chilis, spring onions, radishes, micro cress and herbs are all at your disposal!


STAY GREEN

Blanch your green veggies such as broccoli, green beans and peas in boiling water followed by a rinse in ice-cold water. This will lock in the green colour and keep your salads vibrant. 


PERKY HERBS

Herbs wilt quickly once out of the fridge, so place them in cold water until using. Always add to your food at the last minute to keep them springy and fresh.


Jennifer Joyce is the author of My Street Food Kitchen (Murdoch Books). Follow her on Instagram, or visit her website here.

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