Nowadays, snapping high-resolution photos is a piece of cake even if you are on the road. With the advancement in photo-editing apps, non-professionals can easily adjust technical elements like contrast, saturation or colour temperature.
The bigger challenge usually is: unlike in a studio or your own kitchen, you probably do not have the luxury to pick your props or choose your background. Most of the time, you have to settle for the limitations in the environment.
That happened often on my recent PEI Summer Yumminess trip. The food itself became the ONLY element that I could play around. Yet, it would be unethical to alter or distort the artistic presentation or the plating of a dish. The bottom line is: we should respect the chefs. However, with a few simple food styling tricks, I managed to enhance the appeal of the images without moving a mountain:
1. Spoon it up
One the hardest dishes to shoot is soup, particularly if it is a white creamy soup or if the base is clear. A bowl of liquid lying flat on a table seems boring. If it is served in a special container like a jar, it will be easy as you can simply take advantage of its structure and presentation. Alternatively, if there are ingredients “buried” under the surface, use your spoon to dig them up. Make them the hero. Suddenly, your frame will be filled with life.
2. Add a cutlery
Some dishes, like a salad or a fried rice, usually don’t have a wow presentation. No matter what angle you take, it seems the same. But, if you add a cutlery, like a fork, on its side or in the background, it will immediately create a mood of tasty readiness, stimulating a psychological impact in your audience.
3. Highlight the hero
Sometimes, the hero of a dish may be distracted or get buried by other ingredients. You may want to find a way to bring it to the forefront, like holing up a piece of smoked salmon on top of a crostini in an appetizer mixed with potatoes and a green salad. And, move the food around as long as you keep the integrity of the original plating. For example, turn the opening side of shellfishes upwards instead of facing down.
4. Use the throwaways
There are many ways to create a “tempting” effect. The simplest is to keep the original refined presentation intact. But, for food served casually or in bulk, like those in a café or a diner, what can you do? It may be counter-intuitive. Yet, consider using throwaways, like the shells of eaten oysters, as a prop in the background. That will actually help feed your imagination with a desire for more.
5. Take a bite
By now, you probably are getting the basic principle of these simple food styling tips. It is all about playing a mind game. Grab whatever around you and use your creativity. In fact, you can even use your teeth as a styling tool, in lieu of all other options. Just take a bite! A croissant with a bite mark looks better than a plain one because it is screaming: I am wanted! Bon appétit.