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  • The Chopping Blog

Food Styling Secrets

Laura S
Posted by Laura S on May 2, 2024
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As a food photographer and stylist, I’m often asked about the craziest, grossest thing I’ve ever done to a piece of food to get it to look good on camera. The answer? You’ve got the wrong stylist. I’m one of a growing number of food stylists who tries their best not to ruin the food or fake too many elements in photos. What’s bad for my social capital (conversation quickly fizzles after I admit that!), it’s good for you: I’m here today to share five secrets to getting food to look its best, whether on camera or at the table.



1. Garnish it up!

No plate of spaghetti is complete without a dusting of grated cheese. No pizza can be called a pizza until it has fresh leaves of basil laid on top. No taco is ready to be devoured until it has a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Garnishes are important to the way that we perceive tastes in food and they really do put the icing on the cake, so to speak. To make your food look restaurant quality, add a final touch or two—even a few flakes of sea salt or fresh cracked black pepper will do. Your guests will be impressed, and your food will shine!

2. Go for depth and height.

When I work with food, I’m always thinking about how to make it pop off the plate. My go-to strategy? Make it as 3-D as possible. If you’re serving up a plate of macaroni and cheese, make sure that the noodles are stacked on the plate to create an appealing sense of abundance. Use things like garnishes and elements like noodles, broths, frosting, butter, or sauces that layer on top of each other to create a sense of depth in the food. It’ll make it pop on camera and for your guests!

3. Contrast is your friend.

Whether in texture, color, or shape, contrast is key for a visually dynamic plate of food. If you have a red food, for example, use green herbs to add some interest in the garnish. If you’re making a pot of smooth, beautiful gazpacho, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of crunchy nuts to contrast the texture of the soup. Not only will these tips help make your food look more interesting, but they’ll also make them more delicious!


4. Shape it up.

Something I bet you’ve never considered before is the shape of your food. When you’re making a dish and want it to look its best, most interesting self, look at the shapes of each element. Are there lots of long, thin strands? Is everything cut into a circle? With dishes like salads, fruit plates, cheese plates, and stews, it can be easy to cut every element in the same shape. Try to shake it up next time and create some visual interest in the shapes of the food. Don’t be afraid to play around and try something fun!


5. Keep it simple.

Lastly, don’t overthink it. Sometimes, people assume that food styling is all about making food look fancy and overdressed. Instead, I try to think of it as helping the food shine. Use the flavors, ingredients, and tastes you know you have and enhance them!

We discuss food plating techniques just like the pros use in The Chopping Block's Culinary Boot Camp. This five-day class features all of the same techniques covered in professional culinary school but at a fraction of the time and financial commitment. You can take your cooking and plating skills from good to great with this course! 

Learn More about Culinary Boot Camp

Topics: photos, photography, food photography, plating, food styling

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