Food Styling in Sydney: What My Kids Taught Me

As a Sydney food photographer I often learn a lot just through observation.

When my kids were really little my wife and I would sometimes wash their dinner under the tap. We would literally pick out the meat and vegetables from their food, put it in a sieve and stick it under the tap.

Sounds strange I know. The sauce was too spicy for them so instead of giving up my addiction to spicy food, we would wash the spicy sauce off their food and replace it with a plain sauce that they could (I mean would eat without complaining) eat.

After doing this for a while and seeing the results I realised this is exactly what you need to do when you’re photographing some foods.

There are probably more bad food photographs of pasta and curries than any other food. Sauces can make foods look fresh, delicious and add shine but more often than not, can look terrible in a food photo if the food hasn’t been prepared by someone with some food styling knowledge.

Sauces can look stodgy, cold, thick, dull and hide all the ingredients making the food look like a big blob of sauce. On the opposite end, sauces can look too thin and not cover the food enough. Sauces need to be present on the food but shouldn’t smother or overwhelm the dish.

As a food photographer, I’ve picked up quite a few tricks over the years for food styling.

Tip 1:  Wash the main Ingredients

If I have to reconstruct or re-style a plate of curry or pasta, what I like to do is to start by picking out the main ingredients and washing them to get the sauce off. I then like to give them a little coat of sauce with a paint or pastry brush, but not too much. The idea is to make it look natural.

Tip 2: Add the Ingredients One-by-One

Ingredients should be added back into the sauce one-by-one. I make sure they are spaced out in a natural looking way and I am also careful to make sure some of the ingredients are partially covered in sauce and others are fully covered in sauce. After all, this is natural and how you’d expect the food to come.

As soon as you do this, you’ll notice that you can see and define the ingredients in the dish. Without doing this, the food can often look like a big blob of sauce with no shape.

Tip 3: Get the Sauce to Ingredient Proportions Right

When you’re working with curry and pasta, you’ll also want to make sure that the underlying pasta or rice is visible and in the right proportions. Too much sauce will cover these ingredients up and hide them from the camera. Not enough sauce won’t look right either.

Tip 4: Garnish for Colour and Contrast

Some foods can be very monotone. That is all brown or all yellow. It’s not very appealing. I like to break monotone foods and sauces with a contrasting colour. Green micro-herbs or chopped herbs will often achieve this. Adding other fresh green coloured vegetables or herbs can also do the same thing.

Keep in mind that if you’re going to garnish with herbs or anything fresh like that, make sure you do it just before you shoot as they’ll wilt quickly and lose their fresh look when placed on hot food.

Tip 5: Use Partially Cooked Ingredients

Many ingredients lose their vivid colour when they are cooked. That why for food photography, often blanched or undercooked veg is better. They will retain their bright colours better.

With these tips you’ll be well on your way to better food photography. But if you prefer professional food photography help, get in touch to discuss how we can help you.

Leave a comment