It’s all about the styling: Skilfully staging meals
Besides the right composition and lighting, suitable styling for the meal is of course also essential to make it stand out from the crowd. We will show you a few simple tips and tricks, with which you can skilfully stage your food and create attractive compositions.
The right styling for the right occasion
We have talked about food photography, composition and various techniques that make your photos unique. But the most important thing is that the main subject, namely the food itself, looks delicious and inviting – at the end of the day food styling is a job that is done by a person with culinary experience, which should also be reflected in the photos. In my work with customers I often work with other food stylists and we discuss each meal down to the tiniest detail to get a better understanding of what we want to show with the photos.
However, most of the time I style the food on my own, which is much more fun and represents the creative part of my job. I would not want to give up this part for anything in the world. The photography, composition and styling have to be coordinated with each other and create an attractive entity together and one does not exist without the other.
Already looks good without any garnish – but with the right styling the main subject is really shown off properly
I’m going to show you how you can successfully set yourself apart from the crowd with a few simple tricks or tell a story, using the two example below.
Pasta is extraordinarily varied and virtually everyone likes it almost always. Styling pasta is just as much fun as eating and preparing it. Long spaghetti, twisted fusilli or round ravioli are all delicious in their own way and have unique qualities.
At the same time, there is one very important thing to note: Do not boil the pasta for too long but just until it is al dente. This works best for styling. Always rinse the pasta with cold water to wash off the starch and then mix it with a bit of oil to prevent it from sticking together.
If you are styling pasta, do not mix it with the sauce. It’s best if the sauce is just drizzled over it, just before taking the photo. Cheese of course usually goes along with pasta. Freshly grated cheese gives the pasta movement and texture, as do herbs, vegetables or nuts.
Pasta can also be photographed really well, though, if it is prepared together with the sauce in a large saucepan or frying pan. This conveys a rustic, authentic feel.
You can also layer the pasta though, as I like doing with ravioli. This only works with larger pieces and adding herbs and a bit of sauce is essential.
Instead of unusual styling, you can also create a really beautiful looking pasta dish by experimenting with special cutlery or tableware. Even with the additional herbs and cheese, the styling still looks more laid-back.
Telling a story with bread / a sandwich
Bread and baked goods also come in a huge variety and are ideal for telling stories. Bread and baked goods are also available in all possible shapes and sizes and offer a texture that is wonderful both inside and outside. Nevertheless, styling bread can be somewhat more challenging after the fiftieth photo.
The obvious choice is to leave the bread whole at first and just use a bit of flour for styling. However, you have many other options for styling bread so that it looks attractive and makes the viewer’s mouth water. Cut part of the bread into slices once it has fully cooled down and arrange the slices invitingly on set. Thus, the viewer’s eye is drawn directly to the texture inside the bread.
Stack the same or different types of loaves of bread on top of each other and produce layers of bread, either with cut slices or several loaves.
You can of course always highlight an interesting ingredient or bread filling. An olive branch or olives, for example, make it obvious that the bread shown is filled with olives.
Open and closed sandwiches are of course not that far removed from the topic of bread. Always choose high-quality ingredients for the topping or filling, as the layers of these ingredients receive the most attention. At the same time, the ingredients must be carefully laid on the edge of the bread and you should show more salami, cheese or vegetables than you would normally use to create height. Toothpicks are real life savers here, as the higher you build your sandwich, the more unstable it becomes. Toothpicks help keep the individual layers in place. But don’t forget to remove them again before eating the sandwich.
Beautiful stories can also be told with bread and other baked goods. Create a scene with cheese, ham, fruits, herbs, jam or whatever else you like eating. The additional items create the mood and trigger emotions from looking at the scene – they take you to faraway places, for example, on a picnic in Italy.
So you can see that fancy props are not necessarily essential for aesthetically appealing styling. It’s enough to simply start with what you have at home. You can expand your repertoire later on. It’s best to start with simple dishes and foods like the pasta or bread and baked goods described – they can be relatively easily staged and allow you to let your imagination run free and express your creativity to the full.
I’ve been very interested in visual arts since my early childhood. Although I painted, drew and made models, I had never considered choosing photography as a profession. The whole thing started with me moving to Switzerland and starting a food blog. I needed something to cheer me up – a project. Something that I had total control over, which included challenges at the same time.
I instantly fell in love with the world of food photography and food styling, which is why I’m also very grateful that I can combine my two major passions in my work.
Today I work as a food and lifestyle photographer for magazines and various companies in the food industry. I always try to fill the photos with life because I believe that every plate of food tells a story. I love being inspired and try to go through life with my eyes open, because inspiration can come from many unexpected corners.