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Food Photography : How To Style Stew

by Spicie Foodie on December 9, 2011

**Make sure you stop by The Ardent Epicure for their latest giveaway. Go on enter your chance to win a 2012 Spicie Foodie Calendar! http://www.theardentepicure.com/2011/12/holiday-giveaway-2012-spicie-foodie.html **

I have said for a while now that I’d have a new photography tutorial for you, alas here it is. Today we will be learning a very basic technique that will help improve your photos, styling. If you want to be serious about improving your food photography styling is one of the most important things you must learn. In this tutorial I am going to give you very basic samples that I promise will yield great results. Keep in mind there are hundreds of techniques you could use to style food photography and this tutorial is just one.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewFirst let’s start with a clean, simple photo. This photo is not great. The biggest problem is that it is just boring. Nothing but a plain bowl full of stew, boring. It doesn’t make you want to dig in so that makes it a bad photo.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewWhen we add a spoon to on side it improves a bit. But still a tad boring.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewNow we add some bread in the background and adjust the view or composition. Much better than the first photo but let’s keep going.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewHere we’ve changed the angle and added a little color from the green plant on the left side. Much better than the first photo. Don’t be afraid to play around with angles it can really change the feel of the photo.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewLet’s draw a bit more attention to the bowl contents. One way to do this is to add a dollop of sour cream. See how much better it looks than the first photo? Compare it to the third photo and you can see that there was improvement.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewLet’s see what happens when we add a little more color with herbs. Much better. It added more contrast to the photo. Adding the chopped herbs also helped draw your eye to the bowl contents, which is the main subject of our photo. Compare it again to the first and third photo. Better no?

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewAgain we experiment with the shooting angle. The previous photo is good but also changing the angle gives you a different perspective and better view of the bowl contents. Makes you want to dig in more than the first photo doesn’t it?

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewLet’s remove the cutting board with most of the bread loaf. I’ve rearranged the bread much like it would be placed when I sit down to eat the stew. Another way this photo could have been improved would have been to instead of having the spoon on the table it would have looked better inside the bowl. See the more we shoot and review our photos the more we learn and improve.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewThis view from above is also an inviting one. Not to happy about the spoon placement but again I’ve learned a lesson for next time. The way to improve this would be to zoom out a little more or place the spoon inside the bowl.

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech StewThis last photo is to show you that even if you don’t have a loaf of bread as a prop the first photo could be improved. Compare the starkness of the first photo to this photo. See the difference just a little dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of herbs and a spoon improved the photo? Its as simple as that.

There are literately hundreds of variations and techniques for styling food. When you are learning my best advice is to go the simple route. Don’t get caught up in things like the bowl must be wiped, there has to be an entire place setting, or that you need tons of props to snap a decent photo. Keep it simple. This tutorial is so simple and yet the improvements from the first photo are noticeable. I will be sharing more easy styling techniques for different types of foods in tutorials to come.

*Do you have any questions? What photography tutorial would you like to see next?*

In case you missed any of the previous photography tutorials here they are:
~ Food Photography : My Shooting Setup With Artificial Light
~ Food Photography : Understanding Camera Types
~ Food Photography : What Lights To Use When Sunlight Is Not Available

Food Photography Tutorials; How To Style Stew; Food Styling; photography tutorials; Spicie Foodie; Spicie Foodie Photo Tutorials, blogger photography; food bloggers photography; stew; chicken stew; Czech Stew

**Recipe for the stew can be found here, Goulashesque Chicken Stew **

 

Yummy Pics: A Food Blogger's Guide to Better Photos, Photography eBook by Spicie Foodie

 

in Photography

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lauren@spicedplate December 9, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Food styling, for some reason, is so hard for me — you’d think that as an artist I’d have a natural eye for that, but I don’t. Thanks for these tips! I’m constantly not getting onto foodgawker because my photos composition is “too tight” — which I think is their code for “put something else in the photo!”

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2 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Hi Lauren, Styling is one of the hardest things to learn after the light. As I’ve suggested just start simple, keep practicing and it will all start to click. Foodgawker and the other food porn sites are difficult to get on for many, including myself. Try zooming out a little bit and that will also help with the square composition :) Thanks for reading!

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3 Ruth December 9, 2011 at 8:55 AM

I love the balance you created. I don’t know much about photography (studied a bit of design) I would really like to know: what kind of light do you use? Your pictures are always so beautiful :-)

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4 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Hi Ruth, Thank you! You can find all the previous tutorials in the links above. But this one is the one for the lights, Food Photography: What Lights To Use When Sunlight Is Not Available http://www.spiciefoodie.com/2011/01/07/food-photography-what-lights-to-use-when-sunlight-is-not-available-2/

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5 Carolyn December 9, 2011 at 9:03 AM

There are some foods that definitely need styling to look attractive in photos, and stew is definitely one of them. Your props and angles definitely improve things!

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6 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 9:54 AM

Thank you Carolyn!

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7 Michelle chin December 9, 2011 at 9:28 AM

Thanks for the tips. :) I totally need this!

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8 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 9:55 AM

My pleasure :)

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9 Trix December 9, 2011 at 10:49 AM

You are so right – you know, I always keep some extra parsley on hand to add color to any brown dish I may make! Makes all the difference!

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10 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 10:50 AM

That is a great tip Trix! Just a little something like a sprinkling of parsley can really make the difference.

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11 Jen at The Three Little Piglets December 9, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Great tutorial! I always love watching a progression of photos like that! It’s amazing how much difference it makes…

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12 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Thank you Jen!

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13 Shirley December 9, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Loved this post Nancy!

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14 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Thanks Shirley!

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15 Kiri W. December 9, 2011 at 12:59 PM

This is such a helpful post – I am still so new to this, and while my equipment is severely lacking, I also have much to learn about composition and styling. Lovely resource post!

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16 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Thanks Kiri, I’m glad to hear it :) Practice, practice that is the best thing to do.

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17 J December 9, 2011 at 2:12 PM

I love this tutorial. It’s very helpful, especially with the step-by-step format. When in doubt, add props!

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18 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Thanks J :) Yeah that’s a good tip.

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19 Angela@ Mind Over Batter December 9, 2011 at 2:25 PM

You have such wonderful tips! I really appreciate you sharing. I always have issues with composition… I’m very sucky at it. I wonder if you can declare composition blindness. Maybe then Foodgawker will have some compassion and publish my images. I also have symmetry issues. Most of my shots are crooked; like they might need a V8. *Sigh*… I keep trying,, though – Maybe one day something will magically click…

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20 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Hi Angela, Thank you and it is my pleasure. Composition is also hard, just keep practicing. Lol, that would be great if Foodgawker did that :) For the symmetry issue try to line up your camera’s view to a horizontal or vertical line in the subject you are shooting. Then recompose and shoot. Haha, a V8 – you are so funny :) Do keep trying and for sure things will click.

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21 Laura @ Family Spice December 9, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Great tips! I love the little touch of green. Always impressed what a dollop of sour cream can do to a picture!

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22 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Thanks Laura :) I feel that it is the smallest of detail that can make or break a picture.

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23 Melissa@EyesBigger December 9, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Great post Nancy! I think styling is one of the hardest things for beginners. But I see a lot of your readers sad that they’re not getting on to TS and FG… that is very unfortunate because I think it’s important for them to understand those sites only take very specific types of photos (and I find them boring most of the time – they all look the same!). Being turned down doesn’t necessarily mean you have submitted a bad photo! It just means it doesn’t fit their mold!

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24 Spicie Foodie December 9, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Hi Melissa, Thank you so much :) I couldn’t agree with you more. Also so many people get discouraged by the rejections and the sad thing is that they start thinking that “specific” TS and FG style is the only style. Love what you said and may just have to repost it in another tutorial:)!

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25 hesti December 9, 2011 at 8:55 PM

What a great tips!! Small thing can make a great different. Thanks for sharing!!

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26 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Thank you Hesti, and you are so right!

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27 anna December 9, 2011 at 9:05 PM

thanks for this! my photos can be so hit or miss…great advice!

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28 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:03 AM

My pleasure Anna!

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29 Sharon Perloff-Shamow December 9, 2011 at 10:04 PM

Thanks for this Nancy! I truly have a difficult time with composition and I am not sure why, but watching the progression from photo to photo was truly helpful!

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30 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Hi Sharon, Glad to hear that the step by step was helpful. Just keep practicing with your camera and things will start to click.

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31 Penny @ Photography Contest December 9, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Excellent composition! The bread really added some interest in the overall presentation and the herbs put a different shade in the subject. Great shot :)

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32 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Thanks Penny!

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33 Hyosun Ro December 10, 2011 at 2:00 AM

Great tips! Thanks.

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34 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Thank you :)!

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35 Nishi December 10, 2011 at 6:36 AM

Lovely lovely tutorial!!! Thanks for sharing this Nancy :)

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36 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

My pleasure Nishi :)

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37 Sandra December 10, 2011 at 7:40 AM

There’s so much to learn and these tips are very helpful.

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38 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

Thank you Sandra :)

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39 Frank December 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Another great photography lesson! How I wish I had the time and talent to create such wonderful photos. Perhaps one day…

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40 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Thank you Frank!

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41 Amanda @ Thinly Sliced Cucumber December 10, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Thanks so much for the great tips! I am always afraid that my photos will look busy and jumbled if I use too many props, but you seem to have found just the right balance between boring and over the top. I will definitely be putting this advice to good use.

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42 Spicie Foodie December 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Thank you Amanda :)

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43 Magic of Spice December 10, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Wonderful and easy to follow step by step tips, styling can really make a huge difference :)
Have a wonderful weekend,
love and hugs

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44 Spicie Foodie December 11, 2011 at 9:28 AM

Thanks Alisha and you too :)

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45 Julie @ Sugarfoot Eats December 10, 2011 at 11:37 PM

Loved all the different poses/progressions you showed!

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46 Spicie Foodie December 11, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Thank you Julie!

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47 Ann December 11, 2011 at 1:11 AM

Oh, this is fantastic! Thank you SO Much for sharing!

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48 Spicie Foodie December 11, 2011 at 9:27 AM

My pleasure Ann :)

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49 Kim Bee December 11, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Great tutorial. I love learning tips. I still struggle with composition. Thanks so much for sharing your insight.

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50 Spicie Foodie December 11, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Thank you Kim! Many are saying composition is a problem so I’ll make sure to do a composition tutorial.

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51 Alyssa December 11, 2011 at 8:26 AM

That was a very interesting post. I really love the shot with the slice of bread with a bit torn off. I’m off now to see your set up with artifcial lighting. Thanks for sharing!

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52 Spicie Foodie December 11, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Thanks Alyssa!

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53 Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen December 12, 2011 at 9:13 AM

OMG, I never knew so much thought went in to your photoshoots! I just basically dump everything in, try to catch the best light and shoot away. I DO! Now I realize that I’d have to put some extra effort to make my pictures as beautiful as yours, and my food as hunger-inducing as yours. Thanks for this very useful tutorial, Nancy. It just shows me I still have a long way to learn!

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54 Spicie Foodie December 12, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Maya you are lying because your photos don’t look like it they are “basically dump everything in” You have a good eye and I always love the colors. Learning is never ending for all of us.

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55 Sandra's Easy Cooking December 12, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Great tips and tutorial.. honestly whatever shot you take it is beautiful!!!

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56 Spicie Foodie December 12, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Thank you Sandra. But you are too kind it won’t hurt my feelings to be told there are bad photos here ;) lol have a great day!

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57 Madonna January 13, 2012 at 1:03 AM

Thank you so much for these tutorials. I spent time in a class today trying to learn how to adjust my photos of my soup that looks a whole lot like yours – the soup – not the photography. I am writing a food blog that I am afraid to launch because my photos are so bad. Also, I promise myself if I could learn how to take nice photos I would buy myself a dslr, but I am a long way away. These tutorials are really helpful. More please.

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58 Spicie Foodie January 13, 2012 at 9:07 AM

Hi Madonna, That is great that you are learning and setting goals. A very high percent of us food bloggers start off not knowing much about photography. I believe there is no shame in having our earlier photos being “bad” , we all have to start somewhere :) Keep learning, but above all practicing. Practice is the key! Thank you for your comment and yes there will be more tutorials coming :)

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59 Gina January 13, 2012 at 1:53 AM

A lot of useful information in here as usual. I think one thing is missing though – maybe just a touch of butter for the bread, lol. All of your shots are great, even the ones you think are boring.
-Gina-

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60 Spicie Foodie January 13, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Gina, that is a great idea! The butter would make the bread pop more. Okay I may have to reshoot the photos then :) Thanks sweetie!

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61 Julie A March 1, 2012 at 4:06 PM

I love this, thank you! I have such a hard time with food-styling. I never know what to put around things so I usually leave it plain (and boring). Plus, I’m usually in a hurry to eat! ;) I will try this.

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62 Spicie Foodie March 1, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Hi Julie,

I hope you give it a try, and that you are able to get it down fast so you can eat :) I have the same problem when I’m hungry, hehe.

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63 Nisha July 2, 2012 at 11:55 PM

Loved it! :)

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64 Susanna June 6, 2013 at 5:29 AM

I can’t say how much your ebook and photography tutorials have inspired me with photo taking! I used to be terrible but it’s all thanks to your tips and the beautiful way you photograph the food that I’ve been able to learn so much!
Oh and I’m curious, where do you buy things like napkins, cloths/placemats and such?

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65 Spicie Foodie June 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Thank you Susanna and I’m glad to hear it. I buy them at home stores, fabric shops, arts and crafts supply shops, even the grocery store. Really anywhere you see nice things like that. Thanks!

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