Quite literally a little styling will transform a photo from boring to fabulous shot. Today I’m going to walk you through a very basic styling guide. While there are hundreds of ways to style your food photos, I always emphasizes simplicity. Today I’m going to illustrate a very simple way of styling biscuits. Previously I shared a tutorial on styling stew, and if you missed it can be found here, Food Photography : How To Style Stew. Additionally my photography eBook has a whole section dedicated to styling a number of different foods.
These photos were all shot using indirect window light and a small reflector to tone done the harsh shadows. (Please refer to Yummy Pic’s Chapter Seven: Light Direction for further explanation on light setup.) Due to the low lighting conditions I propped the camera on a tripod. If your light source is minimal I suggest you also use one.
Okay, let’s begin with some biscuits on a table with no additional props and see how we can make them interesting.
This is a bad photo. The problem is that I am zoomed in too close to the subject, the composition is also not very good. The shot is uninteresting and too busy with the viewer’s eye not really knowing what to focus on.
In these two photos you can see that by rearranging the biscuits now the viewer has something more interesting to look at. Additionally I changed the format, from horizontal to vertical, which also helped improved the pictures and composition. Though much better than the first photo both can be improved.
When I’m photographing several items I’ve found that stacking can be quite interesting. Compare this to the photos above, better right? Did you notice how your eye follows the curvy path? Instead of perfectly aligning the biscuits and instead arranging them in this off pattern it made the image more interesting. Little details like this can mean so much, pay attention to them. The photo isn’t bad but let’s play with the styling a little more.
Here you can see that adding an additional biscuit and moving it around gives the image a little extra something. Don’t be afraid to shoot many photos -in fact shoot many photos. Keep playing with the arrangement until you find one that is interesting to you.
Don’t be afraid of showing a messy space. Sometimes a little mess can accentuate the feeling of wanting to grab a bite of the food. Think to yourself, what would this food look like if I was actually eating it right now? Eating biscuits is messy show those crumbs and bits and pieces.
The previous shot was good but we can add a little extra oomph with some color. Herbs, salad greens, flowers or plants can all add an interesting tone to your photographs. Here I’ve used a dried leaf to give the photo some color. You can experiment by moving the decorative prop around the subject. It is amazing how a simple extra ingredient or prop can change an image from okay to a great photo.
The green leaf above gave the image some oomph and extra pop with a complementing yet contrasting color. In this image I am showing you that even something of the same tonal range can add just as much oomph to an image. Additionally the wheat plant creates a curved pattern that draws the viewers eye from the left side, over the biscuit pile, and down to the crumbs. This is a good shot because it gives the viewer a couple of things to look at without overstimulating the eye.
Another way of styling the biscuits is by simply adding a napkin or a piece of fabric under the stack. Again there is extra color and pattern to keep the viewers attention. Just remember that we are working toward accentuating not distracting from the subject. Fabrics can be used in countless ways so practice and experiment to find what works for you.
As I stated above, shoot many photos. Add, remove, and rearrange both subject and enhancing props. Also make sure you move yourself and the camera around to yield different results.
In this last photo you can compare the results. You can clearly see that while there is nothing wrong with the photo on the left adding a little styling creates a more interesting photograph. Using very basic “tools” we were able to transform the photo from boring to fabulous!
This tutorial is but one of the countless ways these biscuits could have been styled. They could have been placed inside a box, bowl, in a bag, or have had a glass of milk alongside. Extra color could have been added with some fruit. They could have been shot on a different surface, from a different angle and with different lighting. The possibilities are truly endless. All you need is practice and before you know styling will become second nature to you.
Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.