Sometimes we live to do it for the Gram (and we’re not judging).
We get it. Your to-die-for avocado toast is perfection and deserves to live on in your grid forevermore. Sometimes, though, we could use a little help getting it to look just right. So, we asked stylist and photographer Kristin Guy of Dine x Design to share with us her 5 tips for styling your food for the perfect gram. Check ’em out below!
1. No Studio, No Problem!
You definitely don’t need a load of professional gear to get a great food photo. First step is to find a spot with the most bright indirect light and set up camp – natural light is your best bud for fresh and fabulous looking photos. This can be anywhere from the corner of a room near a window or right on your dining room table. Some stylists even prefer setting up the scene right on the floor – whatever works for you!
I occasionally set up some faux surfaces over a set of moveable file cabinets in order to get the best light depending on time of day. No need to spend money on these as professional boards can be pricey. Simply visit your local hardware store and look for wood planks that you can paint, stain and just assemble over any flat surface for an instant new look.
Equipment-wise I suggest starting off with a couple budget friendly basics: tripod, reflector/bounce, and an iPhone mount if you’re not using a digital camera. Most importantly go download a photo editing app such as Vsco, Priime or A Color Story. Play around with filters or exposure to put your own creative touch on your masterpiece – these apps are definitely a lifesaver for those less than ideal moments such as restaurants with horrible lighting.
2. Play With Props
Backdrops and surfaces are the building blocks for showcasing your dish. Get creative with artwork prints and tapestries which make for incredible backgrounds. Simply use painters tape to temporarily (and safely) attach them to your wall for extra oomph!
Layering is also key when creating a stunning image. Think of props as your own accessories – you’ve got to find that right balance between blah and busy to make the photo feel right. Textiles are an easy way to add texture to the scene while still feeling soft, try gathering a napkin or a small piece of fabric from the craft store around your dish to make it feel less sterile and more stylish.
Another simple way to add personality to your scene is by incorporating different wood trays or cutting boards stacked in the background or underneath your dish. Harder surfaces such as wood and ceramics add weight to your set, helping draw the eye where you want it. I love using Society6’s uniquely patterned boards as an affordable way to hit on a current trends – such as terrazzo!
Don’t be afraid to mix and match different patterns around your plate. A great rule of thumb is to weave in a common color palette so it doesn’t become overly busy.
3. Tell A Story
Sometimes the best food photos are not the final dish. Show ingredients or tools that would be used to make the meal in a lifestyle setting. You can also set a timer on your camera or phone to get action process shots, such as pouring a cocktail into a glass for extra impact.
Never underestimate the power of plating. I have a motto: “Give Good Garnish.” Edible flowers and fresh fruit can bring a blah beverage to life and fresh herbs or spices on top of an otherwise boring meal (think soups and dips) will add color and depth. These tiny details provide a narrative while making your shot look professional and polished.
4. Frame That Food
There’s a major difference between over the head vs. straight on shots. Depending on the dish or props you’re using, one might be more successful than the other. Think about showing off tall stemware from the side and shallow bowls of food from above. You want to be showcasing the best part of that food or drink, so play around and try a few angles to see what looks best to you!
Similarly, a slightly off-center composition is often more interesting than one that is perfectly in the middle of your frame. This especially works when setting a more lifestyle scene with your food and incorporating ingredients, tools or other dishes and glassware into the scene. Don’t be afraid to add or remove parts as you’re shooting, sometimes the beautiful mess at the end is the more appealing story.
Most importantly just have fun! We’re playing with our food after all.
5. Tools of the Trade – DIY Styling Kit
Consider these your magic-making must haves. Tuck these into a pretty little pouch so they’re ready to go in a snap. Here are my go-tos for any shoot:
- Mini spray bottle: A must for making berries and other veg looking super fresh.
- Tweezers: You never realize how important these are until you’re working with edible gold…trust me.
- Q tips: Perfect for tiny cleaning jobs like the inside of a cocktail glass or small plate rim.
- Plating Spoon: The tiny spout gets any and all liquid into the right place, think of it as a built in funnel.
- Offset Spatula: Weather you’re frosting a cake or just want an artistic swoop of sauce on your plate – this is your best friend.
- Paint Brush or Tiny Comb Duster: Because that one stray crumb will haunt you.
- Mini scissors: tiny but mighty – great for cutting blooms or those mini stray strings on textiles.
- Blue Painters Tape: Hold up backgrounds, textiles, whatever you want without ruining the wall paint.