For photographers new to photographing food, food styling may seem a bit daunting. People can make a successful career out of styling food for magazines and blogs. Luckily, Seattle-based food photographer Steven Hansen is here to lend some useful tips on food styling. A former chef, Hansen has mastered the art of food presentation and his distinct, colorful style is truly delicious.

He begins his shoot by setting up lighting. His go-to tabletop setup consists of two LED monolights and a pair of 1x3' Stripbanks, which are positioned on opposite ends of his dish. This setup really surrounds the dish with light, and the Skylux’s daylight-balanced output helps to create a really organic, window-like light appearance.

Food Styling behind the scenes

  • When photographing pasta, which is one of the harder food types to style, Steven suggests only cooking the pasta for a few minutes. This will keep the dish looking fresh, texturized, and appetizing. Fully-cooked pasta often looses it’s body and color, which can make the dish seem dull in-camera.
  • Steven also suggests drizzling any sort of sauce onto the dish carefully, instead of pouring it on as you normally would. This helps add color and authenticity, without looking goopy or sloppy. This tip is useful for photographing salads with salad dressing as well.
  • As you add topping to your dishes, it is important to focus on how each piece is reflecting or hitting light. Slight adjustments to how each ingredient lays in the dish can make a huge difference in shadows, highlights, texture, and the overall appearance of the dish.
  • Attempt to make the the dish look spontaneous (“forced spontaneity”, as Steven calls it). If it appears over-styled, or too perfect, it will lose it’s authenticity and start to appear “plastic”.
  • Consider styling food dishes with “flavor cues”, or precisely placed ingredients that surround the dish, for a homemade appearance.
  • If you find yourself struggling with food styling, send an email or call local food stylists. They’re often willing to offer tips and are definitely the experts on the art form.

food styling for food photography final image

Be sure to check out Steve’s website for more scrumptious images and food photography inspiration. 

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