Food Photography: No Styling vs. Styling

|||Food Photography: No Styling vs. Styling

Food Photography: No Styling vs. Styling

By |2019-01-12T16:25:00+00:00February 10th, 2010|Categories: Tips & Tricks|Tags: |6 Comments

Styling is something that can really make a big difference in your food images. Heck, it’s so important in the industry that some people make it their full-time job! And since I mostly do my own food photography then I have no one but me to rely on to make my images look good.

In the images above it’s pretty obvious which image was styled and which was not. The image on the left was photographed at an outdoor taco stand, so the food is fresh, and not too bad-looking, but it’s not quite as appealing as the image on the right. The image on the right is fully edible … it got cold during the shooting process so it didn’t get eaten but other than that, and a few different ingredients than the taco-stand image, it’s basically the same. I spent several minutes placing the ingredients exactly where I wanted them to be … everything is in its place because I wanted it to be there.

With my photos, I will usually do as much styling as needed to make the image look great. Sometimes it makes the image inedible (like adding soap suds to bacon to give it a “foamy” look), but most of the time everything in the dish is natural … so don’t think that you have to do anything weird to your food to make it “photographable”. The key to making food images look good is using fresh, clean, ingredients and having immaculate attention-to-detail. I like to look at lots of food images in magazines and cookbooks to help inspire me for my own creations, and when I look at an image I will usually ask myself “why does it look so tasty?”. When I answer that question I log it away and apply that newfound knowledge in my own photography.

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website,


  1. BWJones February 10, 2010 at 11:57 am - Reply

    The really wild food stylists will commonly use absolutely inedible things… Like glycerine for H20 or brown paint to illustrate Maillard browning on meats and such. I like that you “keep it real” most of the time.

    By the way, I am starting to assemble a talk on photographic fakery for next years Photocamp. If you would not mind (and I’d credit you of course in the presentation), it would be nice to include some images of deliberately manipulated food with examples of real food and inedible food that looks tasty.

  2. Mowielicious February 10, 2010 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Loving the ‘before and after’ presentation. It really highlights the importance of food styling. It makes me realise how much more I need to concentrate on the styling aspect – thanks for the post!

  3. scott neumyer February 10, 2010 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    great post. I’ve heard that the “milk” in cereal commercials is actually glue most of the time… hmm

  4. Photographe Pour un Mariage February 11, 2010 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Pleasant informative post. Keep posting. This does give us a lot of information. Cheerful posting.

  5. Memoria February 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    I actually like both photos! Great tutorial and advice.

  6. Zahra February 14, 2010 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    nice post :) lol its hilarious what some people do….I’ve heard of car oil used as maple syrup on pancakes! :o

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