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.