How to get better composition when styling and photographing food – – props & antiques
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How to get better composition when styling and photographing food

December 14, 2019 - filed under: ,

Simply explained, the composition is actually how objects are placed inside the frame, in order to create a balanced connection between them. Good composition directs the viewer’s attention to important objects inside the frame. In my opinion, this is the most important topic in food photography that you should be most concerned about.

Playing with styling, food photography props, colors and textures, we can build a great composition. With original and unique composition, you can stand out with your photography work, but also make your own personal stamp by which people will recognize you. Ready to start learning about composition? Let’s start with some of the most common rules!

The rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the oldest rules in photography, and it goes something like this: When a frame is divided into two vertical and two horizontal lines (i.e. the GRID option on your phone or in your camera), make sure you place the most important object at the intersections of these lines.

For instance, if you made a beautiful cake and you have a beautiful vintage plate to go along with that, you can put them at intersections of these lines to emphasize cake. Here are some examples:


By carefully selecting the colors in the frame of your food styling, we can create the right composition. Play with completely contrasting colors, but also with many elements of the same color but in different shades.

Fill in the frame!

Make sure you fill the frame. Minimalism is a great option if we have purposely imagined our food styling to look as simple as possible, but even when the minimum number of objects is in the picture, we have to think about filling that frame.

Every detail in the picture must tell the story and be in the right place. Feel free to place some objects or props on the very edge of the frame, as if they almost fall out of the picture, this way you will nicely frame the photo when styling the food scene.

Play with depth of field

Don’t forget the background of your photo. You can intentionally put some objects in the background to make them blurry, but have in mind that they will also add to the story in the picture. As you can see in the example picture below, there is a small copper pot in the background filled with chocolate.

So in that way, I tried to explain to the viewers that these cookies would taste even better if we dip them in the chocolate which I also showed in the background.

Less is more

This is a rule you should always think about when styling or photographing food. Overflowing the frame with various food props will do no good. Before styling a food setting, think about what kind of photographs you would like to get. Is it a dark picture with sharp shadows or is it bright and airy one?

Select the backdrops for those particular styles of photos. When you have resolved backdrops, go forward and think about food photography props and items that will be in the scene you are photographing. Think about exactly what you want to show in the photos. If you want to tell a story about spring, and some super chocolaty cake, then it may be best to choose some spring flowers, antique props, a nice rack or a cookie sheet.

Place everything on the styling scene. Take the first picture and see what you got for the start. Take a good look at the photo and consider whether you need more food props, or do you have too many of them. If you are missing something, consider a prop that will also tell the story with the rest of the objects in the picture. Do not take an object and put it in a picture simply because it is beautiful by itself. Make sure each food photography prop builds the right connection and story with the main subject in the picture, in this case, with the cake.

Odd numbers are photogenic

Believe it or not, photogenic numbers exist. Check out the examples below to make sure. Any odd number will show better in the picture and be more harmonious to the human eye than an even number. Keep in mind that, like all other rules, this one is also made to be broken.

Triangles and lines

This is how most of us food photographers frame and style their photos. Make sure you place the objects in a frame so that they are connected by some imaginary lines or triangles. It is very difficult to explain things like this in words, so I believe that the examples below will be helpful. Lines can be visually linked by complementary colors, shapes, or some other visual element.

Styling plates for food photography

This is a very complex topic, so I’ll try to be short but clear. It is very important that you look at your model before you start shooting food 🙂 Make a small portion. Smaller portions will look better in pictures, and just because smaller, it is easier to manipulate with the food you are styling.

– If you feel overwhelmed with too many options of photography props, use food as the main decoration. If you are taking a photo of biscuits with jam, feel free to place the jam in the frame as well. Spread jam on the backdrop for example. Feel free to create a little chaos in the pictures. It is important for the viewer to see that this food we taking photos of is edible and delicious. That’s the message we want to convey.

– You want to take pictures of certain food when it’s warm and fresh, while some others look best when they rest a little. Take a good look at the food you are photographing. Look for all the nice angels, while the less beautiful ones try to hide.

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Written by Sonja SillyWorld

Sonja is a lifestyle and food photographer who documents the day-to-day food moments of her life. She became interested in photography when she started her blog where you can find many of her images. She has also published photos in numerous of cookbooks, food magazines, and lifestyle magazines.