Maria's Food Photography Tips: Props

Why Are Props So Important

I've mentioned props from the very first article on food photography and there is a reason for that. Props are basically the key ingredient that makes your food photographs look... natural. And by natural, I mean that they look like something you might actually have in a plate at a restaurant somewhere. The problem with natural looking photographs is that they are difficult to shoot if you're working at a studio, which implies artificial light, clean background, less shade and so on. I'm a great supporter of minimalism as you've already probably noticed, but when it comes to food, I'd rather see it in a beautiful setting that creates a pleasant atmosphere.
Photo courtesy of Valentin Rozman


Photoscourtesy of The Little Squirrel  



In addition, props give a sense of size and proportion, which you shoud really pay attention to when using different objects shot separately. I've noticed that Mc Donald's tends to have an issue with proportion in their ads, when sometimes the burger is more than half the size of the drink (and we know that's far from being true!). 


Crumbs - Of course, a clean photo is usually what most people like to see. But, let's be honest, who makes a sandwich that leaves no crumbs behind? Next time, instead of cleaning up the plate or table before taking the winning shot, leave the crumbs there. Take some macro shots and see how they fit in your composition. You'll love the natural look of the photo that 

Photo courtesy of Thorsten

Cuttery - Always go for silver. It gives a clean look and reflects light very beautifully. Either go for an elegant set of cuttery or just take a trip to a thrift store and buy a vintage set. 

Photo courtesy of ~ Maria ~

Photo courtesy of Photo kitchen food

Glasses and dishes - Remember those old jars you keep around the house, just in case? Well, this is the time to let them shine. Jars make very beautiful lemonade glasses or tiramisu serving plates, giving maximum transparency for the deliciousness inside.

And when it comes to dishes, make sure you pick a color that will not distract the viewer from the food and that gives you optimum contrast. White porcelain dishes seem to be the most popular choice, but don't be afraid to go for something bolder, like wooden plates or colorful dishes. Beautiful vintage dishes that have a few scratches here and there and are even a little bit chipped will look great with an overall vintage, homey atmosphere.

When it comes to glasses, there's always one rule you can't ignore: maximum cleanliness. It's unacceptable for glasses to have fingerprints or any sort of dirt. Simple glasses always look good, but try experimenting with older models that have various patterns.

Photo courtesy of Dile SciefScientifico



Accessories - We can include here pretty much anything you can find in a kitchen that helps in the cooking process. From whisks, spoons, knives, pans, matches, to ingredients, decorative flowers, candies, fruit or vegetables, ribbons, plates, confetti and so on. Anything you can think of that adds value to your composition. Make sure accessories are relevant to the dish you're shooting! For example, don't add a whisk in a photograph of steak, or flowers next to fried bacon and eggs. Keep things relevant.

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Fabrics - From your tablecloth to decorative pieces of fabric, these are very important. Make sure you have a large selection of such textiles: various colors, patterns, textures have a great impact on how the photograph will turn out.

Photo courtesy of yvestown

Seasonal accessories - Any food photographer has to shoot seasonal dishes sooner or later. In this case, forget about minimalism and studio shots and welcome crowded images of food, presents and decorations. Don't be put off but the clutter and do your best to integrate both traditional and creative decorations that don't distract from the food and create that cozy familiar mood we want the viewer to experience when the look at the final photo.

Photo courtesy of Ronaldo F Cabuhat

Toothpicks - These are essential little aids that usually go unnoticed (and they should stay so!). Ever had to deal with a sandwich so large that it couldn't hold straight for pictures? Well, toothpicks hold food together.

Garnishes - Sometimes, food tends to look rather dull by itself, like soups or noodles. But, since your job is to make it look as appetizing as ever, you'll need a few tricks to highlight it. Garnishes are great for this, as they're designed to augment the visual aspect of the plate, not necessarily add to the taste. They vary from powder condiments to vegetable leaves like parsley to different types of mousses or sauces. 

Photo courtesy of MWHammer

In the end, it's up to you to choose which props suit you best. Make your own background and props and develop your own style so that people would look at a food photograph and recognize your work.