Food Styling Made Easy: Tips for Making Food Look Good

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Food styling is a seemingly simple task that can be surprisingly difficult! Food has a life all on it’s own… I’m lucky enough to cook and style a lot of the food that I photograph and I have a few tips to share with you to make your own food look just as delicious as it tastes. Read below to learn my favorite tricks for photographing and styling food:

1. Choose Your Ingredients Carefully:

Look for the freshest ingredients. Nothing needs to be perfect, in fact, I think imperfect makes the photos more interesting; however, you don’t want a piece of food to have mold or obvious rotten qualities. Make sure to get multiples of each ingredients since you might have to go through quite of a bit of trial and error before finding the perfect combination of ingredients. 

Fanette Rickert Food Photography Food styling Washington DC

2. Handy Tools for Food Styling:

Of course styling is called ‘styling’ because nothing in food styling just naturally falls into place and then translates into a gorgeous photo. Trying to stack sandwiches in a perfect tower? Use a few toothpicks to hold them together. Shooting a nice green salad? Keep a Spray Bottle filled with water close by so that you can spray the lettuce crisp and fresh. Mounting Putty is always helpful when it comes to keeping things in place. Don’t stress and try to use tools that are already probably lurking in your pantry! 

Fanette Rickert Food Photography Food styling Washington DC

3. Choose Your Background and Lighting:

Your background and lighting will set the mood for the photo. Dark background will give you more contrast and drama while a white surface with lots of light will display more depth. You should try to use  natural lighting as much as possible to get the best results. If you are shooting a picture of your food in a restaurant, try to avoid shooting under the yellow tungsten lights. When possible, choose a seat by a window so you can take advantage of the available natural light. Try to stay away from from direct sunlight though: you should avoid harsh shadows and defuse the light to create subtle dimension (clouds, curtains, or just plain shade). 

Fanette Rickert Food Photography Food styling Washington DC


4. Nail your composition

A well composed image will feel balanced and will help the viewer’s eye travel straight to the important part of your image: the food! From the rule of third to layering, there are many ways to compose a strong image. If you are interested in learning the tricks of the trade, check out Composition Essentials by Rachel Korinek. She is one of my favorite food photographer and she shares some really awesome tips in there (also, she has an amazingly soothing voice and a very cool Australian accent, so I feel like I am taking a vacation when I watch one of her course 😉


5. Always Tell a Story:

Always tell a story through your images, even if it’s food photography! Even if you don’t have models on hand, adding in tea towels, a cutting board or utensils can add some interest. Pay attention to the color story and the emotions you are portraying from the food color combination. Use different dishes and props to tell a narrative with your images.

If you are ready to start food styling and food photography, check out my post about how to plan your food photography pictures. Yes, you should plan them ahead not just wing them 😉


A Tip From the Pros: 

“Less is more. When learning, it’s best to keep things simple. Styling can be overdone and it’s truly a difficult job. Use simple linens, and look for interesting surfaces. I use random things from flea markets, including old crates or drawers. Also, when you’re plating food, smaller portions tend to look better.” –Nicole Franzen

If you are looking for someone to create content centered around food, I would love to hear from you, email me at!



Fanette Rickert is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to