How to Stylize Food for Appetizing Images

There are people out there who actually make a living stylizing food, and I’m not talking about chefs. I’m talking about artists who create the most mouth-watering displays of even the most simple dishes so they can be professionally photographed. Food stylizing takes a keen eye and a lot of creativity, so if you can do it yourself, then all the better! In this video, food photographer Steve Hansen provides some great tips on how to stylize and light pasta—a simple dish to make but a hard one to photograph—to create a robust and appetizing image:

Hansen’s Lighting Setup for Tabletop Food Shots

  • Camera on tripod over table to shoot food from above
  • Westcott Skylux LEDs on each side of the table to bring in light from both sides
  • White card to fill in any dark spots
stylizing food photo

Food Photography Setup

How to Stylize the Pasta Dish

  • Don’t cook the pasta fully; about three minutes is enough to give it a more full appearance.
  • Place the pasta in the dish in a “twisty” fashion.
  • If adding marinara sauce to the pasta, don’t mix it all together, just drizzle it on to create droplets.
  • Add colorful, eye-catching ingredients to the pasta.
  • Place ingredients, flavor cues, and prep tools, like a mortar and pestle with pesto, around the dish.
  • Add garnishes, like basil leaves, and place them so they catch the light.
  • Don’t over-garnish; you want to be able to see the pasta.

food photography lighting

Shooting food from above gives a sort of two dimensional image, so you’ll want to create more movement and textures in the dish.

You might want to work with a professional food stylist at first, but it is a really good skill to have, so keep practicing!

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this tutorial! The hints will be very helpful in my food-photography endevor. Everything was explained in it’s entirety and was thorough. Cheers!

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