By choosing food photography props that work in a variety of situations you can save money, save space and also be more efficient while you work. Includes video with real photo shoots!
I’ve been photographing and styling Food for almost seven years and I’m proud to say I’m completely self-taught. Everything I know I’ve learned by doing.
Despite having cabinets stuffed to the brim with all sorts of props, there are certain items that I reach for over and over. By choosing props that work in a variety of situations you can save money, save space and also be more efficient while you work. Read on for 8 Essential Food Photography Props in my food styling workflow.
I’ve also made a short video to accompany the post where you can see real life examples of me using them for photoshoots!
Clear Thin-Walled Drink Glasses
The trick to picking out glassware that will photograph well is looking for thin walls. Delicate glassware looks better in photos as you don’t get any discoloration or distortion of the food. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive though! I bought my glasses at Daiso, which is a Japanese discount store. Each glass was only a couple of dollars. Williams-Sonoma also has a gorgeous set of thin-walled cocktail glasses.
Here are a few more examples of my thin-walled drink glasses in use:
Vintage Teacups as a Photography Prop
I collect teacups, not only because they are pretty, but because they make great Food Photography props! Check out your local thrift or antique store. They usually have ample options for all price ranges. Etsy is also an option, but with shipping the costs can add up quickly. I always look for cups that have chips or cosmetic defects to save money.
Here are a few more examples of uses for vintage teacups:
Gold Flatware for Food Styling
Gold flatware instantly adds a bit of fancy to any food photo. The set I purchased is from Sur La Table, which unfortunately is no longer available. Luckily, gold flatware is so trendy you can find it everywhere from Target to Anthropologie. Gold flatware, especially if you get a cheap set, will easily tarnish or scratch off. Make sure you only wash it by hand in warm water and dry it immediately.
Pro tip: To save a bit of money, you can also spray paint an old set of silverware to use for food styling.
Here are a few more examples of food styled with gold flatware:
Minimalist White Bowls for Food Photography
White bowls are an obvious choice for the food photographer. What better way to highlight a beautiful dish than a clean white styling palette? I look for a bowl without a base so the sides are smooth all the way down and there is nothing to distract you from the food. West Elm and Target have great options. I love pairing a bright white bowl on a white shooting surface with a colorful recipe so the food really pops.
Here are a few more examples of colorful food styled with a white bowl:
Matte White Plates
Just like white bowls, white plates are a must for any food photographer. Look for smooth plates with a matte finish and no rim if you can find them. Glossy plates will reflect light and are harder to photograph. I find it easier to style food on a dessert plate rather than a dinner plate. They are easier to fit on my photography backdrops and easier to fill with a serving of food. I’ve only been able to find matte plates by specialty ceramics shops but West Elm has a good not-too-shiny option.
Here are a few more examples of food styled with a matte white dessert plate:
Off-White Stoneware Plates to Add Character to Photos
Another great surface for styling food is an off-white stoneware plate. It lends a charming rustic feel to photos. The more unique the plate, the better. Etsy is a great resource for unique photography props. The ones you see in this photo I purchased at a small antique shop in Japan. My favorite souvenirs when I’m traveling are new props for photography!
Here are a few more examples of food styled with rustic stoneware plates:
Rustic Wood Slabs & Cutting Boards
A great way to add interest when you’re styling food is to add layers. I aim for 5 to 7 layers in my photos. No one has ever accused me of being a minimalist! Typically this involves a combination of the following – a shooting surface, a piece of wood or platter, a tea towel, the dish holding the food, a utensil, the food itself and garnish. Cutting boards and rustic pieces of wood are an easy way to add a layer.
The old wooden cutting board you see in these photos was $5 in a forgotten corner of an antique shop. Etsy is another great place to find something with character. The more beat up the better. Look for wood that doesn’t have yellow undertones as this is more flattering for food photography.
Here are a few more examples of food styled with the same wood slab: