The true meaning of styling and garnishing food with flowers
If you’re a fellow food photographer, you’ll most definitely join my words as I say: food styling and photography require a lot of skill, effort, practice, knowledge about food, creativity, and attention to detail.
It feels to me like it’s time to redefine the role of flowers in food garnishing and share my main approach to implementing them in food styling and plating:
‘Flowers are here to elevate your styling and enhance the storytelling, not to save poorly made styling.’
In this article, I want to present my point of view on food styling and look at it from a perspective of composition in food photography, videography, and food media in general. Make yourself a cup of tea (or Rose 😉) and join this debate for a few minutes.
Myth about garnishing food with flowers
- Would you ever bet on a red lipstick that can ‘save’ the overall poorly done make-up?
- Or do you feel like new trendy pink sandals can outweigh the negative effect of a wrinkled blouse on your entire outfit?
- Have you ever bought a concert ticket to spend an entire Saturday night listening to the band you don’t even like, just because you loved 1 song (and you can party ‘humm’ the chorus)?
I dare to say, your answer is no. And it is the same in food styling.
Pretty fragrant florals can’t save poorly styled sets and make it ‘work’ just because they’re beautiful by themselves.
If you want to incorporate flowers into your food styling, you’ll first need to:
- Decide on what’s the hero of your entire set
- Form a creative vision and story you’re about to tell
- Work on executing a good composition
- Play with the light
- Work with color theory
- Choose the right props
- Get comfortable to work with colors
What is the point of food styling for food photography
If you’re new to this glorious, dreamy, and expressive world of food photography, you’ll benefit from this following introduction. You know, it’s good to put a good definition forward and not just throw ‘some big words’ around the web.
Food styling is a modern art form that has won the hearts of many chefs, food photographers, and visual artists who devote their creative juices to styling and garnishing.
Work requires a wealth of culinary techniques, food in general, attention to detail, plating techniques, color theory, composition, and creativity.
Its main intention is to make food look:
- irresistibly appetizing
- straight-forward attractive,
- undeniably desirable, you can’t say anything other than say ‘I want this. Now!’
The other majestic power of food styling is transforming simple elements into aesthetical artwork, that tell you a story. And storytelling is what makes food connected to our memories, emotions, imagination, and desires.
How to incorporate flowers in styling food
As I said at the beginning of this article, the true power of flowers, incorporated into artful food photography composition, is to enhance the storytelling and mood of the scenery.
Flowers as a storytelling prop
Flowers are a prop for those who love to capture the wider context of the setup, tell a story about the dish, and invite people into the mood of the moment.
Using flowers as a part of storytelling is a very smart thing to do and a nice way to add emotional signals to the viewer.
Add flowers into your storytelling and you’ll serve the audience with another layer of meaning behind your visual art. Don’t forget this is a skill you’ll need to practice, so give yourself room to just play, try out new things, and create without judging the results.
Flowers as a part of the dish
Adding blooming herbs or a flower is a great way to garnish the majority of dishes.
They’ll add appeal to the main star of the entire photograph, add another layer of interest, and add the energy of the chosen color combination.
Whenever I use flowers in the plating, I make sure those petals are actually edible. Believe it or not, some flowers can make you sick, especially the supermarket ones. Just because roses are generally considered the edible type of flowers, it doesn’t mean they’re meant to be eaten.
Flowers in food photography composition
Layering to the top
Building the layers in the composition is a powerful essential principle with lots of impacts. I love to use flowers as the cherry on top of many stylings, especially on top of my layered desserts, combined with a 90◦ angle.
Visual flow by using the lines
Flowers are an amazing element that helps you lead the viewer’s eyes in the desired direction, without being too obvious. Spirals, curves, vertical lines, diagonals…
You name it, flowers can do it. With lots of style and charm.
Framing the beauty queen
Framing is one of the most used principles for a good reason: it offers endless possibilities for getting playful with props. I love using flowers for framing effect and gently wrapping petals around the hero object of the setup.
Seduced by imperfection
Art is a moody lady by nature, trying to escape the norm and prediction.
Leaning on some rules is necessary to cultivate this force of your imagination, but free yourself of perfection and let yourself break some rules. Show the imperfections in your styling that will open up the space for being human. Drips, drops, crumbs, imperfect petal shapes, and a few dried leaves are just a few ideas to get you started.
Depth of field
If your goal is to create a three-dimensional effect with your composition, adding flowers to the blurred background is an excellent tactic. Play around with your setup and camera settings and you’ll soon discover the beauty of using gentle petals for achieving depth of field in your food photography and videography.
The color dance
One of the best aspects of styling food with flowers is getting to play with colors. You can take your creative vision in so many directions. In many cases, I built an entire creative vision based on the hues of fragrant flowers and food I’m about to play with.
Example of advanced food styling
I prepared an entire breakdown of my recent example of styling food with flowers.
The Granola bowl seems like a perfect dish for using many of the composition principles put into practice. It includes repetition, the use of color theory, triangles, working with textures and layering techniques, using the S-curve, leading lines, adding organic imperfections, and some more elements.
I see this example as embodying my theory about imporpocarting flowers into food styling.
Even if you’d take away the pink petal, the food styling itself would still work beautifully.
Flowers are here to tell the story, accompany the lilac hues of my new backdrop, add a romantic mood to the slow morning with granola breakfast, and tell the viewer a love song about spring mornings.
How to style a Granola bowl – video tutorial
I believe the best way to learn new skill is to observe someone executing a good example and then practicing it a few times on your own, until you find your own flow and approach.
Learnign by doing is my mantra in learning new things and generally for life.
I created this short foos styling video tutorial to make this lesson about incorporating flowers in food photography composition really clear and stress-free.
Best tips for styling food with flowers
Styling must be well built even without flowers
If there would be only one thing I’d like you to take away from this entire blog post, that would be it. You can’t rely solely on flowers for ending up with well developed, balanced and appealling food photography set up.
First, decide on your creative vision, hero object and main message you want to tell with your art.
Flowers are a valuable food styling element, maybe you could also consider them as a prop, which helps you with expressing your creative vision. It’s way smarter to rely on your vision, good taste, composition knowldege and photography skills, than on effect of flowers.
Remember, flowers are only here to enchance your styling, not to save it.
Keep them fresh and alive
From the moment the dish has been fully assembled, your job is to keep it looking fresh as you work your magic with it. Make sure flowers (and anything else) are looking fresh, appealing, and secured on their spot. Always keep some extra garnishes hydrated and stored in a cool place.
Go, get wild for a while
Nature is our first home and a very stylish lady as well. I mean, just look at her colors and all those blooming petals all around. Wildflowers create that organic, untamed, and pristine mood, which works beautifully with outdoor food photography.
If you’d love to learn more about outdoor food photography click HERE to download my free guide for capturing mesmerizing visual art.
Prepare more than you’ll need
We’ve all done this before – we’ve miscalculated how much garnishing material we’ll need for a single photoshoot. Be smart and prepare more than you think you’ll need. That way you’ll be able to re-do some shots, play around with different compositions and you’ll always have enough fresh petals to work with.
Pick seasonal flowers or herbs
Flowers aren’t here just to make the dish prettier. Their true power is in their ability to communicate the story, season, and even the origin of the portrayed dish.
Picking fresh and seasonal flowers or herbs is the best practice when choosing the right petals for your unique styling.
Don’t forget the microgreens
These ‘baby versions’ of vegetables and herbs are too cute to ignore. They are an unforgettable addition to any organic food styling. Remember, little details like cute microgreens are an additional element that takes your styling to another level.
The temperature of food for styling My best advice is to style room-temperature food since it is the easiest to work with. That’s also incredibly important when you’re including flowers in your styling: too warm o reven hot food would make gentle petals wither.
Keep the plating natural It’s easy to fall into blindly following the trend on Pinterest. Remember, food photography is usually trying to portray real-life moments, not perfection. Styling the plate that looks organic, yet beautifully styled is a good way to go. Flowers will help you communicate the season, flavors, and type of the photographed dish.