Top 5 Styling Props for Food Photographers:

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Essential Tools for Capturing Delicious Shots

Are you a food photographer who wants to build a styling props collection from scratch?

Or maybe you already own enviable props,
but you’re lacking the good essentials and you feel limited in your styling process?

Hey, I can help you with this as a passionate styling props collector
and well seasoned food stylist and photographer.

I’ll help you navigate the process of building a collection that’s worth your money.

I created a simple list of the top 5 must-have props
that every food photographer should have in their collection,
no matter if your stylings are minimal or abundant.

These props will help you create stunning and engaging food photography
art that will leave your audience drooling and clients in love with your work.

The role of food photography props

When it comes to food photography, props play a supporting role
in making your dishes look their best.
But it’s not only about the dishes and food myself,
we all also aim to tell a story with our styling and composition choices.

Props are contributing to affecting the observer’s imagination
and help them actually see themselves in the scene and say:
‘Hey, I see myself enjoying that meal. I wanna make this recipe tonight.
Let me see what ingredients I need for this yummy dish!’

We use props in food photography for:

  • visual storytelling
  • adding the layers of interest
  • incorporating different patterns and textures
  • helping you to direct the viewer’s eyes
  • adding shapes and colors to the set
  • adding different heights, sizes, and weight

Essential Props for Food Photography

There are a few essential props that
every food photographer should have in their collection.

Starting with a good minimalist collection, filled with good basics,
is what will set you off on the right path and allow you to get the most out of your money spent.

Food photography is quite expensive activity.
You already needed to invest in camera and lenses
good quality tripod, and editing software.

Of course, there needs to be some investments done in your props too,
but building your props collection should be smart and gradual.

I’m at the point where I can splurge a little bit more on new props
(ah, cute ceramics get me every time! ?), but I allow myself to do that.
I have good essential collections covered,
so now I can add special pieces when I feel the need
of adding something extra for my upcoming client work.

But let me help you with establishing your essential must-have props collection,
so you can start practicing composition, food styling, and building your online portfolio.

Top 5 styling props for food photographers

Variety of backdrops:

Backdrops are, without any competition, my favorite food photography prop.

They truly are an essential prop for food photography
as they provide a neutral and visually appealing background for your dishes.

It feels like backdrops are the mood changers,
the essential element in building a color palette and
they’ll give your portfolio a facelift.

Soon, you’ll be able to get new premium designs
from my first-ever backdrop collection 🎉.

Matte ceramics:

when you are selecting ceramics it is important to consider the color, texture, and size of the dishes you’ll portray repeatedly.

I suggest you start your collection with small soup bowls, medium-sized salad bowls, medium serving platter, and a few plates.

Remember: if your ceramics are too small, they can make your dish look cramped, while a plate that is too large can make your dish look lost.

Vintage cutlery

A piece of matte, retro cutlery grabs the attention
and makes the entire picture so much more sophisticated.
It is very important to choose matte pieces and avoid anything shiny,
since the reflections in the cutlery would be distracting.

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.

Small textured plates

A true essential of your collection and a stepping stone for building your props style.

Food photography is all about portraying texture
and we aim to find it in props as well, to add another layer of interest.
Forget about boring white plates and search for textured plates
which have tiny details and organic textures.

Keep in mind you’ll need to buy small dessert plates,
since they appear a lot bigger in pictures.

For portraying a table scene, I suggest you get 3 plates in the same style,
so you can work with the rule of odds.

Interesting glassware

Attractive glassware is a must-have for shooting
all summer beverages and fancy winter cocktails.

It’s a great way to showcase the color and texture of your drinks
and can be used to add depth and dimension to your images.

I even have a special set of glasses for summer outdoor styling!

How to choose the right props

When choosing props for your food photography, it’s important to consider your style and the overall aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. Here are two tips to help you choose the right props for your shoot:

Consider Your Style:

Are you going for a light and airy look, or a dark and moody feel?
Your style will dictate the type of props you choose,
so it’s important to have a clear vision of what style is close to you right now.

Don’t worry, your taste, style, and trends will change and evolve.
You can always add new items to your props collection.
But it’s good to know where you want to start.

If it is any help, take a look at Pinterest for some food styling inspiration and start making a list.

Keep it Simple:

Don’t overdo it with props.
Remember, the focus should be on the food, not the props.

Choose a few key pieces that complement your dishes
and enhance their visual appeal.

A good tip for buying props: when you want to buy a new prop,
ask yourself if you can imagine 5 different stylings and recipes
where you could use this prop.
If you can then it’s a yes, if you can’t then it’s a pass.

Creating a Budget-Friendly Prop Collection

Speaking about smart prop purchases, I can’t skip this section about budget-friendly options.

You’ll still need to invest in the beautifully curated collection, but so many styling props can be found for a few bucks.

Finding Props at Antique Stores

Antique stores and flea markets are great places to find unique and budget-friendly props for your food photography. I love getting little vintage props on my trips and vacation since I love the feeling of taking little treasures home with me. Look at these long cocktail spoons in the picture below. I dug it out from a pile of cutlery at the flea market in Trieste, Italy. Such an inexpensive prop with so much character.

Finding Props at home decor stores

Home decor section of popular clothing stores
is another great place to find budget-friendly props for your food photography.

They have a wide variety of props, including plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware.
You can also find a variety of serving dishes and trays that can be
used in your food photography.

The best part is that these props are usually affordable,
and you can find them at a fraction of the cost of buying new props.

Connect with your peers

I am sure there is at least one food photographer living near you
and I bet they have some preloved or unused food photography props
and they’d be happy to sell them to you for a low price.

This is also a great way to connect, get to know each other,
and create a supportive and meaningful friendship.

In conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right props for your food photography is a fun and beautiful process.

These essential top 5 food photographer’s props will make a huge difference
in the overall look and feel of your images.

By carefully selecting photography backdrops,
you’re setting the ‘canvas’ for your artistic styling.
Adding the props to the set will bring your story from the plate to life
and help the hero element of the image to pop out and shine like a star.

Remember, too, that less is often more when it comes to props.
While it can be tempting to buy more and use every prop in your arsenal,
a cluttered set can detract from the beauty of the food itself.

Ultimately, the key to successful food photography is to experiment and have fun.
Don’t be afraid to try out new props and techniques,
and don’t worry too much about getting everything perfect.

Take my mantra ‘Learning by doing’ with you,
and practice with patience and spark in your eyes.

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