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Improve your food photography composition skills  category blogposts

Learn the fundamentals of food photography

Our Food Photography Props can make us be inspired or stuck. These are not only the tools we use in our daily work, but they are a strong part of our style, and they can influence our creativity and storytelling we want to say in our images.

Building your food photography prop collection is not only about having different sizes and colors of plates or bowls, it’s about making our props communicate with each other to help the hero subject stand out. They should all make sense and work together in your images.

So let’s have a look, how to build your amazing food photography prop collection.

Step 1 – Understand your photography style

Before starting your prop collection, think about what photography style would represent you. Do you feel more towards modern and minimalistics or vintage & rustic? The props you collect should communicate with each other and should fit your photography style too.

Food photography style should represent your personality and your strenghts, things that are unique about you and your background. If you haven’t defined what your photography style is yet, we cover this topic in one of our courses in our Members’ Club, where Christina Greve joined us and she shows what photography style is and how to find your own.

Step 2 – Don’t rush, take time to get the right piece

Building a prop collection takes years and often to find the right pieces can take months. Don’t rush, when looking for something specific. I remember it took me 5-6 months to find the perfect wooden table. I used this table in my images in the past and now I use it as my desk. I love it and it charges me with inspiration and energy.

When buying a new prop, you need to feel it’s the right piece for your collection. Don’t buy things only because they are cute, or because you see other photographers use them a lot and you like them in their images. I used to do this at the beginning of my food photography journey, when I bought the props even if I wasn’t sure I really need them. At the end I almost never used it in the images. The best way to buy new pieces is to follow your hearth & photography style.

Step 3 – Create your food photography prop mood board

Moodboard doesn’t serve only for photography projects, but it can be a very helpful tool to build your prop collection. When you see any image on the internet with a prop you like, save that photo. Collecting images of different props can be a great exercise to understand how to combine these props together.

Do they match each other? Could you use various props in one photo? Could you use them in different styles? Do they really represent your style and the photography direction for the following year?

Never buy props only because you like it in a photo of another photographer. Your style is different, you might prefer different color combinations, or that specific piece doesn’t fit into your current collection.

This is my prop mood board on Pinterest. I like saving images from other food photographers that inspire me. You can access my Pinteret Board about props via this link, if you need some inspiration.

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Step 4 – Write down your prop list

The biggest mistake many photographers do is they don’t keep the list of props they need.

After creating your prop mood board for props, write down the list of props you wish to buy. 

This is exactly the same as with food. Imagine walking into a supermarket without any list of what you need to buy. You might end up getting double from what you really need, and spending more money. This can happen with props too. You might buy many objects you don’t really need and at the end, you spend more money than you wanted, maybe not even buying that prop you really needed. 

Don’t collect props only because you wish to have a huge collection. Your props should make sense and they should work together when combining them in one image.

Step 5 – Food is always a priority

Props should always have the role of supporting and helping the main food to stand out. Therefore it’s important to choose the props that don’t take a lot of attention from the main hero. Here we talk about the size, shape or a strong pattern. We use props to complement the main subject. 

Choosing the right props is a key to a beautiful food photography image. You don’t need a lot of props, important is that you have the right pieces, that you can combine with different backgrounds as well.

Step 6 – Keep your food photography props collection minimal

Keep your collection minimal, especially when you shoot at home and you don’t have much space to store all your props and equipment. Therefore, it’s important you buy the right pieces, that you are able to use in different styles, such as bright, moody or dark.

One way to do so is to get props of neutral colors. As you see in the images above, they work perfectly with wooden, stone or simple coloured background, and they help the food be the main hero in the image. This are the basic pieces you should get at the beginning of building your skills in food photography.

Step 7 – Buy once, use often

This is something very related to what we mentioned in the previous step. Ideal props are these, that you can use over and over in your images – with different types of food but ideally with different moods as well.

When you choose some new pieces, ask yourself: Can you use it for different styles? Or for creating different moods? What type of food can you fit into that bowl or plate? A good prop is able to play different roles in our images (as a good actor). It’s always the same prop, but it seem different every time.

Step 8 – Less is more

The same rule as above, applied a bit differently. Sometimes too many props and combinations might be overwhelming. When you feel confused or stressed, take it easy and play more with the subject, without using too many props. Sometimes the image doesn’t really need it.

Consider creating macro shots or place your main hero on some tray and make the image. These are always great shots when it comes to your portfolio or creating diptychs. And don’t feel bad if you don’t have macro lens. For experimenting, learning and starting, you don’t need them. Remember, it’s not about gear, but about your creativity.

Key take-away

  • to build an amazing food photography prop collection, you need to understand what your photography styles is
  • never rush when buying props, instead wait for the right piece for your collection
  • create food photography prop mood board to understand how different pieces can work together and have a better overview if the prop you want really fits into your style
  • keep your prop list that help you be effective, save money and lot’s of space on your prop shelves
  • food is always a priority, and props should never take too much attention from the main food. Here we talk about size, shape, or a strong pattern
  • keep your collection minimal, especially when shooting at home. Props should work together in different styles too, therefore it’s important to choose the right pieces
  • buy once but use often – get props that you can combine with different moods, styles or for your clients too
  • less is more, therefore when you feel overwhelmed by your props, try to do some macro shots or go minimal. These images are perfect to add into your portfolio too or when creating diptychs
  • Ready to learn and progress more in your food photography?

    Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or write me on instagram at @healthygoodiesbylucia if you have any questions too! I’ll be happy to help.

    If you are looking for ways how to improve your food photography, have a look at our Members’ Club. Our Club is the most interactive learning platform for food photography out there. We have regular monthly courses, masterclasses, live calls and many other interactive activities that make sure you grow and develop your skills and business of your dreams way quicker than you can imagine 

    Hi there! I'm Lucia

    Award Winning Food Photographer, Teacher, Business Coach, and, Founder of FOODlight. 

    I am passionate about food photography, online business, sharing my knowledge & building a community of amazing like-minded creatives, such as yourself, that inspire and support each other. 

    Feel free to reach out to me via my email or via Instagram, I'll be happy to connect with you!

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