Calling all beginner food bloggers! If you’re just getting started in the world of food photography, and you’re wondering where to put your time, energy, and money, then here is a list of my 5 Essential Food Photography Props! This is an updated list from a post I wrote when I first got started food blogging. I’ve had time to test out my favorites, and I’m back with the results. They’re either on the cheap, easy to find, or flexible for countless uses!
And because it’s difficult to stop at just five essentials, I’ve thrown a few bonuses in at the end!
Friends, I cannot tell a lie. I LOVE round dishes, plates, bowls, cups, skillets, and blenders for food photography. They are top spot in my list of essential food photography props. And actually for a couple of reasons.
- Easier to work with during the editing process. For example, let’s say I took a picture and was standing off kilter just slightly. Instead of redoing the entire photoshoot, I can rebalance the photo during the editing process. Those edits are typically much less obvious with rounded dinnerware.
- Rounded dinnerware seems to “guide the eye” in a certain direction. Depending on how I position the camera, I can , in a sense, guide people to look in a certain direction, maybe encouraging them to focus on the food’s texture or its vibrant color.
- Greater shadow control. Now, this one is tricky because there’s nothing wrong with shadowy food photography. Some of my favorite food photographers use shadows to their benefit in some incredibly mouthwatering shots. So what I’m talking about here is the ability to control how much shadow you have in a shot. And again, rounded plates and bowls bounce the light pretty seamlessly. This can also be a helpful hack if you are shooting in a small space and don’t have a lot of literal or figurative wiggle room to get more or better light.
I have worked with square plates and dishes before, so I confess it isn’t impossible to work with other shapes. But, hands down, rounded is my fave style.
And if you’re deciding on a color, white is a great place to start. With white dishes, the food stands out, it’s easier to check the white balance of the photo, and they are often easy to find at stores and for lower prices sometimes, too.
Having said that, I also like to have a secondary color when white just isn’t cutting it for me. In this case I picked blue because it goes well with white food and happens to match my logo. But whatever you select, white, blue, black, rustic, or something else, the key is to feel comfortable with what you selected. And that often comes with practice, practice, and more practice.
Another of my favorite essential food photography props is silverware. I used to be all matchy-matchy when it came to silverware. Everything was perfectly uniform, from the spoons to the bowls to the placement of the food. And now I am firmly on the mix ‘n match train. I enjoy combining ornate with modern, large with small, and bronzed with silver.
Mismatched silverware adds a certain playfulness and pizzazz to food photography. And it also gives you creative permission to not be obsessively perfect with your photoshoot layouts. Because trying to get everything to be equidistant from everything else is exhausting.
Hi, I’m Morgan. This is me living dangerously. Thank you for understanding.
And if you’re in the mood to live dangerously by mixing and matching your forks, you rebel you, then look no further than your own cupboards before venturing to a high-end store for essentials. And if cupboards don’t yield great results then antique shops and home stores are worth a shot.
Perhaps, though, one of my favorite add-ons during a photoshoot is a handful of ingredients or garnishes. Seriously, the simple act of adding a little cilantro or a few berries to the setup can be a huge game changer but without a lot of heavy lifting or expense.
Another benefit to adding ingredients as decoration is your readers get a sense of what will go into the recipe or how they can jazz it up when they make it. This creates an experience for your readers without overcomplicating matters.
As a bonus, if you don’t have extra ingredients lying around, then nab a few pieces from nature instead. Leaves, herbs, and flowers are essential food photography props when all else fails.
POTS AND PANS
If you plan to use process shots that show the “how-to” portion of the recipe, then having pots, pans, cutting boards, blenders, measuring cups, and mixing bowls is important. And again, I go with rounded (excepting the cutting boards) when I select my stash.
One quick note about those cutting boards, though. They often need a little TLC in between photo shoots. Cutting boards when used frequently tend to lose their luster, and may even crack or change color due to staining, depending on what they’re made of and what you put on them. Like maybe you leave a sliced tomato or several chopped peppers on a white cutting board while prepping and photographing an entire recipe. You might notice a difference in your cutting board’s aura. #Facts
As for pots and pans, I found that investing in some heavy-duty stainless steel pieces did the trick. I make a point to care for them, like the cutting boards, in between uses, cleaning them as quickly as possible after use. But I don’t mind a little mess in the photos because like those mismatched spoons, a little chaos and mess is realistic, down-to-earth, and relatable.
BONUS FAVE #1: STRAWS
I am a sucker for straws. I grab them from dollar bins, party sections, and anywhere else I can find them. They often add just the right amount of pizzaz to photos that turn out well but are missing that certain something. And I love that they are cheap. While I typically work with paper straws, you can also go with something a little more sustainable like stainless steel straws. They come in a variety of sizes, so experiment and see what YOU like. And you can live dangerously here, too, mixing and matching your straws. Seriously, look how wild we are?
BONUS FAVE #2: BACKGROUNDS
Backgrounds are the surfaces you place your food on to take photos. I use a square slab of white marble I found at a tile shop. Because it has a small chip in one corner, no one wanted it, and I got it at a discount. But you can use whatever materials you like. And while I shoot exclusively on white marble, for one, it didn’t start out that way (I had several low-cost pieces I worked with), and, two, you can have several different surfaces in your rotation.
And if you want to learn more from around the web, then check out Pinch of Yum’s Ten Household Items That Can Improve Your Food Photography or Two Loves Studio’s 8 Essential Food Photography Props.
I hope you found this list of essential food photography props list helpful! Happy snapping!