By Ema Harrison - our Creative Director, Styling Genius and Photography Wizard
Have you ever had a jaw drop moment when casually scrolling through your feed and a beautiful image just stopped you in your tracks? Like me, I bet you almost had to stop yourself from physically licking your phone… or maybe like me, you actually licked your phone! C’mon Mark Z, when are you gonna drop taste-a-gram on us, amirite?
It’s those beautiful ‘gush’ moments that I love to create with our food and imagery. We eat with our eyes, and when something looks beautiful we just wanna dive right in, we become inspired to make something healthy or get a bit creative with our flavours and ingredients.
I just love seeing people create beautiful things with our products. At Nutra HQ we swoon over them on our phones in the office and say “I have to make that!” It gives us a buzz when we see that someone has gone to the effort to make something healthy and delicious with our products, take a photo and share it for the world to see.
So to help you show off your creations with some extra epicness, I’ve put together some tips that will get you styling and snapping like a pro in minutes!
Choose a mood and set up your ‘scene’
Might sound a bit OTT, but thinking about the ‘vibe’ you want to create before you start helps to tell your visual story. Do you want to create something light and minimalist? Try a marble background, Going for something dark and moody? Try a dark wooden background. Or fill it full of colour? You could try some patterned fabrics that compliment your colour theme.
What are ‘hue’ looking at?
Pick a hue that works with your hero ingredient. You might make a Velvet Latte smoothie bowl and then choose some rose petals and watermelon to decorate with, and then vary it with some mauve and purple tones. Different shades of colour add depth and interest.
Little details make a big difference
A simple scattering of buckwheat kernels and flower petals can turn something plain looking into an eye-catching dish of deliciousness. Mix and match your textures. Nuts and seeds are perfect for creating texture contrast. Placing some leafy greens next to some smooth green avocado creates a mixture of textures and visual interest.
Create ‘random symmetry' and work with odds.
When something just makes sense visually and feels balanced, but you can’t tell why there’s usually some symmetry involved. But I personally don't like it to look ‘too structured’ so be a bit random with your placements and angles. I learnt in back in the day as a trainee florist that the eye loves repetition and things look more natural or authentic when working with an odd number. So if you’re going to create an image with multiple dishes, do three or five rather than two or four.
Pick a focal point.
When setting up your scene and decorating your food, think about the focal point. You want people to see the whole thing but what do you want people to focus on? What do you want to draw them in to? Is it the shine of the chocolate on a decadent dessert, the texture and colour of a fresh piece of fruit or the steam coming off a hot cup of broth? This helps to create mood and feeling.
Use a sharp knife
A bit captain obvious and practical but if you’ve ever tried to cut up some fruit and make a pretty arrangement with a blunt knife you’ll know what I mean.
Play. Tell a story.
Styling around the dish is how you tell a story about your food and creates a captivating image. This is probably my favourite part of food styling. Play and have fun with it. Don't try too hard, let it happen and see what naturally comes out. A piece of linen can create softness in the edge of the scene, flowers (my fav) add energy and vibrancy, some rustic cutlery nicely placed near the dish can give a sense of heritage, or dappled light filtering in can tell a story of a slow morning at home.
Shoot in natural light.
This is so important for natural-looking images that draw you in and feel authentic. Near a window is a great option, you have shade but the light pours in from one side to create a mood. Avoid overhead lights and shooting in full sun.
Choose a natural angle.
Flat lay style shooting from above is good for decorating around the dish. Or an angled close up that captures finer details is also a great option. Try a few angles when shooting and see which one works out best.
Think about the crop.
Sometimes the best shots are only a portion of the original image. Play with where you’ll crop to make the key parts of the image pop. Elements that bleed off the edge of an image can make it feel more full. Instagram works well in a square and 4:5 aspect ratio.
Edit, but don’t over edit.
Filters and apps can be perfect for highlighting features and creating a ‘vibe’ for the image. Sometimes you want to emphasise the colour of an ingredient but beware of oversaturating images that can lose its natural feel you’ve worked hard to achieve. Make it pop but be mindful and exercise restraint. Sometimes I’ll edit an image and not look at it for a couple of hours, then I’ll look at it and think - oh that edit is way to heavy! So I’ll bring the levels down a bit. I use Lightroom and VSCO for my editing. I start by checking if any white parts of the image are actually white and not tinted a weird colour. Then playing with the shadows, highlights and colours until I find the edit brings out the vibe of the image. Lightroom is more comprehensive but if you want to get serious about editing it’s a must! VSCO is perfect for images taken on your phone. The filters and editing tools are simple to use. When I use VSCO filters I won't usually have them cranked up all the way.
I hope this has inspired you to step out in your creativity, have fun and play with your food, experiment with your photos, and celebrate good healthy cooking. Now go, create something beautiful!