Tips from a Professional Food Stylist

Today’s post is a rare foray into blogging about blogging ; specifically, one of the more useful skills for a food blogger today – Food Styling.

I recently attended a session in which professional food photographer and stylist Carole Poirot shared her tips with a group of bloggers. First, an Atelier des Chef class instructor showed us how to make a hazelnut torte, which each group diligently made too. Then, in our groups, we put Carole’s tips into practice by styling our own cake using a few seasonal props provided.

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle (2)
This was my team’s efforts, after watching Carole’s demonstration, below

Carole Poirot’s Professional Food Styling Tips

  • Decorate the item itself, the plate or dish its on (or in) and the space around it.
  • Arrange the dish and props to create a balanced layout, using items of different sizes, colours and textures. Take into consideration the height of items, how far forward or back they are from your shooting point, and how each item relates to the ones next to it. Non symmetrical compositions are often more pleasing to the eye.
  • Use seasonal props, not just in terms of a recipe’s ingredients but by adding seasonal flowers and foliage.
  • Vary your images by adjusting how close or wide you shoot. Close ups can show details such as flowers, an individual ingredient or part of the dish.
  • Depending on the mood you are trying to capture, adding movement to the image may be beneficial – perhaps a hand doing something relevant such as picking up an ingredient or a forkful of food. Another way to add movement is to drape lots of fabric, which also serves to soften the setting.
  • Some colour combinations can be jarring to the eye, so use a colour wheel to help pick two or three main colours that work well together. Analogous colours (those that are adjacent to each other on the wheel) create a gentle palette, while complementary colours (those that are opposite to each other ) are more dynamic. That said, if colours are found together in nature, then you can use them together regardless of whether the colour wheel agrees – Carole’s rule is that ‘if nature says it goes, it goes.
  • Tell the story of the food by using ingredients and tools used to make the dish – egg shells, leftover ingredients, extra garnishes, specialist cutlery.

 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9253 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9260

I like to take photographs that show the making of a recipe, not just the finished dish. Here, a bowl of hazelnuts (a key ingredient in the cake) and our filling neatly arranged over the bottom layer, before the second layer was placed over the top; you can just about make out a bowl of apples in the background.

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9263 Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle-9268
Carole Poirot showing her food styling tips in action

Food Styling (c) Kavita Favelle (1)
Carole Poirot’s demonstration on Food Styling

This Baked In Style event was hosted by Currys (in partnership with Neff) and held at Atelier des Chefs St Paul’s location.

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34 Comments to "Tips from a Professional Food Stylist"

  1. kaveyeats

    Same here, mostly I just want to grab a photo and eat. But where I do take the time to style, even just really quickly, it’s always worth it! I need to do better!

  2. Lucy Parissi

    I now wish I could have come to this session – I have met Carole in the past and love her work. Some great tips here – sounds like it was a fantastic workshop!

  3. nadia

    I would love to attend a food styling class! I definitely need some help in that area. The tips are great and the shots are beautiful 🙂

  4. kaveyeats

    Thank you! It definitely can be, although simple styling can also be very effective. I’m in awe of so many food bloggers who style very very professionally!

  5. kaveyeats

    Thanks Jo, I agree, there was some I was already aware of (though not putting into practice) as well as lots of new ideas and advice too!

  6. kaveyeats

    Yes it was good, but I think I may skip the antlers! I love Carole’s style though!

  7. Marcus

    Some good tips here…but the cake should be the star not the table dressing…this looks way overstyled for my taste and the cake looks lost…


    That’s fair enough, everyone has different tastes, and it will also depend a great deal on the brief for a given image. This might well be used as a lead image in a feature on autumnal baking that later includes a close up of the cake next to the recipe itself.

  8. Janice

    When I take my time I can do all that, unfortunately time is not always on my side. It’s lovely to go to a demonstration of food styling, it’s so inspiring.


    I think for me the problem is that I can do a reasonable job of styling but I rarely do, because I just want to get on and eat dinner!

  9. Lily Bridgers

    My brother understands the need to work with a professional food stylist to improve the visual presentation of his foods as he works to improve the eating experience at his establishment. He is aware that consumers frequently “eat with their eyes” first, therefore he makes sure that every meal that is served is not only good but also aesthetically pleasing. By the way, we appreciate your advice to take into account an object’s height, its distance from your shooting position, its proximity to other objects, and other factors.


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