photo tip: propping

Propping is something that can make or break food photography. I do use some props, but not a ton –I try to keep it minimal. I think using too many props can look rather artificial and awkward. Some people are amazing with props, they totally enhance the photo. When I started taking photos of food I didn’t know how to prop, so I kept it very minimal. Since then, it’s kind of become a stylistic choice to use simple natural props.

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This is common propping for me. Garnish, silverware, vintage plates, and seasonal fruit.

Most commonly I use garnish, silverware, a serving spoon, or a seasonal fruit to prop. I rely heavily on the dish I use, backdrops, and lighting to make the image work. A fork resting on the side of the plate or a knife on the side on the platter off sets an image quite well –but I try always make the food the star.

There is a huge lemon balm plant in my moms garden that I use to garnish from the moment it’s little head pops up until it dies in the winter. A sprig of fresh green can make all the difference. A rosemary sprig on a roast, or a basil leaf resting on a completed dish is always simple and beautiful. A sprinkle of powdered sugar with the shaker thrown to the side makes interesting movement. Also, think about how you’re going to style before you even put whatever you’re making into the pan, are you going to shoot it in the dish you’re going to bake it in? Is there a better dish you could use to cook it in to give a better vibe?

My biggest tip I can give you when it comes to propping, is don’t over do it! Once you get the hang of propping dishes you can add more, but start small. Experiment! Sometimes surprising things end up working in the end. Cut this, fold that, poke and prod, the key to food photography is try anything that you think may look good. It’s a learning process with no rules, these are things I learned from trial and err.

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