Food styling hacks and tips for creating more engaging content

It’s 2018. Plain product and packaging photos just won’t cut it on social media anymore. With so many brands trying to get a slice of the action, ever-changing algorithms and Facebook supposedly putting friends and family first, businesses need to work harder than ever to push consumers from awareness to active purchase. Inspiring use is the obvious route to go down. After all, a freshly baked, piping hot, perfectly layered lasagna is more likely to tempt us to buy chopped tomatoes than a photo of a tin. That being said, it’s not the easiest route to take, especially when you’re shooting in an office. So here are five food styling tips to help you create more engaging content…

Make swaps
What you see isn’t always what you get when it comes to food styling. If you’re wondering how someone gets their creme fraiche to drizzle so perfectly, it’s probably double cream! If you’ve spotted cereal floating perfectly on top of a bowl of milk rather than sinking, it’s most likely PVA glue. Red lipstick is great for touching up strawberries that need a little extra pizzaz and a spritz of deodorant gives a welcome matt finish – just don’t eat the ingredients afterwards! Antacid tablets are also a great way to keep drinks fizzing long after you’ve popped the bottle open.

Keep cool… or hot!
As you would imagine, working with hot liquids versus working with ice cream have very different requirements. If you’re trying to capture hot coffee and you want to show the steam, you need to think about the sort of background you’re using. It’ll be a lot more visible against a dark background than a lighter one. And if all else fails? Shoot the dish cold and add steam in post-production.

If you’re working with ice cream, keep the temperature cool but not too cold or you’ll end up with condensation on the surface. Pre-scooping balls of ice cream, setting up the rest of the shot and adding the scoops at the last second is how we created last year’s epic ice cream wreath for Northern Bloc. And if you need something to look colder? Hairspray, water or glycerin and 20 minutes in the freezer should do the trick.

Minimise waste
Food waste is such a huge topic at the moment, and for good reason. There are plenty of things you can do to minimise waste. If you’re showing wet ingredients served in a bowl, turn over a smaller bowl and put it into your larger serving bowl first. That way you only need to fill the leftover space, rather than the whole bowl. This works for dry ingredients too, or you can use paper towels or foam to create the illusion of a larger serving without having to use too much product.

Shoot it again
Capturing a dish or item from multiple angles and on multiple backgrounds can really help your content go further and stop it looking too similar, particularly on your Instagram feed. It can be expensive and time-consuming to create lots of different dishes for a photo shoot, so taking multiple photos in different set-ups helps you get the most out of every creation.

Be prepared
Like a boy scout, it’s always good to be prepared for any eventuality, especially if the food you’re working with is temperamental. You need to be able to react quickly if things start going wrong, so always have things like paper towels handy. If there’s a spill, you can jump in and salvage the shot. Having a simple kit with items like tweezers and cotton buds can really help with the fiddly parts too. There’s an endless list of items you could add, like dulling spray, kitchen blow torches and smoking guns, but if you’ve got the basics, you’re good to go.

Want help taking your brand further on social? Let’s get the conversation started.