Tips for Better Food Photography

By Mary Lou Santovec from Wisconsin Restaurateur, Vol. 81 No. 4.

Midwest Pride Fully Cooked Bone-In Pork Loin RackTroy Giesegh, senior art director at Madison-based Stephan & Brady, a full-service marketing, PR and advertising agency, posted a blog on his company’s website ( about better food styling. He elaborated his thoughts in a follow-up conversation. “Art directing a food photo shoot is all about balance. You need to find a way to be absurdly diligent about the details while also keeping an unwavering eye on the big picture.”

Know your food’s limitations – Food stylists and photographers must know the capabilities of the food and how to work with them, overcome them or be prepared with a “stand in.”

Food must look practical – Crumbly food must have real crumbs but they shouldn’t overtake the focus of the picture.

Austin Blues Pecan Wood Smoked Pork Shoulder and RibsFood must look real, but not necessarily be real – Food enhancements that Giesegh utilizes include toothpicks, hand-held heat guns, steamers, and gel agents, all of which held food look real.

Half-eaten food must not look literally half-eaten – No saliva, please. You can achieve the look of a half-eater muffin with a cookie cutter or other tool.

Don’t over complicate photos – “Don’t add something just to add to it,” said Giesegh. “If it’s a tangent to the main focus or pulls the eyes away from the main food, remove it.”

Play – Don’t get too tied to a specific look or you might miss the perfect shot. Experiment and test your options.

Shoot from above for a modern look – Overhead shots give the photograph a more graphic look. They also ensure the focus stays on the food rather than on the accessories.

Food is patience – “Let food be food,” said Giesegh. You can’t rush Mother Nature.

Putting it all together – Remember that less is more and that it’s your dish that’s the star.