12 top moments to capture movement in your food photography

There’s no doubt that preparing food is a lively activity. It’s messy and noisy and there’s rarely time to be idle - especially when there’s heat involved. Some of the best food imagery captures this energy through depicting action and movement. Building momentum and narrative through food photography is already challenging enough when the viewer cannot touch, taste or smell your food so how do you take them on a tasty journey through your images? You can weave a truly immersive food story by photographing the entire journey of your dish, from sourcing your fresh ingredients through to the final plating. 


When photographing the cooking process there are many opportunities for you to build on your narrative by capturing movement and adding a human element to your photos. Using the beautiful photography of the Sydney Food Sisters as inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of the top moments for you to snapshot while in the kitchen that will help engage your viewer with action and fluidity.

1. Start with your recipe 

Why not start from the very beginning as you grab your favourite cookbook off the shelf. Your recipe may be a handwritten heirloom or even on your smartphone. Try snapping a photo with it before you get your hands dirty!

2. Picking and selecting produce

The most important part of any recipe is the ingredients and it goes without saying the fresher they are the better. If you are sourcing produce from a growers market or even your own backyard take your camera along for the ride as you select the perfect pieces to take to the kitchen with you.

3. Assembling your ingredients

Before you start to cook it is important to collect all the ingredients you’ll need for your dish. Once you have them all laid out it is a great opportunity to snap a pic. As well as being necessary cooking tools, your measuring cups and spoons make great props contain basic ingredients to you can arrange your photo.

4. Slicing and dicing

This is a true action shot as you capture the chopping, grating, slicing and dicing. Busy hands at work always create such engaging and interesting photos so this is the perfect moment to get yours (or your helpers) mitts in the frame.

5. Crafting your dish

Now for the actual cooking! Whether you are applying heat or not there are many moments while assembling or cooking your recipe that provide a great opportunity to capture movement. From stirring and frying to preparing baking, these actions are all interesting to watch and document.

6. Adding a dusting of powder

A sprinkle of cocoa, icing sugar or flour adds such a beautiful dynamic movement to an image. Set your camera on burst to make sure you catch all the action and make sure your background offers enough contrast to make your powder of choice stand out.

7. Taking your dish from pan to plate

It might not seem like the most glamorous part of the process, but as with any of the moments we’ve outlined so far, it is a good milestone within your meal prep. This step allows you to pause and take a moment (without burning anything!) to capture a controlled and authentic movement in your image.

8. Drizzling on some sauce

Nothing quite feeds the eyes like a good slow drizzle of sauce. Even without having any hands present in the frame, this pouring action is the perfect way to add some fluid movement in your shot. Liquids are great at capturing and reflecting light for some extra contrast in your image and you can also use the drizzle to create some texture as it pours.

9. Adding your Seasoning

We’ve covered slicing, dusting and drizzling but what about grinding? Grinding is a great movement that can get both your hands in the frame at once. If you don’t wish to grind on your seasoning then you can add a generous pinch or sprinkle of seasoning instead.

10. Getting artistic with your garnish

Now for the cherry on top! Whether it’s a fresh garnish of herbs, a piece of fruit or even an edible flower, your garnish is the finishing touch on your dish. Using a garnish is an effective way to add some colour and creative flair to your dish and capture the final placement

11. Serving your food

Now that your dish is complete it’s time to show it off before it gets devoured. This shot could be after you’ve plated it on the kitchen bench or presented it to the table. There are many angles and ways you can serve food to let the eyes eat first.

12. The final chapter

Finally you’ve arrive at the best part - the eating! After toiling in the kitchen and capturing so many mouth watering images along the way it’s time to reward yourself with a tasty treat. You’ll just have to hope your friends, family or dining companions don’t polish it all off before you get a good shot of it being enjoyed.

All images courtesy of @sydneyfoodsisters. Effi is the guest mentor for our July 15-21 creative challenge ‘Meals in Motion’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Effi at @sydneyfoodsisters on Instagram. We invite you to join Effi and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for another moving week of experimenting with motion in food styling.

Putting meals in motion and photographing action shots in the kitchen

There are so many ways you can allude to a sense of movement in your images without making a video or an elaborate stop motion. You can capture simple movements to give the viewer the sense of motion taking them along on the journey and involving them in the task. Adding a human element such as your hands often is the key to this sense. Effi Tsoukatos, one half of the foodie duo from @sydneyfoodsisters takes us through some examples of these actions or as I like to call them…the dance moves of food styling! Here are the steps…

The sifter…

How Effi brought this image to life

This photo was the last one taken on this tart shoot. I wanted to create a very messy looking scene to capture an overfilled sifter (which I wouldn't normally do with a sifting photo). The photo was taken on a tripod however the shutter speed wasn't set high enough to capture the individual specks of the cocoa powder, hence the movement is blurred.

Tip: When you take a sifting shot my most practicable tip would be to have a second replica of the scene set up - once you have gone to far with the icing sugar or cocoa powder, there is no going back, so having spare food or a replica scene set up is always a great option.


The classic pour…

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How Effi brought this image to life…

This photo was taken as part of a series of mother's day photos for Baci chocolate. I wanted to bring in the blue Baci package colouring in by using a blue background, and having Caterina wear a very feminine white dress with subtle blue tones in the frills.

Everyone loves a pouring shot, especially when it involves chocolate, so I wanted the main focus to be on that. I always use a tripod when taking pouring shots to avoid any camera shake. This was shot early in the day when there was plenty of natural bright light with a fast shutter speed.

Tip: When taking a pouring shot, keep your hand completely still so that the only movement being captured is the pour, rather than in the hand.


The squeezer…

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How Effi brought this image to life

This is my favourite squeezing shot. This was photographed during the peak of citrus season and I wanted to capture the brightness, freshness, happiness and 'juiciness' of the mandarins we were using to create a new recipe. I used a dark background to highlight the bright orange colours.

I set the tripod up with a timer on the camera and a high shutter speed (1500 is where I usually sit at). I wanted to capture individual beads of juice, which can only be achieved at a high shutter speed (a low shutter speed would produce blur on the juicing). It is best to create these photos in a setting where there is plenty of natural light.

Warning: This can be a messy process, so be sure to expect the mess before it hits!


The sprinkler…

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How Effi brought this image to life

Sprinkling shots are my absolute favourite when creating movement in photos. It gives the photo a beautiful, almost magical feel.

This was shot on a tripod at a shutter speed of 1000. The sprinkles of nuts are not completely defined and instead slightly blurred. Children make excellent models in sprinkling shots, because they just love sprinkling anything! Especially when it involves cake. This series of sprinkling photos are my favourite to date because they capture my daughter's innocence and playfulness so beautifully.


Thank you to Effi for sharing some insights into adding motion to your still images. Effi is the guest mentor for our July 15-21 creative challenge‘Meals in Motion’and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Effi at@sydneyfoodsisterson Instagram. We invite you to join Effi and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for another moving week of experimenting with motion in food styling. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.

Styled and Served: the wrap up

Last week saw us begin foodie month with a bang! Our Mentor Christall from @christall.lowe was a huge inspiration to us all and was so generous with her tips, time and encouraging words. We were so impressed by the submissions. Lots of community members embraced the new month’s topic, with many taking Christall’s tips on board and stepping out of their comfort zone with amazing results.

If you’ve just joined us, last month we were learning all about light - how to find it, work with it and use it creatively to enhance our visual story storytelling. As I’ve mentioned, this month is all about food; styling, serving and eating it!

Even if you missed all the June challenge weeks we have put together the ultimate lighting cheat to guide you through all the tips from the mentors as well as the great resources and tutorials which you can access any time.

Top tips from our special guest mentor

We invited a special guest Christall from @christall.lowe to guide and mentor us during our first foodie week. Christall is an amazing food stylist and photographer so she was the perfect mentor choice to kick off foodie month. Find out more about Christall.

During her mentorship Christall shared some great tips with our community. Here are three top components Christall believes are key to serving up some foodie styling goodness:

  1. COMPOSITION - Rule of thirds, and negative space. Not always, but often, I apply the rule of thirds to my photos. The rule of thirds is when you divide your image into an invisible 3 x 3 grid, and place your main subject at one of the points where the grid lines intersect.

  2. LIGHT - Use natural light from windows or glass doors. If shooting outside, shoot in a shaded area that’s close to light. If indoors, make sure all of your artificial lights are turned off otherwise they can cast an awful colour through your photo which is hard to correct in editing.

  3. COLOUR - Cool it down! And use the colour wheel. Complementary colours, which are colours on the opposite sides of the colour wheel to each other, enhance the story and give your image more depth. There’s a reason they work well together - they pair cool and warm tones together, eg. blue and orange.

This is just a taste of the tips Christall shared throughout the week. As well as feasting on her Instagram feed, I thoroughly recommend checking out the blogs she contributed to during her mentorship:

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Here are some of the #cs_styledandserved entry highlights selected by Christall and the Creatively Squared team:

Such a serene capture from  @sundayharris

Such a serene capture from @sundayharris

Some hot cross buns from  @thefumblingbaker

Some hot cross buns from @thefumblingbaker

“I loved the tones here, not just deep and moody but also rich and enveloping. The texture on that backdrop is just glorious! Paired with the partially pulled out chair to create more depth, and the contrast of the layers in the dish...pure magic. Draws you right in.” Christall’s words about this amazing image by  @emotivelightphoto

“I loved the tones here, not just deep and moody but also rich and enveloping. The texture on that backdrop is just glorious! Paired with the partially pulled out chair to create more depth, and the contrast of the layers in the dish...pure magic. Draws you right in.” Christall’s words about this amazing image by @emotivelightphoto

We are loved this capture from  @gourmandpixels

We are loved this capture from @gourmandpixels

A breakfast beauty by  @cookingwithpree

A breakfast beauty by @cookingwithpree

“I just want to sit at this table, it is so inviting. I love the mood and the depth - it’s perfect for a hot cup of tea on a winter’s morning. I also love the angle of the shot, which really captures everything going on, from the point of view that you’re just about to sit down and finish that cupcake. Right by the window casting beautiful natural light on this very relaxing, casual scene. Bliss.” Another favourite of Christall’s from  @dearnabond_photography

“I just want to sit at this table, it is so inviting. I love the mood and the depth - it’s perfect for a hot cup of tea on a winter’s morning. I also love the angle of the shot, which really captures everything going on, from the point of view that you’re just about to sit down and finish that cupcake. Right by the window casting beautiful natural light on this very relaxing, casual scene. Bliss.” Another favourite of Christall’s from @dearnabond_photography

A funny one from  @aravisdolmenna

A funny one from @aravisdolmenna

Just one of the amazing foodie submissions from  @motherbooker

Just one of the amazing foodie submissions from @motherbooker

“Captured my heart this one. How she could totally break out of her comfort zone to produce this image of compositional perfection! I loved the story that went with this image, as well as all of the elements and concepts applied to make it simply beautiful. Casually styled yet thoughtfully considered. Just beautiful.” Christall was rather taken by  @bellawonder ’s entry, as we all were.

“Captured my heart this one. How she could totally break out of her comfort zone to produce this image of compositional perfection! I loved the story that went with this image, as well as all of the elements and concepts applied to make it simply beautiful. Casually styled yet thoughtfully considered. Just beautiful.” Christall was rather taken by @bellawonder’s entry, as we all were.

Thank you to everyone that got involved with our first week of foodie month. I hope you learnt something along the way and were inspired by Christall and all the amazing entries. If you are hungry for more foodie styling fun, check out our next challenge for foodie month Farm to Table, along with some resources to help you get in the foodie mood and get inspired.

Picture perfect produce: Tips for creating with fresh fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruit and vegetables make excellent props and photography subjects, they are relatively inexpensive, widely accessible and come in vibrant array of shapes, sizes, colour and texture. Although they are aesthetically pleasing to work with, photographing produce and perishable items can be challenging and often requires a more efficient photoshoot to capture them at their best. Even the freshest ingredients can lose their lustre over time so it’s important to have some good techniques in place to ensure you are making the most of your time on set.

Fresh fruity styling for Global Nature by Creatively Squared creator Ali

Fresh fruity styling for Global Nature by Creatively Squared creator Ali

We’ve collected our top tips for sourcing, preparing and photographing produce for food or still life photography:

Sourcing the perfect produce

The most important step in your food shoot is to pick the perfect produce. Focus on items that are locally produced and in season to ensure you are getting the freshest fruit and vegetables possible. Rather than your local supermarket you may need to visit a farmers market or organic grocer ideally on the day of the shoot. Spend some extra time selecting each item to ensure it’s perfect for your shoot and make sure you buy more than what you need so you can have some backup items on standby.

Have a plan and prepare extra

Working with fruit and vegetables often means that you have to work quickly. Continuous lighting can add heat and accelerate the rate at which food wilts so using natural light or switching it off during set up can help make your items last even longer. Using stand in items or having extra pieces waiting in the fridge enables you to switch in your hero ingredients just before you take the shot to help you capture each item at its freshest. 

A fruit platter to die for. Created for Days of Rose by Creatively Squared content creator Emma

A fruit platter to die for. Created for Days of Rose by Creatively Squared content creator Emma

Boost the moisture

It doesn’t take long for fruit and vegetables to dry out so rinsing raw items in water first can help keep the moisture levels up. Another trick to keep your veggies looking extra fresh is to soak your items in a mix of water and ascorbic acid which is a component of vitamin C. You can also dunk thinly sliced peels, such as carrot or cucumber in ice water to make the curls appear super fresh.

Slice it right

The sharper your knife is, the less cellular damage you do to your produce when you slice it meaning the cut edge will be less likely to turn brown or lose quality. Mandolin slicers are a great option for when you want thin and consistent looking shapes in your fruit and veg. Want some more creative looking cuts? Use cookie cutters to get circles or cute decorative shapes like stars or hearts.

Spritz your slices

Cut edges of many produce items can turn brown quite quickly and lose their appeal. When working with sliced fruits such as apples, pears, bananas and avocados, an easy way to keep them looking crisp and not discoloured is to spritz them with some citric acid such as lemon juice. Mix equal parts lemon juice and water into a spray bottle and as soon as you’ve sliced them give it a good spritz. Alternatively you can sprinkle with ascorbic acid powder or try soaking the slices in salt water for 3-5 minutes. 

Lunchbox goals styling for Sunworld Grapes by Creatively Squared content creator Effi

Lunchbox goals styling for Sunworld Grapes by Creatively Squared content creator Effi

Mist on droplets for that freshly picked look

Spritz on water droplets with a spray bottle or water atomiser to make your produce look extra fresh. If you want droplets or condensation that stays select a spray bottle that gives off a fine mist and mix equal parts water and glycerin to achieve water droplets that don’t evaporate - just don’t try and eat it the food afterwards as glycerin is not suitable for consumption! 

Add delicate or frozen items last

A pop of green from herbs or salad leaves can make your shot look extra fresh but these items are often the first to lose structure and wilt. Add the most delicate items such as your garnish last after you have perfected the composition to ensure they still look robust. Frozen items such as berries can make an interesting and colourful garnish but will lose their integrity quickly once out of the freezer. Try to handle them as little as possible and once in place blow gently on them to make them look extra frosty. 

Fresh fruity styling for Global Nature by Creatively Squared creator Ali

Fresh fruity styling for Global Nature by Creatively Squared creator Ali

The creative possibilities of working with produce are endless and getting the best results from working with fruit and vegetables just takes a little extra care and preparation. The best part is that if you are efficient with selecting and photographing your produce while it’s still fresh the more likely you are to be able to eat it straight afterwards! 

Top 10 trade secrets from a professional food stylist

You might be surprised to know what goes on behind a food shoot to make everything look super fresh and delicious. Expert food stylists have an arsenal of tricks up their sleeves from perfecting the perfect condensation to even substituting the food itself! Sacha Kann has been working in the industry some time styling shoots from cookbooks to catalogues so she knows a thing or two about composing a dish. 

Want to find out all the tricks to the trade? Here are Sacha’s best kept secrets to finessing a food shoot:

1.  Fresh is best! 

It may sound obvious but just one day can make a difference to the colour and texture of a perfect peach for instance. Try and work with produce that is as fresh as possible and when it’s looking good, shoot it!

Fresh is best. Food styling by Sacha Kann, Photography by Jess Bicknell

Fresh is best. Food styling by Sacha Kann, Photography by Jess Bicknell

2.  Source tools from your bathroom cabinet

Long armed tweezers (yes like the ones George Calombaris uses to plate up on Masterchef) will be your best friend!  Fingers just don't get into tiny spots where you just need to flick a crumb out of the way on your cookie shot or place that perfect piece of basil leaf to make that pasta shot just right! Other household items to have close at hand are paint brushes to dust away fine crumbs or powdered sprinkles, spongey makeup applicator wedges to prop food up, blu-tak to prop up a wobbly plate and paper towel for spills and mess.

3.  Create realistic condensation 

Need some perfect droplets of water to make a tomato look freshly washed or  droplets on the side of a glass that won’t drip and spoil your close up? Mix 1 part glycerine/1part water in a fine spray bottle, spray where needed and because of the glycerine and its sticky consistency those drops won’t go anywhere! You can also make a glass look frosty by spraying deodorant on the glass.

4. Use non-food filler to add volume  

Depending on what you are styling and cooking, use an upside down bowl, cold uncooked chopped vegetables or even mashed potatoes to make a space filler in a bowl or saucepan to give you a 'fuller' effect.


5.  Substitute your milk

Coconut milk is a good alternative to cows milk for a cereal shot for two reasons...Its whiter in colour so looks a little more appetising and also doesn't soften your cereal so quickly. It's thicker and 'holds' pieces of cereal or museli much better.

Use coconut milk to make it look extra creamy!

Use coconut milk to make it look extra creamy!

6.  Add a sprinkle of raw ingredients

Use crumbs, salt flakes, pepper sprinkles and chopped herbs to give a realistic look...but don't go overboard, sprinkle it as it would drop naturally.  Too many sprinkles looks overdone.

Add a sprinkle of salt or herbs. Food styling by Sacha Kann, Photography by Jess Bicknell

Add a sprinkle of salt or herbs. Food styling by Sacha Kann, Photography by Jess Bicknell

7.  Select suitable props

Use props that make sense to your scene.  For example, don't put that gorgeous pair of french scissors you bought all the way back from the Paris flea market in a delicious Winter pumpkin gnocchi shot....a pinch bowl of parmesan, some gorgeous rustic potatoes blurred in the background and a glass of wine makes more sense!

Make sure your styling suits the cuisine or occasion.

Make sure your styling suits the cuisine or occasion.

8. Use fabric to soften your scene 

Napery in a shot is an effective way to soften it.  Using soft linens or cottons is best as they flow and drape nicely.  Don't be afraid of wrinkles in the fabric, sometimes these textures are what makes a shot.

9. Make it to fake it 

Fake ice-cream is easy to make if you have a good strong mixer.  Use a tub of store bought frosting and mix with lots of icing (powdered) sugar.  You'll know when you have used enough sugar when the consistency is like that of play dough.  Use an old fashioned ice cream scoop (the ones with the release lever) as that will give you a good bark effect on your ice cream scoops.  Use food colouring to make different flavours and you can also add nuts depending on your flavour. Use a little yoghurt (coloured if need be) to add some melted drips in just the right spots! Don’t forget that real ice cream always looks best but fake is a fun alternative if it’s a very hot day or you have an emergency situation! 

Make your own ice-cream that won’t melt!

Make your own ice-cream that won’t melt!

10. Angles are everything

Make sure you take the shot of your food from the best angle.  There’s no point in taking a shot of a burger from an overhead angle...you want to see the gooey melted cheese, drips of sauce and that juicy meat so snap that burger from a 45 degree angle.  

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Overall have fun, food behaves in many ways so just make sure you use your common sense to fix problems if they arise....remember it only has to look good not taste good for a shot!

About the author: Sacha Kann has had a vibrant creative career taking her from Visual Merchandising to floristry and now to food styling. Her perseverance and passion for her craft has enabled her to work in an industry that she loves which is evident in her beautiful imagery. You can see more of Sacha’s styling on her Instagram account @sachakannstyling






Capturing the beauty in simple moments with food

Sometimes we look past the beauty of those simple things and those simple everyday moments. Aimee Twigger from @twiggstudios gives us a glimpse into these moments and teaches us how to find beauty in the most basic of tasks and the rawness of ingredients.

The quiet moments…

This captured moment has a sense of calm that Aimee cleverly crafts throughout many of her images. The composition suggest a story of a slow day spent amongst the elderflowers plucking the blossoms, a kind of simple therapy. The honest but beautiful placement of the hands delicately holding the flowers adds a human element and scale, and shows the love that goes into preparing handmade elderflower cordial.

Aimee preparing beautiful elderflowers to make gin and cordial . Source:  @twiggstudios

Aimee preparing beautiful elderflowers to make gin and cordial . Source: @twiggstudios

How Aimee brought this image to life

I picked lots of elderflower while out on a dog walk and wanted to make some cordial, I started preparing the flowers and realised how beautiful it looked so I set up my tripod and put the camera on the self timer.


The simple moments

Who knew preparing some broad beans could look so beautiful. Aimee shows us here to look for the beauty in those simple everyday tasks and appreciate the simplest of ingredients in their raw form. It is like she has just stopped mid task and snapped a pic. She has really brought us into her kitchen and into the moment, we could literally just sit down and finish them off.

Broad beans never looked so good. Source:  @twiggstudios

Broad beans never looked so good. Source: @twiggstudios

How Aimee brought this image to life…

I really wanted to photograph these beautiful beans once I saw how amazing they looked on the plate so I added an old piece of paper just to add another layer. I took the photo on my Tripod and the table was next to the window so there was side light. I increased the shadows and contrast to make the photo have a little more of a moody vibe.


The beautiful moments…

Another beautiful moment, this time with lilac flowers. The moodiness of this capture is exemplified by the beautiful shadows and the contrast of light and shade, achieved by the beautiful light of golden hour as the light disappears. The addition of the pestle and mortar as it crushes the lilac captures a moment in time, a step of the method of making lilac sugar as Aimee takes us along on her journey of simple but beautiful creation.

Beautiful lilac flowers being made into delicious lilac sugar. Source:  @twiggstudios

Beautiful lilac flowers being made into delicious lilac sugar. Source: @twiggstudios

How Aimee brought this image to life

I had picked lots of lilac flowers for a recipe I was going to create, I went to put them in my prop room to make some lilac sugar to shoot the next day and saw how incredible the golden hour light was, it was about 7.15 pm and light was really amazing so I quickly set up this shot of the flowers and sugar, I had to use a tripod with a slow shutter speed, but the light and shadows really create a lovely atmosphere. I positioned the pestle and mortar so the shadows would create a arrow shape.


Thank you to Aimee for sharing some insights into your beautiful photos with us. Aimee is our guest mentor for our July foodie challenge #cs_farmtotable running from 8-14 July 2019. To see more of Aimee’s beautiful captures you can follow her on Instagram @twiggstudios.

A shadowy wrap up: The Dark Side

Last week saw the last instalment to our lighting month with a trip to the dark side to explore creative ways to use shadows in our images. Our mentor Angel Aguila from @heydominic was our shadowy champion and inspired us with her images and clever use of shadows. We were particularly impressed by all the different interpretations to our shadowy theme #cs_thedarkside. It will never cease to amaze me how this community constantly surprises and delights!

If you’ve just joined us, last month we were learning all about light - how to find it, work with it and use it creatively to enhance our visual story storytelling. Each week during June we focused on a different aspect of light. We chased it in our first week, we took a moody turn for our second week, our third week saw us experimenting with ways to manually add light to our images and as I’ve mentioned we threw some shade last week. Even if you missed all the June challenge weeks we have put together the ultimate lighting cheat to guide you through all the tips from the mentors as well as the great resources and tutorials which you can access any time.

Top tips from our special guest mentor

We invited a special guest Angel Aguila from @heydominic to guide and mentor us during our week of shadows. Angel lives on the east cost of America and fun photo-shopping her little one into some pretty epic adventures, flying and dragons included! Find out more about Angel.

During her mentorship Angel shared some great tips with our community. Here were some of her top recommendations for adding shadows to your image in photoshop:
1. I’d say go against the rules! The general rule for creating shadows in Photoshop is never use a black brush. Shadows are usually brown in real life or a darker shade of the object you are creating the shadow for. If you are creating “shadow play” and the focus IS the shadow, use black
2. Always use the blend mode, “Multiply”. This particular blend mode will let your background show through a bit and give it a more realistic look.
3. Remember that shadows very rarely have hard edges. I always soften the edges with a Gaussian blur. Even if I want the shadow to be prominent (like in my Peter Pan edit), I still blur it slightly.

And some tips for getting creative in general:

1. I have a notebook, as well as my phone notepad, full of ideas. Sometimes when I’m playing with my son or reading or watching something, the idea just pops in my head and I’ll jot it down. I use Pinterest and google as well for inspiration. I like to look at art and photography or even quotes to help me get creative.

2. Look in second hand stores for props, little local shops etc. or just around your house! You’d be surprised at how many great props you can find just lying around.

“Dominic had been mimicking airplanes for a while and I just took the opportunity to create what he was imagining.”

Angel Aguila

Here are some of the #cs_thedarkside entry highlights selected Angel and the Creatively Squared team:

A stunner by  @this.holliday.tribe
A simple yet effective submission by  @imagineamy_

A simple yet effective submission by @imagineamy_

A very clever interpretation of ‘the dark side’ theme by  @claraloupeimagines …a favourite of Angel’s.

A very clever interpretation of ‘the dark side’ theme by @claraloupeimagines…a favourite of Angel’s.

A stunning still life by  @annemaree.c

A stunning still life by @annemaree.c

A shadow overlay used by  @astokes_photo

A shadow overlay used by @astokes_photo

We loved this meaningful submission by  @leapofcharly …a clever and unexpected interpretation.

We loved this meaningful submission by @leapofcharly…a clever and unexpected interpretation.

A signature shady vignette by  @joetravellersg

A signature shady vignette by @joetravellersg

Some fun with a shady Peter Pan by  @nathan_and_theo

Some fun with a shady Peter Pan by @nathan_and_theo

A heartfelt submission by  @paper_planes_life …we heart this!

A heartfelt submission by @paper_planes_life…we heart this!

Thank you to everyone that played along with our shady theme and got creative with shadows.

July sees us exploring a whole new topic and set of themes. It’s foodie month! If you are hungry for more styling fun, check out our first challenge for foodie month Styled and Served, along with some resources to help you get in the foodie mood and get inspired.

How to serve up some moody foodie images that will make anyone's mouth water!

The art of food styling mouth-watering images is a whole gastronomic journey in itself. It is one thing for the food to taste good, but to convey this in a visual sense requires more than a touch of artistry. This talent for inviting the viewer to feast with their eyes is an art form well practiced by Christall Lowe from The Style Tales. Join us as Christall shares some behind the scenes tips into her food styling as she takes us on culinary journey through some of her creations. Prepare to drool on some foodie goodness and feast on some of her secrets!

The moody foodie shot…

I think mood and food definitely go hand in hand. Food evokes certain feelings within all of us and Christall knows how to capture this sentiment in her images. The following moody foodie shot is no exception. The steam from the freshly stewed fruit for these pies just makes your mouth water for those finished treats. As Christall explains, this was an accidental discovery and really shows that you can find beauty in the most simplest of steps…and to always have your camera ready as you create [and cook!].

The beauty of steam in food styling. Source:  @christall.lowe

The beauty of steam in food styling. Source: @christall.lowe

The before and after image as shot by Christall

The before and after image as shot by Christall

How Christall brought this image to life

This was actually an unintentional situation that I quickly shot when I saw all the steam. I really do love natural in-situ shots the most, and this was definitely one of those times. I was making four apple and boysenberry pies for a tablescape shoot and had just stewed the fruit and poured it into the pie dishes. This was just on my old bench in the kitchen, and the sunlight shining through the window  really caught the steam particles and I had to run and grab my camera to capture it!

The setup:

  • No tripod, just hand held.

  • Canon 6D Mark II camera, 100mm macro lens, ISO 250, Aperture f/3.2, Shutter Speed 1/500

  • Natural backlight (crucial for steam/smoke)

  • Edited in Lightroom - cooled down the temp as current kitchen walls are very cream coloured, reduced blacks, upped whites and highlights, upped clarity and texture. 


Serving up a foodie flatlay

A foodie flatlay comes in all styles but I must say Christall’s are deliciously good! This bird’s eye view below is so realistic [and so cleverly styled] it makes you just want to pull up that chair, sit down and have some muesli, no matter the time of day! The spoon already placed in the muesli suggests you might have already helped yourself…enyoy!

Christall sure knows how to serve up breakfast. Source:  @christall.lowe

Christall sure knows how to serve up breakfast. Source: @christall.lowe

The before and after image as shot by Christall

The before and after image as shot by Christall

How Christall brought this image to life…

This was part of a series shot for Ceres Organics of their new muesli range. This was set up on my dining room table, but this surface is actually the side of an old weathered dresser that is now my favourite backdrop! I placed the chair coming out to create depth and also a sense of place. Foliage in the foreground which is blurred out to create more depth, and the rule of triangles (see the other blog post) for dish placement with the other ingredients. Special trick used was not actually adding the milk until the last minute - so I took many shots without the milk there to get the composition and settings right. Then I added the milk but only around the muesli and a little in the apricots - or the muesli would just go mushy - not a good look. This was set up next to my dining room window at the top of the shot (note direction of shadows).

The setup:

  • No tripod, hand held while I was standing on the table!

  • Canon 6D Mark II camera, 50mm f1.4 lens, ISO 400, Aperture f/1.8, Shutter Speed 1/500

  • Natural top light.

  • Edited in Lightroom - cooled down the temp, note background is now very grey brown, lifted shadows and whites, upped clarity, upped the vibrance slightly, selectively upped the saturation of oranges and greens, and cooled the green tones down. 


The foodie action shot

Adding hands to our foodie shot adds a human element. They give a sense of realism and storytelling for these are perhaps the hands that have lovingly prepared what we are figuratively digesting with our eyes. Adding the motion of pouring as Christall has done in this following image further exemplifies this storytelling…and you just want a piece of cake!

A deliciously good pour. Source:  @christall.lowe

A deliciously good pour. Source: @christall.lowe

The before and after image as shot by Christall

The before and after image as shot by Christall

How Christall brought this image to life

This was a carrot and orange cake with an orange maple drizzle. This was also set up on my dining room table beside my large window at the right. I used a marble look backdrop on the table for contrast and flowers and foliage in the background to firstly hide the mess on my kitchen bench (!!!) and to create depth.

The setup:

  • Tripod, with camera connected to my iphone used as a remote to take photos with one hand, while one hand held the jug!

  • Canon 6D Mark II camera, 50mm f1.4 lens, ISO 200, Aperture f/1.4, Shutter Speed 1/640 (to capture the drizzle nicely)

  • Natural side light.

  • Edited in Lightroom - cooled down the temp, lifted highlights and whites, reduced shadows and blacks slightly. Upped clarity, selectively upped the saturation of purple and green, and cooled the green tones down. Played with the S curve to create a more moody matte look. 


Thank you to Christall for sharing some of your foodie and editing secrets, and of course the original photos with us. Christall is our guest mentor for our July foodie challenge #cs_styledandserved running from 1-7 July 2019. To see more of Christall’s delicious photography you can follow her on Instagram @christall.lowe.

5 Expert Tips for Photographing Food

Everyone takes pictures of their food, but few do it well. You know the feeling. It looks great on your plate – fresh, vibrant, and delicious – but so meh on your screen. I love food and I hate to see so many average (or bad!!) pictures of beautiful food, so I compiled a few easy tips that anyone can use to expose the raw (or cooked) beauty of food. The best part: you don’t even need fancy equipment, your phone will do just great.

1. Use natural light as much as possible. Direct fluorescent lights are never your friends.

The most important thing to consider when you are shooting food photography (or any type of photography for that matter), is the light. Without light, there is no photography. As a general rule, overhead lights make food look flat and wilted, and can even distort its real color. Regular kitchen or restaurant lights, for example, tend to make everything look yellowy-orange. Natural light is the key to good food photography. Place your subject near a window where the natural light will enhance the food’s natural beauty. Make sure to choose a spot in the shade out of direct sunlight. Direct light light can produce beautiful results, but it takes some getting used to, so start in the shade.

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2. Angles, angles, angles. Just like people, food has its better angles.

An easy one is the top-down: hover directly over your food, and shoot. The result is a flattering photo in the “flat lay” style. This works particularly well for dishes that are relatively 2D and won’t be complemented by the 45-degree angle or straight on approaches (Yes pizza, that would be you...).

Think of 45 degrees as the angle at which you see food when you’re sitting at the table. Why is this perspective so appealing? Because we can imagine digging in! This is also a great angle for adding props to your shot. French fries on the side? Yes please.

Position your lens at the same height as your food to take a picture straight on. This is the best choice for tall items, like drinks, parfaits, or stacked sandwiches, as it accentuates the dimensions of the dish and allows the viewer a mouth-watering look at its textures, layers, and colors.

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3. Include fresh ingredients as props. Herbs, I’m looking at you.

Fresh fruits and vegetables give life to a cooked dish. They often add the right pop of color and texture that draw the eye in and make the food look homemade - even if it isn’t. Remember to make sure that your fresh props go with the dish. Placing a slice of lemon next to your fried egg will just leave viewers confused.

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4. The power of layers. Not just for your hair.

Layers create depth and interest. I’m talking napkins, stacked plates and trays, a casual leftover newspaper – even some crumbs! The same principle goes for the dish itself. If you’re shooting dessert, layer on the whipped cream, berries, and powdered sugar. If breakfast, stack your pancakes and syrup. It is possible to go overboard with background props and layers though, so try not to include anything with busy patterns, or so much clutter that it detracts from the food itself.

Fig Salad - layers- Food Photography - Frenchly - -.jpg

5. Just keep trying

From food styling, to experimenting with angles and new lighting techniques, there is always something new to learn. And as you continue practicing, there are a lot of great resources out there to guide you. Like an awful lot. If you don’t know where to start, check out the round up of my favorite online resources.


About the author: Fanette is a professional food and product photographer who combines her passion for food and product photography with an interest in a healthy lifestyle by creating images of fresh, healthy food and sustainable products. When she is not shooting or eating food (or both), Fanette likes to play with my son, travel the world, curl up on the couch with a good book. You can see more of Fanette’s beautiful images on her Instagram account @frenchlyphotography and website french.ly







10 ways to add wow factor to your tabletop food styling

When it comes to food styling, working with raw ingredients and plating up delicious meals topped with the perfect garnish is just half the challenge. While the food might be the focus, the art of crafting an engaging food story is just as much about what’s happening around the plate. If you want to take your viewer on a delicious journey the narrative begins with how you set the scene, starting with the backdrop and the items you use to style your shot.

When it comes to crafting compelling food stories, Christall Lowe from The Style Tales knows a thing or two about scene building. Christall is an expert food stylist and food photographer, and a whiz in the kitchen who specialises in creating detail rich, moody photographs with a lot of depth. She is resourceful at finding ways to add warmth, contrast and texture using everyday items, without taking away from the star of the shot (the food!) and we are lucky to have her sharing her expert tips with us.

10 ways to create textural, detail rich, dynamic food images:

1. Get creative with your backdrops

Almost anything can be a suitable surface for styling food. Sometimes you need to look at things with a new set of eyes, and also realise that the camera itself has a different set of “eyes” as well. What might look like a simple piece of timber may translate beautifully through the lens, so don’t be afraid to try things out.

Start with printed, hand painted or textured backdrop boards, vinyls, large floor tiles from your tile store, and layer them on the floor or on top of an existing table or bench. Even look around your own home - concrete back door steps can be sprayed with water for a polished concrete appearance, your concrete path with its cracks and imperfections, your deck with its weathered timber!
Top Tip: working on the floor when it comes to overhead shots especially is quite advantageous, as you get a full view of the scene without having to clamber up ladders, or stand on chairs.

2. Salvage and recycle unusual surfaces

Look in your garage or recycle yards for rustic panels to use as backdrops. Things like old wooden doors, weathered desk tops, rusty sheet metal or even this part of an old BBQ create interesting and detail rich backdrops. Look for lots items with lots of patina - natural wear and tarnish.
Top tip: When selecting wooden items for backdrops make sure the wood isn’t too orange - orange hued backgrounds often make food look unappetising. Opt for cooler tones especially with backdrops and props, and if that’s not possible you can always alter the temperature of your image in editing.

3. Layer up your linens

Use samples and swatches of interesting fabrics as linens. Drape them over your table, under plates, or around the sides of dishes, or hang them in the backdrop to add more texture to your scene. Don’t be afraid to let them be scrunched or wrinkled as the shadows created in the wrinkles add more depth to your scene.
Top Tip: When placing fabrics think “grace and flow” - you don’t just want to have a solid piece of fabric underneath a dish as it’s not contributing to the scene at all. You want it soft looking, and with some movement - and even better if it cleverly draws the eye to the main focus dish.

4. Knitwear for your table

Look past the traditional style table top linens for interesting fabric textures. Blankets and knitted fabrics can add beautiful pattern and warmth to your photo. Try using a knitted sweater or scarf from your wardrobe for a cosy feel. Scour second hand shops for knitted jumpers, baby blankets, aprons and vintage linen. Scrunch it in store and see how it looks!
Top Tip: To make your fabric stay “scrunched” in your food scene, particularly if it’s stiffer or thicker, simply dampen it.

5. It’s what’s underneath that counts

Add layers to your photo for added depth. Kitchen basics like scrunched up baking paper are a simple and inexpensive way to add an extra element. Layer smaller dishes upon larger dishes, and add even further layers with foliage in the foreground (or background of a front on shot), or a chair popping out from under the table.
Top Tip: Think about how to add layers to your dish - in an overhead shot a sprinkle of powdered sugar over apple pie, flour over dough, sauce or cream over pudding, a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of pumpkin and chia seeds over muesli - all create extra layers and contrast.

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6. Jump in the frame

Add a human element. Hands in shot can really make an image come to life, and can add to the storytelling.
Top Tip: Set your camera up on a tripod if you need to use your own hands in the shot. Get your scene styled and all of your camera settings sorted, then either use the self timer to fire off a series of shots at once, or use a remote (or your smartphone and the relevant camera app) for shots that only need one hand.

7. Add tension with triangles

For a more dynamic image remember the rule of triangles. Place your dishes in an uneven triangle to create visual tension.
Top Tip: Leaving negative space (empty space) around a third or more of your image draws the viewers eye to the main event - works a treat!

8. Your platter matters

Second hand, rustic and vintage items can make ideal serving ware. Look for items that look worn and loved, again with lots of patina, even if they are no longer suitable for baking!
Top Tip: Try to avoid shiny or reflective items as it will either produce glare, or will reflect your surroundings. This is why matte ceramics and older, tarnished silverware are ideal.

9. Indulge in some shadow play

Take advantage of direct, natural light to cast interesting shadows onto your scene. The light creates interesting patterns and adds another dimension to your photo.
Top Tip: put masking tape on your window for a “lattice” window effect, or a vase of foliage in the direct sunlight to cast shadows over your scene.

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10. Make a mess!

Don’t be afraid to add layers of raw ingredients or break off crumbs.
Top Tip: Be strategic about placement, you still want some negative space in your shot, so don’t feel the need to fill up every single space. Have the crumbs and raw ingredients  falling “naturally”.

You can see more of Christall’s images on her Instagram account @christall.lowe and visit her online at The Style Tales.  If you’d like to know how Christall got into food styling and photography you can read her latest post about How it all began on her blog, and read more about her creative process in our interview Serving up stylish food stories with Christall Lowe