Food styling tips: How to compose your tabletop photo using the golden ratio


If you are a lover of food styling and want tome tips for your tabletop it's handy to remember some simple composition basics. There is the Rule of Thirds theory, where your content should only take up a certain portion of your composition, but what we will be discussing today is the slightly more complex Golden Ratio.

The Golden Ratio is a sweeping spiral that allows the eye to dance around your image and take in all of the elements before settling on the focal point. Below you can see an example of a Golden Ratio diagram demonstrating the lines you can follow in your styling and use as a guide to place your items.

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The golden ratio makes it possible to create a well balanced image in which the viewer comes to the focal point faster and enjoys a better aesthetic experience.

I've noticed during my experience in food styling that the success of many styling compositions have to do with how our brain works. Our brains will look for familiar shapes and patterns and due to this, some arrangements will be instantly more pleasing than others.

How to use the Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio spiral can flow in any direction you like and can be stretched or compacted as you see fit. Experiment with arranging the items in your image to flow the eye around in different ways. You can see below how using the same aesthetic theory but repositioning the same props can completely alter the dynamics of the image.


Sweep left to right

As well as the Golden Ratio, you can apply other baseline shapes to direct the composition of your image that will also trigger a positive response in the brain. In this image below the eye is lead from the left to the right which feels very natural to look at. Our brain is used to absorbing information in this manner, as with a book in which you read the pages from left to right. 

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Try a triangle 

Triangles can also make a pleasing base shape for your composition. This example uses just the plates to move the eye around the image but you could apply the triangular shape to more items  - and even the food itself - on your table.

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Get the most out of your shoot

While you are experimenting with your composition don't forget to get a few detail and alternate angle shots of your set up. Food styling isn't all about the composition - it's all about capturing those delicious flavours! 


Although many magazines and platforms like Pinterest favour vertical shots, make a point of getting some horizontal snaps as well.

You may want to experiment with different plates and pros within the one shoot. Sometimes it is even best to keep your linens and plates really simple to allow the food to really shine. After all that is the hero of your shot so you don't want it getting lost amongst all the other elements of your image.

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Remember - once the the dish is already in your stomach you can’t get any more photos of it so make sure you capture it from all angles.


About the Author

Lucie Beck is a Dutch photographer and food stylist. She regularly shares photography, styling and composition tups on her Instagram account @luciebeck and blog