Worried about making your food look good? These food styling tips by the author, maverick baker and a renowned blogger, Shivesh Bhatia will definitely help your restaurant startup in the presentation and marketing. While these expert food tips will help you save money for your restaurant startup, it will also grab attention on the various social media platforms. Shivesh Bhatia talks at length and shares easy food styling tips in his book - Bake With Shivesh.
Shivesh talks about the foolproof tips and tricks, his favourite techniques and the dos and don’ts on social media for anyone and everyone interested in food styling.
This is an excerpt from "Bake with Shivesh" by Shivesh Bhatia, published by HarperCollins India. Published with permission.
Selecting the Props
Props help you build a story and make the frame interesting. While I prefer going for completely clean and minimalist styling at times, I’ve realized that I gravitate towards photos with more props. Keep in mind that props are like the supporting cast of a movie. They’re crucial since they can make or break the frame, but they should ideally not overpower your star, the food.
The props that feature in food pictures are plates, bowls and cutlery. Adding cutlery to your frame makes the food accessible and the photograph doesn’t seem staged. When you’re selecting a plate or a cake stand for your dessert, please ensure that it is slightly bigger than your dessert but not too big. You should be able to see about an inch of the plate around your dessert. The plate should be simple, not have too much design on it and should be of a neutral colour.
Besides that, ingredients that have been used in the recipe make for great elements to fill up the space with. They’re also excellent indicators of the flavours of your food. I almost always keep the fruits used in the dessert in the frame. If the recipe calls for cinnamon, include cinnamon sticks in the frame. Similarly, if you’ve used pecans in your dessert, break a few of them and scatter them around. I also sometimes use fresh flowers, old pictures, vintage cameras, glass jars, wooden chopping boards, milk bottles and old books. Be creative and fun while selecting the props but make sure to not overdo it.
An important question to ask while adding props is how many are too many? If you go overboard, you might end up overcrowding your frame, taking away from the beauty of the dessert. Make sure your frame is neat. Sometimes when there is too much going on, the viewer gets confused as to what is being highlighted in the picture. It is important to maintain visual hierarchy.
While selecting your props, keep a few things in mind:
1. Make sure the props are not shiny. If the prop you’ve picked up is shiny, it’ll reflect light into the camera which will distract the viewer. I always try and select ceramic plates and bowls because their finish looks great in pictures. Besides ceramics, enamelware, stoneware and wooden props also work well. If you’re putting metal props in the frame, make sure they’re dull. I also stay away from plastic plates and bowls as I’m not a fan of their artificial finish.
2. The props should complement the mood that you’ve selected for the picture. A rustic metal bowl will look out of place if the rest of the set-up is clean and bright. Similarly, a white plate will take away too much attention if everything else in the frame is dark and moody.
3. Ensure that the props you’re adding to your frame don’t overshadow the food. The props shouldn’t be too big.
4. Always keep in mind that the props should be relevant to the scene you’re creating. A lot of times, we may end up adding things to a frame where they’re not needed. I’ve made the mistake of keeping forks in a frame with croissants. While the vintage forks were pretty, they ended up looking odd when kept with a dessert that you don’t need a fork for.
A lot of times, I’ve had people tell me that they’re not able to style a frame beautifully because they don’t have too many props. Firstly, you can never have too many props. Secondly, you don’t need a treasure trove of props to style a picture. You’ll be surprised to see how much a basic glass bottle, a bunch of flowers from the garden, a crumpled newspaper or a burlap can add to a frame. Most of the large department stores like HomeCentre have a great collection of cheap but pretty plates. They also stock things like jars, bottles and chopping boards. For those living in Delhi, Khurja is a great place to source ceramics from. Stores like Nicobar also have a great collection of tableware. Their marble cake stand and cheese boards make for great props. In Mumbai, Clove – The Store is my favourite because you find so many brands under the same roof. During my visits to Mumbai, I’ve also picked a few interesting things from Mitti in Andheri West.
As someone who calls himself a food stylist, I don’t have a massive collection myself. I often reuse and recycle.
I have built my collection over time by picking a few things from the stores if I spot anything interesting, sitting down to hunt for pretty tableware online and getting backpacks full of ceramics from my travels abroad. I’ve also made trips to small shops in Old Delhi to pick up rustic metallic props. I also go to scrap shops because I always find something interesting there. Sourcing props is a lot of fun and you don’t always need to spend a lot of money on getting something for your pictures. I remember picking up a knife I love from a small street shop in Bangalore that I just happened to cross. In Indonesia, I convinced a grain seller to barter an old can he was using to measure grains by getting him a brand new one. You just need to keep your eyes open.