Food Styling 101: Top Tips & Tricks

Food Styling 101: Top Tips & Tricks

Ever wondered just how we get our Youfoodz meals lookin’ so dang delish? Keen know how to take your food ‘gram game to the next level? Wanna trick your friends into thinking you made that?  

Tap into the Youfoodz brain's trust in this Q&A with our lead food stylist Emma C! The keen cook with the creative eye dishes up her top food styling tips and tricks, Youfoodz meal hacks, and more!

youfoodz food stylists at work

How did you get into food styling?

I’m a qualified graphic designer, and a couple of years ago I made an e-book of recipes just because I love cooking. It took me a year, but I styled, photographed (getting up early before work to make the most of the morning sun), wrote the recipes, and published it as an e-book. When I applied to work at Youfoodz as a graphic designer, I included the e-book as part of my portfolio. I was hired, and the rest is history!

What kind of skills do you need?

A love of food, first and foremost! It also pays to know how to prepare food and understand balance, composition, and layout photography principles. Plus, it helps if you like getting your hands dirty – and eating, obvs!

gif of plating up nonna's spaghetti

Where do you find your inspo?

Mainly Instagram. I follow so many foodie Instagram accounts; some of my faves are @gatherandfeast, @linda_lomelino, and @nectarandstone, and I get inspiration from food magazines like delicious. Donna Hay and Jamie Oliver are firm faves too!

Where do you find your props?

I hunt down local ceramic arts, and trawl through antique stores, op shops, and Etsy! Things like pre-loved pottery, cutlery, and glasses don’t cost much to have in your food-stylin' kit!

How do you achieve the perfect shot?

The shoots take a lot of planning, from overall theme and lighting styles to backdrops and sourcing props. I can’t take all the credit; I work with a team of amazing people! My top food styling tips include:  

  • Always plate up on matte plates and bowls because the gloss from shiny plates will reflect in your photographs and ruin your shots!
  • Use little glasses because normal-size glasses look massive next to plates!
  • Linen napkins are great props – they add a softness to your photos and don’t wrinkle
  • Micro herbs are everything – they can be expensive to buy, but they’re easy to grow on your kitchen windowsill!
  • Always put your herbs on ice before shooting to help them look vibrant, crisp, and fresh! 
  • Salt and pepper, always.
  • Don’t overthink things; don’t ‘try’ to place things perfectly, let things fall naturally. Trust your creativity!
  • Always sneak a bite – I’m constantly licking my fingers, and I’ve always got my hands dirty.
  • I don’t like waste, so whenever we finish shooting, and I haven’t touched the meal too much, I always dig in!

What are your fave ways to hack your YF meals and snacks?

I think everything tastes better in the fry pan! A bit of heat adds great colour and crunch to our meals. I like chopping up the chicken and veg in the Karaage Chicken & Asian Slaw and Clean Chicken & Broccoli, and stir frying in a hot pan with the included sauce – it elevates the flavour and makes the sauce go nice and sticky. I also add fresh chilli because I like a bit of heat!

With the Healthy Chicken Hot Pot, I have gluten-free bread on the side to dip into the gravy. I also add fresh spinach before microwaving the meal to up my veg intake.

I always add fresh basil and blistered cherry tomatoes to Nonna’s Spaghetti Bolognese – it’s a good way to trick people into thinking you made it yourself!

I like putting the Southern Spiced Tenders & Chia Mayo into a bun or wrap, and toasting it in the sandwich press. I also like to put the tenders themselves into the sandwich press to crisp them up!  

I like the Choc Protein Brownie warm and gooey, so I pop one into the microwave for about 20 seconds, and I always add Cranberry Super-Bites to my cheese platters.

youfoodz food stylist emma with chef jimmy

What are some of your favourite things to cook?  

Even though I’ve been playing around with food all day, I still love cooking when I get home!

I eat gluten-free, yet my fave things to make are basil pesto gnocchi and pasta! I also like whipping up a quick and easy chicken fried rice with chilli, and ramen with mung bean or black bean noodles.

You must throw some epic dinner parties; what are your top tips for people looking to throw a next-level party of their own?

I love entertaining and feeding people! My go-tos are big platters of mixed nibbles, like hand-rolled meatballs with yummy sauces and cob loaf – who doesn’t love cob loaf?

  • Variety is the mark of any good dinner party – have as many different dishes as you can manage to keep everyone happy and to cater for different dietary requirements
  • Keep it exciting, full of flavour and colour – add herbs, fruit, and sweets to your cheese board!
  • Serve fun drinks – I love a good sangria and fruity ice tea!
  • Stick to a theme. If you’re having an 80s party, queue up an 80s playlist, have classic dishes such as a cobb loaf, and if you’re doing a picnic-style party, set the scene with checkered rugs, cardboard containers, and bamboo cutlery.

youfoodz nonna's spaghetti bolognese

Final word: your top tips for anyone trying to hone their food styling skills?  

Have a go at plating up your weeknight meals and dinner parties; take some test shots; step out of the kitchen and into natural light; create an online presence of your work.

Learn as much as you can about food! Something I’ve been wanting to do is enrol in some cooking classes to learn about new cuisines, as well as expand my skill set in knife skills and food prep.

Go out to eat as much as you can to see how other chefs, cooks, and creatives are plating up their meals. Tough work right?!

The most important tip of all: keep playing with your food! 

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