There are some key elements which make a food picture look so damn delicious that you want to get that food NOW! Colours are important (obviously) but what about texture? It’s a thing that we rarely think about but which is an essential part when it comes to styling and photographing food. If you feel like your pictures are lacking that texture, don’t worry, it’s easy to fix it!
1. Different kind of textures of food
Well, it’s not difficult to guess that the main element here is the food itself!
First when we think about texture, we think something crunchy. It’s easy to make the food look CRISPY and CRUNCHY. If you’re photographing a dish that looks bland, add a crispy element, like nuts and seeds or maybe something roasted like crispy onions!
Also fresh green ingredients like spinach can look super crispy and yummy on a plate. (Just remember to use the best and fresh ingredients when using vegetables or herbs.)
As a final touch, something as simple as a pinch of sea salt can bring some needed crispy texture in your dish!
Besides crunchy, food can also be CREAMY, FLUFFY and GLOSSY! When you have something soft to photograph, you don’t always have to add crispy things.
Just make sure your creamy element has some beautiful swirls in it! If you’re photographing something thick and creamy like meringue or chocolate mousse (see my example under), don’t even the surface – make it full of peaks and lows. That’s how you create difference between light and shadow and the texture highlights beautifully! Like in many things, imperfection is much more interesting than perfection!
If you’re photographing something that doesn’t have much texture, like creamy soup, add some contrast to highlight the creaminess of the dish. Use something lighter or darker than your soup and make pretty swirls on top of it. Then style your dish with something that you might already have on the ingredient list. Like in this mushroom soup (see my example under), I caramelised some extra mushrooms on pan and added them on top of the soup. Look at that shine (and texture of course)!
Also remember – so many vegetables, berries, mushrooms and fruits have amazing textures so sometimes you don’t have to create it yourself. Just let that ingredient shine and add a bit of that on top of the boring dish!
Examples: raspberries / blackberries, all kind of mushrooms, spinach, currants, kale, romanesco, broccoli, all citrus fruits, herbs….and the list goes on!
2. Light & Shadows
Sometimes the texture is there, but it feels impossible to make it alive on the screen. The next most important thing right after adding the texture to the dish, is the perfect light, which is essential in all food photography. But if possible, here it’s even more important. When you want something to pop up from the picture, that part needs to catch up some light or otherwise it will disappear in the shadows. No matter if your texture is crispy, runny and creamy or even liquid, you need to find the right direction for the light.
Usually the best direction is from the side. Because when you need texture, it isn’t just about the light. There need to be shadows as well. Those two form the combination that makes your texture pop up! If you have just a lot of light, you might end up with a very bland shot.
If you’re in a dark room, you probably need just your light source on the other side. But if you have too much light and reflecting surfaces around (like white walls), try using something dark like matte black cardboard to block the extra light.
But like in everything, breaking rules is the thing! Having the light coming from the side is the safe choice which works almost always. But don’t be afraid to experiment with the light. With seethrough elements like drinks back light can be even better to highlight textures and colours. When you have the perfectly textured food in front of you, don’t settle with the light you usually use, try to find the perfect angle to make your food look amazing!
3. Highlight with oil and water
When you have completed steps 1 and 2 but you’re still looking for some extra texture, this can be your secret weapon! It doesn’t work in all kind of dishes, but it’s still a versatile trick for many pictures. I always have a spray bottle full of water in my studio. It can be used for berries, fruits, salads, drinks and even some desserts. It brings some freshness to the picture and makes dry and matte elements pop up.
Oil again works perfectly for cooked food like roasted veggies, soups, meat, fish, pies… For adding oil you can use a brush or a teaspoon, depending of the food you’re styling!
Oil and water also help you with the step 2 – the dish catches more light when it’s shiny!
4. Props & Backdrops
This is something you can concentrate on when everything else is working in your picture already and the food looks delicious on the screen. The food obviously is the most important object in your picture, but after that you can bring even more texture when it comes to everything else than food.
But why bother, when the food looks good already?
Texture in other elements simply makes the picture more interesting. Think about it – even though you wouldn’t use a single prop in your shot – which would be more eye catching: a piece of grey paper or a living concrete surface with some cracks? Or brown smooth plastic surface versus old wood planks? Exactly. The background matters. And you have a lot of texture choices from old wood to linen table clothing and painted food photography backdrops!
Also your props can make a huge different. Plates, table clothing, flowers, ingredients… endless options!
When you have the perfect shot, it still might look a bit flat on the screen. Like we know, editing is an essential part of all food photography and so it’s here. It’s about little things. I can talk about other editing tips later, but when it comes to texture there are few easy tricks to share with you! I use Adobe Lightroom, so these tips are most relevant while using that program. But all editing programs have the same elements, so you can still find these things (maybe with different names).
– First make sure your highlights / whites are high enough. Depending on the picture it’s playing between these two. Don’t go crazy with them or make the light parts of the picture burn. Just raise them (both or just one) a bit and you can see the difference!
– Like I wrote in the 2nd step about light, if you have light, you also have shadows. It applies to editing too. Don’t turn your shadows too deep, but if you feel the overall mood of your picture is too light or the texture isn’t visible enough, lower your shadows or blacks just a little.
– Last but definitely not least – use clarity and/or texture sliders. I always start with clarity. Remember that clarity also adds contrast to your picture, so you might need to change some other sliders after it. Then if needed I add just a bit of texture to finish the result. Texture makes everything look really crispy, so don’t use it on too heavy hand!
So here were my tips for creating more texture to your food pictures – I hope you find them helpful!