Styling an iPhone food photoshoot takes more than just setting up your dinner plate and snapping what you see. How you use shapes, color, and contrast can make or break your photoshoot. 

Food photography guru, Melina Hammer, is here to share her best practices for guiding the eye with color and shape. In this exclusive tutorial, Melina walks through styling one of her favorite models: a charcuterie board. Once you put her food-styling tips into practice, you’ll start capturing your hors d’oeuvres in all their delicious glory. Then, go even deeper with food photography in her full Skillshare Original.

What makes for a great iPhone food photoshoot?

Whether you’re having breakfast for one or preparing an extravagant charcuterie board, you don’t need fancy ingredients or expensive equipment to capture mouth-watering photos. If you have natural light and a camera on your phone, you can take show-stopping food photographs. Great food photography is really the culmination of beautiful styling and storytelling.

“I want it to feel like you were there at the table. I want it to feel like it’s in the process of being enjoyed so that it isn’t just static objects.”

Melina Hammer

Try atypical and repeating shapes

Shapes are powerful compositional tools in food photography. Similarly to how colors can evoke certain emotions, shapes also play a role in a photograph’s feeling. Understanding how shapes contribute to your photograph’s mood unlocks new ways for you to express emotion and tell stories.

Atypical Shapes

Certain shapes—like circles, squares, and triangles—are fairly easy to style and lend themselves to great compositions. On the other hand, many food shapes are not so easy to figure out. When styling your food photoshoot, it helps to start off by placing any atypical—or more irregular—shapes. For example, when styling a cheese board you should place your bunch of grapes first. You can use them to create a focal point, create leading lines, and set the stage for the rest of the frame.

Repeating Shapes

Next, identify any shapes you can use to create a pattern within your photograph. Repetitive shapes guide the eye around a frame and patterns help you create focal points. Repetition can be simple. For instance, you can arrange multiple cheese slices or crackers to create connections across different areas within the shot.

Melina starts styling her iPhone food photoshoot using atypical and repeating shapes.

Use color to your advantage

Color may not be among the first elements you think of when styling food. But color, or a lack of color, is paramount to creating any beautiful picture. Color can stimulate our emotions. It can attract or divert attention and create visual relationships within a photo.

So, how can you use color when styling your iPhone food photoshoot? First, look for areas where you need more contrast between the background and the food. Then, add dishes or other features in those areas to improve contrast and make your food stand out. You can also create food clusters in complimentary colors to build a strong visual focal point. Frame the focal point with neutral colors to lead the eye back to the clusters. 

Remember, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. When you have too many similar colored foods in one area, it can create too much repetition and hinder your photo’s flow. If you see this happening, strategically move similar colors around the frame and you’ll start to guide the eye around again.

Melina finishes styling and shooting her iPhone food photoshoot.

Look out for common food photoshoot mistakes

People often separate the deliciousness of the food they’re photographing from the end picture. We want to capture a beautiful picture. But what we really want is to connect to the deliciousness of that beauty. When you separate the two, you’re missing out on building a compelling story around your food that the viewer can connect with.

While you’re styling, think about how you can retain the lusciousness of your food. Then continue that thought while you’re shooting. You’ll notice that your food looks great from start to finish. In the end, you’ll have a mouth-watering picture that you’re confident in and ready to share.


Meet Melina Hammer

Melina Hammer is an award-winning food photographer, book author, stylist, and chef—and the mastermind behind Catbird Cottage.

After years working with the New York Times, Eating Well, Blue Apron, Food52, and others, she now curates and prepares seasonal menus for guests at the destination bed & breakfast she runs with her husband, located in New York’s Hudson Valley. Melina is currently writing her forthcoming cookbook A Year at Catbird Cottage with Ten Speed Press, due out in Spring 2022.

Dive Deeper in iPhone Food Photography

Learn more about styling and shooting gorgeous photos of your food.

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