29 March 2014

Food Styling Props



Stuart and I were on a mission.

You know who Stuart is by now don't you? Stuart helps me run the Dundee Branch of The Clandestine Cake Club, but he also bakes and blogs over at Cakeyboi.


Anyway, back to our mission. I was chatting to our handyman and all round whizz at work, Malcolm. He can always be relied on for how-to advice. He's working on his own wedding at the moment and making a lot of the decorations for the marque they are holding the wedding in.

We started talking about vintage plates as he's buying them up for the reception. I asked if he had any tips on where to go and he told me about a junkyard, come all round fabulous place in Montrose called Steptoe's
Yard. It has to be good with a name like that doesn't it?

Photo: Northern Lights Blog

Later that night, I switched on the TV while I was cooking and lo and behold a programme I've never seen before is on called Salvage Hunters and guess where they were? Yes, you guessed it, Steptoe's Yard. I have to tell you I got very excited when I saw them walk past table after table of crockery and cutlery.

I was straight on the phone to Stuart to make plans to visit the yard that weekend.


Outside there are table after table full of boxes with plates, bowls, cutlery and all sorts of other household wares. It is all outside in all weathers, but who cares? It was exactly what we were looking for.


We soon both had a teetering pile and that was before we had even entered any of the buildings. Unfortunately we came across the best building last, just as they were closing and it was full of kitchenware. I was salivating just looking at it all!


I came away with 23 items for just £25. Plates, tarnished metal chargers, vintage cutlery, a couple of gorgeous ginger jars for my bedroom as well as some napkins. A steal! Stuart got a rather nice collection of plates with retro patterns and was equally delighted.


Here are some of my tips for food styling.
  1. Always shoot in daylight.
  2. Buy art mount board. It makes a great plain background for photos. It usually come in a colour and the reverse side is white, so two boards for the price of one.
  3. Add napkins and cutlery to the shot for some interest.
  4. Buy old tarnished cutlery, it doesn't reflect what is going on in the room (including the photographer, so it looks better in photos.
  5. If you use Pinterest, take some portrait shots and leave space above or below the main items in the photo. This will mean you can add text.
  6. Slightly over exposing your photos using the Windows photos program on your computer or other software.
  7. Take some photos where the main object is off to the side and some where the background is out of focus.
  8. Try taking photos from different angles and some close up and some from a distance.
  9. Just keep taking photos. You will improve.
Last year I went to Food Blogger Connect and one of the talks was on food styling. Here are some tips I picked up:

Food Styling 101
    • Think abut the camera angle, try taking shots from different angles
    • Use paint brushes to paint oil on food for shine
    • Use marmite mixed with water to give a golden colour to food
    • Store salad and herbs in ice water to keep them fresh until you need them for the shot
    • When building up a dish, add things a little at a time
    • Use a dripper to drip on dressing
    • Show food cut into or spooned into
    • Use a teaspoon to take out a little at a time, until it looks good, this is more precise
    • Mess up a fork and add it to the dish, don't use it to cut into the dish
    • Add cutlery to your photo
    • Only slightly cook vegetables for a better colour
    • A small plate looks better in a photo
    • Turquoise and pale green plates work well with food
    • Use a dulling spray on plates and cutlery to take of the shine
    • Props - go for neutral colours and dull metals, not shiny
    • Props - search in antique shops and car boot sales
    • Slice herbs and vegetables very thinly, pop into some iced water and they will curl nicely for your shot. Chillies, carrots and spring onions work well

    For more food styling ideas check out my eBay collection Food Styling Props.

    This collection contains 46 of the best food styling props and ideas from dulling spray (for cutlery), cups and plates, to printed greaseproof paper and a hand held steam iron for quickly steaming out those napkin creases.

    Each product come with a tip on how to use it.

    If you like this collection, simply follow it and you will be updated when any new items are added.

    Do let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for additions to the collection.

      48 comments:

      1. It sounds like you were very restrained in your purchasing- I love a rummage at places like that

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        1. Well we actually ran out of time, but maybe it was just as well. I don't have loads of room to store things.

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      2. Good reminders from Emily's food styling session - I needed it! And so jealous of your trip to Steptoes. I must try to find an equivalent closer to home (Edinburgh junk shops are SO expensive). I bet Stuart was a great accomplice!

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        1. He was Kellie. Maybe you should make a trip of it and visit other places in the area too. There is some lovely coastal walks in the area and you could stop in at Mackays factory shop in Arbroath too.

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      3. Really useful tips - I know I should pay more attention to my pictures but I'm almost always taking them in the evening and in a hurry to start eating.

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        1. It is hard when there is no light in the evenings Corina, I agree with you there.

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      4. I'm trying really hard not to buy props because I know my DH will start tearing his hair out! But then I read things like this!! It's a good job I live a long way from Steptoe's yard...

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        1. Hehe I know what you mean. Graham was very nervous about me visiting the yard :)

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      5. Great post and what a lovely place you found - I'd love to have a look around Steptoe's Yard!

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        1. I am definitely good back it was great Jan. The stuff did need a good wash, but well worth it.

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      6. Great post Jac, and what a great find that place is!
        Janie x

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      7. wow I really need to find a salvage yard - it's like all the best charity shops crammed into one!

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        1. I know, it is like heaven for food bloggers. And so much cheaper than charity or antique shops.

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      8. Thanks for all great tips Jac! I love your props collection ;) I'm planning to hunt for some props in a few weeks time when we get clarification about our house for now I can only drool over yours ;)

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        1. Oh good luck Sylvia, I hope you get it :)

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      9. That's a fantastic find, now wondering if they have something similar in London. Great photography tips too.

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        1. You'll have to do an internet trawl and see if you could find one. Bet it wouldn't be as cheap as this one though.

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      10. Goodness I could spend an absolute fortune somewhere like that! Great reminder of the tips from Emily too. I needed a refresher. Easy to forget when you get back to your day to day.

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        1. I know very easy to go crazy. Glad it was useful.

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      11. That sounds like a really fun trip. We have a number of rummage shops here and I've had the odd really good find. My problem is space. I came across some of your mini milk bottles at the Big Cake Show this weekend and was umming and aghing as to whether to get them or not. I didn't and now sort of regret it - haha!

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        1. Ah now those wouldn't have taken up much room Choclette, but I know what you mean about lack of space.

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      12. Going to The Barras was just that bad for me -- I came away wanting full sets of dishes I had NO room for, but OH, I loved the place - the weeks we went, there were bowls and pitchers and plates galore. To placate my sense of "but you're buying things that are just random," I DO use what I got at charity shops here -- all the time, daily use. If I don't use it, I make a point of passing it on (rather like I treat my shoe addiction).

        I really just need to stay well away from the Steptoe place, though. That looks like TOO much temptation. Good thing it's so costly to ship dishes...

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        1. I'm glad I don't live near the Barras, way too tempting

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      13. What fab finds. I intend to go to car boots to find similar lovely props. And thank so much for sharing all your tips with us.

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        1. I never go to car boots, but that is definitely a good idea too.

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      14. Wow Jac what a total treasure trove that place is!!! We have a reclamation yard near us where we've got some cracking bits of wood to make background boards with :-) I need to go to a few car boot sales now the weather's got warmer and find some more stuff... I love sourcing props and so far have been plundering my mum's cupboards and buying off eBay... it's worryingly addictive!!!!

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        1. It is Katie, you really have to watch yourself. very addictive.

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      15. Wish I had a prop collection like that! Looks amazing that place!

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        1. It's then remembering what you have when you are taking a photo and unpacking it all. It would be so great to have a room for props with dressers to store them on.

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      16. what a find - I would love this sort of place but I just don't have the room for much more in the kitchen! I do find charity shops in the UK better than those here - so amazing stuff there but the prices also seem to be getting a lot higher too. love your food prop tips - my biggest challenge is finding space to spread anything out but I have got a bit better at finding it - now I just need to get better at food props

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        1. Space is a big issue for me too. I have kept hampers that I have been sent for promotions, keep my props in then and stack them up. My art boards are hidden behind my couch.

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      17. Ooh I get so excited when I see a new stash of food props, what a treat to have found somewhere like that. We have a Vintage Shop nearby with similar treasures. I'll enjoy seeing them in your posts - great food styling tips, too,

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      18. it is definitely my aim to make more of an effort with food styling.

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        1. Me too Dannii, but I am definitely improving as time goes on.

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      19. Replies
        1. It's gorgeous isn't it? I brought it back from North Cyprus, The Turkish end of Cyprus.

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      20. Fabulous post, thanks for sharing! Steptoes sounds brilliant!

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      21. Sounds like a great find, one to visit again and again. GG

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        1. Definitely, I plan to go back again soon.

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      22. Thanks for your wonderful food styling tips - really, really helpful for me!! Faustina

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        1. Oh good I am glad it inspired you Faustina:)

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      23. Great tips...wish I had space to store more 'props'.

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      24. I must try diversifying my props collection - my photos are all styled in a similar way but am still learning. Thanks ofr the tips

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        1. That's ok. Ihope they were helpful Nazima :)

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      I love reading comments, so thank you for taking the time to leave one. Unfortunately, I'm bombarded with spam, so I've turned on comment moderation. I'll publish your comments as soon as I can and respond to them. Don't panic, they will disappear when you hit publish. Jac x