Tasty Trends in Food Photography

Until relatively recently, food photography tended to gravitate towards what was referred to as a ‘documentary style’ approach, a style which simply depicted a picture of a dish as the primary focus, so as to simply show it in its intended serving style or so it could be used as a cooking reference. The only additional supporting elements used were ingredients found in the dish, then these were set upon a basic table setting. It’s overuse however meant that the style became quite repetitive over time.

But as this style became more exhausted and new photographic techniques and graphic trends began to emerge, food photography and styling blossomed creatively. With the birth of social media and food blogging, the preference for more crafted and carefully composed images was established, with a greater emphasis on theme, styling, decoration, lighting and props to help illustrate the dish.

In the last few years in particular a number of different trends have emerged but here’s a few stand outs that will no doubt be sticking around for a while to come.

‘Perfectly Imperfect’

Social media and food blogging has given rise to a photographic trend often referred to as ‘Perfectly Imperfect’, whereby images appear to be less staged and more spontaneous. This is a trend which originally emerged from English speaking and Scandinavian countries and is effective in the social media space because it characterises a sense of individualism and life rather than being ‘perfect’ and over styled. Natural light, unusual camera angles and soft blurred backgrounds are characteristics of this trend which create a sense of capturing a moment in time.


  • Tear up bread by hand rather than slice it, leave sauces to ooze onto the plate & crumbs scattered around, because fresh & natural food is meant to look messy.
  • Add simple textures like a piece of rumpled paper or scuffed board underneath burgers and sandwiches for authenticity & character.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes – large portions can not only be tricky to style effectively, but they can warp proportions & effect the sumptuousness of the dish.


In contrast to ‘Perfectly Imperfect’, ‘Chiaroscuro’ has become another social media favourite. The style feels familiar to most because it is highly influenced by the still life paintings of the Dutch Masters, such as Carvaggio and Rembrandt.

It is characterized by a dramatic contrast in light and dark/shadow and is highly atmospheric. It is also raw and often messy in styling, which is what brings the images to life and gives them a sense of being spontaneous and honest.

Correct choice of props are essential to this style. In order to position the dish in absolute focus, accessories are dark or muted in colour and then these are all placed in front of a dark background. This enables the viewer to be drawn to the primary focus, which is the dish itself. It is also important to choose props that have an authentic, rustic look to them.


  • When choosing accessories & props look for dark, muted tones, preferably authentic and vintage. Op shops & flea markets are a great place to search.
  • Use dark backgrounds - Old wooden doors make great backgrounds or tables.
  • Scattering a few crumbs on the table, crinkled serviettes and used cutlery help to add authenticity to the composition.

‘Granny Chic Kitchen’

This is essentially a nostalgic theme that is predominantly reflected in the use of old /retro props that take us back in time and remind us of traditional cooking and our grandmother’s kitchen.

This style has the ability to work across all countries and cultures, incorporating whatever earthenware, table decorations, cutlery etc that are true to its origin, so as authentic as possible, even a touch shabby.

Backgrounds are often kept quite natural - for example, old tiling, aging rendered walls and light wooden farmhouse style tables.

Natural, radiant light paired with subtle patterns and pops of colour are characteristic of this style.


  • ‘Handmade’ is essential to this look so keep dishes rustic and homely in appearance. There is no such thing as a perfect pie.
  • Op shops & flea markets are a great place to source secondhand vintage props & fabric/lace offcuts for added texture.