I was invited to a very cool workshop last week, hosted by Yelp Amsterdam (thanks for having
me Flip!). The workshop was all about food styling. If you’re not familiar with the concept, food
styling is all about making food look pretty. Basically anything that makes us want to dive into a dish
right away. Food stylist Ajda Mehmet taught us the tricks of the trade and gave us some useful
tips to create our own mouthwatering food compositions. The workshop was held at Players
Food & Drinks near Amsterdam’s Leidseplein. Are you a(n) (aspiring) food blogger or Instagrammer
and are you looking for ways to improve your style? Here’s some food styling tips with Ajda Mehmet
on how to make your own dishes pretty and most of all, Instagrammable (is that even a word?)!
1. Think of the composition Just throwing things together may work with some dishes, but most of the time it’s best to start with somewhat of a composition. Will the main ingredient be the center of attention? Do you want an authentic looking plate or do you like symmetries and lines? Plan ahead!
2. Know your ingredients Part of your composition plan is going to be how you want your ingredients to look. For this you will need to have a better understanding of your ingredients. Lean how different ingredients look when you cook, fry, bake, roast.
3. Colours It’s no science that colourful dishes work well on the eyes. They look tasty, fresh and you start craving for the dish. Add bright colourful ingredients to give your dish an extra pop. Do you have to cook your vegetables for your dish? Or a good piece of meat? Undercook your ingredients just a little bit so as to retain their colour!
4. Textures Working with different textures can add a new dimension to your dish. Use different shapes and sizes to give your dish an extra depth!
5. Showcase your ingredients Everyone wants to see what they’re eating! Highlight your ingredients by putting them in the centre of attention or by layering. Definitely don’t hide away anything!
6. The photographer Don’t forget to include the photographer in the whole process. The way the photographer wants to shoot a dish is important for how you are going to style a dish.
7. Don’t overthink it, don’t overdo it Don’t overthink everything and definitely don’t try to make it look perfect (unless that is your style). Avoid symmetries and perfect lines and instead try to keep it simple!
Getting our hands dirty trying to do a bit of styling ourselves!
I am no cook, let alone a food stylist. I do however love photography. I don’t have enough experience with it to call myself a food photographer yet, but here are some of my tips on how to handle food photography!
1. Light This is really a tip for all kinds of photography. Natural light is your best friend! Know where the light comes from and how it hits your dish. When I do restaurant reviews, I prefer to do it in the afternoon. This way I’m sure there will be enough natural light when I shoot my photos. I don’t like flash lights but perhaps that is because I don’t know enough about them to use them. But in my opinion you can’t get better light than natural light!
2. Angles When I photograph food, I like to photograph dishes from different angles. If a dish has a main ingredient, I will likely do a close up shot. If a dish is pretty flat with lots of textures, I love to take a photo from above. Whatever you do, try to move around the dish with the camera. Sometimes you’ll find the perfect angle unexpectedly!
3. White space Don’t be afraid of white space. Some of my best shots include a lot of white space! Just remember the rule of thirds and have your dish centred on a third of the photo.
4. Surrounding I love including the surrounding as well. This gives your photos an extra dimension. Readers want to see the restaurant or the space the dish was created in. So show them!
5. Equipment & experiment I don’t have an arsenal of lenses (trying). I just have to do with the ones that I do have. The ones I use most in my food photos are the Canon 24mm f2.8 and the Canon 50mm f1.4. My advice is to just experiment with your gear. I first only shot with my 50mm, thinking it was my go-to lens. Nowadays I find that the 24mm is my best lens for food photography, just because it isn’t that soft around the edges and it shows a lot more of the surrounding. Photography is all about learning from experience anyway!
Ready to get into the oven!
Thank you Flip from Yelp Amsterdam for organising this, Players for having us and Ajda Mehmet for an amazing workshop. I got to style my own dishes. The conclusion is that I perhaps better stick with photography instead! I got to meet a lot of new people. And most of all, I got to experiment with my camera again. Which I don’t do that often and should do more anyway!
All the dishes we styled this afternoon are part of the Player’s restaurant menu! In the photos, you’ll see the restaurant’s Steak Tartare, a Mozzarella Flammkuchen (very delicious by the way!) and their Smoked Salmon Salad!