a slice of bread with tomatoes and basil on a wooden cutting board.

16 Food Photography Props (Styling Ideas & Where To Buy)

Find out the must-have props for food photography, where to buy them, and how to use them to create mouthwatering images for clients or social media.

“We eat first with our eyes,” said the first-century Roman gourmand Apicius.

…and he was right: the presentation of our food matters.

That’s why food photography props are so important in 2023.

The right props tell a story and invite the viewer on a visual journey.

They make food look more appealing, give the viewer a sense of what it will taste like, and add interest to an image.

If you want to find out what must-have props every famous food photographer has in their prop collection, read on.

In this post, I’ll take you through my favorite food photography props, tips for using them, and where to buy them.

Let’s go!

What are the 2 Main Types of Food Photography Props?

The right props are critical in food photography – you want them to complement the food rather than distract from it.

Luckily, there’s a wide range of food photography props to choose from that can add visual interest and create a cohesive and appealing image.

Props are broadly categorized into two groups: functional props and decorative props.

Functional props are items that directly interact with the food, such as:

  • Dishes
  • Bowls
  • Plates
  • Glasses
  • Cutlery
  • Serving utensils

Decorative props are used to create a setting or convey a mood. For example:

  • Tablecloths
  • Napkins
  • Backgrounds
  • Flowers
  • Candles
  • Books
  • Seasonal items like autumn leaves or Christmas ornaments

In both categories, props can vary widely in material, color, texture, and size.

Vintage or handmade items are often popular as they can add a unique and personal touch. Seasonal items, like autumn leaves in fall or Christmas ornaments in winter, can also be used to set the scene.

My Favorite Food Photography Props for Mouthwatering Food Photos

With the above in mind, let’s delve into some of the most versatile and useful food photography props.

All of these are great props to use whether you’re shooting for commercial clients, your blog or social media accounts, or just for fun!

1. White Ceramic Plates

coffee beans in a white bowl with green leaves.

Credit: Phouy Sonedala

The Swiss Army knife of food photography, white plates are incredibly versatile.

They make your food pop and create a clean, uncluttered look. Ideal for everything from pies to pasta!

2. Vintage Cutlery

a spoon with blueberries and granola on a black background.

Credit: JJ Jordan

There’s something charmingly nostalgic about vintage cutlery. These items are perfect for adding a touch of rustic charm to your shots.

Plus, no two pieces are the same, making each photo unique.

You can often find beautiful tableware at vintage shops or antique stores, so dig around to see what you can find.

3. Wooden Boards

a burger with fries and coleslaw on a wooden plate.

Credit: Rajesh TP

For that artisanal, fresh-from-the-oven vibe, you can’t beat a good wooden cutting board.

Cutting boards are great for photographing bread, cheese, or any “rustic” food, really. Bonus points if they’re weathered and worn!

4. Glass Jars

valentine's day lollipops in a glass jar.

Credit: Pixabay

Think beyond drinks – glass jars work wonders for salads, overnight oats, layered desserts, and more.

They offer a clear view of the contents, showing off those vibrant layers of yummy goodness.

5. Patterned Napkins

a table with peaches and wine on it.

Credit: Leeloo Thefirst

A patterned napkin can introduce color and texture without stealing the show. Fold it, scrunch it, or let it fall naturally – it’s a prop that also acts as an accessory.

6. Baking Paper

a cinnamon bun with cranberries and cinnamon sticks on a piece of paper.

Credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova

Who knew that baking paper could double as a fantastic food photography prop? Crinkle it, cook with it, or use it as a background for a raw, textural feel.

Another benefit of parchment paper as a food photography prop is that it’s budget-friendly and easy to find.

7. Marble Slabs

two pears on a marble tray.

Credit: Polina Tankilevitch

For a sleek and sophisticated look, nothing beats a marble slab. They’re particularly good for baked goods and desserts.

I also like to use them for photographing ice cream, as it helps keep it from melting too quickly!

8. Fresh Herbs

fresh herbs and garlic on a marble table.

Credit: Alleksana

Not only do they add a pop of color, but fresh herbs can also suggest freshness and flavor.

A sprig of rosemary here, a few basil leaves there, and voila – instant appetizing appeal.

9. Kitchen Utensils

a wooden cutting board with pasta and eggs on it with kitchen utensils in the background.

Credit: Katerina Holmes

Whisks, spoons, spatulas – all everyday kitchen items that can add a dynamic touch to your food pictures. They can also suggest the “making” process of a dish.

10. Cast Iron Skillets

a skillet filled with cinnamon rolls on a wooden table.

Credit: Caleb Oquendo

A cast-iron skillet screams hearty, homemade meals. They’re ideal for everything from frittatas to cobblers, and they can go straight from the oven to the table – or in this case, your photo set.

11. Linen Tablecloths

Table with red tablecloth and pomegranates on top

Credit: Cottonbro Studio

A linen tablecloth can bring a soft, dreamy vibe to your photos. Its wrinkles and folds add texture and depth to your shot without being too distracting.

12. Tea Towels

a dish with eggs, tomatoes and pita bread on a table with a white tea towel

Credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich

Whether they’re hanging off a kitchen rack or nestled under a dish, tea towels can introduce subtle visual interest.

Plus, they come in all sorts of patterns and colors, from colorful fruity prints to classic checks or rustic stripes.

I like to keep a few different food photography style ideas and prints in my prop collection so I can draw on them as needed.

13. Cake Stands

a cake on a stand and a slice of the cake in front

Credit: Jorge Zaldivar Marroquin

Elevate your desserts, quite literally, with a cake stand. It raises the subject off the surface, giving it a place of honor and making it the undisputed star of the show.

Plus, a glass or ceramic cake stand can lend a touch of elegance to your photo, whether it’s showcasing a decadent chocolate cake or a tower of macarons.

Just be mindful of the color and style – it should complement, not compete with, your edible masterpiece.

14. Edible Flowers

two pink popsicles on a plate with flowers.

Credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich

Edible flowers are a beautiful, natural way to add splashes of color to your food photos.

They’re great for salads, cakes, or anything that could do with a touch of whimsy.

15. Spices and Sprinkles

crackers with icing and sprinkles on a blue surface.

Credit: Tyler Sherrington

Whether it’s a dusting of icing sugar, a sprinkle of sea salt, or a scattering of freshly chopped chives, these tiny touches can make a big visual impact.

They suggest flavor and enhance the overall appeal of your dish.

16. Measuring Cups

measuring spoons and a piece of butter on a plate.

Credit: Los Muertos Crew

These unsung heroes of the kitchen are more than just food photography props; they’re storytellers.

Filled with flour or nestled next to cookie dough, measuring cups evoke an authentic ‘in-the-making’ vibe.

Grab some in sleek stainless steel or charming enamel- they’re a simple, yet effective way to add depth to your composition.

What About Fake Food Props for Photography?

When dealing with food photography, not everything you see is as it seems. Often, photographers turn to the magic of fake food props to create that perfect shot.

These faux foods are ideal when real ingredients are not readily available, out of season, or simply too tricky to work with under studio conditions.

Not to mention, they offer the ultimate solution for foods that tend to melt, wilt, or change color quickly.

Some common fake food props include:

  • Faux Fruits and Vegetables: From apples to zucchinis, these can add color and texture without wilting or decaying.
  • Artificial Ice Cubes: These stay perfectly frosty and don’t melt under hot lights. I’ve used these often when shooting drinks, and I can attest that they work really well!
  • Silicone Pastries: Croissants, bagels, and other baked goods that look fresh out of the oven.
  • Plastic Drinks: These mock-ups of wine, beer, or cocktails will never go flat.
  • Fake Ice Cream Scoops: They retain their perfect shape, regardless of how long the photoshoot lasts.

While these props can be remarkably lifelike, the key to using them effectively lies in blending them seamlessly with real ingredients.

The ultimate goal is to create a composition so convincing that the viewer can almost taste the dish – even if some elements are purely for show.

Where to Buy Food Photography Props Online

a plate of indian food on a red cloth.

Credit: Ahmad No More

Finding the right food photography props can be a fun adventure, and there are numerous online platforms to explore.

Websites like Amazon and eBay have a vast assortment of new and used items, including dishware, cutlery, and other functional props.

Etsy is a fantastic place to find unique, handcrafted, or vintage items that can add a personal touch to your photos.

For specialized kitchen and dining items, consider websites like Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, or Sur La Table.

If you’re on a budget, check out online thrift stores like ThredUp or Poshmark, which often carry household items at discounted prices.

Lastly, don’t overlook the possibilities of online craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby for decorative props like fabrics, flowers, and craft items.

Always remember, the key is to think creatively and keep an open mind about how different items might function as props in your compositions.

7 Tips for Perfecting your Food Photography Style

pink and blue macarons in a box with roses.

Credit: Jill Wellington

Selecting the right props for your food photography can greatly enhance your final images.

Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Consider Colors and Textures: The color and texture of your props can either enhance or detract from the overall look of your photo. Matte plates, for example, can help soften the look of your image and reduce glare under bright lights. Similarly, textured props, such as wooden serving platters, can add depth and a rustic charm to your images.
  2. Size and Scale: Be mindful of the proportion between your props and your food. You want your dish to be the star of the show, so avoid plates or props that are too large and risk overpowering the food. Conversely, a small prop might not provide enough context or balance to your dish.
  3. Bright Lighting Choices: When working with bright lighting, it’s crucial to choose props that won’t reflect light harshly and cause unwanted highlights. Matte props are ideal in this case, as they absorb light rather than reflect it.
  4. Consider Your Food Photography Style: Your props should align with your overall photography style and aesthetic. For instance, if you’re going for a minimalist, modern look, you might opt for simple, monochromatic props. If your style is more rustic or vintage, aged wooden props, antique cutlery, and lace tablecloths might be more appropriate.
  5. Think Beyond Plates: While plates are a staple in food photography, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Using alternatives like cutting boards, parchment paper, or directly on the table surface can create a more relaxed, authentic feel.
  6. Prop Placement: Thoughtful placement of props can lead the viewer’s eye through the image and towards the main subject. Consider using the rule of thirds to position your props and create a balanced, visually pleasing scene.
  7. Be Mindful of the Dish: Always remember that the prop should enhance the food, not distract from it. When choosing props, think about the dish you’re photographing and select items that complement its colors, textures, and mood.

By following these tips and selecting your props with intention, you can create stunning food photography that tells a visual story and makes a lasting impression.

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