"Food Styling" Is An ACTUAL Thing And There's Some BIG Secrets Behind Your Favourite Food Ads.

Ever wondered how chefs get their food to look so delicious? There's a science behind it! Food stylist Nico Ghirlando breaks it down for us.

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How many times have you sat and drooled over an exploding melting chocolate pudding whilst watching a Marks and Spencer's advert? Or licked your lips at the sight of a plump christmas turkey in a cookery magazine?

Well it's certainly no accident, as there's actually some food industry tricks to achieving the ultimate food porn.

Top food stylist and 'Modern Husband' blogger, Nicolas Ghirlando has spent 10 years perfecting his craft and has revealed some of the industry's biggest tips to mastering food photography. 

Shooting a lasagne or a shoulder of lamb might look like a breeze but Nicolas, who was a judge for Heinz's Seriously Good Spoonfuls  competition to mark the launch of the brand's new mayonnaise, admits that some foods are trickier to photograph than others and a disaster is never far away.

"Quite often we'll make two or three of the same dish for a shoot, to avoid disaster," he says. "I've definitely had cheesecakes that haven't set or cakes that have collapsed, so we'll always have spares on set."

So how can you go about snapping your foodie pics like a pro? 

Ten Top Tips for Food Styling by Nicolas Ghirlando 

1: Daylight Is Your Best Friend

Always try and shoot by a window in diffused light if you can. Harsh sunlight produces strong shadows and interior house lights give the food a horrible colour cast. Try and keep it as natural as possible and reflect light into too dark areas with some white card or a white chopping board.  

2: Props and backgrounds  

These can make or break the shot. No food is going to look good on awful props and a bad background. If you have to shoot on a kitchen table or bench, try and avoid showing anything distracting like plug sockets behind the food or mess in the room. Don’t use massive rimmed bowls so that takes up lots of the image and the food is tiny. 

3: Composition 

Try and think about how you see the food in the frame. Remember the rule of thirds where you cut the frame into three sections horizontally and vertically. Where those lines intersect are ‘golden points’ that the eye is drawn too. Use them well. 

4: Structure 

Think about the structure and form of the food on the plate. Think of it as a sculpture. If it doesn’t have much height or body, for example a curry or lasagne, think about how you can show it in an interesting way. Sometimes, overhead and graphic setups work well in these situations where you can use plates and boards as shapes and colours to give the food a setting. Try and make strong shapes to make the image striking. 

5: Create an organised mess

It’s rare that I bring a plate to the table or serve a portion of food without a little spillage or the occasional crumb or herb falling off the plate. These things add to the story you’re telling and show a little human presence. A spoon with sauce on in the shot where you have used it to serve some crumble for example gives a nice narrative. 

6: Keep it real

Don’t overdo things and make them look as though they’ve been produced in a factory. As long as things aren’t burnt or a soggy uprisen mess, it doesn’t matter too much if your cake is a little cracked on top or your chicken legs are a little wonky. 

7: Freshness 

Make sure that just as you are about to shoot, everything is looking perky and hasn’t dried out or collapsed. Replace wilting herbs (especially coriander, the herb that wilts in seconds) and give meat a little last second saucing if it needs it. 

8: Plan ahead

Set the shot up in advance so you can get positioning right and decide if you want a spoon in or out of the shot for example, or if it needs something else like some bread or salad in a bowl for example just to set the mood. Don’t overdo it though, you don’t want to be cramming too much in and distract from the main event. 

9: Post production  

Digital is not as ‘contrasty’ as film was so needs a little help here and there sometimes. A little brightening and darkening in parts, a little sharpening here and there. Images present a kind of truth that has been manipulated so don’t be afraid to use things such as Photoshop or the Snapped app if you’re using your phone to shoot. 

10: Keep things simple

Try not to overload the plate with the final dish. Things can look heavy and cluttered in an image more so than they do in front of your eyes. It’s easier to add than remove, so start delicately but with confidence. You are making a 2D image out of three dimensions so think about how that translates.