What are food photography props? Props are objects that photographers use to support the main subject. It can be anything at all.
For food photography, props can be plates, bowls, utensils, character objects, textured papers, etc. Just make sure you do not use anything shiny.
In this article, I’ll delve into various types of food photography props ideas.
Whether you are a professional photographer or an amateur trying to take better food photos, the right props can elevate your images and make them more appealing to your audience.
Let’s explore some creative and effective prop ideas!
Why are Props Used in Food Photography?
The main purpose of props for any photography is to make the subject look bold and attractive. It’s the same for food photography too.
The main reason for me to use different props is to make food photos look eye-catching.
Sometimes you might not know how the food might taste by looking at a photo. But the props used in it can tell how it will taste.
So, when I use props for food photography, I always try to add the necessary context to the photographs.
Foods are generally small subjects and do not take a lot of frames.
So another reason, for me to use props is to make the entire picture frame look attractive and delicious. Plus, they build the scenography for a photo I am capturing.
But when using props, I make sure you use the right props. Unnecessary props might ruin the whole picture.
Choosing Props for Food Photography
There are some key facts that I consider when choosing a prop for my food photoshoots.
1. Style and Aesthetic
First, I think about the style and aesthetic I want to achieve in the photos.
Am I going for a rustic, homemade feel or a sleek, modern look? The props I choose should complement my overall vision and help tell the story of the dish.
The following is a photograph I took at a coffee and tea shop. Green apple and cinnamon are the ingredients of this tea. So I used several cinnamon and apple slices as props.
Plus, I arranged these cups and props in front of a black textured wall to highlight the strange, refreshing taste of the tea.
Moreover, I thought to hang some apple slices and cinnamon to make the photograph more aesthetic. (it worked well as I expected!)
2. Color and Texture
Color and texture are also important factors to consider when selecting props.
I often choose items that will enhance the colors and textures of the food and create a cohesive visual experience.
In the following photo, I wanted to emphasize the thrilling feeling that people can experience from this dessert. So, when planning this food photography shoot, I chose the bright yellow color as the background.
And, I sprinkled some sweets and jelly beans to balance the colors in the photograph.
My tip: Consider using props with similar hues or contrasting colors to make your dishes pop.
Textured backgrounds are one of my favourites when I photograph pizzas, pies, and burgers.
Following is a photograph I captured at a friend’s restaurant. I matched the textured background with the powdered sugar on the pie.
My tip: Textured props can add depth and interest to your photos, so don’t be afraid to mix and match different materials.
3. Size and Scale
Finally, don’t forget about size and scale.
Props that are too large or too small can detract from the focus of your photo – the food.
My tip: Make sure your props are appropriately sized to showcase your dish and add visual interest without overwhelming it.
With this list of facts, you’ll be able to choose the perfect props to elevate your food photography to the next level.
Must-have Food Photography Props
I made this list based on my experience in food photography. I believe that if you have the below list of props, you can cover almost all types of food photography; whether it is a fruit, drink, or even some sandwiches.
Clean fabric with minimal design
Fabrics are my most used props for any food photography shoot.
In my case, I mostly use a plain, light cream color silk fabric or the strip fabric in the above photograph. The reason is, I often use white plates for food.
My tip: No need to have a number of fabric pieces from different colours. Just use a maximum of three different fabrics that you can use with any dish. But don’t choose plain fabric always.
When I do some research for inspiration, I found the following video. it includes some interesting tips on using cloth for food photography.
Wooden Props for Food Photography: Everything Wooden
Wood has some unique characteristics in it. So, wooden props for food photography can add colors and contrast to any picture.
Often I use wooden chopping boards, trays, bowls, plates, cutlery, etc. when taking photos of burgers (following is an example) and food made with fish.
When taking the above photograph, I used two chopping boards to enhance the aesthetic view.
Likewise, I always encourage you to think out of the box and be creative (even if you have fewer resources)
Well, if I think all my props don’t go along with the food and concept, I pick Ingredients as props.
My tip: Use ingredients with different colors. Just two or three ingredients are enough.
So, by looking at the picture, anyone can have an idea about its taste. Plus, various ingredients make photos look pretty attractive and colorful.
Well, this photo was taken in a hurry, without even my photography gear. Despite this, the matte tablecloth added a great effect to this photo.
That’s how I started using matte items as food photography props.
My tip: You can use matte plates, bowls, and trays to add some accent to your food pictures.
• Glass Items
Transparent glass items can complement your food products in many ways.
The dessert in the photograph below is full of sweet color. So, if I used a non-transparent cup for this, it’s a waste.
However, using a transparent cup, I could emphasize the sweet colors, which will definitely mouth-water the viewers.
Plus, in this photo, I used two dessert cups and a bowl of fruits to add layers to the photo.
My tip: You can use a mix of glass bottles, jars, salad dressings, and other glass materials in the background for a better presentation.
• Ceramic Bowls with Accents
Well, around 60% of my food photographs contain accented ceramic bowls. Either it holds the food or simply sits in the background- both ways, they look pretty amazing.
The main reason is, I feel, ceramic bowls add a “luxury” feel to the food.
This photo is also from a photoshoot I did for a dessert shop. Their concept was, minimal, clean, simple and elegant. So, without thinking twice, I chose ceramic bowls as the props.
Best Food Photography Props Based on Light
Props when working with Bright Light
If the light is bright, it’s important to select props that complement the light and prevent harsh shadows or glare.
My tip: I recommend using matte or textured surfaces
Matte or textured surfaces, such as wooden boards, frosted glass, or stoneware, help to diffuse light and create a more balanced appearance in the image.
In contrast, light-colored props, like white plates or pale linens, further enhance the bright atmosphere by reflecting light and adding a sense of freshness to the scene.
Be cautious with reflective surfaces, such as shiny metal cutlery or glossy ceramics, as they may require careful positioning to avoid distracting reflections.
When the setup is not much bright, utilizing props that can absorb or manipulate light can create a more dramatic and moody atmosphere.
Props to Use When the Setup is not Much Bright
My tip: So, dark-colored props will be perfect
Props such as black slate, deep-colored fabrics, or tarnished metal, absorb light and emphasize the contrast within the composition. Usually, I use a light filter to further control the lighting and add depth to the scene.
For example, a sheer curtain or a piece of frosted glass placed between the light source and the food can produce a soft, diffused effect.
Food Photography Props on a Budget
Sometimes we have to work under a tight budget. But that doesn’t mean we have to make compromises on the quality.
There are some excellent yet cheaper food photo props available for food photography.
So, now I’m going to share some food photography props that can be used if you are on a budget or you are a beginner (maybe you haven’t much to invest)
The most available and cheaper food photography prop is, plants. You can collect them from your garden or anywhere, and they’re entirely free of cost.
Recently, I have seen this trend in youtube videos too.
You can use flowers, flower plants, vegetables, and other plants in the background.
They will surely add some extra colors to your frame. Plus, you can create a fresh vibe in the picture.
• Natural Background
Sometimes you do not need any extra props in your photographs. Just capture the dish with the surrounding.
I try this method when the restaurant has a bright and thrilling vibe. Following is an example. This is a photo that I captured at a restaurant near a beach.
My tip: Marble countertops can add so much more to your food photographs.
Marble has a white accent and will highlight any food you keep on it. The same goes for wooden backgrounds.
• White Dinnerware
Cheap white dinnerware is another perfect budget-friendly prop for product photography.
With its white color, you can present your foods in the purest form to the viewers.
It can be a white plate, or medium-sized bowl, or a tray. Because of the uniquely plain surface, your main subject will get all the necessary focus.
Besides, you can try to use plates as stunning food photography props. Check out the article on what plate should I use for food photography for a better guide on choosing plates for food photography as stunning props.
DIY Food Photography Props
Guess what? You don’t always have to purchase fancy food photo props for taking photographs. You can make them yourself.
Use any material and item you have at home to make DIY props.
Here are some excellent ideas for DIY food photography props:
• Customized Linen
Customized linen or table runners can be an excellent option for food photography props. You can easily make them at home.
Well, these are some table mats that I got from one of my cousins. I really surprised by how amazing the photo came out. The linen added a fantastic look to the pizza.
My tip: Use old clothes, cut them, and sew them to make a table runner or linen.
You can use multiple color fabrics to make it more attractive and colorful.
• Painted Backdrops
You can paint a backdrop with your own design.
All you will need is acrylic colors and a paper of fabric. Make some color design on it.
A painted backdrop has many colors and textures in it. You will get a rustic vibe when you capture food photographs on it.
• Old Objects with Beautiful Texture
You can use some quiet old objects to make it a food photography prop.
In this photo, I used an old clay pot from my grandmother. It’s quite old, but can you see how well it matched with the cookies?
My tip: It might be an old plate that you do not use anymore, an old mug, a basket, etc. Customize those as you like.
Old objects with fine textures will create a vintage vibe in your photograph. You can add some old-school charm to your photographs.
By the way, I will discuss more about using vintage props for food photography in the latter part if this article.
Dark Food Photography Props
Dark food photography is a trend now. So, I’ve been trying this technique for about three years now.
In dark photos, light is reduced to a minimum fill light level while keeping the main focus on the subject. It bounces back any bright or white lights and makes excellent photographs.
You will need a dark background to consume any bright color. Dark props will complement your photographs.
Many dark props are available for d food photography.
- A dark backdrop
- Flat black plates
- Dark cutlery
- Dark wooden background, etc.
My tip: It’s wise to use matte-surfaced dark props so that light cannot reflect on foods.
Besides, check out the article on chiaroscuro food photography from A to Z for a more detailed guide to dark food photography.
Flat Lay Food Photography Props
Flat lay is an excellent method for capturing food photos. This way, you can take photos from the upper side of the food.
So, the surface will be the background for the photographs. It will be wise not to use tall jars, glasses, or bottles as props.
You can use a marble countertop as the background of your food photos.
A textured marble table is an excellent prop.
My tip: I use cutlery, plates, bowls, etc., props for flat-lay food photographs.
Vintage Food Photography Props
Vintage props will add some classic and vintage vibes to your food photographs. You can find many vintage prop ideas around you.
For example, you can use vintage brass and other metal-made old-fashioned cutlery as props.
Besides, old trays, baskets, plates, vintage-looking objects, vintage backdrops, etc., can be excellent for vintage food photography.
Fake Food Props for Photography
Interestingly, there are many fake food props for photography. Many photographers use them instead of real food.
From fried chicken to doughnuts, cookies to pastries, and various other food, almost every kind of fake food prop is available for photography.
They might be fake, but they look exactly like real food. That is why most viewers cannot differentiate between the fake and the real ones when photographed.
To be honest, I’m using fake ice cubes when photographing drinks. Because the setup won’t get messy with melting ice cubes.
In my research about these “fake” food props, I found the following video.
The video below will show you some tips on using fake food props for photography.
Props are an essential element of food photography. They add color, accent, and layers to a picture.
So, you must choose the ones that make your food photography more attractive and mouth-watering.
In this article, I discussed a number of ideas for food photography props; budget-friendly props, vintage props, wooden and glass props, DIY props as well as fake food props.
In addition, I shared some tips to choose the best props based on the lighting conditions, etc.
So, I tried my best to cover almost all the areas related to food photography props idea.
Justin Parker is a professional photographer and has been in the industry since 2007. He attended the University of Georgia. Justin combines his passion for photography and his interest in writing to give life to this blog which talks about photography in order to help and inspire young photographers.