Whenever I ask you guys about photography or editing obstacles I usually get at least 10 people who say that styling and editing brown food is a big challenge for you. Brown food has become one of my favorite things to work with, so I’m excited to dive deeper into it with you this week and hopefully help you have a few breakthroughs! Here are a few of my top tips for better brown food photography.
Avoid mushy or unrecognizable shapes.
Mushy food is almost instantly unappetizing. There are times where a food will inevitably be pureed, but otherwise, it’s good to almost undercook a few ingredients that you know will be more visible in a shot and also help the viewer to identify the dish. A great example is the mushroom stew above, where I made sure the mushrooms looked sauteed without being too cooked down to the point of being mushy or unrecognizable. This is also something to be aware of when you’re styling something like roasted potatoes; you want the arrange the food in a way that makes the shapes easy to distinguish from one another without looking unnatural. This rule holds with lots of other savory soups and stews, such as one with lentils or even a beef stew. Make sure the eye can tell the shapes of the ingredients and have them be the right balance of cooked and fresh.
Play with garnishes, especially greens!
A sprinkle of herbs can instantly make a brown dish look fresh and vibrant. I always have an array of herbs on hand to use when I’m shooting savory. I usually up the luminance on my greens and slightly desaturate them in post, but you can play with this to find a look that feels like a part of your signature style. Play with the temperature of your greens as well to find the shade that makes the food most appealing.
Add or emphasize texture!
A sprinkle of black pepper or a dash of flakey Maldon salt can go a long way in bringing new life to a brown food shot. I also love using toasted nuts or seeds to add texture and visual interest. Cinnamon and some toasted walnuts can make a bowl of oatmeal look dynamic and appetizing, while caramelized pecans and flakey salt can make some roasted sweet potatoes look interesting and drool-worthy. You can also play with the texture slider in lightroom, which can help emphasize fine texture in things like chocolate ice cream or a soup.
Play with your hue sliders to find the right balance of red, orange, and yellow for the image.
Editing color is a learned skill, and editing brown tones takes that to another level. I always play with my red, orange, and yellow tones on my brown images to see what color balance makes the food most appetizing while also staying true to the actual coloring of the food. I haven’t observed many hard and fast rules for this since the ingredients we use are so varied, but slightly desaturating oranges and leaving that luminance slider alone tends to help me when a baked good is looking to orange. I also tend to desaturate my reds or oranges when working with chocolate to give it an even deeper look.