Use Plates and Linens for Food Styling and Food Photography

By Alison Parks-Whitfield

A housewares library that includes items such as plates and linens for a food photography business can help you style your photographs. As you gather dishes, napkins, and other items, set aside some space in your home or studio to organize and store your materials. Industrial metal shelving works well and lets you see everything at a glance, but a good closet shelf is a fine option, too.

When you start collecting your housewares, group like things together so they’re easy to find. You can organize the materials by type, look, color, or even size. Doing so makes it easier to quickly pull objects as needed for your various shoots.

When buying plates, bowls or linens, buy multiples of them. You can use the extras for repetition in images or stacking in the background.

A good percentage of your library will likely lean toward the lighter end of the color spectrum, such as white tablecloths, napkins, and plates. Using white (or off-white) is a great way to highlight just the food subject in a photo. Group different shades of white together for a medley of lightness that allows the viewer to appreciate the background, but then be sure to focus directly on the food.

A black dish or tablecloth can provide a dramatic setting for a colorful dish. And nicely colored dishes can complement a food subject like nobody’s business. The following figure shows a variety of dishes. Each one of the plates can provide a uniquely different look for a food.

Colorful plates provide variety. [Credit: Focal length: 85mm, Shutter speed: 1/50 sec., Aperture: f

Credit: Focal length: 85mm, Shutter speed: 1/50 sec., Aperture: f/5.6, ISO value: 400
Colorful plates provide variety.

Steer away from using recognizable patterns in dishes. Using a well-known manufacturer’s pattern encourages viewers to recognize and process the pattern in their mind. That action detracts from the food subject itself.

One other item you might want to include in your housewares collection is a clay or porcelain tray, which provides a beautiful presentation for food in a photo, as shown in the following figure.

A porcelain tray is a great addition to any housewares library. [Credit: Focal length: 55mm, Shutte

Credit: Focal length: 55mm, Shutter speed: 1/30 sec., Aperture: f/5.6, ISO value: 400
A porcelain tray is a great addition to any housewares library.