Are you cooking for your family or friends? Taking photos of your plate to share? Want to make your food look BEAUTIFUL? We’ve got you. Master a few handy techniques and you’ll be creating plates of food that look like they’re straight out of a restaurant in no time!
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We’re going to show you the three different plating techniques using one of our favorite dinners: Sweet and Tangy Glazed Salmon (yum!) with Avocado Crema (aka the best sauce ever!) and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (crispy on the outside, creamy in the center!). But you don’t have to use these recipes—you can use almost any recipe out there! Just pick a main dish, a sauce, and a side dish. It’s the ideas, not the actual food, that are the most important. Use this as an excuse to make your family’s Sunday night dinner special—or as an activity for your next sleepover with friends (yes, you can plate beautiful pancakes!).
There are 3 things you need to think about to make your (delicious) works of art: SAUCE, SPACE, and GARNISH.
SAUCE IT! We are going to start with sauce. Sauce not only makes your food taste better, plating it just right can make the food look better, too. You can showcase your SAUCE-ery (get it?) skills with these simple techniques.
SPACE IT! Where you put the biggest piece of food on the plate matters! This is usually a protein of some kind (salmon, in this case, or chicken breast, or tofu, and so on). Surprisingly, just sticking it in the center of the plate isn’t always the prettiest. Our eyes like to be surprised. Here are a few things to think about:
SPACING 2.0! So you put down your main dish, but what about the smaller side dish? Where you put the smaller items of food can also change the look of your finished plate. Let’s play around with the side dish: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your plating—just try it! Even if it’s not a perfect plate, it’s still going to taste good! Here’s a fun idea: If you’re cooking a meal for multiple people, like your family, try making every plate different! Or try your food styling skills with dessert (cake, chocolate syrup, and fruit!) or breakfast (eggs, bacon, and toast!).
Julie Bozzo Cote has art-directed hundreds—thousands!—of professional photo shoots. While some tricks of the trade can only be accomplished using professional cameras and lighting, she has a few tips that aspiring food stylists (like you!) can use at home:
Taste It First
Once you know how amazing a dish tastes, you can better show off its unique qualities. For instance, if a dish’s crunchy texture is the thing that you love about it, then try to find ways to highlight that part by zooming in on the outside of the food or the crunchiest part of the dish.
Move the Food—and You—Around
Look at all sides of the food. Move the plate and see what happens when light hits it from different angles. Get up on a chair (carefully!) and take a photo from above the plate, or get low and take a photo at eye level with your food.
Interact with Your Food
Pick up the tongs or the serving spoon and play with the food in front of you. This can add a sense of motion, which is nice to have in a still photograph.
Use Natural Light
Sometimes the lights in our houses can make food look a little weird. If you’re taking a photo of your food during the daytime, put it next to a window for the best natural light!
Get Silly with It
See if you can use the food to create a pattern. Or try lining up the ingredients in a fun or unexpected way—zigzag? Circle? Look for surprising garnishes to put on top of the food, even something a little silly, like Fruit Loops cereal on a smoothie!