7 Simple Food Photography Props I Can’t Live Without


Photo of me in header by Thomas Chen Photography.

I think about food photography a lot, and one of my favorite things to use and see used in food imagery is context. I don’t love standalone images of just the finished dish. Unless it’s a macro shot of burger juice dripping off some meat patties. Or a tight shot of chocolate dripping down the side of a sundae. For the most part, I love context with my images. And a great way to add context to your dishes is the use of props! You don’t need a giant prop closet to elevate your photos with props. Here are 7 simple props you can consider adding to your future photos!

1. Sunnies

Sunnies add such a wonderful al fresco dining mood to your photos. I’ve even built my heart-shaped sunglasses strategically into my personal branding. Is there a way you can make this prop a thread in your personal brand? Perhaps you have a color you’re known for?

2. Paper Straws

I predict paper straws will be making a comeback with the growing scrutiny of using plastic disposable straws. Not only are these paper straws better for the environment, they also provide a fun pop of color in your drink photography!

3. Cloth Napkins

And speaking of being kinder to the environment, an added benefit of switching over to cloth napkins is the secondary function of adding some color to your shot!

4. Marble background

Hank's Austin

The first thing I do when I enter a restaurant is look for the best tables to take the best photographs. That includes not only lighting but also tabletops! If there are marble tabletops available, you can bet that I’ll ask to be seated there. Light marble and light tabletops are great for food photos. For your home studio or kitchen, you can also buy inexpensive marble backgrounds!

5. Utensils with Character

Next time you’re at a thrift store, browse their utensils! See if you can find any with interesting details that can start making cameos on your Instagram feed. I love these red chopsticks I got as a wedding favor many years ago. Also, while we’re on the topic of chopsticks and food photography, please read up on how to photograph chopsticks without being culturally insensitive.

6. Flowers

I’ve been known to borrow flower arrangements from nearby tables at restaurants to add a floral element to my food photography. They just liven your photographs with a bright and pretty element. You get bonus points if you can add flowers that are relevant to your story or product. For instance, I added roses to a photo of rose flavored vodka and tulips to play up the Dutch theme with stroopwafels.

7. Hands

If you read my post about useful tips on food photography (linked below), you might remember me mentioning the human element. Adding human elements to your photographs can make your shots come alive. It’s easier to imagine myself slurping on a melting popsicle on a scorching day when I see the popsicle being held. So next time your dining companion is sitting around awkwardly waiting for you to instagram your meal, put her to work! Have her pretend to cut into her steak. Or offer her some of your fries. Don’t forget to pay it forward and volunteer as her hand model too!

Bonus tip: Keep some hand lotion in your bag.

So that concludes my list of simple food photography props. If you enjoy my photography and would like to work together, send me an email and tell me more about your needs!

Now it’s your turn! Which props do you enjoy using in your food photography?

For more food photography tips, check out 9 Useful Tips for Drool-Worthy Food Photography.

Follow my eating adventures and happenings on Instagram. You can also see what is catching my attention in the food world on Twitter and Facebook.