How to Photograph Chopsticks Without Being Culturally Insensitive


As Asian food becomes more mainstream, I started noticing more chopsticks as food props in food photography when I browse Instagram and food blogs. I personally use chopsticks in my photos often, especially since I love eating noodles so much. There is one faux pas that has started to pop up in my Instagram feed more often and it inspired me to write a quick chopstick photography styling guide. Let me start by addressing what that chopstick gaffe is.

1. Do not style your chopsticks vertically out of bowls.

Refer to cover photo for a demonstration of what not to do. In many Asian cultures, to stick chopsticks in such a way is not only considered bad manners, but it also conjures up thoughts of funerals and is considered bad luck. Some Asian cultures honor the dead by sticking chopsticks straight into bowls of rice. I used to be reprimanded as a child by my parents for resting my chopsticks vertically in my bowl. I’m never offended when I see this done now but it does give me an eye twitch!

2. You can place the chopsticks either on the table or on your bowl.

This is my default chopstick placement for photos. Especially if it’s just me and I don’t have a hand model to help assist. Adding chopsticks, like adding any eating utensils can give your photos more context and be pleasing to the eye.

3. If you have a hand model to assist, have them attempt a noodle pull with chopsticks.

I love finding ways to include a human element into my photography. When it comes to chopsticks, the obvious answer is to capture them in action!

4. Pay attention to the tips!

Pay attention to where you point the tips of your chopsticks. The tips are what touches the food so they should point away from your imaginary human subject. In my photograph above, if I were to flip the chopsticks so that the tips were pointing down, the photograph would feel wrong. Pretend you’re setting the table! You wouldn’t place forks pointing towards the seat, right? So don’t do that with chopsticks.


And that concludes my mini style guide to chopsticks! For additional food photography tips, read this post. Do you have any other styling advice to add to my list? Any photography pet peeves?

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