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?

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.

  • Momma Chef

    Your photos are beautiful! Thanks for these awesome suggestions!

  • Lacey Baier

    Thanks for sharing this! Fortunately, I’ve followed your advice on these in the past, but that was just by luck — I wasn’t aware of any potential issues. xoxo

  • Christine Cao

    haha i love this!

  • Linda, this is awesome. Glad to learn something today. Not sure I have violated any of these rules but probably have. I do love my Pho.

  • This is such a neat post! Many of us aren’t even aware of any potential issues.

    BTW, I came to your site and got super hungry!!

  • Kayla

    I would have never thought about this if it wasn’t for reading this post! Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention :)

  • Amy Lynch

    Ooh I learned a thing! You, as always, are the greatest. Miss you. :)

  • Maegan Lin O’Loughlin

    Your photography looks soo yummy. Thank you for sharing this, I would never have known about this otherwise. I actually still need to learn how to use chopsticks.

  • Alyssa

    I was so nervous reading this, thinking OMG I hope I didn’t commit any chopstick crimes — luckily I have not! And, after reading your post, this seems like common sense and I’ll likely be much more aware of how others are photographing chopsticks moving forward!

  • Natalie Popi

    I had no idea styling chopsticks a certain way could be considered bad manners! You learn something new every day. Thanks for sharing!