This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show in Chicago, Illinois in collaboration with Community Coffee. The NRA Show is the largest foodservice trade association in the world! I was super excited to not only be attending, but also be part of an exhibit! My role at the Community Coffee booth was to host “How To” sessions on Food & Beverage Photography Styling Tips. The goal was to demonstrate valuable tips to restaurant owners for making their restaurant “POP” including how to style food and beverage shots for social media.

Regardless the product, regardless the company size, social media presence is an integral part of a company’s marketing because it helps build brand awareness precisely where the consumers are already interacting – online! And brands can effectively reach their audience immediately with targeted messaging and on-brand photography shared via social media platforms. The photography doesn’t have to be highly stylized or magazine-ready. But it has to be consistent with the brand platform and powerful enough to connect with your ideal audience. That’s where my quick Food & Beverage Photography Styling Tips come in handy!

In collaboration with Community Coffee, I was invited to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show to teach Food Photography Styling Tips

Food Photography Styling Tips


What is photography styling? It’s basically the elements of food photography that make your photo unique and relatable to your brand image. The goal is to bring out or enhance the features and taste of your dish. You can do that by 1) understanding what your followers/consumers respond to most and/or 2) using guidelines from your brand platform to stay on-message. Regardless what style you choose, consistency will help create a distinctive personality for your photography style.


There is so much information to cover in food styling. So, I focused on some fundamentals around lighting (back lighting or side lighting), photo angles (overhead, head-on/parallel, or 45-degree angle) and composition (including how you frame your photo and the movement of the elements). Then I did a live demo of 3 styling concepts and I illustrated them by building a scene using Community Coffee iced coffee, sweet lemonade and iced tea.

1. Choose Props with a Purpose

In collaboration with Community Coffee, I was invited to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show to teach Food Photography Styling Tips

The goal of props is to help enhance the photo and complement the food without taking away from the food. Focus first on the food and then all the peripheral things one at a time. Don’t overthink props and let them just take their natural stance. When in doubt, try adding propos one at a time and let the scene build slowly, as I did with the iced coffee demo below. This ensures that the image doesn’t look unnatural and contrived.

In collaboration with Community Coffee, I was invited to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show to teach Food & Beverage Photography Styling Tips

Try using people or their hands as props to provide context and scale, and also to help set the tone of the image and make it more personal. Finally, show ingredients as props. This helps to give clues as to what the recipe includes instantly and helps style the photo in natural and effortless way with leftover ingredients you probably already have on-hand.

2. Go Ahead with Garnish

In collaboration with Community Coffee, I was invited to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show to teach Food Photography Styling Tips

Using garnish adds color, dimension and interest to a photograph. It can help provide clues about the tastes and ingredients of the dish, and bring it to life with visual interest. When picking garnish, be mindful of what the recipe is and what garnishes would make sense. Garnish can be placed on the food itself or also in the surrounding area. Make the scene natural and personable, and don’t be afraid of spills and messes. Don’t forget that garnish doesn’t have to be edible! For example, the adorable daisies in the lemonade picture are not be edible. But they make for a whimsical and fun scene that complements the refreshing cold beverage.

3. Make it Larger than Life

In collaboration with Community Coffee, I was invited to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show to teach Food Photography Styling Tips

Use props and garnish to give food height to create extra eye appeal. The goal is to overflow your dish or container. One way I did that with the iced tea is by stuffing the glasses with fruits, ice cubes and sprigs of fresh rosemary for height. This gives a wow factor to your photos compared to only using one glass or only filling the glass with iced tea. This concept of of stacking for height doesn’t just apply to food; you can also stack coasters (like I did the in the iced coffee image), plates, bowls, etc.

The audience at the NRA show really seemed to enjoy these food and beverage photography styling tips for enhancing their social media content and creating more engagement from their followers. If you’ve enjoyed these tips, please leave me a note on this post or holla at me on social media via Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!

This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Community Coffee. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply