“Doubling up” is one of my favourite compositions where I have the food plated up. I use it often – it’s one of my default set ups! It’s great because it’s so simple and eliminates the need for other props like side salads, piles of plates etc that I would ordinarily consider if I only had one dish in the photo.
Here are my tips for styling shots like this:
1. Have the main dish (the one you are focussing on) slightly off centre. If it is dead centre, it looks like a bulls eye. It looks much more natural and balanced if it is slightly off centre.
2. Have the 2nd one also off centre, and not directly behind the main dish.
3. Use just a few SUBTLE props. You already have 2 dishes in the photo, you don’t need much more, it will get too busy.
I like using:
– clear water glasses – because it adds “something” into a blank space without being dominant.;
– related food items – bread and herbs (I especially love using herbs to scatter casually around food)
– cutlery – I think I have an item of cutlery or serving spoon in 99% of my photos!
4. Works great with bowls and small plates – this set up works better (and easier) with bowls and small plates. Large dinner plates are harder because they are larger and therefore you have more “space” in the image overall because you are fitting a larger area within the photo frame. Which means more props and styling required for the photo as a whole.
5. Use a low aperture – you want to have the 2nd dish blurred so the eye is instantly drawn to the one at the front. My settings for this shot: f/3.2, shutter speed 1/125, ISO 250 using a 50mm prime lens.
6. Lighting – there are no rules for this type of shot, though having said that, I generally do not shoot with the light coming from between 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock (with me shooting from the 6 o’clock position). It is a personal preference – because I personally feel like if the light is directed onto the food from the front, it looks like there’s a “spotlight” on it and doesn’t look natural.
In this shot, the lighting is coming from around 11 o’clock from where I am shooting (in the 6 o’clock position).
If you are shooting with the light coming from 9 o’clock or 3 o’clock, I would recommend having the main dish closer to the light and the 2nd dish further from the light.
Hope you find this useful!!
– Nagi xo