A big part of capturing a beautiful and visually interesting food photography is having strong food styling skills.

The main ingredient I wanted to highlight here is these home-grown shiitake mushrooms. To showcase the natural beauty and freshness of the mushrooms, I decided to photograph a simple mushroom spaghetti dish with as little unnecessary extras as possible.

Having never shot pasta before, I scoured the internet with terms like ‘pasta styling tips’ or ‘food styling pasta’ to get a general idea of how to start. I found a few articles on how to style pasta (which I’ve linked below) although most of what I learnt came from the actual shoot itself.

shiitake mushrooms
1/640 | f/2.8 | ISO 250 | 35mm

So, here are my top 5 food styling tips for pasta

Note: These tips are specifically referring to spaghetti or noodle-type dishes.

  1. Decide on your hero
    Which part of the dish do you want to highlight? Is it the entire dish? The process of enjoying the meal? Or maybe it’s the ingredients?

    Knowing what your main subject is is key to planning both how you photograph and style your scene.
  2. Do your research
    A super important styling tip I learnt from Joanie Simon of The Bite Shot is to see how your subject behaves at room temperature.

    With the exception of meltable foods (that you want to capture frozen), it’s helpful to know what consistency, texture, even colours you’ll be working with you could be shooting for a significant amount of time.

    Pasta tends to get a bit sticky and dry when left to cool so having a water spray bottle or some (neutral) oil is handy to have on hand.
  3. Rinse in cold water
    Immediately after cooking the pasta, rinse and/or plunge into cold water. This helps the noodles stay separated, and makes it easier to style.
mushroom pasta closeup
1/60 | f/2.8 | ISO 160 | 35mm
  1. The finger twirl technique
    To get that effortlessly plated yet unfussy look, take a couple of pasta strands and roughly line them up so they begin at the same place. Then loosely twirly them around two fingers (or a fork) to create a little nest.

    Position the little nests in the bowl/plate you’re using. I plated them in a rough circle shape to form the base layer, then I added a few more nests on top to add height and dimension.

    This will depend on the vessel you’re using, the sauce, and also the type of mood or style you want to create. For example if you are creating a fine dining restaurant scene, you may want to wrap your nests tighter and more neatly. Whereas if you are going for a more casual, homemade vibe, you might prefer a looser, less rigid approach.

    Tip: What about the loose ends? Again, it’s a matter of what look you’re trying to achieve. I chose to leave my spaghetti strands how they fell, but if you want to be really fancy you can tuck them in or trim them.
  1. Consider textures
    Herbs, grated cheese, olive oil, toasted nuts or even breadcrumbs are all excellent things to have on hand when styling pasta. They’re great for adding texture and dimension to your dish.

Other useful resources

Tips from a Pro: Styling Pasta
Food Bloggers Central

Food Styling: Tips for Styling Pasta Dishes
Food Bloggers of Canada

How to style pasta (Instagram reel)
Healthy Little Cravings

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