Good Food's food stylist Hannah Meppem shares her top five tips.
- Start collecting props. If you see something special, buy it! I regret the pieces I have decided not to lug home in a suitcase. You may not get the chance again and one-off special pieces will pay you back tenfold. Having said that, I'm not a huge fan of colourful plates and dishes. They can be too loud and they date quickly. I've always been a believer that the food should be the colour and vibrancy in the shot.
- For me, styling is very intuitive and I don't like to back myself into a corner creatively. I will be organised with my props but I need to see the [finished] dish in front of me before I can make final decisions about what I will use to bring out the best in the recipe. Once you see all the components it's as though the props ask you to pick them. Sounds funny, I know, but it's true.
- Use the very best fresh ingredients and treat them like your children. If food is delicious, it tends to look delicious: you can keep everything simple and you don't have to do too much to it.
- Don't overmix or fiddle too much with food. It always looks the best when you first put it down.
- Always think of the extra items you can bring to the table that not only add flavour but also elevate a composition and bring a bit of pretty. If it's a curry or stir-fry, I might put a beautiful bowl of roasted nuts, fresh Asian herbs, crispy shallots, limes wedges, maybe chilli sauce. If it's oysters, perhaps lemon zest and salt. If it's pasta, you could have a bowl of cherry tomatoes, a basil plant, a jar of pangrattato, a whole slab of parmesan. All those things add to the flavour and the final look.