Busy composition – when is it enough?
There’s a trend in a busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you’ll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.
When it comes to composition, my style is not very minimalistic. I sometimes do minimalistic images, but more often I will add lots of elements to my photo. Trying more minimalistic images is also one of the things I want to do more in the future!
But we’re not going to be talking about minimalistic compositions today. We will focus on how to create a busy composition without making it too busy.
Because the line is very thin!
So let me give you a few tips on how to approach busy food styling:
1. Your dish should be the hero
Pretty obvious right?
But when you’re planning on adding lots of elements in your image, chances are they will overshadow your main dish. And your main dish should ALWAYS be the hero!
So a good exercise is to stop and take a good look. Really think about whether any element is distracting and ditch it, or place it just enough outside the frame so it doesn’t take as much attention.
2. Make your dish the biggest element in the scene
Example. When you go to the forest to pick mushrooms, and you a small one and a big one. Which one will you pick first?
Okay, bad example, I never go mushroom picking, I’m the worst. I have my dad do this 🙂
But you get the idea, right? Bigger elements get more attention, would you agree? Same in composition, if you have an element inside your composition that is larger than everything else, it will probably become the focus.
Imagine you have an image with a burger and some fries and you want the burger to be the star. If you placed a huge bucket of fries right next to the burger it would become the hero.
But if you make sure, you only have enough fries so that they still look ‘abundant’, but the whole container of fries is not larger than the burger, then you’re good.
3. Avoid overly colorful and patterned props
This is usually my advice for any type of food photography and styling. But since rules are meant to be broken, you can get away with crazy props in certain minimalistic photos. Not with a busy composition though! It is even more important to be selective about the props you use.
4. Add some negative or passive space to your busy composition
Every image needs air to breathe and a place for our eyes to rest. Especially when you have lots of elements in the frame. So think about where you can add a little negative or passive space. If you are not familiar with the term ‘passive space’ it is the part of the image that isn’t necessarily empty but can be filled with neutral props and elements, such as linen, bowls, glasses that are almost the same color as the backdrop.
5. Use leading lines and curves in a busy composition
Lines and curves are one of my favorite composition techniques when it comes to busy composition. They are used to lead the eye around the frame and to your subject. So you can see why they would be really important in busy compositions. With lots of elements, our eyes can get confused. By using lines and curves you can guide the eyes carefully around the frame (so the other elements are not left unnoticed!) and then to our subject.
6. Make your dish stand out with color
One of the ways I keep focus on the main dish in a busy composition is to set it appart through color. I try to keep every other element other than the main dish very low key in terms of color.
Our eyes tend to go to the brightest and most vibrant parts of the image first. So by removing color from other parts (even when there’s a lot going on) I can get the viewer’s eye to always end up looking at the main dish.