Food Styling Trend: Cloth Napkins

Food Photography Tip

If you’ve picked up a food magazine lately I’m sure you’ve noticed this wonderful food styling trend. I’ve written about it before on a previous post about using a napkin to add style and visual interest, but it is such a good tip that I thought I’d re-visit the topic.

Using cloth napkins in your photographs is a really simple way to add a touch of professionalism to your food photographs and in this post I’ll show you how one napkin can be used to create many different looks.

Food Styling Trend: Cloth Napkins

Keep It Simple

First things first. Choosing a cloth napkin is important because picking the wrong color or pattern can distract rather than enhance a food photograph. The main reason for using a cloth napkin in your food photographs is that you want to add visual interest to the picture without taking attention away from the food.

A simple plate of food sometimes looks TOO simple, so there needs to be a way to add visual elements that will make the photograph not seem EMPTY, but also not DISTRACT from the food.

Whenever I use cloth napkins I always make it a point to choose napkins that are solid in color, or at the very least have a quiet pattern. The color is also important. I tend to stick to neutrals or subdued versions of colors..ie, a mustard for yellow, light forest green for green, etc.etc.

Adding Layers

The most basic way of using a cloth napkin is to fold it up, nice and neat, and place it underneath the plate of food. How much of the napkin is visible is totally up to you, and in fact, varying the amount is a great way to play and get different results.

Food Styling : Cloth Napkins

The position of the napkin is also variable. You can place it under the plate directly pointing to the camera or place it an angle. Each position will give you a different look, so make sure you play around with varying positions.

Crumpled and Messy

A slightly more casual way of using cloth napkins is to crumble them and tuck them on the side of the plate. This gives a less formal look, and gives the appearance that the food was just placed on the table. I particularly like this technique for rustic desserts and stews.

Food Styling with Cloth Napkins

Below are two other shots that fall somewhere in between these two methods.  As you can see, all of the images use the cloth napkin in a slightly different way.  You probably don’t even notice the napkin at first…..and that’s the point!  The napkin should fall into the background, yet somehow complete the photograph.

Food Styling: Using Cloth Napkins
Food Photo Styling : Cloth Napkins

Have any of you tried using napkins like this?