How to Make Prop Food Look Good Enough to Eat

Why is it that food looks so much better in movies than it does in real life?

Prop food might seem pretty insignificant as a cinematic element, especially considering how ubiquitous it is. However, it has incredible potential to inform your audience about characters, settings, and even the entire story itself. To show you how to take advantage of its easily ignored storytelling power, RocketJump Film School shares several trade secrets of food styling, like how to create steam using tampons or how to make veggies shine using hairspray.

Though it's fun and useful to learn how to style food for film, the important lesson to learn here is how to capitalize on its storytelling potential. If you're shooting a scene of a dysfunctional family sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to make it look messy, chaotic, and dull. If you're working on a food commercial or a film about an executive chef, you might want to make the prop food look modern, clean, and luxurious. 

'Chef' (2014)

Or, if you're shooting a film about a grown man getting back in touch with his childhood and imagination, you might do this:

'Hook' (1991)

As a filmmaker, it's just a good habit to get in to always be intentional with what you choose to be in your film, whether it's a costume, camera angle, or, yes, a super-stylized Thanksgiving turkey. And once you realize just how much some prop food can speak to your audience about what's going on in the story, who a character is, or how they're feeling, you'll start to see opportunities pop up where you didn't see them before to make your project that much more dynamic, entertaining, and engaging.

Do you have any tips on how to style food? What kinds of supplies do you use to make food look a certain way? Let us know down in the comments!     

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3 Comments

Acrylic ice cubes work great for drinks since they don't melt.

November 26, 2016 at 8:19AM, Edited November 26, 8:19AM

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Cpntrary to belief... in the nordic countries we actually make the food for real with a proper food stylist instead of that make believe crap..... it looks far better.

November 27, 2016 at 3:28AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
1023

Crunched up cornflakes stuck to fried chicken make for excellent 'hero' breadcrumbs that fly off on impact - and chicken pieces that are raw on the inside but coloured on the outside bounce better than those that are cooked all the way through (I do a lot of chicken-based fast food commercials...)

December 23, 2016 at 5:12AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3865