This post is all about the best linens and materials to use as food styling props.
Every food photographer needs a wide array of food styling props to create beautiful works of art. Some people may even go as far as to say that the props are as important as the food itself. Linens and materials play a very important role as food photography props.
So why do you need linens and materials for food styling?
Well, you can use a napkin to create an eye-catching sense of movement and fluidity in an image. You can add texture and layers by adding a sheet of crumpled paper beneath your photo subject. The possibilities are quite endless. This post is here to inspire you with ideas for what types of materials you may want to try in your next food photo shoot
1. Classic Cloth Napkins
Cloth napkins are elegant and classy in every photo. Try folding them to the side of a place setting and add silverware. You can fold them into a square beneath a plate or bunch them in the edge of frame to add interest to your photo. My favorite way to use them is loosely laid under a plate or bowl.
2. Faded European Cloth
Much like cheesecloth, a faded napkin speaks visually of days spent in the kitchen cooking and baking. Add them in photos of baked treats like cakes or muffins.
Use them bunched underneath a hot bowl of soup. There are so many ways to include them. The soft almost translucent appearance shows up really well in photos but doesn’t distract from the subject.
Cheesecloth is great for rustic or hipster style food photography. It gives a very natural feel to your photo and adds a soft but subtle element of texture. It can be draped in the background for a nice and interesting backdrop or laid flat as a surface as well.
4. Small Cocktail Napkins
For smaller scenes when you don’t want to make your food appear too small, try using cloth cocktail napkins. They are perfect for the obvious use, in drink photos, but also can be used in various other applications.
Place them under mixed drinks, stack them in the background to fill space, or use them to put individual baked treats on.
Newspaper just may be my favorite on this list. It can bring instant vintage vibes to any food photo. Wrap foods in it, line baskets of fries and snacks, or simply use it as the surface of your photo setup.
I recommend using fresh clean paper if you are planning to eat the food after you photograph it. Also avoid pages of newspaper with any colors. Stick to text or black and white photos. You can use your local paper or buy artsy ones online that are designed to look like a generic paper without ugly ads.
6. Fringed Napkins
For a bit more interesting detail, use fringed napkins. The add some filler detail but aren’t distracting like patterns or colors. Place them underneath a plate of cookies for a warm inviting look.
Try folding them to the side of a place setting and laying cutlery on them. Lay them loosely to the side of a pie scene. So many possibilities.
More rustic feels. Burlap is a must have for Fall treats or those iconic holiday baking pictures. You can use it in so many different ways.
Use a large piece of burlap as a table covering to make your scene feel truly rustic, or layer burlap between plates to give your photo dimension. Burlap looks great with wood and stone backdrops.
8. Hemstitched Napkins
Hemstitched napkins are a great way to add a bit of class to your food photo. Perfect for fancy dinner scenes or elegant tea parties with biscuits and cakes. You can get them in a variety of colors and styles.
9. Tissue Paper
Tissue paper is a life saver. Crumple it and use it to add texture, cut pieces of it to place underneath foods, and use it to add gentle color pops. It’s great for adding layers and also for avoiding stains on surfaces you don’t want grease on. I recommend neutral colors but on occasion a little bold color can be added tastefully.
10. Cheesecloth Napkins
Much like basic cheesecloth, cheesecloth napkins can be a beautiful soft touch in a photo and way more fun. You can find almost any color and they look great in every type of setting from farmhouse kitchen to modern and minimal.
11. Bed Sheets
Believe it or not, bed sheets are a great addition to food photography. My personal favorite use for them is to create a faux “breakfast in bed” look in a photo.
You can also use them as a tablecloth in a pinch, or even as a window filter for light if you don’t have a diffuser. They can even make lovely backdrops if you drape them over a chair or large board in the background.
Many beginner food photographers start with bed sheets for all of these purposes. They are large enough for any surface, cheap, and you probably already have them.
12. Satin Napkins
If you want to truly class up a photo, include some satin napkins. I like black or white but you can get them in almost any color.
Be careful too avoid too much shine on them from your lighting setup, but other than that they are stunning in every image. They can be bought in a variety of sizes to fit whatever your needs are as well.
13. Brown Paper
Brown paper is a simple yet beautiful material to use in food photography. It may seem boring but i’s very cheap and great for messy foods. The neutral color helps make any food stand out against it. Line pans, tables, cookie sheets, and more for a beautiful photo.
14. Linen Tablecloths
Many food photographers prefer to use classic tablecloths as the surface in their food photos. Tablecloths are perfect for beginners that may not have a collection of backdrops and surfaces for food photos. They are simple and easy to acquire, plus they are lightweight to take on the go.
Just like bed sheets, table cloths are a great emergency filter for harsh light or bounce surface when draped over something. Black tablecloths are nice to have for dark style food photography.
15. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper is extremely practical when you don’t want a messy food to stain your food photography surface. I have used it countless times to set up scenes of cookies, cakes, fried foods, and so much more.
Because it’s disposable it’s great for all those drippy, messy shots. Use it to line trays, boxes, or pans. Crumple it up and use it as the backdrop for a flat lay photo to add texture. It’s a must have in every food stylists collection.