Now, this might sound a little crazy and even a bit silly, but styling napkins can be HARD! Can you relate?
When I signed up to be a food photographer, I thought to myself…’Awesome, food doesn’t move or talk back to you’. Silence is golden.
Boy was I wrong. Food somewhat came naturally to me, as I’d been cooking since I was younger and ‘rustic’ is in, meaning I don’t need to have perfect cooking skills to make something look drool-worthy.
But those napkins and linens! Man, they never fold the way I want them to. This left me feeling a little bit like…what do I do with them and how do I get them to look good?
Over the last five years of me shooting, working in a team and watching stylist tame them with a flick of a wrist I have picked up a thing or two. I wanted to share with you some ways to use napkins in food styling.
5 Creative Ways To Use Napkins In Food Styling
I feel your pain when I hear you say ‘I just can’t get them to fold the way I want them to’.
So I have created this post to give you a few tips and 5 ways you can easily use napkins in food photography.
Styling #1 – The Fold + Tuck
Very simple, yet effective. The Fold and Tuck is just as simple as it sounds. Simply fold the napkin a few times roughly, no need to be neat here, and tuck it under a bowl or plate. It’s a great way to use napkins in food photography.
This technique works well with really patterned and colourful napkins/linens so that you are adding a little bit of interest to the frame but the pattern isn’t competing with the main food subject. In both attention or colour.
Styling #2 – The ‘Peeking In’
This technique is fail-safe in my opinion. If you’re having a ‘bad linen folding day’, (which is kinda like a bad hair day, where nothing works), then this will be your fall back.
No matter how you fold it, or how badly behaved your linen is being, just allow a little bit of it to peek into the frame works every time. No fuss, maximum reward. It’s a great fall back way to use napkins in food styling.
TIP: Soft and seamless looking linens can be made by ironing your linen so that it’s a little warm and more malleable to work with.
Styling #3 – The Scrunch
Back to my hair analogies, you know how a cool messy hairstyle actually take a bit of work? Well, the Scrunch is kinda similar. It takes a little bit of magic and flare to make the scrunch look good, but it’s an interesting way to use napkins in food styling.
Basically, it’s just where you take a larger linen and scrunch, and crumple it until it stays put. It’s meant to signify a feeling of ‘in the moment’ or ‘on the go’ of food creating.
It’s useful to help bring informal balance to the frame where you have subjects that are taking up more weight.
Styling #4 – The Knot Tie
Eeep! This is my favourite of them all and something that I don’t do often enough.
It’s a little more fancy and cutesy, but I think it adds something special to the frame. All you do is fold the linen lengthways then tie it around the handle of your focal prop. Maybe it’ll add an unexpected way to use napkins in food photography.
TIP: Create more interest by using a linen that has a different pattern on each side or half-half. That way when you fold it, you get intersecting lines or patterns to create something more intriguing.
Styling#5 – The Flow
This is one is the how you know you’ve mastered the linen tossing. Stylists make it look easy and it can be, with a few tricks.
It’s all about the flick of the wrist and flicking over and over until it falls naturally and beautifully. It’s a great way to use napkins in food styling to add movement to your frame.
TIP: This works best for larger linens as there is more surface area to work with and create beautiful ripples across your frame.
Taming linens is just like building muscle. The more you practice and implement some of these tips, the easier it will become. Even like second nature.