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7 Food Styling Tips to Plate the Perfect Dish

Prop stylist Maeve Sheridan shares food styling secrets and how handy tools around the house can give a dish the boost it needs to command attention.

Maeve Sheridan shares some of her top food styling tips and tricks.

1. Keep a spray bottle handy
Despite what some may think, stylists rarely use unnatural ingredients these days to keep food looking perfect. For instance, spritzing water on everything, or brushing butter or olive oil on proteins will help rev up the ingredients and give them a little more sheen.

2. Save finishing touches until later
Whether it’s a glaze, reduction, or dressing, before adding any final touches, make sure you’ve properly set up your shot. You want to make sure that nothing wilts and greens look as fresh and vibrant as possible.

3. Sometimes it’s okay to cheat
In a dish with a heavy sauce, it’s easy for ingredients to become coated and bathed in one color. To make sure there’s contrast, take out the top layer of certain ingredients (say calamari in cioppino), give them a rinse and return them to a dish. No one will ever know, and your photo will benefit!

4. Never underestimate the power of salt or lemon
If your table setting includes beer, soda, or bubbly and it has fallen flat after pouring, throw a small pinch of salt into the liquid and watch the beverage revive. Want your apple, avocado or spinach to stay bright? Squeeze some lemon onto each.

5. Hair dryers can be a kitchen tool
Sadly, the window to capture perfectly melted cheese is a limited one. While a tad unconventional, pick up a hair dryer (or even a small blow torch if you have one), set it to low, and get the epic melted cheese shot you know everyone will love.

6. Don’t overfill your plate
One-pot wonders are fantastic, but sadly it’s easy for a big bowl of chili to look a little unattractive. To boost the visual appeal of a minestrone, stew, or chunky soup, once you’re halfway into filling the bowl, separate the main ingredients from the broth, and think about the bowl as a canvas. Use a spoon or tweezers and place the ingredients back thoughtfully, and finish with more broth.

7. Cotton swabs are your friend
Whether you need to clean off the edges and borders of a plate or bowl, or need to carefully place a garnish, a cotton swab will come to the rescue.

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