Food styling clear soups is a topic that I get a lot of questions from food photographers about. So, here are my best tips and tricks on how to food style clear soups for beautiful food photography.
🍜How To Food Style Clear Soups 🍜
Food Styling Clear Soups
Today, we are working with a clear soup; in this case, chicken noodle soup. I want to do this just to show you the basics of food styling soups. Whether you’re doing this for a restaurant or for your own blog, the same principles apply.
The styling will be more in-depth for a commercial shoot, but the basics are the same.
Tip #1: Separate Solids from Liquids
The first thing to do is separate out your solids from your liquids. You will use a strainer for this; be sure to rinse away any excess fat and/or herbs.
Next, pick through the ingredients to choose the best looking individual noodles and vegetables. You will want to assess how overcooked the soup is to determine whether you need to add any fresh ingredients.
How do I fix overcooked vegetables?
Some of the time, you may find overcooked vegetables. If so, just make some very similar-looking vegetables. First, blanch them by plunging them for one minute in boiling water. Next, you’ll stop the cooking process by draining off the hot water and dropping the vegetables into an ice water bath for a minute or two. Don’t let them sit too long in the water or they will get soggy.
Once you have usable solid ingredients, take a look at the liquid to see whether it’s usable or not.
Tip #2: Remove fat globules when food styling clear soups
If you find a lot of fat globules floating on the surface of the soup, you can faux out the liquid with some chicken stock. Because the color won’t be as vibrant, you can give it some color by whisking in a small amount of any of these items:
- Kitchen Bouquet – works best on light clear soups
- Marinara sauce – works best for dark broth soups
- Ketchup – works best for dark broth soups
- food coloring – great to use if you can’t replace the original liquid in the soup
Tip #3: Layer in the ingredients
Next, you’ll start layering the ingredients into the soup. For clear soups, you’ll want to lift the ingredients up higher than the broth. Otherwise, they’ll sink into the bottom of the soup bowl and, as a result, you won’t be able to see anything.
Depending on the depth of your soup bowl you can use things like:
- clear fake ice cubes – These work well for deeper bowls, and you can layer them as needed.
- glass marbles
- pieces of potato – Just layer them as needed to lift ingredients. You can also break toothpicks in half and skewer soup ingredients onto them, then hold them in place by pushing the end of toothpicks into pieces of potato.
Note: If you do this with noodles, make sure you don’t completely puncture the toothpick all the way through the noodle. With noodles, I’ll usually start by pushing the toothpick into the potato. This way, you can really shove it in there without just causing your noodles to fall apart. As you find your hero pieces, you can tuck them in using another potato.
When you are food styling clear soups, pasta bowls are perfect because they aren’t very deep. As a result, it’s a lot easier to style the ingredients. The noodles will naturally lift out of the broth, so you may not even need to use the potato trick.
If you have to style into a much deeper bowl, you may need to build it up quite a bit for the ingredients to show. You can use bigger potato wedges too; anything to really get you that height with the transparency.
Tip #4: Use a pour spout container to add liquid to the soup bowl
The next step is to carefully add liquid/broth into the bowl. Placing the liquid into a container that has an actual pour spout is super helpful. I use are KitchenAid mixing bowls, but anything with a pour spout works – even measuring cups.
If you are food styling clear soups with thicker broth, you can get away with quite a bit without it being noticeable. If your broth is thinner and/or clearer, you may have to spend extra time hiding things.
Tip #5: Garnish and add food props
After the soup is assembled in the bowl, it’s time to add some garnish. You can really get as fancy as you want here, but our go-to is just a pinch of coarse black pepper and some coarse salt. Chopped fresh parsley or anything else to add a pop of color on top is also always an option.
When your soup is ready for photos, definitely bring in some bread, or maybe a little salad bowl; then you’re ready to shoot!
So, those are the basics of food styling clear soups. Styling clear soups can feel kind of intimidating, but really, once you get the potato trick down, they’re really not that complicated. You can have a really great looking soup to shoot without too much effort!