How to Style and Photograph Soup

How to Style and Photograph Soup

As we head deeper into autumn, it’s officially soup season! I love to make and eat soups in the cold weather months, but they can be pretty challenging to style and photograph. In this post, I’m sharing my tips on how to transform a blob of beige soup into a dynamic and interesting image. 


Perhaps the most obvious trick when photographing soup is to consider garnishes. You can have the best props styling, but without a garnish or some visual interest within the soup bowl, the shot might fall flat. Even a few pinches of pepper can add a little visual interest; it doesn't always have to be complicated. For something more textural, I love to add microgreens, coriander, parsley, pine nuts, flaked almonds, sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, or coconut cream. As long as it matches the flavor profile of the dish and makes sense for the recipe, you’re good to go. 


If the soup itself is full of interesting shapes, vegetables, and grains, you might not need a garnish. This wild mushroom rice soup below, had plenty of visual interest and texture in the bowl without needing a garnish. Consider what is in your soup and how you might plate it to show the consistency of the dish, so the viewer can imagine how it will taste as they dunk in their spoon. 


Play with multiple angles when shooting. You might imagine your hero shot being a flat lay, but if you take the camera off the tripod and experiment with some ¾ shots or maybe switching to a macro lens and getting right up in the dish, you could surprise yourself with the results. Sometimes, the image I end up loving the most is from the extra scenes I capture after the one I had planned out in my head. 


We don’t always have to shoot one portion of soup in one bowl. We could serve up the soup into multiple bowls to present a scene as if a group of friends or a family is sitting down to share in a meal. Dividing the soup out into multiple, smaller serving portions is a great way to make the image more visually appealing, as opposed to one large bowl of soup that’s giving you a hard time! 

Lighting and Color 

Utilize your lighting and color choices to create mood in your soup imagery. We tend to think of soups as being super winter-y, which is fun to play with, but it can be interesting to turn things on their head too. I used a bubblegum pink tile for this cauliflower soup for a vibrant and decidedly non-winter-y aesthetic.  


Consider adding a person’s hand dunking in some bread, sprinkling pepper over their soup, dipping in their spoon, or even serving up soup from a pan to bring that element of dynamism to your image. Telling more of a story or creating more of a narrative can inject a heap of personality into a dish that’s tricky to shoot. 


Utilizing movement, color, lighting, different angles, and garnishes are all great ways to give your soup imagery a little upgrade. I’d love to hear how you approach photographing soups and what tricks you use too! 

Helena Murphy's picture

Hey, I'm Helena! I'm a professional photographer based in Bristol and I specialise in product and food photography. I work with ethical, sustainable and vegan brands, creating joyful, story-telling product photos. My cookbook, The Plant-Based Crohn's & Colitis Cookbook is out early 2023.

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I used to assist a food photographer and one trick was to put a bunch of clear marbles in the bowl, then pour in the soup, That way the actual soup was about 1/2 inch deep so the veggies, or chicken parts would not sink and be visible on the surface.

Yes, I love this trick! Thanks for mentioning. I use fake ice cubes to the same effect.

I really like this kind on deep, specific knowledge being shared on here. Thank you so much for sharing, and keep this type of content coming.

Thanks for your kind words Carlos!