Sunny Frantz Dishes on Food Styling Basics & Visual Storytelling Best Practices

    June 24 2020  |  Inspiration , Interviews

    Food Styling Tips Sunny Frantz

    Social media is no doubt the reason many of us have nurtured our inner chefs or taken greater care to appreciate the beauty in every meal. If you set up a beautiful dinner but don't grab six photos of it, did it even happen? Sometimes the answer feels like a “no,” but we’re okay with that. Food styling and photography are now skills for anyone who manages social media or runs their own business. 

    Sunny Frantz is a photographer and stylist, specializing in food, product, and tabletop photography. For many of us now limited to shooting content at home, her content creation expertise comes just in time. But what makes a regular iPhone food shot stand out for the ‘gram? Read on as Sunny shares her expert styling tips and how she continues to challenge herself in her work.

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    Introduce yourself! How did you get started and what lead you onto your entrepreneurial path?

    I started my career as a graphic designer and worked in that field for over 20 years. I've always loved photography and often incorporated my photos into my design work. While working as a designer and art director for a lifestyle magazine, I began to style and photograph things more and more and fell in love with everything about it. I decided to start my own photography business several years ago and I'm so happy I did! I think my background in design helped me develop my photography style so it seemed like a natural transition.

    Now more than ever, it can be tough to stay inspired. How do you seek out inspiration when you're in a creative slump?

    I find that participating in a photography challenge on Instagram is a fun way to jump start my creativity and get me trying new things when I'm in a slump. It's like an assignment with some parameters and a deadline, but it's also a personal project so I can use it to challenge myself to learn a new lighting technique I've been wanting to explore, or branch out of my comfort zone creatively. It's always inspiring to see all the creative work other photographers are doing in a challenge too.

    Food Styling Tips  Sunny Frantz

    At PLANOLY, we’re all about planning your social media so you can go back to living real life. How do you create boundaries between life, work, and social media? Do you have any wellness tips for our readers?

    I'm not very good at creating boundaries, but it's because I love my job! When I'm not working on a project for a client, I'm often trying to learn new things that will make my photography better. I always start my day with a long walk before I go into my studio which helps me mentally and creatively. The fact that my studio is in my home makes it possible for me to make my own schedule and I love the flexibility that offers.

    We've all been cooking a lot more lately and sharing our creations on social media. What food and table styling tips can you share with us to best showcase our work social media?

    I think my number one tip is really more about light than styling. No amount of beautiful styling will make the food or product in your photo look good if the lighting isn't good. When I was starting out using only natural light in my photography, I used one large window as my light source. (make sure to turn off all lights in the room!) From there you can use white or black cards to soften or deepen shadows.

    The other big thing to consider when styling your photo is the backdrop and props you are using and how they compliment your scene and capture the mood you want to portray. I love collecting props and some of my favorites are hand made ceramics. If you're photographing food, using a beautiful one of a kind bowl or plate makes it much more special and interesting to look at. I try to keep my props somewhat minimal and neutral in color so they don't distract from the main focus of the photo.

    Food Styling Tips Sunny Frantz
    Food Styling Tips Sunny Frantz

    While every brand is unique, what styling tips apply to all your clients?

    I think it's important to think about the mood you want to convey in your photos before you begin to style. Once you know that, it becomes much easier to choose your props, backdrops and lighting and the end result will be cohesive and well thought out.

    I edit using Lightroom and Photoshop. A couple of other apps that come to mind that I have enjoyed using are VSCO and Snapseed. I think my advice when you're starting out with editing is to start with small adjustments and see if you can get the look you want without over-editing. But honestly, everyone has a different style and likes different looks and the wonderful thing about editing is you can start to develop your own style.

    What styling props should every content creator have on hand? 

    The wonderful thing about using hand made things as props in your photography is that you can choose a neutral color palette to work with a variety of subjects, but it still has so much character and is much more interesting to look at than something mass-produced. Some of my favorite ceramic artists are JD Wolfe, Ian Wright, Luvhaus, Amelia Wrede Davis, East Fork, Wilson Creek. I also have some beautiful cutting boards from Alex Clarke. Another must-have prop for me is a collection of linen tea towels. Linen is wonderful to work with and gets softer and easier to style with after you wash it. 

    And you can never have too many backdrops! Here are a couple of resources: Ink and Elm  – they have vinyl backdrops that are lightweight and easy to roll up for storage and for transporting. Woodville has double-sided and high quality painted surfaces. You can also make your own which can be fun to do and allows you to customize the colors and textures. There are a lot of tutorials on how to do that, but I don't think you really need to follow any particular rules. You can just start experimenting with what you like and you can always paint over it if you change your mind. 

    Food Styling Tips Sunny Frantz

    Sunny Frantz’s work is featured in our Pin Perfect 2 Collection on the StoriesEdit design app. With the collection, you can create your own Pinterest covers or Instagram Stories to showcase your food and styling creations!