Food & Beverage

The psychology behind plating your kitchens dishes

Thursday, March 1, 2018

When it comes to creating the perfect dish, you might start with the ingredients, technique and the tastes you can produce. However, while many of us understand that a plate of food needs to look good, not everyone gets just how much influence plating really has on how we taste food.
According to Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist, "when the plating is artistic, people tend to enjoy the food more than if the same ingredients were just dumped on the plate." In fact, the science of plating goes much deeper than that.

We eat with our eyes

Most of us are familiar with the idea that what we see on the plate will influence how it tastes. However, a full 50% of the brain is involved in visual processing and is driving a wide range of decisions and experiences - therefore what you see has a huge amount of impact. A great example is the way that white wine dyed red will taste of red fruits (according to a study by Dubourdieu & Brochet). Presentation has a big impact on whether the food meets expectations when we eat it and also on our first impressions.

What your plating really means

The importance of capturing the imagination of the diner should not be underestimated. The best chefs always have a story to tell and that story is told via the food on the plate. Whether you use the sequence of dishes, evocative ingredients or inspirational arrangement of the food, your story is what will make your food stand out so it’s worth intentionally crafting one. In addition to the storytelling there are also some very practical ways to make an impact.
Quality and quantity – if you’re plating to express quality, don’t forget that most diners will prefer fewer high quality items (e.g. ice cream with a topping) than a larger volume of lower quality items (e.g. more ice cream, no topping).
Artistically plated food does better – in an industry study of 60 participants, 18% preferred artistic presentation over ‘neat’ or ‘normal.’ Plus, diners were willing to pay twice as much for the artistically arranged food.
Serving style – the plates you use can say a lot about the dish. For example, broth served in a cup or a glass – as opposed to a bowl – indicates that it’s a standalone dish in terms of strength of flavour. Plates that complement the dish are key – it’s important to make sure you don’t overload the plate and therefore overload the brain.
Odd vs. even – using an odd number of components in a dish makes it more interesting to the eye. Plus, according to studies, diners are willing to pay upwards of 10% more for a dish constructed in this way.

What should you be looking to incorporate into your plating style?

• A modern approach that is relaxed and deconstructed but still has structure

• Artistically arranged food always tastes better

• Focus on the main element in the dish – place this in the centre of the plate

• Consider the colours you’re using and whether they go together

• Include some green – herbs etc – as this indicates freshness

• And finally, make sure dishes go out clean – no unintentional spatters or smears

Whether you have much time for the science, or you’re just interested in the results, there’s no doubt that plating is as much a part of the impact of the dish as any other stage of preparation.
Now you have the perfect plating it deserves to be shown off here's 10 food photography tips to get the perfect picture to put on social media.
Photography can make or break a food themed social page. Even the most mouthwatering of dishes can appear unappealing thanks to poor lighting, a lack of creativity and overuse of the flash. So, how do you get your food photography right?

1. Get the right angle

Spend some time working out which way the food looks best and which parts of the dish make it look the most appetising.

2. Don’t be afraid to crop

If you have a perfect image with one tiny flaw then simply crop it out, even if you’re cropping out half the plate. Even if there’s no flaw, try cropping it anyway – sometimes it just looks better.

3. Consider the lighting

Just as you would want to take a selfie in a flattering light, food looks at its best if the lighting is good. Light the dish softly but clearly and don’t use the flash – the flash can wash out all the natural colour and make it look like it has been shot in a laboratory. Natural light is the best choice.

4. Set up the picture

Put some thought into the way you want to set the image. Do you want to present a bowl of soup with a spoon and bread? Should there be a table setting? Inside or outside? Do you want to add anything else to the table to bring context?

5. Create a viewpoint

Consider the person looking at the photo – you want to create a shot that they feel as if they are just about to engage with. Remember that sometimes the most effective shots are where it looks as if someone has just taken a bite.

6. Take lots of shots

You’re unlikely to get the perfect shot first time so take more than one snap before you stop shooting, particularly in dimmer lights. Practice makes perfect when it comes to food photography so get snaphappy.

7. Be ruthless

Some food just doesn’t look good in a photo. No matter how delicious the dish is, if it doesn’t photograph well then don’t use it.

8. Use simple patterns

If you’re incorporating cutlery, plates, bowls, tablecloths etc then keep the patterns simple. Otherwise, they can distract from the food and make the image feel overcrowded.

9. Colour wins

Food that is colourful looks appetising, whether it’s a green soup or a chocolate desert. Make sure you capture the detail of colour – use a tripod to keep the camera from wobbling if you have to.

10. Use a macro lens

This is far better than a wide-angle lens for effective close ups.

These 10 tips are all you need to create the perfect social food image – just add your favourite dish and get working on your food photography!