Clam chowder shot two ways: on the left- ladled right out of the pot, on the right- styled for a photograph. Both have almost the same props, the same light and both are edible. There is nothing fake in that second shot, as much as people like to think professional food photography involves inedible food.
So, what did we do? We made sure the ingredients were visible. We highlighted all the colors in an otherwise pretty bland looking dish. We garnished strategically.
The dish on the right has a small ramekin turned upside down in the bowl, and the soup was poured over it. That way, the ingredients didn’t sink to the bottom. Once the components were visible, we were able to pull forth the more attractive pieces of clams and veggies and highlight them. Finally, we picked garnishes that made sense– in this case, fresh celery leaves since celery is a big part of the recipe.
From a prop styling perspective, I chose a mostly neutral palette so that the minimal colors in the soup would shine. The turquoise dish was chosen because the soup base has a lot of yellow/orange in it, and turquoise is complementary, which helps all the colors pop.