Incorporating the human touch adds a layer of storytelling, connection, and narrative to our food images. It's about capturing not just the food itself, but also the emotions, memories, and experiences associated with it. Visually expressing the joy of preparing then sharing a meal with loved ones, or the nostalgic journey of the first bite into a childhood favourite dish on our own creates images that resonate with the viewer on a deeper level.

In this blog post, you'll explore how a talented group of creators around the globe incorporate a pinch of human touch into their creation process, and via their pro tips and techniques you can elevate your visual storytelling skills to new heights. Learn what makes (or breaks) a food photo with a human element - beyond nicely manicured nails.

If you are hungry to learn about another subjects, make sure to check the previous episodes of the Pro Tips blog series here.


What is their pro tip for adding a human element to their images?

Before you scroll any further, grab an ice cream or cold smoothie an get ready to dive into this inspiring read!

Pro Tips For Photos With A Human Element Flyer - Photo & Design by © Reka Csulak - Three Pod Studio

"Use a remote shutter if you don't have a a model, if you are able to, tether. It's always recommended to add human element to your work but I know it's hard to have a model at all times so the aforementioned will really help you if you are the model and the photographer."

Shiela Cruz - CPG photographer and stylist


"Only a specific body part or part of it is enough."

Anita Zsirmik - food blogger, content creator


"I think that all the greenery I use to decorate brings life to the pictures."

Sophie Depetris - photographer, food stylist


"When I photograph hands, I like to give them a quick shake in the air to make the veins less pronounced."

Anja Burgar - commercial and editorial food photographer


"Think about the things we do naturally, such as pouring creamer into our coffee, holding our mug, or the process of a recipe like rolling out dough. These are beautiful ways to catch our hands in frame. These elements are not only natural but they evoke emotion to the scene."

Kristina Cadelina - food photographer, blogger


"Don't be afraid to make your images and the styling a bit messy, to show that a person has been present."

Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj - photographer


"It helps to tell a story!"

Mika Levälampi - photographer



  • Scale and Context: Including a person in the frame can provide a sense of scale, helping the viewer understand the size and portion of the dish. This is especially important when photographing large platters, towering desserts, or tiny appetizers.
  • Composition: Pay attention to the composition and placement of the human element within the frame. Ensure they don't overwhelm the food but complement it. The Rule of Thirds is a useful guideline for positioning people in your photos.
  • Natural Poses: Encourage natural, unposed interactions between people and the food. Candid shots often feel more genuine and relatable. Let the subjects be themselves, and capture the moments as they unfold."

Melissa - photographer, blogger


"It's usually adding just hands for me, whether that be cutting into a finished dish, holding a drink or drizzling a sauce."

Jason Wain - photographer, videographer


Photo by © Jason Wain

Photo by © Jason Wain

"Think of a fun action to add to the image to bring it alive. It can be anything: garnishing, pouring, throwing, or even tasting."

Kamile Kave - photographer


"In my case I can add human element in my food or wine photography -

  1. Show hands holding and interacting with food and wine.
  2. Capture the process of food preparation and cooking.
  3. Create a dining scene with people enjoying the food/wine.
  4. Incorporate models to showcase a lifestyle or story.
  5. Use props that enhance the ambiance and context.
  6. Emphasize facial expressions and emotions while tasting.
  7. Experiment with angles and perspectives for visual interest."

Sari Spåra - entrepreneur, food and wine photographer, recipe creator


"A professional tip for adding a human element to your images is to consider having professional makeup. Ensure nails are well-manicured to enhance the overall aesthetic appeal, and lastly, discuss wardrobe before to encourage plain color outfits that will match your theme."

Peggy Cormary - photographer


"Make sure your model's fingers and nails are clean. Putting on a tiny bit of hand lotion before shooting can also help to make the skin look smoother and more appealing."

Snorri Guðmundsson - photographer, recipe developer, product development manager in the food industry


"I love the human touch. It makes the photos more vibrant. I have even product photos instead on a podium shot in a hand. And because I do not always have a model, I use quite a lot of my own hands. It is not easy, because I have to be in front and behind the camera at the same time, but it is fun."

Milena Ugrinova (Mim) - food and product photographer

"Show details of the person: you don't have to see the person completely in the picture. It will be more interesting to see only parts, but make sure that no strange compositions are created by 'chopping off' limbs."

Maaike Zaal - food- and beverage photographer


"Mess. You can't cut a cake without making crumbs, so I like to include a little appropriate chaos in my images."

Jane Coupland - food photographer, food blogger


"I almost always have a human element. A hand, a moving person. Most of my work is actually portraits with food or wine, so I am always covered"

Matt Wilson - photographer


Photo by © Matt Wilson

Photo by © Matt Wilson

"Absolutely must have clean, manicured nails!"

Jules Wilson-Haines - photographer, stylist


"If I'm going to be the human element, I'll use a substitute to make sure my focussing is correct, before getting into position and using a remote shutter or interval timer shooting to take the shot(s)."

Sandy Wood - photographer


"Make sure the person has well-kept hands and is dressed matching the general style of your photo (like muted, monochromatic colors not to distract from the main subject, vintage clothes for rustic photos, eg.)."

Andrea Köver - food photographer


Photo by © Andrea Köver

Photo by © Andrea Köver

"I don’t usually use human presence in my photos :) "

Natalia Ashton - nutritionist, photographer, author


"I use off-camera flash, so I make sure that I get the flash at an angle where I can also catch a bit of shadow on the subject. if I am shooting the subject in front of me head on, I try to put the flash on the side so that it gives the photo a bit of a dramatic and darker feel. And if its a little to dark, I adjust it in Lightroom."

Robert Alvarez - photographer


"Make sure you have had a manicure before adding hands in the frame. : ) "

Leeanne Mason - food photographer, photo chef, food stylist, content creator


Photo by © Leeanne Mason

Photo by © Leeanne Mason

"The only 2 things I get from a human element are Action & Emotion. Shooting without face, it has to be some action or focus on emotion if face is present."

Victor Chin - food photographer


Photo by © Victor Chin

Photo by © Victor Chin

"Wear neutral clothing (unless it adds something to the image) and make sure it's relevant to the look & feel e.g. you don't need to wear a cook's apron if you're pouring a drink shot."

Emilie Dorange - photographer, designer


"It's somewhat similar to my closet. I have to weed out the pieces that 'do not talk to me,' the ones I never reach for. Those need to go to make space for 'new' ones."

Kata Endrődi - photographer


Photo by © Kata Endrődi

Photo by © Kata Endrődi

"I love using hands to frame the subject. They add a human element, they also add extra texture and act like framing."

Julia Konovalova - food photographer, food stylist, content creator


"Human element not always mean actual human in my opinion. Of course you can add a hand, fingers or other parts of human in a cropped in frame. But we can also add human elements without showing human, such as a piece of vegetable on a fork or a bitten doughnut, etc. Just need to create the illusion of the human presence, that make the images less clinical, more cosy."

Tibor Galamb - photographer, director


Photo by © Tibor Galamb

Photo by © Tibor Galamb

"I like to use a human element by adding leading lines, to really draw the viewer to the focal point of the image. Using the lines of arms, fingers, and angle of the body can all be ways of achieving this."

Mary Turner - commercial food photographer, stylist, chef


"To include yourself in the image, set up your camera on a tripod and use a remote shutter release. Set your camera's self-timer and use autofocus or manually set focus to an object that will be on the same focal plane as yourself. Once you're in position, use the remote shutter release to trigger the camera."

Emily Miller - food photographer, recipe developer

@resplendentkitchen +

"If you are the human element, a tripod is totally necessary here. This will allow you to fully set your scene, set a timer, position yourself in your scene and shoot away. I also always recommend using the multiple frame option on top of using your camera timer. This allows you to shoot more than one image at a time after every timer countdown. I have found this tool especially useful when shooting with lower shutter speeds (less than 1/80). Because we are humans and our bodies are almost always doing micro movements, shooting more a few images back to back increases the probabilities of capturing an image where the human element (hands, body, fingers…) is sharp."

Murielle Banackissa - food photographer, food stylist, cookbook author and blogger

@muriellebanackissa + Savoring

Photo by © Murielle Banackissa

Photo by © Murielle Banackissa

"I don't usually add human elements, but seriously thinking to begin. For the beginning, I think it is good to start with hands."

Sanja Alisic - blogger, food stylist



Nicolas Newmark - professional photographer

@thedarkfoodshot + @newmark_photo

"When I work with hand models, I have a couple of "rules":

  • They HAVE to have clean hands, nice nails, not too long, not too short, nude colors
  • No distracting jewellery
  • It's funny but I ALWAYS have: hand cream, cuticle oil, and fake nails with me LOL (just in case).

I also try to have my own hands always ready so i can use my camera remotely and be hand model as well."

Karen Loza - food photographer and stylist


"Think about the size of the food in comparison to the human element… Sometimes a human element can steal an innocent cupcake it's show!"

Lara Virkus - food photographer


"If someone is in my images it's often myself. And for that I use a remote shutter that has different settings. I can get it to take a photo in a specific time interval so that I can have both of my hands free. I also shoot tethered so I can se myself and where the focal point is."

Ulrica Krii - photographer, blogger


Photo by © Ulrica Krii

Photo by © Ulrica Krii

"Especially when I work in / for restaurants I will ask the chef to add things, such as sauce, gravy, foam, ice cream etc. on my mark after I made sure lighting and composition are okay."

Anoeska Vermeij - photographer


Photo by © Anoeska Vermeij

Photo by © Anoeska Vermeij

"Depends on what you're looking for, but it can be as simple as setting up a lifestyle moment with signs of life (objects of a real life), or if you can offer it, a hand reaching into the composition."

Suzanne Clements - photographer


"Don't forget that hands and human elements are a part of your composition. Consider how adding a hand or torso adds to the scene, bringing focus to the food by creating a leading line, or a frame within the frame."

Joanie Simon - photographer


"I would say that sometimes it is interesting to capture people in a way that they can be less identifiable (such as by cropping full face) in order to draw your eye to the product or food item."

Aline Ponce & Mike Hulswit - professional photographers


"Always tether, so you see exactly where to position yourself in the image. Have your laptop/tablet/phone close by, so you don't have to move a lot. Always think about a natural position, how you would hold/treat the food or the product naturally."

Susi Bálint - stylist, photographer, writer


"I do not have one. There is always a possibility, but personally, I love images without humans. But when I take photos with human elements, I always look for the naturalness."

Emese Balog - food blogger


"Watch out for different skin tones. Adjust your lighting accordingly to the skin tone and ensure that this is captured and highlighted appropriately, without impacting the lighting on the rest of the image, enhancing the overall authenticity and inclusivity of your visuals."

Maxine Lock - photographer

Photo by © Maxine Lock

Photo by © Maxine Lock

"A tripod and a remote shutter are invaluable here if you are alone. Kids make handy human props but make sure you have extra of what you're shooting because they will inevitably eat it before you are done!"

Sam Robson - food photographer


"I love hands in shot, but there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Make sure hands and nails are clean. I always moisturise too (it makes the skin appear smoother) and be mindful of what part of the image your arm will cover, so compose accordingly."

Birgit Mayled - photographer


"Adding a human element is one thing and adding a creative human element is another. When thinking of human element, think beyond just showing hands or fingers in a shot. Think of someone standing in the background, think of a person standing in the foreground, think of a human element from the top, think large human element like a while person or think macro level like showing a tattooed arm or painted nails. Think out of the box."

Dyutima Jha - food photographer, food stylist, podcaster


"I really like it when there is prepping/finishing the dish. Or when people have a good time in the restaurant, try to capture the vibe! It gives way more feeling in a photo, than just food or drinks on the photo."

Maurizio Previti - photographer


"When capturing photos with hands, ensure they don't dominate the image. Balance proportions so that hands support the subject without overpowering it. Experiment with angles and aim for natural poses to add a human touch without being distracting. Play with lighting to highlight details without excessively shining the hands. The goal is to integrate hands into the composition, enriching the visual narrative without diverting attention from the main subject."

Alessandra Zanotti - food photographer, food stylist


Photo by © Alessandra Zanotti

Photo by © Alessandra Zanotti

"Use human element as a prop to help drawing the attention to the hero of your photo. Never use postures or colours that distract from the main subject. If the human elements are hands always check that they are clean and well groomed and try to handle the food and props using a “gentle” hold, do not clench your hands."

Elisa Marina Orani - food photographer


"Usually it's a human hand to make photos more dynamic."

Mihails Pavlenko - food and product photographer


"I tend to keep it natural, as an accompaniment to accentuate the hero (food) rather than overpower it."

Shwetha Elaina - food photographer and stylist


"Make sure that its not stealing the attention from the subject, pay attention to clean nails and natural posture and hand placement so it wont look odd and also pay attention to what the model wear as it needs to support the story you are trying to tell."

Anjala Fernando - food photographer, food stylist


"Human element is needed for that extra touch of story telling to the shot. I usually set manual focus on a spot first with a dummy object and then position myself at that spot to get the perfect focus. Also having your body or hands naturally without a very staged pose tends to look better in images."

Gouthami Yuvarajan - food and product photographer


"Make whatever the human is doing look natural (unless unnatural is the vibe you're going for, of course!). The point (generally) of adding the human element is so the scene feels more lived-in and add an additional point of connection to the viewer. It's also a good idea to play around with movement - blurred or crisp. Both can each add different feelings."

Felicia Chuo - photographer


"Make it either very dramatic or organic."

Anisa - photographer, recipe developer


"Well-groomed hands are the basis of the session. Nothing ruins a photo like unkempt nails. Pay attention to the clothes that beautifully complement the whole photo."

Monika Grudzińska - photographer, food stylist


"Adding a human element to the photo is a game changer for me. It makes the photo feel much more natural. The best solution is if you have somebody that can help you holding the plate, icing the sugar etc. In case I would like to add a human touch, it needs to feel very natural for me and for viewer - the actions you are really doing while baking a cake, slicing it, serving if or eating it."

Alena Prichystalova - photographer, blogger


"I don’t use humans as storytelling elements that much but from what I often see on IG I would advise to retouch the skin first and use Photoshop instead of Lightroom to be able to fully control all tones and textures. You can do a lot with Lightroom too if you are familiar with the mask features and how to control color with them. Skin and food needs to treated differently. If you can’t edit them separately, then I advise to edit on the terms of the skin to avoid weird tones and textures."

Veera Rusanen - photographer


"If you’re showing hands in the picture then nails should be cut/trimmed or properly groomed. For example, half nail polish doesn’t look good. Either remove it and/or paint the nails again with fresh coat of nail polish. For men, properly groomed nails look better. Means plan ahead."

Sangita Bhavsar - food blogger, photographer, stylist


"The Canon self-timer (wireless) or the Canon mobile application are great if you’d like to take part of your photos."

Massiel Zadeh Habchi - food photographer and stylist


"These can be unusual props such as handwritten letters or people who are holding a plate, for example."

Carolin Strothe - professional photographer, food stylist, stylist, art director, author


"The proportions are important. For example, when you want to sprinkle icing sugar on top of a cake and you position yourself normally, your hand is too big comparing to the cake and takes up too much space in the image. My tip here, position yourself slightly back to have good proportions. Of course we don't sprinkle on top but it doesn't show in the image. Another tip is to use the hand that is opposite my light source so as not to block it."

Constance Ibañez - food stylist, food photographer, food event creator


Photo by © Constance Ibañez

Photo by © Constance Ibañez

"In order to include human element naturally, I think of a scene in real life settings that incorporate our hands/ body parts. For example preparing the ingredients, serving food. You want to use your human element as a supporting element to enhance your story. You can also draw inspirations from movie scenes."

M. Aimee Tan - food photographer, videographer, stylist, content creator, recipe developer


"Use a timer and get your hands in the frame! I often will do this multiple times and composite the images together using Photoshop to create a busy scene when it’s just me in my studio."

Lauren Short - food photographer


"Use self-timer mode with multiple shots using the remote control."

Marika Cucuzza - food photographer, content creator, recipe developer, food stylist


"If using your hands, pay attention to the proportion compared to the main dish: they’re a supporting element and they do not have to be distracting."

Roberta Dall’Alba - photographer


"Using a human element in food photography is one of the best ways to bring the picture to life. In these cases, we not only photograph the food but a situation, which gives a completely different meaning to the picture, and this way much more opportunity opens up for storytelling. When I use this technique, I leave my comfort zone a little, but it’s worth it. For example, if you work with a ‘model’ you can develop a lot not only professionally/technically, but also as a person. You have to give “instructions” which require the right coordination and communication. Professionally, one thing we must be very careful with, especially when we apply filters on the pictures during post-processing, that the skin color of our model does not change to such an extent that it creates an unnatural effect (unless, of course, this is the goal). It is also necessary to keep the basic rules of not cutting picture at joints ever. I encourage everyone who haven’t used human elements on their pictures yet, to try themselves out, as the best things always come, when we step out from our comfort zones."

Liliána Tóth - food photographer


Photo © Liliána Tóth

Photo © Liliána Tóth

"My favourite and easiest way to add a human element to photographs is to use hands. The best advice is to keep the scene as natural as possible. This means imagining a real action that a hand can perform and photographing such an action. If we try to imitate a hand that has no justification for the scene - for example, it doesn't pour the food, it doesn't pick up the food, it doesn't pour the drink - then we get the unpleasant, unnatural effect of an unnecessary element in our scene."

Katarzyna Anders - food and product photographer and stylist, recipe developer, content creator, blogger


"Check for the chef's or hand model's hands (or your own hands) to be extremely well scrubbed, the nails to be neat and clean and the skin as healthy looking as possible. Use hand lotion to avoid dry looking skin. Most things can be fixed in post but you can save yourself a lot of time by preparing carefully. Some chefs can get uncomfortable being told to go wash their hands - take a quick detail shot of their hand and show them the enlarged image - they'll listen to you now. :) "

Andrea Gralow - professional commercial and editorial food photographer, videographer


"Adding a human element into the composition makes an image full of life. Pro Tip here, Always make sure the hands are nice and clean, I prefer the nails coated with some kind of nail polish."

Indrajeet Nishad - food photographer and stylist



  1. 1. Lift and shake your hands in the air just before you put them into the frame. It reduces the wrinkles and veins :)
  2. Use a white pencil to paint under your fingernails. Makes them look freshly manicured."

Julia Wharington - photographer, videographer and stylist


"Apart from including hands or other physical human elements, you can include signs of life - a half-eaten plate, a bitten apple, some crumbs, splashes, rings left behind glasses..."

Jella Bertell - food blogger, photographer


"Infuse life into your images by incorporating a human element. Capture candid moments to convey genuine emotions and tell a compelling story. Pay attention to composition, framing, and the relationship between the subject and the surroundings. Whether it's a fleeting expression or a person interacting with the environment, the human element adds depth and relatability to your photos. Experiment with different angles to create a connection between the viewer and the subject, making the image more engaging and memorable."

Anna Janecka - photographer, food stylist


"I love showcasing hands in the frame, whether it's holding a fork, pouring a sauce, or reaching for a piece of bread. Hands add a dynamic and tactile element, making the viewer feel more engaged with the eating experience, yet it's a relatively simple shot to execute ourselves with our own hands and the timer on our camera."

Darina Kopcok - food photographer, educator


Photo by © Darina Kopcok

Photo by © Darina Kopcok

"Think about the story and the emotions you want to evoke. Is the story and food compatible with the person in the frame? Does the person bring the energy you are looking for? You will for sure not include minors for an alcoholic shot. Put your focus on clothes, nails, jewellery and other personal items. Human element is a wonderful way to enhance the storytelling but make sure to be very mindful about it. Another advice - do not fake the motions the person is doing for example eating the hamburger or decorating the cookie. The image looks way more genuine if you are taking photos of the real action."

Mojca Klepec - food photographer


"I personally find that including hands, shoulders, and hair is sufficient for framing a food image or adding a dynamic and lively touch to the composition. It's beneficial to work with a consistent model who has beautiful hands and hair. After a few sessions, both you and the model become familiar with the preferred hand positions, making the shooting process more efficient and professional."

Melinda Bernáth - food photographer



In my approach, maintaining a neutral human element is crucial to avoid any distraction from the main focus— the food. This translates to using bare hands without bold jewelry or vibrant nail colors, along with opting for neutral-toned clothing. s"

Anita Zivkovic - food photographer, photography coach


Photo by © Anita Zivkovic

Photo by © Anita Zivkovic

"The human element is so important in a photo. My favorite human element is subtle - hands barely visible in an apron or holding a basket. I like the viewer to be curious who is in the image without really seeing them."

Terri Salminen - blogger, food culture researcher


"I use hands in frame the most and it took me days to practice the hands postures. So Practice, Practice..."

Harsha Sipani - commercial photographer


"My favorite is dining scenes in the form of overhead shots! While the overhead shot ensures your focus is on the food, but small elements like hands holding a plate and serving or passing food does add a beautiful element of community sense in your picture."

Yashaswita - photographer


"As soon as a face is in a picture, so much focus on the actual subject is lost from the viewer's point, that's just human nature. But if only for example hands, if needed I try to light them to make them beautiful as well, or whatever the mood should be."

David Pahmp - commercial advertising photographer


"Make sure to add hands holding or serving the food to your photos and videos."

Dina Hassan - food photographer, videographer


Photo & BTS by © Dina Hassan

Photo & BTS by © Dina Hassan

"I don’t do that very often but by adding a human element makes the image more realistic and personal."

Monika Jonaite - food- and product photographer, food stylist, recipe developer


"Decide whether adding a human element is elevating your scene (or not) based on the end use, and the story you wish to tell with your image(s). My main considerations before incorporating a human element into a scene:

  • the size ratio between the human element and the subject
  • direction of the light
  • clean, moisturise hands and manicure nails before featuring them
  • use of gentle movements in general

+1 tip for instant manicure: a very affordable instant solution is using press-on nails - I always have a couple of sets in my styling kit. It can be handy if you keep your nails short, your model arrives with less presentable nails or her nail breaks, also a great solution when you must vary nail polish between multiple scenes."

Reka Csulak - photographer, mentor


Photo by © Reka Csulak

Photo by © Reka Csulak