Myth: Never Use The Color Blue In Food Photography; Wrong!

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I’ve been shooting for a long time. There are all kinds of weird photography “rules” that have been around and keep resurfacing that really don’t make much sense. One of the most common myths is this rule that you should never use the color blue in your food photography.

Post Title Image Shrimp on a blue background with text Myth: Never Use The Color Blue Wrong!

This image was taken for a grocery store client a while back that STILL uses this image to sell their beautiful shrimp. There’s lots of blue colors that look great with food.

What Is The Origin Of This “Rule”?

I believe this rule started in the 1970’s when food stylists were called Home Economists. I think this became a rule from that era, when food photography had, shall we say, much to be desired! Just have a look at this post where I featured some hideous images from that time.

Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of things from the 70’s that should have never happened, and this rule was certainly one of them. 

There IS a lot of talk about this with the psychology of color in general however. When people talk about the best colors for restaurants and food packaging, over and over I read that people say things like this, “Blue is one of the most repulsive colours when it comes to food and will actually draw people away from eating.”

The person who said that is a graphic designer. I was shocked when I read that actually and it made me laugh out loud. Then she turned around to say there are exceptions to this and she has seen some uses where it makes food look “fresh”. Come on! Make up your mind.

The idea is that psychologically speaking, the color blue can be an appetite suppressant because the color blue doesn’t exist naturally in food (of course except for blueberries).

You just can’t make this kind of global statement like this about a single color being used in all food photography.

In my free facebook group about food photography, one of our members had been recently told about this rule. There it is again resurfacing! That she should never use the color blue in food photography. So I did a fun group post to prove this wrong, and it was awesome. 

We got over 110 beautiful food images on that one post, ALL USING THE COLOR BLUE. There are many shades of blue as well of course, and the photos from the group members were really beautiful.

The goal when using any color in your food photography is to make sure that this color will bring out the best in the food. That’s it. The reason why blue looks so great with so many foods is that blue is a natural complementary color to many foods. 

There are many different colors of blue, but there are all kinds of colors that won’t look good with every kind of food. You need to look at each case differently and look at the color of the food to determine what would look best with it. 

Color Wheel With Blog Logo

Complementary colors are colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel. The opposite of blues and turquoises would be yellows, golds, and oranges. 

Think of how many foods have those colors!!! THIS is why blue can be so fabulous with food. 

So let’s break this down visually with images to show you examples. 

Image of tangerines in a blue bowl on marble surface

I always love the colors orange and turquoise together. They compliment each other perfectly. They are opposite sides of the color wheel. Green always looks great with these colors too because green is analogous (next to the color on the color wheel) with blue.

Image of cherries in a white bowl on a blue table

Now with the image above we have two very strong colors together. A very deep blue surface with bright red cherries. Red and blue are not complimentary colors. They are also not analogous colors either because they don’t sit right next to each other on the color wheel. Red and blue are primary colors. 

This image above shows you how a shade or value (how dark or light a color is) can really affect the relationship of the colors in an image. The dark blue really makes those red cherries pop. 

Image of grilled peach salad on blue surface

In this image above, we have green and blue which are analogous colors on the color wheel – they sit next to each other. Analogous colors are thought to be soothing colors to use together. 

At the same time, the golden peaches in the dish are analogous to the green lettuce and they are also complimentary to the blue/turquoise being used.

So there you have it! Just a few images to prove that there are all shades of the color blue that can look fabulous with your food. 

Are you in my free Facebook group yet? If not, you are really missing out. I’m in that group every single day answering questions and helping folks with their food photography. We’re almost at 5000 members and we’re really picky about who we let in. 

Click the image below to get to the group – you MUST answer all three questions to get in. We turn away 100’s of people every week. If you don’t answer those questions, you won’t get in. 

See you there! 

Image with text inviting people to join the facebook group

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