The importance of a garnish

The importance of a garnish.

Is not to be underestimated.

Sometimes, I forget to have fresh herbs lying around. Then I cook something very brown, and attempt to photograph it.

And the results are sad.

Like this delicious mushroom that I blogged about yesterday:

It doesn’t look horrid–but can you imagine how much better it would look with a sprinkling of fresh thyme on top?

Let’s use the Photoshop clone stamp tool to move some peas on top. Just pretend they’re herbs.

If you kind of squint your eyes you can get the idea. C’mon–squint up–see the difference?

And this slow cooker teriyaki chicken (side note–not a blog-worthy recipe when all was said and done). It’s a yellow-brown pile of whatsit.

 But if I had remembered the green onions . . .

Food photographers, take note: garnish, garnish, garnish.

Let’s take a positive example in which I remembered the benefit of a tiny leafy green spot: Chicken Parmesan.

Can you imagine how this would have looked without the basil?

Like a pool of white drowning inside a pool of red. The garnish adds dimension, color, contrast, interest. A focal point for the eye to engage what would otherwise be a blob of food. Here–I’ll Photoshop away the garnish so that you can see the difference:


And while we’re using the clone stamp tool, do you mind if I give myself a third eye on my forehead, implant a string of pearls down my nose, and put my eyebrows on my upper lip?

Wow. Très debonair, n’est-ce pas?

14 thoughts on “The importance of a garnish

  1. Suzie

    Though I totally agree with you about fresh herbs/garnish, I rarely have them on hand. And you guessed it…because they’re not readily available where I live. (Unless it’s out of my own garden which has yet to be planted :)). It’s a bummer to me, that they aren’t available more. I’ll keep hoping…lol! Love your third eye, pearls and mustache….I’m going to have to play with that tool, I never have before 😉

    1. Jenna Post author

      Haha! Yes! It’s totally a facial garnish. Our senses of humor are totally simpatico, by the way.

  2. Amy

    Ha! Fun with Photoshop…I know it well. As for the garnish – amazing what a little green can add to a picture, eh? Also, the general rule is only add garnish to the photo that is actually part of the dish, as in: garnish with thyme if thyme was used in the recipe. Don’t garnish with rosemary if you used basil, etc.

  3. Veronica

    I think you may look better garnished with a nose ring-lol! I totally agree, and I do have many times when I just don’t have anything and have been guilty of using dried parsley (on some tomato soup and other things), which helped a teensy bit…though the benefits are obviously offset by the fact that they’re not very pretty. lol In other news, I have discovered that if you chop parsley and keep it in a little air-tight tub (I used a clean KFC side dish container–they are plastic and reusable now!), it will last for weeks!! If I keep it in the bag, it usually gets slimy after a week. This is how I keep my parsley and cilantro now, and I almost always get it used before it goes bad. Woot!

  4. Julie M.

    They really do make all the difference. That pop of color makes the dish. And can I just say that I still have dreams about your chicken parmesan? That shot with the thick layer of cheese…. mama mia.

  5. Joanne

    Haha I always seem to have some herbs lying around for garnish…even a sad pile of cilantro that often has NOTHING to do with the finished dish other than that I needed a spot of green. But yeah…I totally know what you mean.

    Though…that mushroom is covered in CHEESE. That’s seductive enough for me!

  6. Tonya

    Great point! Sometimes I actually remember to say…..keep out 1 mushroom for the top of a picture of homemade cream of mushroom soup. I, too, have found that in a pinch, a pinch of whatever dried herb you used sprinkled on top will do.
    My other favorite trick is to fold a cloth napkin with similar colors of the dish and place it under the white plate, it really richens it up!!! Let me see if I can go find an example to link. (hopefully that doesn’t tick you off when people do that!)

    1. Jenna Post author

      Of course it doesn’t tick me off! I love your blog and you have some great photography on there, so I appreciate the examples! =)

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