Taco Salad For One + Using Props in Photos


We had such a warm, Spring-like day yesterday! The temperature reached 11C and it was sunny for most of the day. Spring fever is officially in full force. Sun 

[Sadly, as I type this, a cold front has moved in and a snow storm is due tomorrow. A little piece of me just died inside.]

But since I am writing this post a day late, I am going to pretend this is today’s weather.

A lot of the snow and ice melted…and we can now see patches of grass.

Note: patches of grass. I’ll take what I can get…


I went outside for a 2 mile run to celebrate the warm weather. It turned out to be the perfect mid-day pick me up during a busy work day (I was out and back in under 20 minutes!).

Then I chowed down on this awesome Taco Salad. This salad is definitely a keeper and will add a fun change to your lunchtime routine!


The first thing I did was make the Cilantro-Lime Dressing by processing the following ingredients:


It makes enough for 1 serving.


Now, in the same processor bowl (no need to rinse!) add in 1 cup of bean medley and 3 tbsp of walnuts.


The original recipe was not vegan, so I thought this would be a great way to make a veggie ‘meat’. The walnuts gave it an amazing texture so make sure not to over process them.

The Taco ‘Meat’ turned out DELICIOUS- much better than ground beef in my opinion. ;) One serving of this packs in over 17 grams of protein and over 14 grams of fibre too.


Grab your other veggies for the salad…whatever your little heart desires.


Mix everything together and serve. Easy as that.


This was a great lunch and a fun change from normal salads.


Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or salad toppers.


Using Props with Food Photography

Lately, I have been making an effort to create a scene when I shoot my food photos. In the professional world, this is called Food or Prop Styling.

In my amateur world, it is called playing around with my photos. ;)

Prop styling is basically a way to:

1) Fill up empty space in your photo

2) Create a realistic scene at a table

3) Add dimension and depth

4) Make the photo come ALIVE!

If you are interested in reading more on this subject, there is a great article on Prop Styling here.

Here is one of the first shots I did for this Taco Salad:


It is a boring and blah photo, eh?

Nothing in the background = empty space!



Then I tried to fill up the empty space using a few ‘props’. (I dislike using the word prop when the things I used were actually things that I used for lunch!)


By just adding a simple bowl of crackers and a bright dish towel, I was able to fill up some of that boring empty space.


Side by side:

Before                                                                                 After

IMG_1224 IMG_1188

Big difference!

I also filled up some empty space in my Garbanzo Bean Soup photos.



That one didn’t start off incredibly bad since I already had a second bowl of soup in the background and a napkin, but there is still a huge amount of empty space in the shot.


Then I added a colourful placemat in the background (on a diagonal), a lemon zester, a few lemons, and some paprika.


The photos came alive!


Looking at the photo today, I actually think it might be a bit too busy. A good rule of thumb with Food Styling is to remove one prop before shooting. You know the saying that you should remove one piece of jewelry after getting dressed? Well, the same applies here. ;)

Before                                                                                   After

IMG_0273 IMG_0291

You can also see in this Avocado-Lime Black Bean Salad that I used 2 simple props to add dimension: an avocado and 2 limes. It really made the pictures pop!


In the Vegan Alfredo, I used some herbs scattered about and a rustic looking placemat. It was SO simple and so effective.


In my vegan nog recipe and High Protein Split Pea Soup, I used a holiday theme with a couple bulbs, a red placemat, and some garland.

IMG_6261 IMG_6704

Generally, I ask myself what about the recipe jumps out at me and then I use that as my inspiration!

  • What flavours are prominent?
  • What colours pop out?
  • What are the main ingredients?
  • What is the theme of the dish (i.e., is it Christmas, Halloween, Birthday, etc)?
  • Type of cuisine
  • What tools were used in the preparation


Of course, sometimes all I want is a beautiful close-up to highlight a dish as in my Red Quinoa Salad!


The point is to have fun with your photography and experiment, above all. :) Get creative and don’t be afraid to take some bad photos (I have LOTS that I should probably delete off my hard drive…or so my husband tells me…lol)

Missed my other photography posts? Check out How to make a Light Box and How to make a Light Reflector in 1 minute flat.

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram (@ohsheglows + @theglowspot), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+

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{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

kalli February 19, 2011

that taco salad looks do good especially the taco “meat”. your photos always look so professional-great tips!


Erin @ The Grass Skirt February 19, 2011

I’m new to food photography (and photography in general), so I love your tips, Angela. Please keep them coming! :) Oh and the taco salad looks amazing.


Kristen @ That Hoosier Girl February 19, 2011

Food styling is definitely something I need to work on so I loved this post! I also need to figure out how to create focus on my main object while diffusing the background. Adobe and I are going to be getting friendly over the next few days :)


Holly @ Couch Potato Athlete February 19, 2011

Angela I loved these tips — I’ve thought that the reason my pictures aren’t fantastic is because of my camera, but I know I can do better — just seeing your examples of “before/after with/without props” shows how much better they look without empty space.

And I eat taco salad at least once a week — I’ll have to try your “meat”! :)


Jenny February 19, 2011

Thanks for all the tips! ANd I love the “taco Meat.” I’m not vegetarian or vegan but I’m slowly making the move. This is a great idea to make a taco salad! Love love love..


Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table February 19, 2011

Awesome tip! I can’t believe the difference a few “props” can make. Thanks for the visual accompaniment with explanations – sometimes I need it spelled out. :)


Vanessa February 19, 2011

That taco salad looks absolutely amazing! I am going to try Oprah’s Vegan challenge next week and I am definately adding this to my menu!


Erika @ FoodFitnessFun February 19, 2011

Great advice Angela! I never thought of adding backround props, but it makes sense! Your pictures look amazing. :-)


Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) February 19, 2011

That salad looks AMAZING!! The vinegarette especially looks to DIE for!!

LOVE your tips!! I’m an awful photographer! I just snap a shot quickly and go! I’ll try to take your tips on board though, cos your pics always look SO professional!! :)


Amanda (Eating Up) February 19, 2011

These tips are great! And that salad looks so flavorful. Ole!


Elizabeth@The Sweet Life February 19, 2011

It’s totally true–the pictures really do come alive!


Albizia February 19, 2011

Thanks for the photography tips. In food blooging good pictures are really important. If I don’t fall in love with the meal at first sight, I will never try it and all these bright colors and little details definitely help much for the overall impression. Well, even your worst pictures look better than mine so there’s no doubt I will try many of your recipes :) .


Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat February 19, 2011

These are AWESOME tips Ange!!! You are so good at taking photos – I love them all! Oh, and you’re making me SO hungry for lunch with that Taco Salad!


Leanne @healthfulpursuit February 19, 2011

This is fantastic advice, thanks Angela! You always do amazing work with your pictures, they’re all so creative and beautiful.

Loving the taco meat with beans and walnuts, this is a must try recipe for me!


Christina February 19, 2011

Looks delicious! I especially love the “taco meat” idea.


Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies) February 19, 2011

your props certainly do work!! so so skillful! and I LOVE your taco meat creation- so clever!


Sarah @ veggie-kids.blogspot.com/ February 19, 2011

Yummy recipe! And I love the tips on photography. You’re so generous in sharing all you’re “secrets” that you’ve discovered with all of us! How’s that cookbook coming along? Can’t wait to get my copy….


Maddie (Healthy Maddie) February 19, 2011

I love all of the props you use in your photos. Thanks for the great tips!


Allie (Live Laugh Eat) February 19, 2011

The props in your photos make your photos look so real and edible! Sometimes props can be too busy but you do a great job of keeping it simple. I like the “remove 1 prop before shooting” idea.


Alayna @ Thyme Bombe February 19, 2011

Wonderful pointers! I rarely take the time to do this stuff but it really does make a difference.


Leia February 19, 2011

Definitely going to try this! And thanks for the photography tips. Will definitely take them into consideration!


Claire @ Un Bello Aperitivo February 19, 2011

Wow, Angela, these are really great tips! I am really interested in food styling and trying to get my photos to look more professional…sometimes less isn’t more! Thanks for a great post!

Taco salad = amazing.


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn February 19, 2011

Thank you for the photo tips love!! I will be sure to keep the prop ideas in mind:) Slash I LOVE taco salad!! Thank you for the recipe girl, I love “for one” recipes because you can make it for lunch so quick and easily!


Kristy @ KristyRuns February 19, 2011

The difference in the photos is amazing. Mad skillz, yo. :)

P.S. I love the bean+walnut combo for you “meat.” Might sub-out tempeh for that sometime in my vegan taco/nacho recipes!


Alex @ Healing Beauty February 19, 2011

Thanks for the great tips on using props! I think I have a lot of empty space in my pictures so I appreciate the suggestions! The taco salad also looks amazing and easy! I have admittedly used vegan “meat” but I love the idea of using beans and walnuts! :)


Lauren at KeepItSweet February 19, 2011

I love taco salad- what a great substitute for meat!


megan @ blackberries for jam February 19, 2011

I love that you described this salad as “feisty”! I’m sold!

And these are wonderful tips on food photography. I have a lot to learn and little pointers like this are much appreciated!


Natalia - a side of simple February 19, 2011

Great tips, Angela, thank you so much for taking the time to share! Though, in my opinion, your recipes and dishes need no props :) Your food always looks delicious and so fresh! Plus, I kind of have a thing for taco salads, especially for “one.”


Sharon February 19, 2011

I love all of your photos! I’m not a photographer at all but I use some of the same ideas when painting. My high school art teacher was constantly talking about creating movement in the picture that would make the viewers eyes move around the photo. Dead space stops that movement and makes the picture boring. When I do take pictures of food I try to keep these concepts in mind. You do it so much better than I do though! ;)

This is unrelated to this post – I have been vegetarian for about 5 years now and am about 90% vegan and before that I ate a fairly healthy diet. Last night I had dinner with a group of friends who… well lets just say they don’t have any healthy eating habits. I brought your two bite double down dark chocolate brownies. I loved them! Not too sweet, loved the dark chocolate taste and the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour. I was so disappointed that none of them liked them… at all. It bothered me so much because I know the reason why they don’t like them is because they are used to eating a bunch of processed crap all the time – hyper sweet foods that are full of unhealthy fats and garbage. I love the taste of wholesome healthy foods and it is so discouraging to me that others don’t taste what I taste when eating them. All of this long comment was basically to express my frustration but ALSO to ask you what you would serve if you were feeding a bunch of college students who have basically never had healthy food in their lives? What main dish and what main dessert do you think would go over the best?


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 19, 2011

Yes movement is a great word to use when trying to set the scene for a photo!

It doesn’t surprise me that a junk food lover wouldn’t like these as they are not super sweet, so if they are used to eating super sweet foods then it would be a shock to the system I guess..haha.
I would suggest the pumpkin gingerbread, pumpkin pie brownie, or the double chocolate torte (although it needs to be chilled!) all on the right hand side of my blog. :)


Sharon February 19, 2011

Thanks Angela :)
This morning I decided I should have gone with the double chocolate torte. Just didn’t have the time and had to throw something together. Ooooh well. Their loss and my gain. I only have two left out of the whole batch ;)


Andrea @ Vegvacious February 19, 2011

Angela ~ you are amazing!!! I haven’t had a taco salad since I became a vegetarian and that is something that I used to love! I cannot wait to try this salad recipe. We have recently had some warm weather and I have been craving more ruffage lately and this is going to hit the spot!!

It’s amazing what a difference filling the empty spaces in your photos make – your pics are lovely!


Lauren February 19, 2011

This is such a great post. Thanks for the tips, Angela. You’re pictures are always the best!


Julie @ Shining From Within February 19, 2011

GREAT photography tips! I’m loving all your posts on tips + tricks for photographing food. You inspire me! That taco salad looks easy & nutritious too. I’m lookin’ forward to salads again ;).


Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans February 19, 2011

Great tips. You always have beautiful photos.


Gwen~healthymamma February 19, 2011

First, I love this taco salad! I can’t wait to try the dressing next time we have one, which is about once a week here! ;)
Thanks for these tips! very straightforward and simple. It’s soooo hard to set up a pretty shot with 4 kids knawing on my ankles! That, poor lighting and a camera without a low depth of field means I usually end up doing close ups, boring! I’ll keep trying tho! thx ;)


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 19, 2011

your pictures are always beautiful and clean looking!


Gen February 19, 2011

That salad looks amazing! Thanks for posting the recipe!!!!
Also, the photo tips are wonderful! =D


Michelle February 19, 2011

Great lesson! I’ve really been wanting to improve my food photography and writing skills. Thanks for the info :)


Heather (All Sizzle No Steak) February 19, 2011

Tacos/taco salad is my achilles heel! Yours looks sooo good!


Namaste Gurl February 19, 2011

Never thought of adding walnuts to beans– what a fun discovery! I bet pepitas would be equally as good, with black beans I presume :)


Mel Def February 19, 2011

I don’t think I have ever commented on your blog before although I follow it fervently. When is your cook book coming out? You have this food blog down to a craft. Beautiful pictures, great recipes and great writing and on top of everything else, generous enough to share your tricks as to how you are so darned good.

Hurry up lady. :) The world NEEDS your recipes. Hard copy. To smear those pages with Earth Balance, dribble organic tomato sauce upon and fill the binding with Nooch. If you are half as beautiful on the inside as your blog shows, then what luck those that have you in their life must celebrate every time they are in your company.

Thanks for what you do. You are truly the example to follow.


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 19, 2011

My goodness you are too sweet! Thank you for your encouraging words. I’m currently working on a cookbook proposal. It’s coming slow, but I want to do it right :) All the best, Ange


Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter February 19, 2011

Great tips! I have been learning so much about food photography as I have been going along. It’s amazing to see how much my pictures have improved since I started blogging.


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