As a food stylist, I get all kinds of jobs. It tests my creativity to the max. I enjoy the challenge of setting up attractive food in a special setting according to the client’s needs. Maybe he or she wants to sell a new product and I must lay out the container and the contents side by side. Other times a restaurant wants new business and in addition to a wide angle shot of the entire place, they want close-ups of the specialties. Food in TV ads is often doctored up with artificial colors to make it look fabulous. You wouldn’t be able to eat it after the photo session. Think of all those rich brown turkeys that appear at Thanksgiving time. No, they don’t all come out of the oven like that. Tomatoes can be made to appear more red than they are in case you are working off season. Coloring food is part of the stylist’s stock in trade. It is just a slight exaggeration, so don’t make me feel guilty.
I also must decorate the table, not just make the food look good. Let’s say I am doing a rustic meal for a cookbook to accompany a country recipe. I will use a simple wood table that is not too polished, as this shininess will clash with the food. I won’t use fancy placemats, maybe something that looks homemade. I also might like to see carved wooden napkin rings that go with the feeling of the image I want to conjure up. To add a touch of the festive, I will use a hot glue gun to attach ribbons to the main body of the ring. I will fold each piece of ribbon over and secure it with a staple gun. You won’t see the staples inside. I always select a color theme for my composition and the ribbons would work with the candles and centerpiece. A glue and staple gun really come in handy for photoshoots. You can staple a tablecloth to a picnic table if the wind is blowing it about. It is primarily for decorations. I go on a shoot with all my tools in tow. As much as I plan in advance, you never know what little repair job will be needed. You might want to take some tape along as well. As a food stylists, I have learned many tricks of the trade over the years. It is not just about coloring food, but knowing how to arrange it in an attractive manner, highlighting a particular element with lighting. The photographer usually takes care of a light, but I have been known to use a flashlight when he has forgotten.
If you want to be a food stylist, look at dozens of magazines and TV ads. What do you notice first and foremost? The food should look real (and most often it is) and fresh. Nothing must look awry. You look and your mind creates associations with hunger perhaps. Some people rush out to buy the product displayed. That is one major intention.