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8 Facts About Food Stylists

Have you ever seen a photograph of food that looks so good it almost jumps off the page? What about a colourful photo of a birthday cake that looks so pretty you consider it art? Well, getting food to look amazing takes a little work.

Luckily there are professionals out there who know what to do in order to make images pop. These professionals are known as food stylists and they are responsible for all the beautiful food images we see on commercials, restaurant menus and social media.

1. Food Stylists prepare and present food

Food stylists prepare, plate and present food by arranging food in a way that looks appealing to the camera. Food stylists research clients and dishes to create beautiful photos. Furthermore, they communicate with clients, photographers, prop stylists, advertising, commerce and marketing teams prior to and during shoots. Some food stylists even cook or bake the food presented in a photo!

These tasks, however, are general and are not all done by every food stylist. For example, some food stylists are freelancers and perform every task by themselves in the comfort of their homes. Alternatively, some stylists are required to go shopping for equipment and props prior to a shoot. It all depends on the company they work for and the client at hand.

2. Food Stylists understand food

Although food stylists may not be food scientists, they have a strong understanding of the connection that cooking has with food. For example, they understand how salmon changes from orange to pink when cooked or the cooking process of creating an over easy egg that has a fully white egg white. Food stylists develop a strong food knowledge by reading cookbooks and practice cooking and baking constantly. It is not uncommon for a food stylist to have a background in culinary arts.

3. Food Stylists do not need degrees

Many food stylists do not have a culinary arts degree from a culinary institute or college. This is because food styling is a unique profession that allows the individual to be self-taught. Many resources already exist for food stylists to hone their skills for photography, cooking and creative design.

However, an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree can be extremely useful for becoming a food stylist. Formal training provides professionals with a solid foundation that can be used for their careers. That being said, a food stylist can possess various educational backgrounds. Common education routes for food stylists include art, business, food science and marketing.

However, within recent years, more colleges are offering certificates in Food Media. Courses for these programs include culinary arts, creative plate presentation and social media marketing.

How Can I Find a Food Stylist Position? Check out our article where we got the answer from ACTUAL professionals in the industry

4. Food Stylists are creative

Food styling is a form of art, meaning it lends itself well to the creative. Take, for example, a photo shoot for an ice cream sundae. A food stylist can create a beautiful backdrop using items that are only found around the set. They must be creative in choosing what props will accentuate the food. Finally, food stylists know how to problem solve when the tools they need are not available. Creativity is a skill which develops over time and gets better with experience.

5. Food Stylists never perform the same day twice

If you are looking for a profession in which every day is unique, then food styling is for you. Food stylists use a core set of skills, like photography, and apply them to new situations daily. These situations range from shopping for props to filming an ad campaign for YouTube. Every shoot for a food stylist is unique. For example, one client may require the stylist to showcase an ice cream sundae on a dessert buffet while another client requests photos of buttered toast.

6. Food Stylists may perform special tasks

Food styling is not a rigid profession because each shoot is dependent on the situation and client. Some food stylists develop their own recipes and distribute them through a blog or social media. As a result, some food stylists are skilled at using social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Other special tasks a food stylist may be required to do are cooking in a demonstration video and working with sourcing to obtain ingredients.

7. Food Stylists have an odd work schedule

Food styling in the industry does not lend itself well to an exact schedule. Many food stylists are required to work on weekends and evenings, depending on client needs. For example, a client may be rushing to complete an ad campaign which requires the food stylist to change their plans at the last minute. Therefore, food styling is not a 9-5 job.

8. Food Stylists are organized, have an attention for details and can work with others

Being a food stylist requires a range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:

  • Organization – Food stylists may come to set a set not knowing what to expect. To prepare for the unexpected, they make  preparations and stay organized. One way they stay organized is by bringing an adequate amount personal items, like knives and tweezers, to photo shoots.
  • Attention to detail – Food photography is all in the details. A simple change in the placement of a spoon can make a substantial difference in the design of a plate and the overall feeling of a dish.  By paying attention to the details, food stylists ensure that all dishes come out looking attractive.
  • Ability to work with others – Although some food stylists work completely alone, this is typically not the case. Food stylists work with clients, assistants, marketers and a variety of other roles. They take the time to speak and truly understand what the client wants.  Furthermore, food stylists know when to take the lead as necessary and when to step back and listen.

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