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What it Takes to Become a Food Stylist

Have You Got What it Takes to Become a Food Stylist? Let's Find Out

Do you have a passion for food and an eye for art? If your answer is, "YES", then a career of a food stylist can be ideal for you. Know, how to become a food stylist in this article.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
A gorgeous glamor model wouldn't look so gorgeous, if it weren't for the makeup, illumination and impeccable photographic skills, all of which make her look absolutely stunning. There are a number of people working in the background, who transform an average looking Jane into an absolute diva. Now substitute the picture of glamor model with a scoop of tempting sundae, from any cookbook or magazine!
Would you believe me if I told you that almost the same amount of efforts go into making that scoop of ice-cream 'look' tempting? Yes, this is where a food stylist comes into picture. Simply put, food stylists are people who 'up' the drool quotient of the food. They use various tricks and techniques to make the food look absolutely scrumptious and tempting. In this article, you will find a lot of information on styling food as a profession and also tips on becoming a food stylist. However, let us first know what exactly food styling deals with.
Food Styling: Where Cuisine Meets Art
Food styling mainly deals with 'dressing up' foods for photography or shooting. The aim is to make foods look visually extremely appealing. You wouldn't eat anything that does not look visually appealing, no matter how great it tastes. Similarly, something that looks yummy, makes you hungry almost immediately. The recipes appearing in cookbooks wouldn't seem so delicious, if it weren't for the accompanying images. You feel like trying out the recipe simply by looking at the glossy picture of the dish.
In reality, that recipe may not look as appealing or may not even taste that good. What is more, sometimes the 'food' in the image may be something different altogether! For instance, the maple syrup on the pancake in the image of this article could very well be motor oil, or the ice-cream scoop could be made out of mashed potatoes and confectioner's sugar! Such tricks are used by food stylists to make ordinary food look extremely tempting. They make use of various props and settings to render the desired look to foods.
Beginning Your Journey as a Food Stylist
Food styling is an advanced culinary art. You need more than a chef's hat to make a career out of this art. First of all, you need to have a passion for food and love for art. You need a great imagination and an eye for detail. While styling food, you do not follow a set method for dressing foods. Everyday, you experiment with different foods and props and come up with innovative ideas. Hence, before taking up a career as a food stylist make sure you possess the required qualities, some of which are presented below.
Ability to Think Out-of-the-Box
As mentioned above, you ought to have good imagination to be able to come up with innovative ideas. You should be able to think what 'non-food' items can substitute for real foods or in which setting a food can look best or what are the props that can be used and so on. You should also be able to think of the ways, in which you can render special effects to food. For instance, say if you wish to style a piping hot beverage with steam erupting from it. Now, a camera lens cannot capture steam erupting from foods, and even if it does, the effect can never be the same. In such cases, you should be able to come up with innovative ways to render a natural effect.
Ability to Implement Your Culinary Knowledge
Food stylists are people with strong culinary background. However, simply knowing stuff is not enough. You should be able to implement your culinary knowledge while dressing up the dishes. As a chef or a culinary expert, you should know what ingredients can render the best visual appeal to the food. Accordingly, you should be able to substitute these ingredients in your recipe. For instance, substituting cream for milk renders a richer, creamier look to the recipe and also makes it less soggy.
Ability to Work in Team
Food styling involves the efforts of many people. As a food stylist, you will be required to work with many professionals such as photographers, chefs, directors, etc. Thus, you should be able to collaborate with these people and deliver the required results.
Ability to Work at Odd Hours
As mentioned above, food photography involves many people. Thus, you may have to work as per the convenience of your team members. Besides, as this job deals with food, a perishable entity, the whole process of styling and shooting food needs to be completed quickly, as food items start to lose their freshness within minutes of cooking or baking.
While these were some of the personal qualities required for a food stylist, you also need to satisfy certain criteria of formal education to be able to start a career as a food stylist.
Graduating from Culinary School
In order to become a food stylist, you will first need to obtain your degree or diploma from a reputed culinary school. This program introduces you to the delights of cooking, baking and several other culinary aspects. This knowledge forms the basis for a food styling career.
Acquiring a Diploma in Culinary Arts
This is an advanced diploma which focuses on the artistic aspects of food. Here, you will be introduced to various styles of food styling, background styling and also learn the nuances of food photography. Besides, you will gain a hands-on experience in food styling through various projects and lessons.
After completing your formal education, you can start styling food under the guidance of an expert food stylist, instead of starting on your own. This will help you understand the tricks of the trade and familiarize you with the industry. As a food stylist, you can get an opportunity to work for advertising agencies, restaurants, magazines, etc. You can aim to earn anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000 a year, or even more with some experience.