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What it is all about

Food styling an art form in itself. It is a specialized field. It relies greatly on knowledge of food but with an artistic touch. Though it may seem a glamorous career the job requires a great amount of skill, creativity and is meticulous and demands a lot of patience. A stylist brings out the needs of the client to the consumer. As a form of media it is all about communication, knowledge of the latest trends in art and design. This process is brought about by the coordinated efforts of a good Photographer, food Stylist and sometimes a prop stylist or Art Director. But more often than not this role is carried out by the food stylist and his assistants.

At times many foods are artificial but there are some stylists who prefer the challenge of working with real food. It is a task in maximizing on an effectual visual appeal for both the client and consumer. It is more than just cooking, communication skills are important. It is the job of the stylist to make the food look appealing, natural and not too complicated.

While working all concerned are much pressured as the food prepared remains at its optimum for only a brief period. This is where skill and decisiveness comes in. the relationship between the stylist and the photographer must be very close as most photographers do not understand the chemistry of food. All logistics of the job in hand should be handled before the shoot. This will make one confident during the shoot and able to handle any unexpected situation that might arise.

Another aspect is learning about and understanding the clients needs. Whether the shoot is for the print media, packaging, television or editorial work must be clarified. Each form of media has its parameters and guidelines. For example a television shoot the stylist would need to carry more ingredients than he would for an editorial shoot.

Apart from the food is the choosing of props, like cutlery, plates, flowers and decorative pieces are all an intrinsic part of the whole process. A skill learnt over time working with different Photographers, Art Directors. Meeting with designers and producers of crockery and cutlery and shopping or browsing through markets keeps the stylist in touch with the needs of the customers, their likes and dislikes.

Learning and seeing the kitchens before hand is also important before a shoot. To arrive early and getting to know the kitchen saves on a lot of time and staying ahead of the photographer. Usually prepare food that will last the longest on a set first.

Like it is the job of the photographer to learn about his subject it is important for the stylist to learn about lighting, colours and photography. Learning about camera angles, back lighting, filters etc is as important as the food.

Also while the photographer discusses the Polaroid shots the food is wilting away and will need touching up. This should be brought to the notice of the art director and photographer and should be tactfully done.

Another important aspect of styling is as the stylist is responsible for the food, no one else should be allowed to handle it. Do this diplomatically for in the end it is the stylists responsibility if the food does not look good.

Studio time is expensive so organizational skills are of the utmost. Most of the time the client may be present, or others. This can lead to a fair amount of stress. Emotions run high on a set, so a little bit of exercise before or after a shoot is essential especially on long shoots which run into days.



Food Photography

Food Photography is an art by itself and a specialized field. It is a wrong notion to think it is all just a matter of aim and shoot.

Food has an uncanny knack of looking dry and unappetizing on a home taken picture. The process of making it look juicy and appetizing is a skill brought about by two artists namely the Photographer and the food Stylist sometimes a prop stylist is used to prepare the setting but invariable this role is carried out by the food stylist along with his assistants..

There are many photographers, however, who do not enjoy substitutes in their photographs, preferring the challenge of taking pictures of food prepared in the normal way.

Food is often dressed up and often left in its natural state. For example a chicken or meat is often left undercooked to retain a level of plumpness and texture. First food coloring is applied to give a finished cooked look, then a thin layer of glycerin is added to give the required juiciness.

Food dries quickly under the harsh studio lights and hence the need for certain tricks of the trade are required. In many instances dishes may have a haphazard look like a stir fry when in reality each item is cooked separately and then put together with much patience to give the right balance of colour, detail and with reference to the camera angles.

A good photographer knows all he can about the subject in advance. Learning about various aspects of food

Light coloured food photographs well against dark backgrounds, and dark coloured animals against light backgrounds.

Certain colour combinations like red and green are more Christmassy. Colours like red and yellow stand out well against a black background. The role of colour balance is important when it comes to packaging drawing the eye of the customer.

Just having a good SLR camera or medim format camera with a motor drive does not make one a great photographer. Its how the photographer uses it to his advantage.

Photographers often use natural light setting up near a window or outdoors. Light falling on the subject from behind or the side brings out its character. Soft diffused light pushes out disturbing shadows often obtained by a wide aperture and zoom lenses.

Patience and more patience and stealth is the key to a good photo opportunity. The photographer plans the shot in his mind while waiting for the stylist is setting up.

More importantly the photographer is the master of the camera and not the other way around.

Take photographs from every perspective. Horizontally, vertically, zoom in or out; try and get interesting pictures.

Since the food is the main focus of attention it should ideally fill a third of the frame. The rest of the space should portray a bit of atmosphere. Leaving space for any editorials and text.

Different speeds produce different results and effects giving perspective and creativity to your pictures. Also the use of filters is used. But experimentation must be done after the main objective is reached.

Consider the mode of media you are shooting for. All media have different standards and criteria. Magazines and publications will only accept slides (transparencies). There is good reason for this, as slides can be scanned for reproduction to a higher quality than prints.

Photographs shot on a vertical format are preferred quite often for cover pages. Photographs for cover pages must have space for the title and other text and must crop to the right shape. The same applies for book covers. Inside horizontal pictures are preferred to vertical pictures depending on the column space being used. Photographs are often cropped both for impact and to fit the given space on a page and to remove extraneous detail.

For the purpose of a slide-show plan your pictures to be either horizontal or vertical as a combination of both can be quite distracting to the viewer. For publications, pictures need to be enlarged. This results in a loss in definition, so frame the subject to the maximum or get as close as feasibly possible.