Food Photography & Styling: Getting Started
Getting started with food photography for your restaurant or brand (and why you need a food stylist)
So you have a restaurant, or a food product, or both, and you need brilliant photographs of it. Well, you’re in the right place.
Maybe you have a food photographer all picked out and ready, but he insisted on having a food stylist to work with him. Or your product/ brand team insisted that you should hire a food photographer+stylist duo.
Now who and what is that, you ask? And why is a food stylist required anyway?
Contrary to popular belief, food styling is not all about motor oil and mashed potatoes. The main and, in fact the only job of a food stylist, is to make the food look fresh and inviting for the camera and, in turn, irresistible for the viewer of the photograph. A food photograph or video is 2-dimensional. So it is the food stylist’s job to ensure that visually the photograph translates into the perception of taste, aroma and appeal.
Additionally, even the most beautifully prepared dishes have a very short life-span. They cannot continue to look beautifully prepared and appetising for the duration that is required to perfect a shot, ranging from 5 minutes to 1 hour. This is also the stylists job – to prepare and assemble the food in such a way that it doesn’t wither away by the time the photographer is ready for the final shot.
But this sounds like food preparation. Isn’t that the chef’s job?
Food preparation is only one part of a food shoot. And yes, under most circumstances, food preparation is the chefs job. So, in the case of restaurants or other brands who have a test/ innovation kitchen with full-time employed chefs, the stylist works with the chef to assign responsibilities and processes to achieve the objective of the shoot. In the case of brands or products who do not have chefs or a test kitchen, the stylist and her team prepare and/ or source all the food. In any case, the final assembly and finishing falls under the domain of the stylist.
The stylist also works with the photographer to create the look and mood of the photograph, keeping in mind the objective and usage of the photograph. For example, for a packaging photograph, the focus would be on the finished & prepared food and maybe the ingredients/ garnishes. Generally speaking, creating a fine-dining setting for such a photo would be a waste. But the same food photograph for an advertisement or a magazine would require a setting and a concept.
So why can’t the photographer and his assistants do all this?
Having somebody take care of the food preparation and setting leaves the photographer to do what he does best – take photographs. He is left free to outline his vision for the shot and then carry on to tweak his camera settings and angles and get the lighting right without wasting his time and talent worrying about the food itself.
The photographer’s assistants are just that – assistants for the photographer. That doesn’t mean that they have an in depth knowledge or culinary training for cooking techniques and food preparation. To be able to style and present food in an appetising manner, food has to be one’s first love. And we hope that the photographer’s assistants have their hearts in the right place – photography!
OK I’m sold. We need a food stylist. So where do we begin?
Firstly, you should gather all the information for a brief – we will need to know everything about the products to be shot and the objective/ usage of the final photographs. This will determine the type of photography, setting, props, preparation etc required.
Based on this information, we can share a formal quotation with you. We can send you samples of similar work, if required. This may or may not be an exact match to what you are looking for because each assignment is unique and no two photographs are the same. When the quotation is approved, then we can move on to the next step of having a meeting with the chef to discuss to finer details of the exact dishes and their preparation, enabling us to make a list of props, garnish and other material required for the shoot.
Then we shoot and make beautiful photographs!
Thoda Strong is a boutique food photography studio in Gurgaon, NCR and is perhaps the only studio in North India to offer all the services required for food photography under one roof. Stocked with the very best in photography equipment, we have a large inventory of props and accessories to present your dish in the very best way possible – achieving a look that is in sync with the brand values, objective and usage, be it for advertising, packaging, menu design, magazine or editorial feature, books, websites, restaurant display or any other promotional material.