Step by step guide to becoming a Food Stylist

There are certain situations in which the way food looks is actually more important than how it tastes. Some people may have a hard time believing this, but it’s true.

Food styling is the art of arranging food so that it looks tasty and fresh. This is important in a number of situations, particularly when the food is being photographed. For instance, the pictures of food that you see in cook books, magazines, advertisements, and menus have been styled.

Although these pictures may have the power to make your mouth water, it may not even be edible. Professional food stylists learn and use several tricks to make it appear as delicious as possible.

What does a food stylist do?

Imagine you’re flipping through a food magazine and you see an article on ice cream. Accompanying the article is a picture that activates your drool glands: A hot-fudge sundae with vanilla ice cream and a cherry on top, served in a frosted glass. You never knew food photography was so good at making your stomach rumble, and you’d like nothing more than to take a bite out of that sundae.

Doing so would be a very bad idea indeed. The ice cream you’re looking at might be a scoop of mashed potatoes. Or worse, it might be a mixture of corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar and shortening. That sundae is indeed too good to be true – and it’s all thanks to a food stylist.

A food stylist is a culinary professional whose job is to prepare food for photography, video or film. Making food photogenic is no easy task, and the best food stylists come to the job armed with an array of techniques to make meals look their best – even if it means replacing pancake syrup with 30-weight motor oil.

The job of a food stylist has changed as advancing technology has made food photography a digital art. In the old days of film, food would often sit for hours under hot lights while directors of photography fiddled with f-stops and depths of field. These days, digital cameras make the process easier and faster – but quality food stylists still work with a unique palette, meaning they face challenges most other artists don’t even need to consider. It’s also important for food stylists to understand the ins and outs of photography and videography; that way he’ll know how a particular food item shows up on the page.

A quality food stylist doesn’t just arrange food artfully. Often he has to make food taste good as well. When preparing food for commercials or cooking shows, for instance, it might be a bad idea to pour Pennzoil on pancakes, since actors might have to eat the food. And some laws stipulate that the food displayed in advertisements must match the food being advertised – so until Baskin Robbins makes mashed potato their 32nd flavor, food stylists will need to be adept at getting difficult-to-shoot foods looking their best.

What kind of skills are required?

The majority of food stylists are very passionate about what they do and passionate about food in general. In general, food stylists should love to cook and be great at it. They should also have an eye for little details.

Individuals interested in a food styling career should be aware that there is no actual degree for food styling specifically. Instead, most aspiring food stylists start their careers with a culinary arts degree. They may also be able to take courses and attend seminars to learn the tricks and techniques of food styling.

The steps to becoming a food stylist

There is no specific track of education that is required to become a food stylist. You might want to consider the following path to becoming a professional food stylist

  1. Get food related training from a culinary school
  2. Work with a professional food stylist to gain experience