Life of a Food Stylist – Q&A

I am a Food Stylist – it is my career and I absolutely love it! Everyone always asks a lot about it so I am going to answer some of the questions below… and check out the ‘real life’ pictures at the end!

Q. What is ‘Food Styling’?
A. Food styling is the art of cooking and presenting food so it looks it’s best. Think of a make up artist or fashion stylist but with food.

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Image by Jamie Orlando Smith

Q. How did I get into food styling?
A. I studied English at University which is a great start but doesn’t natural lead you into a career so I spent the summer at Good Housekeeping magazine and worked with all the departments. My favourite by far was working with the Cookery team; they told me that Leith’s Cookery School was the place to go if I wanted to get into the industry. Although it isn’t essential, it is a great way to learn everything. So I did the year long diploma. I started assisting food stylists (mostly for free) and you do a lot of washing up and prepping but it’s the best way to learn. Then you gradually start to get paid and then work your way up to styling your own work. It’s hard work but worth it!

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Image by Issy Croker

Q. Who do I style for?
A. I food style for a whole mix of people. Most stylists tend to stick to one area such as Advertising, Editorial or Packaging but I really enjoy the variety of doing a mixture, including some recipe writing and working on TV.

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Olive Magazine. Images by Kris Kirkham

Q. Do I do the photography?
A. No, I don’t do any of the food photography. I will typically work in a team with a food stylist (me!), a food photographer and a prop stylist. We will be led by an Art Director who will have organised and imaged the style for the shoot.

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Q. Who writes the recipes?
A. It depends on the job. For cookery books, there is usually an author who has written and tested the recipes or had someone write the recipes for them. For editorial shoots, such as for magazines, there is usually a cookery editor and writer but sometimes they reach out to freelancers such as myself to write recipes for them.

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Image by Jamie Orlando Smith

Q. What are some of the tips and tricks?
A. There are less tricks than people might think. Yes, you can use a tampon in boiling water to create steam but no, not all of the food is faked. Most of the time, everything that gets cooked, gets eaten. Food stylists just use a few tricks to make things look their best:
– Cut vegetables in different ways to help the shape of the dish, not just all cubes. Make sure you consider how things will look before you do it
– Keeping the vegetables raw slightly underdone to keep their colour
– Brushing the food with oil to give a nice sheen
– Using fresh herbs to brighten the dish

But mostly, it is just cooking things carefully with great ingredients.

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Image by Rebecca Callaby

Q. Do I style all my meals at home?
A. Absolutely not – if you’re an accountant, do you come home and start punching in numbers? I absolutely love food, so I do cook a lot but when you’re hungry, there’s no time. Just tuck in!

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Image by Stuart Ovenden

Q. Do you need to go to cookery school to become a food stylist?
A. You don’t but it definitely helps; although lots of stylist I know worked and trained in professional kitchens. When you’re assisting, the main stylist will want to know that you know what you’re doing so some classical training is always helpful. Cookery school gives you a good base for working to time and budget with the added skills of knowing how a recipe should work and importantly, what to do if it doesn’t work!

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Image by Stuart Ovenden

Q. What is the biggest thing people assume about your job?
A. That the job is glamorous. The job seems glitzy but it is actually a lot of hard work and admin. You are mostly likely going to be self employed which comes with the joys of invoicing and tax returns but the day to day involves a lot of printing recipes, answering emails, shopping for shoots, working to budgets, juggling your time and hours and hours on your feet, you won’t find yourself sitting down. With that though, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything – I love it!

For more images, see my website at www.nataliethomsonfood.com 

The Reality

 

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