Maximising the visual appeal of food, stylists make you ‘eat with your eyes’
Has looking at a picture of biriyani made you forget everything else for a second? Has passing a picture with a plate of a crisp Masala dosa on the outside and soft on the inside, made you drool in your mind even if you just had lunch? Has a photograph of a perfect row of chocolate donuts topped with colourful sugar sprinkles made you forget your last weight check and eat one immediately? Well, the person behind creating these beautiful visual treats is a food stylist.
“A food stylist’s job is to make food look appetising, evoke emotions and make you fall in love with your food before you even try it,” says Sanjeeta KK, ace food stylist with a reputed clientele. According to her, a food stylist is someone who can make you believe “what appeals to eyes will tickle the taste buds,” with creativity and plenty of tricks of the trade.
Food styling industry has seen incredible growth, with cafés, food and beverage manufacturing companies increasingly leveraging social media and other platforms to showcase their products better and building niche brand images.
But what does it take to become a food stylist? “Along with a keen eye for details and a love for food, a food stylist must be constantly on the lookout for what looks good on camera,” says food stylist, food photographer and food blogger Niharika Shukla. Niharika says when walking through a market place, most of the time instead of shopping for herself, she ends up buying crockery and cutlery that she would use for shoots later on. But the effort invested pays off when they get just the shot they envisioned.
A food stylist’s job starts off by understanding what the hero of the shoot is. For example, when a restaurant approaches a food stylist for a shoot, the stylist spends time understanding what the signature dishes of the restaurant are, the ingredients that go into the making of it and the media the photograph is going to be used for. And brings to life a picture based upon that. Working in tandem with a food photographer, a food stylist creates a picture perfect dish.
A knowhow of how to store food, how to work on the artistic elements required for the shoot, how to ensure everything looks fresh and what substitutes can one use to make the food look more appealing from the camera’s perspective, are all skills a food stylist needs to bring to the table. For a career in food styling, you can start off by completing a course in food styling from ace culinary schools such as Lavonne Academy of Baking Science and Pastry arts, Bengaluru, or go international with schools such as Le Cordon Bleu, London. Attending workshops that are run by prominent food stylists around various cities would also help you to grasp the basics. You can start food blogging and build a strong follower base to gain credibility and start working on small projects. With a good reputation as a food blogger and skills in culinary arts backing you up, you can get to work on television commercials, product packaging/advertising industry, magazines, cookbooks and restaurant shoots.
An amateur food stylist with a good follower base can make about Rs.15,000 per shoot, while experienced ones can earn anywhere between Rs. 40,000 – 1 lakh per shoot. If you are someone who has a creative bent of mind coupled with good culinary skills, is well-organised, confident and have lots of patience, food styling might be your calling.
Mala Mary Martina
CEO, I Love Mondays.