Before I headed into this career I was not aware of its existence. I have always been interested in the imagery of food and in pictures but I didn’t realize how much time and care is put into a picture of food. Upon discovering that being a Food Stylist was a career, and quite an important one, I was ecstatic. It houses all the elements that I find important, you get to work with food, you need to be creative and come up with ideas and visual stories and you work with people who care about the end picture.
As a food stylist you also need to be able to see the big picture, this is a skill I have not yet picked up but I am told it comes with practice. Every small detail matters when your picture is printed in high quality and on a large scale, but you need to look at it as a whole, knowing what a small object will add to the finished image and that is no easy thing.
As an assistant, I observe everything the food stylist does in case one day those same responsibilities will fall to me. A food stylist will arrive at the shoot and depending on how organized he/she is they will already have delivered the ingredients and props (crockery, cutlery and background surfaces) to the studio or, as an assistant, your first task will be to collect those items. At first the day will seem relaxed, there is chatting and catching up with the clients while the photographer sets up and the food for the first shot is made.
Then, all of a sudden, the mania sets in. The photographer is in a rush so he wants to get going immediately. The food stylist has to spring into action, spritzing a leaf here, brushing some butter there. They have to appear ever the professional and comply to the clients every wish and whim. As the assistant you have to make sure all the elements of the dish are ready to go and squared off neatly in a corner for easy access. Occasionally swooping in to clean up a spill or hand the stylist the next ingredient.
After the shoots get going a frenzied energy envelops the studio and everyone is in full gear. In the afternoon the shoot will calm down as we break for lunch. The tough part is finding the reserve energy to push your body back into full gear for the last couple of shots, now with a full stomach. Shot after shot you have to present something that is different enough from the previous shot to be distinguishable but similar enough to fit in with the same story or range of images.
After the final recipe is photographed there is a low whoop of celebratory relief as we can put away another day of hard work. This is where the clients and photographer melt away and the food stylist and assistant are left with the remnants of what looks like a missile testing site. The assistant will get started on packing away the ingredients and cleaning up the studio and the stylist will get to work packing up the props and adjusting the recipes of the day. When the cars have been loaded with the beautiful plates and backgrounds we exchange a weary smile and prepare ourselves for the wait in evening traffic.
The following day I will busy myself returning props to the different rental companies and the food stylist will be busy with costings and recipe writing. They also have to find inspiration and put together moodboards for the next shoot. Finding a new avenue to go down and a different take on the next big thing. They have to show up at shoots with ideas already formulated because although the client is in charge, it is the food stylist that has to lead the way.