Real Food, But Not Really

How Food is “Produced” for Pictures and Videos.


We all know expectation and reality are quite different when it comes to the photography of the dishes on the menu (or in the media) and what you see when you receive your order. So much so, that even one of McDonald’s own decided to explain how this happens by documenting the production of a series of publicity photos of their snacks.

Videomaker Minhky Le, creator of the series “Real Food, But Not Really” has also decided to document this process on video. In three videos he shows, in a very interesting way, a comparison of how food is prepared to be served and how it is “produced” to be photographed or filmed.

Featuring a burger, an ice cream and a drink that after watching these videos may look more delicious, but you certainly will not want to eat any of them.

This is called food styling. But what is food styling? Is it the artful placing of a garnish, the careful drizzle of some sauce and the precise placement of food to best display its charms? Well yes, it’s all those things but it’s so, so much more too.

Some people question if creating a heavily stylised version of a dish for photography is somehow dishonest.

In my opinion? No. Assuming a recipe had been tested and tasted good, all the stylist is doing is making the food look its best for the shot. That’s the job of a food stylist.

Here are some tips to practicing your food styling according to Denise Vivaldo

1) Read and study

Study as many food styling and food photography books as you can get your hands on. Similarly, learn as much you can about food. You don’t have to be a chef to be a food stylist — although there are more and more ex chefs moving into this area — but the more you know about food the easier your job will be.

2) Attend a food styling course and workshops

You’ll learn insider techniques and tricks that’ll blow your mind and fast-track your career. You’ll also be able to watch techniques being demonstrated and then try them yourself with on the spot feedback. The friendships and contacts that you make will also be invaluable.

3) Assist a professional food stylist

Assisting a professional food stylist is one of the best ways to learn about food styling. As an assistant you’re free to observe and learn, without the pressure of having to deliver. When approaching a professional stylist to request an assisting position, show respect and do your homework. He or she doesn’t owe you anything so be polite and explain what you can do for them.

4) Build complementary skills

You might be the world’s best food stylist but if no one knows about you, you’re going to struggle to find work. So learn about photography, writing, social media and marketing. Alternatively, seek out people who have these skills and who are also looking to build their portfolio.

5) Start a blog

What’s the easiest way to get your work out there? Start a blog – it’s a great way to show people what you’re capable of.

6) Always over prepare

While you must be a master improviser at the actual photo shoot, solid preparation the day before a shoot will stand you in good stead. Practice the recipes you will be preparing. Go over your food styling kit and make sure you have all the tools you may possible need, including backups. Buy at least two of every time you will be cooking.

7) Be meticulous in your prep

On the day of the shoot, go through all the produce and remove any bruised, old or unsightly items. Prepare raw produce meticulously; ensure your cuts are consistent and neat.

 8) Think on your feet

Problem solving is perhaps the most important skill a food stylist needs to develop as the actual job on the day may dramatically differently from the agreed brief. Perhaps the client has a change of heart at the last minute, some produce is unusable or there is no running water nearby. Whatever the problem, the food stylist has to be able to solve it in a calm and professional way.

9) Create your own signature look

When you’re starting out as a food stylist you may be tempted just to copy the work of other food stylists and food bloggers. There’s no harm in. After a while, though, try to consciously develop your own style to create your own signature look. Think of it is a being a first-rate you instead of a second-rate somebody else. You’ll be a lot happier and your work will be much more distinctive.

Ice Cream



 Article by Advertising student, Carlos Alcantara

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