Food stylists make food look attractive in photographs and videos for advertisements and menus. The main difference between how a home cook or chef may present food and what a stylist does is the time and effort a stylist takes to carefully and artfully arrange the food. Along with, is the visual know how, and ability to translate the perception of taste, aroma and appeal that one gets from an actual dish, to a two dimensional photograph.
Besides choosing, preparing and composing plated food, food stylists sometimes use special techniques. They might include:
- creating steam with cool air nebulizers or a combination of chemicals that give off smoke that gives the appearance of steam;
- spraying food with water or mixtures of water, corn syrup, or other liquids to keep food looking fresh;
- making a mixture of solid shortening, corn syrup, and powdered sugar (essentially a very stiff frosting) that can be scooped to simulate real ice cream;
- using a variety of browning agents (usually mixtures used to brown gravies or sometimes heat activated liquids used in commercial bakeries) to enhance the color/browness of cooked meats and poultry;
- using heavy cream instead of milk in bowls of cereal to prevent flakes from becoming soggy too quickly. The use of white glue is generally not used anymore (most cereal companies prohibit this practice).
- blanching green vegetables to just bring up their bright color, rather than cooking them completely. Other vegetables and foods may be cooked just to color, so they do not brown or become wrinkled if they must stand under the camera for a while.
- using artificial ice cubes made of acrylic in beverages, so they won't melt or float.
- adding water to beverages so light will filter through better and add sparkle to the drink.
With the advent of digital photography, the work of a food stylist can be much easier than before. An image can be captured more quickly than when film was used exclusively, so food does not have to sit under hot lights or out in the air for very long. Working in video, film or live television, food stylists encounter many other challenges. Needing to work with prop masters for wild special effects, preparing large quantities of food for the talent (models or actors) to taste or eat, and working long hours on location can be difficult and require a lot of advance planning and organization.
Styled food is usually discarded after photo shoots.
It is current US
law that advertisements
about food show the actual food item that a consumer would be able to buy and eat. However, accompanying foods and garnishes can be artificial (i.e. maybe artificial ice cream might be used in place of real) This call regards ads only, the food used to illustrate cookbooks or magazine articles is exempt from this requirement.