I am not a food stylist. I am a food photographer. Huge difference. Over the years, I have learned several tricks for styling food, so when I am photographing food in restaurants without a food stylist, I will have to help the Chef style the food a lot of the time.
I will show you the little food styling kit that I bring with me on location. It aint pretty, but it’s extremely handy.
This is a mini kit. When I have a food stylist, I don’t need this at all. They bring their own kit, which is much bigger than this. Most chefs I’ve worked with really do care about how their food looks, so then I’ll only have to do very minor things.
In the few instances where the chef really was not that interested in how the food looked, I have literally rebuilt every dish that came out of the kitchen. Most chefs get it, some don’t.
The food shot above was for a restaurant called the Napa Valley Grille. The chef had a lot of experience plating and styling his food for camera, so this shoot went very smoothly, and I only cleaned up a few smudges on the plate that you could see through camera, but not with your eye.
Ok, very important: I always shoot tethered. This means that I take pictures, we see the images right away, and know exactly what we have. This is crucial. You can see your focus and all the details that your naked eye does not see.
Here is my set for the shot above. Very simple. I have natural light to the left and a small fill card to the right.
As we shoot, I zoom into the file at 100% in Adobe Lightroom, so we see everything. Then we tweak the food, clean things up, and make it as perfect as we can before things start to wilt or change.
I have three containers in my kit holding all kinds of things you’ll see below. Spray bottles with water and glycerin, mirrors, etc. This is one of the containers.
Here is what’s in the box:
- foam boosting kit – see my tools and tricks post for details on this
- little paper cups
- pie servers to help move food on plates
- water spray bottles to spritz salads or glasses
- metal containers for fresh herbs, and little glass bowls to hold oils or water
- cotton gloves for dark plates to make sure no prints get on the plate
- spray bottle with water
- bottle of 409
- bottle of Windex
- cotton rag
- paper towels cut down to small squares
- paint brushes for oils
- small spoons
- olive oil and corn oil
- blue poster sticky stuff to help position food on set if necessary
- eye droppers
- syringes for putting sauces onto things
Here is the rest of my kit:
- tray to lay my tools on and a funnel – to cleanly pour beverages into glasses so you get no drips on the sides
- small foam core for a fill card
- wedges to prop up food & thread
- more tweezers
- utility blade and a metal tool to poke stuff
- goo -gone to get rid of hard smudges on glassware and crazy glue to actually glue some food together
- fishing line to rig stuff
- a three prong adapter to make it only two prongs – some restaurants don’t have grounded plugs
- larger bottle of spray water
- bottle of water and glycerin for spritzing condensation onto glasses
- straight pins
- cotton balls
- small mirrors to kick in light into places
- small paper bowls
- wood blocks to mark plates on set when they need to be removed, to be cleaned, or switched out
- wooden skewers
- large brush for painting oils on food
- food spreader
That’s my kit! If you start getting asked to shoot for restaurants, you will need to put something like this together.