BEGINNERS THOUGHTS ON FOOD STYLING

When I went to work for a food company, I figured there'd be a lot of free food opportunities. Naturally, I accepted the position with the promise of endless Cinnamon Toast Crunch and pizza rolls. But I never guessed that there'd be so much time spent in the real kitchen. Developing recipes for our websites, testing product changes...and curating an extensive library of food porn for social. 

An unstyled example of the crazy things I get to sample in the Betty Crocker test kitchens...Helper Korean Cheeseburger Mac recipe.

An unstyled example of the crazy things I get to sample in the Betty Crocker test kitchens...Helper Korean Cheeseburger Mac recipe.

My former understanding of food photography was pretty simple: stand on your chair in a restaurant and get the perfect top-down angle before you eat. Easy!.......NAHHHT. Little did I know how much incredible effort goes into styling the food shots you see on Bon Appétit or foodie Instagrams.

I'm talkin' tweezers. Actual eyebrow tweezers that they use to carefully reposition a misplaced grain of rice. I'm talkin' portable humidifiers to add water droplets to the salad after it's been sitting on set for too long. And if you didn't sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly, start all over. And you're fired. 

This was the photo I took on my iPhone before the real food stylist came. I had the green onions on the chicken ALL wrong. Look at them. They're lopsided and unevenly scattered. The snow pea on the top left of the bowl is flat and shady. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?

This was the photo I took on my iPhone before the real food stylist came. I had the green onions on the chicken ALL wrong. Look at them. They're lopsided and unevenly scattered. The snow pea on the top left of the bowl is flat and shady. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?

A big part of all photography is lighting. To plan our shoots, the photographer always asks us about the location of the set..."Is the kitchen facing the east or the west?...Can you Google Map it?" She knows to avoid times of the day that are too bright or too dark. If we're in a home kitchen, we stand on tables and counter tops with giant white poster board to deflect the light for the perfect shot. 

When the lighting is right, even iPhone photography is magical. 

When the lighting is right, even iPhone photography is magical. 

Above all, I have learned that the greatest key to food photo success is the grocery shopping. It will take a ton of time to crop out a soggy spinach leaf in the salad. Instead, we splurge at Whole Foods to get the most photogenic ingredients. And you must buy extras. Your handful of cilantro can lose its freshness in a matter of minutes and then you're S.O.L. 

See those little bruises in the hollow of the avocado? INEXCUSABLE!

See those little bruises in the hollow of the avocado? INEXCUSABLE!