I spend much of my time creating recipes and then transforming them into beautiful food photos. This is surprisingly very physical, labour intensive work that requires many long days of prep and hard graft.
There is the misconception that food stylists paint food, make food out of plasticine and all sorts of other weird science experiments. The truth is that making food look good enough to be photographed takes a lot of hard work, creativity and culinary skill.
The hard work begins with creating your story boards, colour palettes and textures. Next, a stylist will spend a day sourcing all the ‘food props’: backgrounds, fabrics, crockery, cutlery, glassware, tiles, place settings etc. One photo, on average, requires five to seven different props.
The next step in preparing for the shoot is sourcing all the ingredients. This can be really tricky as you often shoot out of season when fresh produce and certain festive ingredients are simply not available. So I generally have a turkey, panettone, calamansi and whole coconuts stashed in my freezer.
So when the day of the shoot arrives, you have done at least two days of preparation work. More, if you have had to test recipes. The day starts very early and will finish very late. It will be a very busy day of cooking, styling and trying various props and angles until you get the shot. There are tricks of the trade, which are used in restaurants too: plenty of iced water, coarse sea salt, spray bottles, glossy sauce, condensation droplets and many more.
The food photographer is the other essential team member. Food photography is highly specialised and skilled. I am very fortunate to work with several highly qualified and experienced food photographers who have won many international awards.
It is not just a matter of clicking a button, a food photographer is a magician with lighting and contrast, making the food look spectacular. And contrary to popular belief, not much is changed using Photoshop. We try and nail the shot on the first go. Art plus skill and experience.