Sunday, March 20, 2011

Types of Food Styling

Food is styled to be photographed for different purposes. The food that is styled probably is to be photograph for recipe books or for a poster. A bowl of salad can be photographed for a poster or an advertisement in a newspaper of a restaurant or even used for a menu card. As mentioned , the purpose of each type of food photography in general is to make food look good and fresh or tempting and irresistible. However, it is all depend on how the photograph is going to be used. For that matter of fact Food Stylist need to understand the purpose of each assignment.

It is said that good looking photograph of food could enhance the sales of a cookbook. Food stylist must understand that cookbook are displayed and purchases from a shelf in a bookstores, far away from a real kitchen that are full of aromas and flavors. And as for the recipes its only contain the list of ingredients and method of cooking mainly written in black and white, the purchaser must to a great length have to use his / her imagination to visualize this information into aromas, flavors and tastes. This is where, the combination of good food styling and great photo taking will transformed all the good food elements into a photograph – that look tempting and irresistible. In another instant, when customers open the menu at a restaurant – what will they see? Some restaurants have pictures of their menu items to make customer mouth to wet and drool. In a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) picture of food are decorated on the walls or hang from the ceiling for promotional purposes. These pictures need not be too detail or exaggerating but most of them should be as real close as possible and realistic. It is all with purposes apart been used as a promotional tool, it allow people with disabilities to place their order by only pointing to the picture that they want to order.

As a matter of fact, a good food photograph is just not only a visual aspect, it conveyed more sensory information – it communicates, it stimulates the senses of tastes and smells. Generally there are basically two types of still food photography: editorial photos for a book or magazines and commercial purposes photos such as advertising, packaging and labeling. For a commercial purpose photos, most of the time advertisers want their product prominently featured and in full focus. While in editorial works it allows greater creativity on both the part of the photographer and food stylist compared to advertisements. To create superb creation, the food stylist and photographer most of the time will be working together.

For this purpose of assignment photograph is to be used in an editorial works – such as recipe books. Others include magazines and food articles such as in a newspaper. Generally these are considered as editorial food styling. This type of food styling and photographing can be considered as the most popular and, it is the most exciting assignment compared to the other types of food styling. This type of styling and photographing for editorial has broadly saying of ‘no limit to creativity’.
While ad photos are restricted by the concept developed and required by ad agencies. Editorial food styling and photographing has only one purpose – make food look beautiful. All creative lighting in the world can be used and all props available can be placed to achieve beauty. Editorial food styling and photographing allows a lot more freedom. The quality of images needs to be good enough to be published in magazine or a recipe book. The camera need not be as expensive as for advertising food photography and the photo shoot itself can be cheaper than ad photo shoots.

Illustration of food styling work for editorial purpose – a front page of a magazine.
……….and example of food styling for editorial work – recipe book

Styling and photographing product for advertisement sometime lead to using of fake food as well as some secret and techniques to make food look tempting. This type of styling and photographing of food product is used for advertising purposes such as for newspaper advertising. However it is also used for menus, brochures, flyers and billboards. Props and other supporting tools can be used to create an harmony and tempting outcomes. Food Stylist and Photographer need to work closely with the advertising agency to visualize the idea and concept that have been decided by the agency. The thing that needs to be remembered by Photographer for this assignment is about the quality of the photograph, since these photos can be used for billboard or a large advertisement such as poster, thus, the quality need to be very high.

Illustration of food styling work for advertising purpose..

Packaging and Labeling
Almost daily we are been expose to the food packaging. It has been too familiar sometime we are not even notice the effort that it took to styled the food and photograph it on that particular packaging. The breakfast cereal, the milk pack, the frozen process food that usually we buy on our visit to the supermarket (to name a few), all of them come together with a nice looking food photos. It is some of the few example food photography for packaging. There are several differences between food photography for packaging and the other types are amount of effort and technical know how about styling and photography. There are a lot of efforts and technical knowledge on the product and meticulous detail that it may take in preparing or styling the food before being photographed. Cautions should be taken in using props so it does not overshadow the main product.

One should remember that for this type of photography is that the food should be presented as clear and as detail as possible. Since, the photo is to be used on a package of a product, the idea is to show as exactly as possible what is in the package. Food stylist has to put effort to ensure that numbers or pieces of the product in the package, color and ingredients if possible should be shown as realistic as possible. At the same time food stylist need to be careful on law and legal issues – overdoing or exaggerating may lead to legal complication.

TV or Film
This type of food styling takes a different approach compare to the above. Food stylist need to work closely with prop master / director who work on the set. For this purpose food need to look as natural as possible and most important it should be edible. If the shoot is for commercial, food stylist usually works directly with the director and he / she need to work directly at the set. Prior to that Food Stylist need to understand the idea and concept of that particular assignment. One of the most challenging aspects of the motion food styling is the need to be ready to prepare as much food ‘actor’ and as identically as possible. This is all depends on how many ‘takes’ are taken for that particular scene.

Setting up and present it...................
Flicking through the pages of a glossy food magazine, one could not miss to spot the work of a food stylist. Most people could not imagine the length to which food stylist has to go in order to make food look perfect. One might just think that “if you want a photo of a bowl of noodle, you just take a bowl of noodle and photograph it” – so what the big deal? The problem with food, it is just could not behave the way you want it to be. It may dried-up, shrunk, discolored and sag. Creating a harmony ambiance and tied-up with the idea and concept is another aspect that food stylist need to looked into. So, setting up is just not a matter of putting all together into one plate – it is far more than that.
There are two ways of setting that are normally applied in food styling and photography which are the type and style:

i. Types of food styling

a. Single serving.

- In a single serving shot effort should be put to show the texture and portion.

b. ‘How to’ or instructional shot.

- A step by step instructional mode of food styling.

c. Finished whole dish

- Normally a whole dish is presented together with a accompanying props that enhance the presentation of the food. Example a whole picture of a 1.5 kgs of cake.

d. Combination of ‘How to’ and finished whole dish.

- Combination of the step by step instructional and it finished product are presented.

e. Finished whole dish and setting.

- Setting up of the whole dish complete with it props and tools. For instance if the dish is presented on a table, consideration to be taken on setting up the table or even a room in case of a banquet or buffet spread.

f. Combination of finished whole dish and still life ingredients

- Normally used in a recipe complete with the picture of it ingredients

g. Finish whole dish and serving.

- Comprise of two elements, the whole dish as well as the portion serving – plating.

h. Abstract.

- Some call it as out of this world – beyond ordinary

i. Ingredients

- Showing all the ingredient for a particular recipe – used for editorial purposes

ii. Style of food styling and photography

a. Outdoor

b. Old fashioned / homey

c. Modern / contemporary

d. Elegant

e. Sophisticated

f. Eclectic – diverse, assorted etc

g. Ethnic

h. Seasonal

i. Holiday / occasion

j. Barbeque / outdoor

k. Special event

l. In the kitchen – in action

As a Food Stylist one should be prepared to visualize the type and style to fit the concept of each of the particular task as well as understand the purpose of it photograph taken.

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