Food Styling for Photographers

If you’ve ever done any research into food photography and styling, then you know how few and far between the guides are. There are a couple of books that focus on lighting and some of the basics of photography when it comes to food… almost a laughable number given the overall quantities of books on general photography and photography software. For food styling, there has been even less. However, I just received my copy of Food Styling for Photographers by Linda Bellingham and Jean Ann Bybee and I’m thrilled to see this kind of information more readily available to photographers and people considering food styling.

“Food Styling for Photographers: A Guide to Creating Your Own Appetizing Art”
(Linda Bellingham, Jean Ann Bybee)

A quick look through, and it’s easy to see that this book is aimed at professional photographers who are starting out in the world of food photography, and bidding on jobs that don’t have the budget for a food stylist. This is quite common in the industry. I know that many of my clients certainly don’t. There are all kinds of issues that go along with photographers being their own stylists. As one who does handle both sides of the camera, I know that the time it takes to get through a shoot can be dramatically different than a photographer working with a whole team, or even a single stylist. Everything has to be serialized… shopping, prep, cooking, lighting, etc. But, that said, most jobs aren’t rush jobs and for a small to mid-sized business, being a photographer that has some ability in the kitchen means new opportunities.

Food Styling for Photographers does a great job of giving photographers an idea of what they may be getting themselves into if they do decide to pick up styling. Starting from the shopping trip, to prepping the table setting, to preparing some of the harder to style foods, the book is comprehensive and easy to understand. There is a fantastic section on stylists tools, including brand name suggestions on everything from griddles (Presto Tilt & Drain) to paper towels (Bounty). The vegetable chapter has a neat trick for how to fold a corn husk, and the chapter on desserts (which yes, contains the expected fake ice cream for hot lights) has a great suggestion for using toothpicks to get neat stacks of freshly baked cookies. There are also some tricks that made me giggle… like using cardboard between layers of a cake to help it keep its height, or using Soil Moist granules to make a drink that looks like a frozen margarita.

For food bloggers interested in learning more on styling, be aware that this book is aimed at people who will not be eating any of the food being prepared. There are still good tips, even a few that say “follow the recipe” to make the food look beautiful (I had to laugh at the food styling for biscuits paragraph that simply says pop them open from the can and bake them!). The most useful chapters if you want to eat the food afterwards are likely the on making a salad and on garnishing, like how to perk up the green tops on strawberries and tomatoes. That said, the authors’ number one rule is never to eat the food from the set. But, even if you don’t use any of the styling tips, there are great shots of the lighting and setup of most of the images in the book, along with photographers notes which are incredibly useful.

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0 thoughts on “Food Styling for Photographers

  1. As usual, thanks for the tips…I’ve learnt more from this blog and practice than anywhere else 🙂 just got a gift certificate to Borders…so, I can’t wait to get it!!

  2. Oh this is ABSOLUTELY what I have been looking for! Thank you so much, my husband is ordering it now for my late Mother’s Day present.

  3. There’s another fascinating book out there, sort of on the subject of food styling. It’s called Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation. The author and photographer had both tired of the hours-long shoots that rendered food inedible but beautiful. Their book, working with ten top chefs, presents beautiful and distinct plating styles that can be achieved quickly in the kitchen so the food is actually edible. An interesting read for cooks and photographers alike.

  4. happy to have found this blog, just stumbled upon it yesterday and want to go through it all.

    this book looks like a good reference. would you happen to have any references for lighting?

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