An Expert Guide To Hiring A Food Stylist

  • January 17, 2023
  • Lerato Mokonyane
  • 11 min read

A food stylist’s job is to make food look as appetizing and visually appealing as possible for photography, video, and other media. This involves creating compositions, choosing the right props and backgrounds, and manipulating the food to make it look its best.

If you work for advertising or editorial companies, you know that making food look as delicious as it tastes can be a challenge. That’s where a food stylist comes in. 

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about hiring a food stylist, including what they do, how to find the right fit for your project, and tips for working with them effectively.

Benefits of hiring a food stylist

Hiring a skilled food stylist can benefit your company in a number of ways: 

  • A food stylist can help you create visually appealing and appetizing food displays that will catch your audience’s attention. This is important in the current age of social media, where people are constantly scrolling through their feeds and are more likely to stop and look at something that looks appetizing.
  • A food stylist can help you create a cohesive and consistent look for your food content. Whether you’re working on a photoshoot, cooking video, or restaurant menu, having a professional who knows how to create visually appealing compositions and use the right props can make a big difference in the overall quality of your content.
  • Hiring a food stylist can save you time and effort. Food styling can be a time-consuming and detail-oriented process, and working with a professional who has the expertise and experience can help you get the results you want without having to spend as much time and energy on it yourself.
Having mouthwatering pictures on your menu and social media gives you a guaranteed edge over your competitors – this is where a food stylist comes in

Why savvy brands hire skilled food stylists for their projects 

Food styling plays a significant role in the food industry. It is used to create visually appealing food photographs for menu items, packaging, advertising, and other media. 

The popularity of food photography has exploded, people are more likely to try a new restaurant or product if the food looks delicious in a photograph. Therefore, it is essential for businesses to invest in high-quality food styling to showcase their products and entice customers.

A food stylist can also help you create content that accurately represents your food and culinary skills. For example, if you’re a chef or a restaurant owner, you want your food to be presented in the best possible light, but you also want it to look realistic and achievable.

Today’s restaurant guests require visuals on social media. One basic foundation to overcoming the quick impression on socials is to hire a food stylist for plate presentation, composition and lighting

A food stylist can help you strike the right balance between making the food look appealing and making it look attainable for your customers.

Another important aspect of a food stylist’s role is ensuring food safety. Food stylists are trained to handle food safely and hygienically, and they know how to make food look fresh and appealing even if it has been sitting out for a while. This is especially important if you’re working on a photoshoot or a cooking video where food needs to be prepared in advance.

If you’re a restaurant owner targeting a younger, more health-conscious crowd, a food stylist can help you create compositions and use props that reflect those values. 

There are many types of photoshoots that may require the services of a food stylist, including:

  • Cookbook photography: Cookbooks often include photographs of the recipes to help readers visualize the finished dish. A food stylist can work with the photographer to create visually appealing images of the food.
  • Advertising campaigns: Food companies often use photographs of their products in advertising campaigns to entice consumers. A food stylist can work with the photographer to create appealing images of the food that showcase its best features.
  • Menu design: Restaurants and other food-related businesses may use photographs of their dishes in their menus to help customers visualize the food. A food stylist can work with the photographer to create appetizing images of the dishes.
  • Food packaging: The design of food packaging often includes photographs of the food, and a food stylist can help create appealing images for the packaging.
  • Social media content: Many food-related businesses and individuals use social media platforms to share content about food, and a food stylist can help create visually appealing images for these platforms.
  • Recipe development: Food stylists may also work with recipe developers to create appealing images of the finished dishes for use in print or online publications.

Similarly, if you’re a food blogger targeting a more upscale audience, a food stylist can help you create content that is polished and refined.

In addition to helping you create content that resonates with your target audience, a food stylist can also help you create content that is consistent with your brand identity. 

For example, if you have a particular color scheme or style that you want to maintain across your food content, a food stylist can help you choose props and backgrounds that align with those guidelines. Robertson’s Spice has curated their Instagram feed to match the colors of their spice range, with consistent background in each image. 

When you see a picture of food in a magazine or in most cookbooks, you’re seeing the obvious part of the food stylist’s work

How to find and evaluate potential food stylists

With a little research, you can get a sense of the stylist’s work and style, as well as their experience and track record. This will help you determine whether they are a good fit for your project.

Food styling is a time-consuming and detail-oriented process, and you want to make sure you have someone who is reliable and efficient. 

By evaluating different food stylists and their rates, you can make sure you are getting the most professional and experienced stylist for your budget.

There are several ways you can find a food stylist for your project. Let’s dive into 4 methods you can use to start your search: 

#1 Search online 

One of the easiest ways to find a food stylist is to search online.

You can use search engines like Google or specialized directories like the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

When searching online, be sure to look at the stylist’s portfolio and read reviews or ask for references to get a sense of their work and style. If you can’t find any reviews or references online, consider reaching out to the food stylist and asking for references. You can also ask them about their experience and the types of projects they have worked on in the past.

Many food stylists have their own websites or social media pages that showcase their work and provide more information about their services (here’s ours). Check out these platforms to get a better sense of their work and style, and to see if they offer any additional services that may be relevant to your project.

If you’re working in a specific industry, such as the restaurant or food photography industry, consider looking for food stylists who have experience in that industry. They may be more familiar with the specific needs and challenges of that industry, and they may be able to provide valuable insights and guidance.

#2 Ask for recommendations 

Ask your network of contacts for recommendations. This could include other photographers, chefs, food bloggers, or other industry professionals who have worked with food stylists in the past. They may be able to recommend someone who is a good fit for your project.

#3 Attend industry events 

Another way to find a food stylist is to attend industry events, such as food festivals or trade shows. 

These events can be a great way to meet food stylists and other professionals in the industry, and you may be able to establish connections that can lead to future collaborations.

If you see a food stylist whose work you are interested in, note their name and contact details. This will make it easier to follow up and discuss potential collaboration after the event.

#4 Look for food stylists in your local area

This is a good option if you’re looking for someone who is available to work on-site or if you want to work with someone who is familiar with the local food scene. 

Once you have a list of potential food stylists, evaluate their suitability for your project. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Style: Look at the food stylist’s portfolio to get a sense of their work and style. Do their compositions and use of props and backgrounds align with what you’re looking for? Do they have experience working on projects similar to yours?
  • Portfolio: Consider the food stylist’s experience and the types of projects they have worked on in the past. Do they have a track record of success? Do they have experience working with different types of food and in different settings?
  • Availability: Make sure the food stylist is available to work on your project. Consider their schedule and availability, as well as their location if you need them to work on-site.
  • Rates: Consider the food stylist’s rates and whether they fit within your budget. Be sure to discuss your budget upfront and see if there is room for negotiation.
  • Personality: Finally, consider the food stylist’s personality and whether you think you will work well together. Communication and collaboration are important for any creative project, so it’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable working with.
Using motion in food styling is playful and attention-grabbing

6 tips for success when working with a food stylist

Food stylists are often hired by photographers, advertising agencies, and food companies to style food for photoshoots and media campaigns. 

However, anyone looking to take professional-quality food photos may benefit from hiring a food stylist. For example, a restaurant owner may want to hire a food stylist to create appetizing photographs of their menu items for their website or social media pages.

Collaboration is an important aspect of food styling, as it involves working with other professionals to create attractive and appealing food compositions for a variety of purposes, such as advertising, marketing, and editorial content.

Here are some tips for working with a food stylist and ensuring a successful collaboration:

  1. Communicate your vision and goals for the project to the food stylist. This will help them understand your expectations and come up with ideas that align with your vision.
  2. Provide reference images or examples of the look and style you are going for. This can help the food stylist understand your aesthetic and make sure they are on the same page as you.
  3. Have a clear vision and be open to the food stylist’s suggestions and ideas. They are professionals with a lot of experience, and they may have valuable input that can improve the final result.
  4. Think about the logistics of the shoot, such as the location, lighting, and props. These factors can all impact the final result, so it’s important to discuss them with the food stylist beforehand.
  5. Prepare in advance. Food styling can be unpredictable, and there may be challenges that arise during the shoot.

From defining project goals to providing necessary resources, there are many factors to consider when working with a food stylist.

By following the tips in this guide, you can find and hire the right food stylist for your project and ensure a successful collaboration.

If you’re looking to hire a skilled food stylist for your next project, reach out to me. With years of experience in the industry and a passion for creating visually appealing food, I can help bring your vision to life. Contact me to learn more and discuss your project in more detail. 

In health, happiness, and good business,

Chef Lee

If this issue resonated with you, feel free to share it with someone who’d find it useful! 

Special thanks to Dr. Shehu for helping with editing this piece.

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Chef Lerato Mokonyane has worked for some of South Africa's best-known brands such as McCain, Topo Chico, Eskort, and Sutherland Wines. She's passionate about recipe development, food photography, and everyday nutrition.

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