Its the question everyone always asks - what do food stylists use to make the dishes look so amazing in food photography?
The answer is years of experience and practise of course!
But you can get a bit closer to achieving that perfect burger or beautifully frosted berries by having these bits of kit on hand ready to brush, stick, tweeze, spray, blast and blaze.
Obviously the kit you need will change from shoot to shoot, dish to dish with extra machines and kit required depending on what food you're styling - if you work in a niche food group or only bake cookies for example you'll soon figure out what they are and how best to style your food for photographs.
And of course you'd also have knives, boards, pots and pans etc and a general prop styling kit with you or on hand so i won't cover that - just think that if you need it to make the food at home you are best to have it on the shoot too.
Word of warning, this list is intended to help people creating their own content which may be based around or just include food - please don't buy all this and consider yourself a food stylist, ready to book shoots - it really does take years of practice and experience to become a commercial stylist and in respect to everyone else on a shoot and the clients money - don't ever take on more than you can chew (sorry) on a commercial shoot - or it could just be your last!
Basic Food Styling Kit Essentials for Content Creation
25 things you need to style food for photography
- High quality, low lint kitchen roll for mopping up and removing excess fluids, also for padding out dishes and raising food up (or reusable dish cloths if you have a sink to rinse in nearby)
- Cotton buds for smaller clean up jobs
- Brushes –
- small art brushes for picking up dust,
- for brushing on oil or water on food
- a fan brush for ‘sweeping’ the set
- brand new small brush for popping bubbles in drinks
- Straws – to thaw frozen berries, get more condensation on glasses of cold drinks, create melted droplets on ice cream, remove liquid etc
- Kitchen bouquet/stock pots to brown meat or anything else – just brush it on
- Make up foam wedges to prop up and hold things in place – these can be cut to size as well
- Small scissors to make alterations on set
- Tweezers to remove or alter fiddly things
- Museum putty (or blue tac if you can’t get it) to hold things in place and remove it without marking
- T-pins, wooden kebab sticks and tooth picks (which can also be cut to size) to hold things in place, particularly stacked food
- Spray water bottle to revive fresh produce
- Spray water/food grade glycerine mix bottle – glycerine holds better than water and beads up to create lovely droplets
- Pipettes for when you want tiny little drops perfectly placed
- Thin cardboard sheets for keeping layers neat and avoid dipping on stacked foods
- Heat gun/small blow torch to colour edges, melt cheese etc
- Cotton wool or tampons for holding boiling water to add steam
- Sea salt flakes, adjustable salt and pepper mills for fine and coarse seasoning
- Mixed herbs, dried parsley, emergency herbs, garlic!
- A few photogenic or seasonal spices -cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom, fennel, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Large potatoes to cut in half and use a hidden platform under soups, casseroles etc and rest chunks/garnishes on
- Extra juice/sauce from whatever you’ve cooked (always pour sauces, gravy etc last as they get a film very quickly!)
- Cooking oil from your pan or extra vegetable oil to glisten foods
- Polishing cloth and gloves for cleaning and handling glassware
- Clean tea towel – low fluff varieties!
- Your hands and eyes – tweezers are good but the natural look works well to, do what you can with your hands, and keep checking that it looks like something you’d want to eat.
These brownies were frozen so i could get a clean cut without disturbing the caramel. The middle one also has a facia cut from another piece - I kept cutting 1cm strips until i got a really nice line of salted caramel and just stick it on top!
I hope these tips have been interesting for you and will help you create your own food content!
For more photography tips and food styling resources please see my learning section for online courses, workshops and free downloads.