Food styling is a true specialty and I absolutely love working with talented food stylists. But, many times food photographers have to work without a food stylist which is why it’s incredibly important to have some food photography styling tools on hand to make managing the food a little easier. Let’s dive into my favorite food styling tools that I use when I’m shooting by myself.
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What Is Food Styling?
First, let’s talk about what a food stylist actually does. Food stylists know food inside and out ranging from what’s in season, where to source their ingredients and most importantly, how to prepare and plate food for the camera. It’s not an easy task and if you’ve ever shot by yourself, you’re well aware of the technique involved. Food styling and food photography go hand-in-hand. If the food looks bad, the image looks bad. If the food looks good, but is poorly lit or composed, the image looks bad.
Food Photography Styling Tools
Food Styling Tool 1: Glycerin
Glycerin is essential on a food photography shoot. It helps you give ingredients a little “spritz” to make them look appetizing and fresh. Glycerin is better than just using water in a spray bottle (although these Evion Spray Bottles are really great). When you mix glycerin with water (usually a 1:1 ratio), it helps form little droplets that will stick to the food and make it look oh-so-fresh. Water tends to drip right off of the food leaving you with something that looks more wet than fresh. You’ll want to have some small spray bottles on hand for this as well.
Food Styling Tool 2: Food Styling Kit
Mike got me this food styling kit a while back and I absolutely love it. There are a variety of different spoons and different sized tweezers that have come in handy when styling foods that require some careful construction. Using your fingers is an option, but it’s much harder to be as precise as you might want to be.
Food Styling Tool 3: Makeup Wands
These little makeup wands are good for more than just lip gloss. 😉 I have used Q-tips in the past for cleaning up small smudges on the dishes, but sometimes the cotton will leave behind small pieces of lint which creates more clean up work on set or in post production. These wands are less fluffy and are easier to use for food styling.
Food Styling Tool 4: Makeup Wedges
Continuing with the makeup trend, makeup wedges come in handy on a food set too. They can help position food or props that looks like they’re not sitting correctly, give a little boost to things that might look flat and provide support for objects that are round on the bottom.
Food Styling Tool 5: Museum Putty
I highly recommend getting some museum putty. A little goes a long way and helps those “hard to position foods” be much easier to work with. They’re sticky, but won’t damage anything they stick to. They’re definitely more secure than the makeup wedges that I just mentioned, so it can be nice to have a stronger option on set if you need it.
Food Styling Tool 6: Soft Fan Brushes
I didn’t learn about using soft fan brushes on set until I was working with a food stylist who wanted crumbs, but not as many that were currently exposed. These brushes made it really easy to get rid of unwanted crumbs without having to get rid of all of them. I recommend getting a variety of sizes that are soft and anti-shedding.
Food Styling Tool 7: Paint Brushes
It’s always good to have a great selection of small paint brushes on hand in case you need to carefully touch up some of the food to give it a little more glisten, shine or color.
Food Styling Tool 8: Small Scissors
Having small scissors on set is key. They’re so convenient for trimming things like stems, leaves or pasta. Larger scissors are simply too clunky to use on delicate ingredients.
Food Styling Tool 9: Pins
T-Pins will come in handy when you’re building something like a burger or a sandwich where you need food to be positioned in a way that emphasizes layers. I love T-Pins because the “T” at the top makes it easier to remove them when you’re done. Toothpicks are a great tool to have on hand as well, but can be a little tricky to remove at times. If you are working with T-pins on set, be sure to make sure everyone knows the food is NOT edible. It’s easy to snack on food shoots, but the last thing you want is for someone to bite into a T-pin. (Yikes)
Food Styling Tool 10: Heat Gun
A heat gun is definitely a fun tool to have on set. It’s a simple way to add that melty deliciousness to certain foods like cheeseburgers or pizza. Cheese, for example, is very time sensitive, which makes it tricky to work with. If it sits too long, it looks dry and dull. A heat gun can help you capture the perfect melting point even after it has been sitting for a little while. A heat gun is also a slower burn, so you’ll be able to control just how melted you want the cheese to be.
I hope this post gave you some ideas for food styling tools you can have on hand for your own food photo shoots. Did I miss anything that you find handy for your food styling? Comment below and share some of your favorite food photography styling tools. Reach out with questions anytime!
READ MORE ABOUT: FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.