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 much easier. Let’s dive into my favorite food styling tools.
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Food Photography Styling Tools
WHAT DOES A FOOD STYLIST DO?
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 special ingredients and most importantly, how to prepare and plate food to look gorgeous in front of the camera. It’s not an easy task and if you’ve ever shot by yourself, you’re well aware of the technique involved. If the food looks bad, the image looks bad, so food styling and food photography go hand-in-hand. Below are my favorite food photography styling tools that I learned from the pros.
Food Styling Tool 1: Glycerin
Glycerin is essential on a food photography set. It’s better than just using water in a spray bottle (although these Evion Spray Bottles are 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. The droplets are a beautiful addition of texture thanks to the glycerin. I also recommend having small spray bottles on hand. They don’t take up much space and are easy to carry with you on location.
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 for me many times when styling foods that require some careful construction. Using these tools is much more effective than using your fingers. Fingers get in the way and might accidentally nudge parts of the food that you didn’t want to move.
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 in post production. I have found these wands to be less fluffy and more clean 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 you position food that’s not looking like it’s sitting correctly. They’re soft and can provide a little boost to something that looks flat and support foods that are round and may not want to stay in place.
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 and props become much easier to place in your scene exactly how you want. They’re sticky and more secure than the makeup wedges that I mentioned earlier. It can be really nice to have the option to use something stronger if you need to. And, don’t worry, they won’t damage your props or surfaces when you need to remove them.
Food Styling Tool 6: Soft Fan Brushes
I didn’t learn about soft fan brushes until later in my food photography career. They make it really easy to brush unwanted crumbs out of the way without having to blow them out of the way. I did that many times in the past, but it was much less controlled and sometimes would cause a total mess. 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 shine or color.
Food Styling Tip 8: Small Scissors
Having small scissors on set is key. They’re so convenient for trimming things like stems, leaves or pasta where a larger scissors would be too clunky and interfere the rest of the dish.
Food Styling Tool 9: Pins
T-Pins in a variety of sizes will come in handy when you’re building something like a burger or a sandwich where you need food to be positioned a certain way for that appetizing appeal. I love the 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.
Food Styling Tool 10: Heat Gun
Ready to have some fun on set? A heat gun is definitely a fun tool to have. I typically use a heat gun for heating up foods where I don’t need to be as precise where I’m heating the food. I also use them when I want to take a little more time to heat the food and avoid burned spots. For example, I use this when heating the cheese in a sandwich or on top of a pizza.
Food Styling Tool 11: Kitchen Torch
Why mention a kitchen torch if I just mentioned that I use a heat gun? Great question. I look at it this way: I use the heat gun for heating up foods where I don’t need to be as precise. I use the kitchen torch when I want to focus the heat in a specific area and when I want to heat something quickly to the point of bubbling. For example, I use this when torching the top of crème brûlée.
There are a lot of fun little tools you can have on hand in your home studio. Did any surprise you? Am I missing anything that you find handy in your own food photography and food styling? Comment below on some of your favorite food styling tools. And, as always, reach out with questions anytime!
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.