Career Profile: Food Stylist

What does a food stylist do?
A food stylist is a creative professional who prepares food for photographs or television. They will often work closely with chefs, editors and photographers. Food stylists usually prepare dishes and use styling techniques so food looks great and lasts for the length of the photo shoot. In some cases, the food stylist might also be the food photographer as well. Many food stylists work as freelancers, but some companies also hire in-house food stylists.

What type of schooling do you need to become a food stylist?
Although it’s not necessary, many food stylists have a culinary arts degree from a culinary institute or trade school. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts can also be helpful. Studying art, photography and/or business may also assist in becoming a food stylist. Working or interning under an accomplished food stylist is a good way to learn some tricks of the trade.

What types of skills are best suited to becoming a food stylist?
Understanding of both art and science: Preparing food for photographing requires many different skills. Food styling is both an art and a science. Food stylists need to truly understand the properties of the foods they cook for photo shoots in order to know how far in advance they need to be made. This includes knowing what color an item would appear if it were freshly baked or how to alter chemical compounds of the food so it looks its best and lasts longer.
Interpersonal skills: Food stylists, especially freelance stylists, are constantly meeting and working with new people including photographers, art directors and clients who are paying for the photos or filmed food.
Attention to detail: Food stylists must arrange the food just right so it looks the most appetizing and beautiful. This requires an eye for aesthetics and an attention to detail.

What is the job outlook for food stylists?
In general, the amount of money a food stylist will get paid will vary, depending on several things. Food stylists in larger cities will usually be more in demand, for instance, and can therefore command a higher fee. Since many food stylists work as freelancers and the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data for this particular profession, calculating the average salary of a food stylist can be difficult. Individuals who work in special food services are the closest type of professionals to food stylists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals made an average salary of $40,890 in 2010.

It is difficult to project the long-term career outlook for food stylists for a number of reasons – mainly due to the fact that their profession is fairly small in size. Nonetheless, over the past few decades, the food stylist profession has grown slowly with the needs of various media outlets.

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