A food stylist is a creative professional who makes food look more appealing and fresh for photographs, television or even everyday plating. They make the food last longer till the duration of the photo shoot, and sometimes, they are food photographers as well.
Alok Verma (@allaboutthatpalate on Instagram) is a professional Food Stylist who has been practising the art since 2 years now. When asked about the scope of Food Styling as a career in India, Alok says, “It’s a niche concept in India. There are only 10-15 odd people in our country who are practising it professionally and the demand is only increasing.”
He adds, “Most people start as a food blogger and then move on to food styling. I took the same route. At the beginning, I worked with people on a few shoots, gained experience and then started out on my own. The scope is brilliant. Restaurants are realizing the importance of food styling.”
Many food stylists work as freelancers, but restaurants sometimes hire them as in-house food stylists too. Magazines, cookbook publishers as well as advertising agencies, that work with food companies, hire Food Stylists on a full-time and freelance basis. Those pursuing a career in food styling start working under experienced and established food stylists first. Once a novice food stylist gains enough experience and prepares his portfolio, he/she can start creating a clientele of his own.
When asked if there are any courses that one can take to learn food styling, Alok says, “There are online courses by photographers all over the world, but nothing in India right now. No institution and no books. When I started out, I referred to a lot of YouTube tutorials, online books and Pinterest.”
The money a food stylist makes will vary, depending on several factors. Food stylists are more in demand in bigger cities. Alok says,“If you’re working with cafes and restaurants on a small scale you can earn 8k per day. If you work with larger restaurants, you can earn up to 25k per day. So when you add up the number of shoots you can do per month, it’s an amazing amount!”
When asked what he enjoys about the profession, Alok is quick to say, “The greatest thing about Food Styling is that you get to be creative as it’s not a regular 9-to-5 job. That said, if I have to mention one thing that I dislike about this profession it would be the long hours.”
He elaborates, “The job involves a lot of thought and research. We meet our clients in advance and figure out what they want. After that, we spend a few days conceptualizing, arranging props and deciding on apt backdrops. “
Charting the long-term career outlook for food stylists is an uphill task. Mainly because the profession is fairly small in size. Nonetheless, over the past few decades, the food stylist profession has grown steadily.
Alok’s take on it is, “Restaurants are now realizing the importance of food styling. It’s not just about getting a camera and taking pictures. Instead, it involves doing an entire set-up so that each picture looks unique.”