So Stylin'

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I spend anywhere from 3 to 6 days every month art directing photo shoots for work. If basic math serves me correctly that's about 72 days a year. Each day lasts around 10 hours, and that adds up to around 720 hours. Seven hundred twenty hours. 720 hours of standing around, fussing, getting splattered, primping and playing with food. 720 hours of lighting decisions, camera angles and correct cropping. And 720 hours spent with a food stylist.

I've written about food stylsts before in my blog, hoping to shed some light on a fascinating yet under-appreciated skill in the food industry. Their jobs go unrecognized, yet their work is all you see. They make the foods and the drinks you see appealing, appetizing, delicious and, most importantly, sellable. They lug around the ubiquitous 4-ton tackle box that's ready to go at the drop of a hat. They have the patience of Job, the skill set of a chef, the ability to work under a ridiculously insane amount of pressure, satisfying every whim of the oftentimes fickle Art Director. They're the ones that make me look good. And they do all this with a smile on their face.

(Well, most of the time they do.)

A good food stylist is a wonderful ally; a great food stylist is indispensable. The truly successful food stylists can command a pretty penny for their day rate, but when you break it down, it' s worth it. One bad move or lack of preparation on a stylist's part can be a headache as it only slows down the photographer and the shoot. And that is certainly no fun.

I've seen stylists create an elegant still life diorama out of ugly cheese, fashion a thirst-quenching margarita without ice, and prepare an thanksgiving meal in 20 minutes - thanks to their tools of the trade. No, I'm not saying it's slight of hand or an effort to fool the consumer, but it certainly is magic. And it's fascinating.

To my friends and food stylists, I thank you for making my world beautiful and delicious. I love you guys.

Endless hugs and gratitude go to the amazing Beth of Food Fanatics for the best looking cocktail shots I could ever dream of. You are amazing!

7 Responses to “So Stylin'”

  1. Anonymous melissa 

    what a great insight into your world, matt. thanks for sharing that. and as always, beautiful photo!

  2. Anonymous Beth 

    Oh, Matt. I love you (sob). Thanks for being such a bright spot in an otherwise sucky month. And now I will post. xo, B

  3. Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande 

    Love this post Matt. I have a lot of admiration for food stylists and photographers, and this is surely a world that attracts me a lot. Play with colours, textures, food and light. A real art!

  4. Anonymous tami 

    i just want to hug your neck right now :)

    i wish one day we could collaborate - too fierce we'd be!

    i want to say thank you to *people like you* who know the work that EVERYONE on the shoot puts in. so often, everyone beyond the photog and the AD are overlooked...and its nice to see that someone is giving shout outs.

    your blog is beautiful and a joy - whether you heap on the praise or not.

    just lovely. thank you :)

    - t*

  5. Anonymous John 

    So what I want to know is how one learns to be a food stylist.... I love the thought of making food fit to photograph. Not to mention the thought of a fridge always full of wonderful leftovers, like a certain food-stylist friend of mine. I expect that I should get my butt to cooking school, but....

  6. Anonymous Helen 

    It's not until you try to take a classy photo of your own home-cooked efforts for your foodblog that you start to realise how much effort and expertise goes into food styling. Great post. A wonderful ode =)

  7. Blogger 日月神教-向左使 

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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