November 6, 2018

Stylish Eats: Learn How to Zhoosh Up Food for Your Shoot

Headless beer and melted ice don't look great on camera, but these food styling tricks will make your delicious subjects look good enough to eat.

Food stylists are magicians. Let's just get that out of the way. I can barely make my homecooked meals look even moderately sublunary, and these friggin' marvels are dressing up dead cow and egg slop sexy enough to put in a commercial on Spike TV.

Those kinds of skills are often hidden inside the coffers deep within the trade secret depository, safe from the sticky fingers of noobs that don't know no better, like, perhaps, you and me. I've never dressed up food for a shoot, but as an Iron Chef devotee since before Bobby Flay ruined everything (Team Morimoto 4 Life), who tries with astounding futility to make her dishes "look like TV," I can say that it's impossibly hard even without hot lights bearing down on stuff that can and will melt before you even screw your lens cap off.

Luckily, Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens and photographer Ed Rudolph share few tips on how to make your food camera ready, from making your soups look heartier to applying fake condensation on those ice cold IPAs from your buddy Tevin's new brewery: Barley & Beard Brewery.

Morgan and Rudolph cover a lot of cool tricks, many of which those who shoot a lot of this kind of commercial work will most likely use quite often.

Here's a quick list of everything they cover:

  • Fake condensation: Spray glass with 50/50 mix of Karo syrup and water to create water beads.
  • Real condensation: Kind of a strange approach to creating condensation, but...fill a glass with very cold liquid and blow your hot, swampy breath all over the glass.
  • Fake ice: Acrylic ice cubs look great but don't float. Silicone look okay and do float.
  • Make glass pop: Place bounce card behind glass to capture more light.
  • Perfect beer foam: Shooting beer without foam is a travesty. Sprinkle some salt in your beer, stir it up, and boom, instant foam.
  • Melting butter:  Cut a pad of butter, then slice the edges at an angle. Use a heat gun or a blow dryer to melt that puppy down over...whatever...a delicious muffin or some sketti.
  • Dilute drinks:  Sodas are too dark to show up on camera. Dilute it with water. (About a 50/50 mix should do 'er.)
  • Fresh poured coffee look: Mix a little bit of coffee and dish soap, then place the resulting coffee bubbles onto your coffee talent.
  • Fake crushed ice: Water storing crystals all nice and plumped up with water look a lot like the crushed ice onto which you put seafood and beers.
  • Hearty looking soup: Soup never looks as good as it does on TV because TV soup has had hella work done. Throw in a few of those acrylic ice cubes or marbles to the bottom of your bowl to make that chicken noodle look nice and perky.

We've got plenty more tips on food styling, but what are some of the tricks you use to make food look good for the camera? Let us know down below.     

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