How do I Become a Food Stylist?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A food stylist prepares and arranges food so that it is aesthetically pleasing for still photographs or motion film. He or she can style food for cookbooks, magazines, television commercials, or movie scenes, but generally does not do the actual photography or filming. While there is no specific educational requirement to become a food stylist, it is usually helpful to have extensive experience working with food.

One of the most common ways to begin a food stylist career is to attend culinary school. Culinary school can give basic knowledge on food preparation and handling. It may also offer coursework on food science, so you’ll know how food reacts under different conditions. This knowledge can be helpful for a future stylist career because you’ll know what foods are most likely to wilt or melt under hot lighting for long photography or filming sessions.

Working as a chef in a restaurant can also substitute for culinary school experience. This is a way to experience you may need to become a food stylist, such as arranging food on plates or how to add decorative garnishes. You can also practice styling desserts to put in glass displays or dessert carts.


To apply your food experience skills to become a food stylist, you first may need to develop a portfolio of your work. Many stylists start their careers by working as assistants to established professional food stylists. You can contact stylists to work with through your culinary school advisers or approach stylists who work for publishing houses or advertising firms. Becoming an assistant will give you professional experience and allow you to compile photographs or film clips for a portfolio. Assistant jobs may be unpaid internships or pay very little, so you may need another job with a flexible schedule while you gain experience.

While you’re working as an assistant, network and get contact information for the clients you and the stylist are styling for. Once you have gained a portfolio of clips, use that contact information to inquire about possible job opportunities on your own as the main stylist in the future. This can help you freelance and obtain multiple clients so you can eventually become a food stylist full-time.

Once you have worked full-time as a main stylist, you can continue freelancing or apply for contract positions. If you prefer styling food for still photographs for cookbooks, contact publishing houses that specialize in cookbooks. Approach magazine editors if you want to style food photographs for articles or magazine covers. You can also contact advertising firms to apply as a stylist for television or print advertisements. If you want to style food for movie scenes, get in touch with studios or production companies; however, the work will typically be freelance.


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Post 3

My mother and I once had to arrange food for a shoot. It was just for a cookbook that was being made for my mother's school (she's a teacher), but it was still fun. We sprinkled little hearts on the cupcakes and things like that. The hardest thing was not eating too much of the puddings, although in some cases we needed a bite out of them anyway. It's actually a lot harder than it looks to get all the lighting right, and the food arranged so that it looks the way it's supposed to.

And we were just doing an amateur shoot. I'm sure the big guns take hours just arrange each salad just right.

Post 2

I've heard that even though the food arrangements look absolutely amazing, they are actually not all that appetizing. Often they get sprayed with sealants like varnish to keep from moving, or even oil so that they will gleam properly, or powdered so they won't gleam. There is a reason the hamburgers in the ads look different from the ones they serve you and it's not just because they have their own stylist. It must be an interesting job, but I'm not sure I'd like to work with food like that.

Post 1

I never thought about this! I attend an art institute that has both culinary and photography classes, and it was a friend of mine who mentioned this. I had to look it up! Thanks for the explanation, I am going to keep this career choice in mind!

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