As I stood in the check out line at the grocery store the other day, the beautiful images of the food splashed across the covers caught my eye. I couldn’t help picking up one to flip through as I waited. But I’m a little cynical now when it comes to these gorgeous spreads. You see, I recently attended a food styling class that gave away many of the tricks of trade to creating the images you see in the glossy magazines.
The food styling class is taught by accomplished chef and stylist, Denise Vivaldo. She’s worked as a caterer and has evolved from that to food styling and even is a published author, including a book on food styling. Vivaldo has worked on tv shows like The Love Boat and with celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Sandra Lee and Suzanne Sommers and many more. She has an amazing bio which you can see here. Her site is here.
Given her talent, success and fame, you would think Denise’s demeanor is pretty business-like, right? Wrong. She is totally down-to-earth and approachable (not to mention pretty funny), which is what everyone in our class adored about her. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t teach us a lot. She didn’t hold back when it came to sharing here knowledge and experience. Each of the attendees, coming from different areas of food styling (current food stylist, amateur photographer, food blogger) gained insight from the class.
Ever wonder how they get those perfect shots of ice cream in books and magazines? The truth is it isn’t ice cream, but Crisco. Ice cream wouldn’t keep its consistency long enough for food photography, especially under the heat intense lamps many photo shoots use, so they use Crisco to make faux ice cream.
Being a food styling virgin, I was amazed at all the faux items used in food styling. This is truly a world where nothing is at appears:
- Ice cream that is really Crisco
- Scotch Guard is used on bread when building sandwiches to prevent moisture from making it soggy
- Whipped cream that is really shaving cream
- Fake ice that never melts (and deadly if eaten)
Denise’s Tips for “fixing” Food:
- Use egg white and crushed corn flakes to cover spots where skin has come off of fried chicken
- Want something to stay shiny? Use Karo syrup
- Things that are bad for our bodies are great for styling like Heinz’s Homestyle Gravy. All the stabilizers and preservatives means it never loses color or consistency.
- Denise loves a site called Trengove for buying supplies.
- Museum Wax is a life saver. It really helps keep things in place.
Her advice for budding food stylists:
Every food stylist will develop their own techniques and signature style as their portfolio progresses. She recommends buying food magazines and books and dissecting them from the point of view of a stylist and begin to decipher how exactly the food was set up. Find a mentor in the industry who will help and always refer business to other stylists if it is not a good fit for you.
Interested in taking a food styling class from Denise Vivaldo? She travels all over teaching food styling techniques. Check out the class schedule for her next food styling class.