10 Important Skills Needed To Be A Food Stylist

Have you ever thought about exploring the field of food styling as a potential career path? in this blog post, I am going to discuss the important skills needed to be a food stylist, Continue reading to find out what skills should be acquired by a person interested in becoming a successful food stylist.

As an aspirant in the food styling industry, you should be able to envision what your final shot will look like, after preparing and garnishing your meals for aesthetic purposes it should scream oh yes I want to eat that, little things matter when taking shots of meals, like the lightening effects, the spacing between two items and the color of the linen.

To be a professional in the food styling industry you should consider attending a culinary school or even taking up a culinary course online or offline, it will make a huge difference because when your culinary skills are combined with artistic talents you will be a great food stylist because the styling of food is a blend of creativity and gastronomy.

In this blog post, I will throw light on the meaning of a food stylist, types of food stylists, what a food stylist does, how to become a food stylist, the skills needed to become a food stylist, and the answers to questions often asked by food stylists and aspirants who are interested in becoming a food stylist.

Meaning Of Food Stylist

A food stylist can be said to be a person who professionally creates displays of food for photo or video shoots, chefs prepare with the taste of the food in mind while food stylists prepare, plate, and arrange food for aesthetic purposes, all food stylists are chefs, but not all chefs are food stylists.

As a food stylist, you should be passionate about your job by ensuring that the food appears in an appealing and visually striking way, You can be a chef and a food stylist but you can also collaborate with great chefs who prepare aesthetically pleasing meals, food stylist use all kinds of edible things to make their shots look amazing.

The food pictures that you see on various billboards, magazines, and videos look enticing because of the creativity and imagination of the food stylist and the photographers.

Types Of Food Stylists

Food stylist differs it all depends on the types of media platforms where it is going to be showcased or exposed to viewers, I have listed below several types of food stylists depending on their area of specialization.

Editorial Food Stylist: 

An editorial food stylist clicks food photographs that are represented in cookbooks, recipe books, newspapers, magazines, and other editorials, it mainly involves photography that demonstrates the recipe, raw ingredients, and other cooking products. 

Advertising Food Stylist: 

A food stylist who works with advertising agencies or marketing teams is an advertising food stylist, a food stylist has to understand the requirements of clients and usually gets a brief from the establishment that needs the advertisement, the food stylist is required to work with the recommended color, prop, and visuals as per the storyboard. 

Web Food Stylist: 

A food stylist who is in the work of styling food items for their representation on websites, blogs, and e-books could be considered a web food stylist, a web food stylist usually does not require too many props or lighting, natural light is mostly preferred by them for its simple setup. 

How To Become A Food Stylist

Below I have written a few steps a person interested in becoming a food stylist can take to have the necessary skills and knowledge needed to succeed as a food stylist, These steps include;

1. Consider Going To A Culinary Or Chef School

Attending a culinary school or studying the culinary arts will give you in-depth knowledge about the culinary arts, skills needed to be a pastry chef, and also the qualifications needed to be a chef will all be covered culinary skills and creativity work hand in glove when it comes to being a food stylist.

Culinary programs are offered by different institutes such as culinary schools, vocational or trade schools, community colleges, and some universities, you can take culinary programs, cooking courses, or even a degree in the culinary arts the knowledge you will get from such programs is invaluable.

You can also take up culinary programs that cover some aspects of food styling such as plate presentation, food decoration, and food science, completing such programs can take as long as six months to four years you just have to choose a course that aligns with your goals and personal interests.

Courses and programs you can take up to begin your career as a food stylist

  • Diploma in Culinary Management
  • Certificate in Culinary Skills
  • BSc in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Culinary Arts 
  • Master of Arts in Teaching- Culinary Arts 
  • Master of Hotel Management in Catering Technology

2. Consider Attending A Food Styling Workshop

Attending a food styling workshop can be an alternative to attending a culinary school or studying the culinary arts, attending a food styling workshop is shorter than committing to a multiyear culinary school program, you can also schedule lessons with private tutors if you are not a fan of learning with other people around.

Training in food styling workshops can take as long as two weeks to 6 months, There are courses online where you can learn from food stylists, and there are also in-person training you can partake in through culinary schools, chef colleges, restaurants, and community centers.

3. Assist A Food Stylist

Assisting a food stylist can be a great way to increase your knowledge of food styling and food photography, assisting someone will give you an up-close experience of what is like to work as a food stylist, you can also seek internships in private companies, and job search sites and professional organizations like the International Association of Culinary Professionals. 

Networking with professionals in the food styling niche will help you a lot especially when you have questions or need guidance you should also normalize asking for help and assistance from people who are bigger or smaller than you are, you can learn from anybody, make sure you attend photoshoots very often.

4. Build Your Portfolio

Building your portfolio can be a great way to achieve success in the food styling industry, you can add images of your food styling work for your portfolio with the permission of the food photographer, and you can build your portfolio by collaborating with food photographers in your quest to build not just your portfolio but your career in general.

5. Acquire Necessary tools

As a food stylist, you should make sure you have the necessary equipment needed to able to innovate and manipulate the appearance of a meal to be appealing and aesthetic, you can easily make a meal look creative by having a tool kit of edible items that can help you convey the deliciousness of a meal through pictures.

Sometimes glycerin is often used to preserve foods, and food stylists frequently use everyday items like cotton swabs, toothpicks, tongs, tweezers, and latex gloves to handle food to make it picture perfect.

List Of Skills Needed To Be A Food Stylist

  • Plating skills
  • Culinary skills
  • Excellent Photography and Photo-editing Skills
  • Creativity
  • Food Preparation
  • Recipe Development
  • Attention To Details
  • Knowledge Of Advertising And Marketing
  • Understanding Of Color Schemes And Aesthetics
  • Knowledge of Food Decorating and Garnishing
  • The Ability To Work Under Pressure

1. Plating skills

Plating skill is one of the most important skills any food stylist needs to perfect their career in the food styling industry because the way the food is plated, the way you present it whether to a guest or for a photo shoot plays a big impact on the way the guest or your viewers perceive the food because perception sells more than the taste of the meal.

As human beings, we are naturally attracted to what we see, and in this recent era where social media marketing and presence matter a lot you need to make sure that your food plating, decoration, and presentation skills are on point, the way you present a meal believe it or not makes it taste better or worse, you can take up a plating course online.

The presentation of a meal makes it look more valuable, appealing, and appetizing to viewers and guests are willing to spend as much as three times more on a well-plated dish, there are different techniques that can be used when plating and presenting a dish that includes;

  • Create height on the plate
  • Cut meat horizontally
  • Play with texture
  • Use contrasting colors
  • Match presentation to the restaurant theme
  • Choose the right late
  • Serve smaller portion sizes
  • Use edible garnishes and decorations
  • When in doubt, keep it simple
  • Express yourself through your plating skills

2. Culinary skills

As I mentioned earlier culinary skills with a blend of creativity is what every food stylist or aspirant needs to kickstart their career, Culinary knowledge plays a big role in food styling, a food stylist can be a chef but not every chef can be a food stylist, you should understand flavors, colorful and edible ingredients that can be used to make your meal look aesthetic.

Having culinary knowledge can help when evaluating and presenting culinary trends, and food styling trends to cookbook editorial teams, You will also be able to create magnificent recipes that can be used to prepare colorful dishes that will not just appetizing in pictures but also to your physical guests.

As a food stylist acquiring culinary skills can go a long way especially when you are trying to style culinary demonstrations for cookbook authors on television, You will also be able to suggest to big food establishments culinary options and plating styles that will attract customers to their business.

3. Excellent Photography and Photo-editing Skills

Excellent Photography and Photo-editing Skills are very important skills needed to become a food stylist After successfully plating your dish and you are not capable of taking a picture that meets your clients or even your personal requirements can be quite disastrous to your career and even your ego as a food stylist.

You should ensure that you take the necessary steps to ensure that the shots of the food you get are all stunning, Taking quality pictures can help you represent your brand consistently.

Food styling also plays an important role in how your picture turns out, it helps you get the best possible capture, it helps you build your brand, and it can boost the success of a social media page or product.

Tips For Excellent Photography And Photo-editing Skills

  • Build contrast
  • Pay attention to the background
  • Use lighting
  • Focus on composition
  • Consider your audience
  • Use good equipment
  • Edit your photos
  • Keep the food in focus
  • Keep styling to a minimum
  • Use garnishes
  • Shoot quickly

4. Creativity

And of course, creativity is the heart of every business, every career, and every job and that is why it is not left out when it comes to food styling, The styling of the food itself inspires creativity, without creativity and a touch of culinary skills, your food picture would not be unique, it’s the uniqueness of your food style that attracts people to it.

Sometimes food stylists doubt their abilities, Whenever you feel like this make sure you keep your styling to a minimum, make it simple at the same time make sure that you use your food as a medium to create a memorable experience for your clients, your guests, and even yourself.

Creativity can help you grow your brand There is a saying that people hate what they don’t know or haven’t seen but when you are creative people will love your work of art even if it’s their first of coming across such a design, Humans are curious creatures we always want to know, you can use this to your advantage.

5. Food Preparation

As a food stylist, you should be able to prepare food in a way that you are conscious of the colors of the ingredients, the colors of the salads, and other things that matter when it comes to food photography, the creation of appetizing and stunning images of food is a very complex process and the way the food prepared is the backbone of the results.

Generally, food stylists are not presented with a particular training specialization so it is left for you to decide if you are going to attend a culinary school, assist a food stylist, or even attend a food stylist workshop this will give you knowledge of the culinary arts, the principal of food design, and food chemistry.

The approach a stylist takes in preparing the food matters a lot there are preliminary steps taken before any food is prepared because the way the food is prepared plays a big role in how the image is to be seen, used, and even perceived by the viewers and gust or even the food establishments you might be working for.

Depending on the food, moisture is retained (or replenished) by brushing or spraying the surface with water or a thin coat of vegetable oil, and keeping the food under cover until needed, This technique creates the appearance of freshness but can also make the food look juicy or even hot, since it is often cold and undercooked when photographed.

6. Attention To Details

In the preparation of meals, the food design, and the final image of the food can come out all wrong if you do not pay attention to the tiniest detail when preparing, styling, decorating, arranging, and presenting the meal, those little details matter when taking a shot, you should make sure that everything is perfect even the lightening effects.

For instance, vegetables are undercooked and kept in cold water until needed to retain their color, Poultry, and meats are also undercooked, or cooked at lower-than-normal temperatures, to prevent them from shriveling or shrinking, and grill marks are branded onto the surface using red-hot skewers if all these details where ignored your image will come out very bad.

7. Knowledge Of Advertising And Marketing

If marketing tells us what is the brand message via such elements as a positioning statement or vision, advertising makes that message come to life by actually getting it in front of consumers, knowledge of advertising and marketing is a skill that every food stylist needs to acquire, the secret of marketing is social media.

Food is a pleasurable product and to be able to advertise food it needs to appeal to all five of the senses in order to make it extra desirable, As a food stylist you should be able to arrange a meal in a way that it appeals to your target audience, taking images of meals that conveys the feeling, smell, and taste of that particular meal helps in marketing.

We humans are not gullible, we sometimes know that the images of food that we see on billboards, on menus, in magazines, or on online ads aren’t as they appear in stores, but like I mentioned before we are very curious beings many customers still want to know whether they are being cheated out of a super-appetizing meal.

8. Understanding Of Color Schemes And Aesthetics

As a food stylist understanding color schemes and aesthetics is an invaluable skill that is needed by every food stylist to efficiently do their work, The art of food presentation, the role of colors in branding and marketing, and the mindful personalization of dining experiences matter a lot in the career of food styling.

The psychology of food colors reveals a fascinating connection between the hues surrounding us and our perception of taste, appetite, and overall satisfaction, This is because we eat with our eyes first, Visual stimulation plays a huge role in the curiosity, excitement, and even cravings a person feels when they set their eyes on that particular dish.

Warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, have been found to stimulate the appetite, while colors like blue and green have a calming effect on our senses, they evoke a sense of tranquillity and freshness, which can be particularly appealing in settings where relaxation and serenity are desired.

9. Knowledge of Food Decorating and Garnishing

The knowledge of food decorating and garnishing, food decoration, and garnishing works hand in glove, Decorating your meal can make it look very appetizing while garnishes can help give your food a finish and add a pleasant pop of color to your images.

Mint, cilantro, pickled onions, or a fresh sprinkling of pepper can enhance your image and the food’s appearance, Consider the flavors and colors carefully when choosing your garnish to make sure the food looks enjoyable, professional, and fancy.

10. The Ability To Work Under Pressure

Food Stylists must have excellent knowledge and understanding of food and cooking techniques, as well as the ability to work quickly and efficiently under pressure to meet tight deadlines.

Why is attention to detail important in food styling?

Small details like positioning ingredients, adjusting lighting, and ensuring proper garnishes can greatly impact the final shot.

Attention to detail ensures a polished and professional appearance.

Is knowledge of photography necessary for a food stylist?

Yes, a basic understanding of photography is valuable.

Knowing how lighting, angles, and composition affect the final image helps in creating photoshoot-friendly food arrangements.

What role does color theory play in food styling?

Color theory helps food stylists create visually appealing arrangements by understanding how different colors complement or contrast each other.

This knowledge enhances the overall look of the dish.

What are the salary expectations for a food stylist?

The salary of a food stylist is a minimum of $60k to $80k per annum.

The salary completely depends on their experience, work experience, and brand also.

skills needed to be a food stylist


In conclusion, becoming a successful food stylist requires a combination of culinary expertise and artistic skills.

Attention to detail, creativity, and the ability to work under pressure are crucial qualities to possess in this field.

Additionally, keeping up with industry trends and being able to adapt to different clients’ needs are also important aspects to consider.

With the right training and experience, anyone with a passion for food and a love for aesthetics can excel as a food stylist.

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