5 tips from a food styling assistant by Georgie Hodgson

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5 tips from a food styling assistant by Georgie Hodgson

Food stylist: Georgie Hodsgon | Photographer: Casey Lazonick | Prop stylist: Cynthia Blackett

If, like me, your dream job is to become a food stylist; assisting is the best place to start.

To clarify for those who are unsure, food styling usually involves the buying, cooking and plating of food for a photographer or videographer to capture. Most professional food shoots will also use a prop stylist, whose job it is to take care of cutlery, crockery, backdrops, and any other necessary items. So the food stylist and their assistant’s roles are to focus on making sure the food looks tiptop.  

So, to help you on your way, I’ve gathered together a few tips on how to prepare for assisting on a shoot, and how to get the most from your experience. 

1. PMA - Positive Mental Attitude

Being likeable and keen to learn are probably the most important qualities you can bring to the table as a food styling assistant. At the end of the day, assisting a food stylist means chatting and communicating with them for long periods of time, sometimes under high pressure. You have got to be able to get on with people, smile, and enjoy what you’re doing - the good, the bad and the ugly! 

Yes, you might have to do a bit of washing up, but you’ll also get a chance to watch the food stylist at work and pick up useful tips. Make sure you do allow yourself time to do this, as you are there to learn. 

2. Be prepared to work hard (and always remember your marigolds!)

As glamorous as it sounds, food styling and assisting can be hard work physically. It’s a long day on your feet, and can include carrying heavy bags and boxes of food and equipment. You might be asked to pop to the shops to pick up ingredients, so always remember to ask for a receipt. 

You will also be required to do a fair bit of washing up. Silly as it sounds, I always take my own washing up gloves, just in case the studio I’m working in doesn’t have any (hand cream doesn’t go amiss either!) 

As well as this, it’s wise to follow good kitchen etiquette of tying long hair back and bringing your own apron. You can ask the food stylist you are working with if you should bring your own knives too - some will have enough for you to use theirs, which will save you lugging yours around. 

3. Don’t be afraid to ask

During my time on the Food Styling evening course at Leiths, I plucked up the courage to ask my amazing tutors (Jennifer Joyce and Katy Greenwood at the time) if I could assist them, and I was thrilled when both said yes! This was an invaluable experience for me, and so exciting to be working with two amazing food stylists on some top food magazines. 

The bottom line is: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So don’t be afraid to reach out to stylists whose work you admire. The worst case scenario is that they can’t take you on at that time but, eventually, someone will say yes. Similarly, when you are assisting don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure about something. It’s always better to raise a flag than to stay quiet and do the job wrong.  

4. Get some practice in

Reach out to photographers’ and prop stylists’ assistants, and ask if they would be interested in planning a test shoot with you. 

This is great experience for all involved, and can lead to some beautiful shots for your portfolio. I’ve particularly found that planning and undertaking test shoots has helped me to become a better and more confident assistant. It’s given me a better understanding of how much pressure a food stylist can be under and, in turn, how I can be most helpful on set. 

“"Being a confident cook is vitally important."”

5. Get as much hands on cooking experience as possible

Being a food stylist means being able to prepare and cook all sorts of different food, in a variety of different kitchens and environments. Therefore being a confident cook is vitally important. You can get experience from assisting food stylists, taking cookery courses, or simply cooking at home. I’ve recently signed up to the Leiths Evening Essential course, to help me build upon my existing experience. I’m looking forward to ironing out the trickier techniques and becoming the best food stylist I can be!   

To learn more about the Food Styling evening course at Leiths, click here

A note on the Leiths Essential Cooking Certificates:

You can take this professional course in the evenings, over a 10 week period, or in a more intensive, full-time format over 4 weeks.

Click here to learn more about the Evening Essential Course. Click here to learn more about the Daytime Essential Course.


About the author 

Georgie works at Borough Market and has taken various courses at Leiths to fuel her love of food and cooking. You can read more of her work and see examples of her food styling at memyselfand-pie.blogspot.co.uk

Instagram: @memyselfand_pie | Twitter: @GeorgieHodgson1

Georgie Hodgson

Author: Georgie Hodgson

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