A Freelance Gig to Consider: Photo Stylist

Have you ever visited a local restaurant's website to order food and thought the image doesn't do the meal justice?  Or you wouldn't order something because the picture looks so gross?  Then there's photographing the body, especially fuller figures that are sensitive to light.  You may be a natural shutterbug that always gets the good shot at family get-togethers or any occasion, so why not capitalize on your talents?  Photo styling basics are skills that can pay off if you are a blogger or web designer with a client base.

Equipment Doesn't Have to Cost More than Rent

Whether your secret is in the filters or knowing how to naturally manipulate light and the subject, or a little of both, these skills are seldom learned overnight.  If you check out the above video, the startup costs are minimal.  However, I do highly recommend using a light box.  These are mostly inexpensive and some smaller models can be folded to fit into any tight space.  Normally, I've spent around $30-40 for something that's not too flimsy and offers a decent built-in light source.

I've taken a few photography classes and while the latest point-and-shoot cameras have obvious advantages for the amateur, investing in a hybrid model brings the best of both worlds.  Once you learn some simple shooting basics, you really won't have much need for extra lenses, lights, and so on.  A few years back, I got a Nikon P350 for under $350 and it's served me well.

Photo Styling: Consumer Goods or Food?

I'd say go for both but it depends on you and your resources.  In other words, food styling is an art in itself.  Think about it, when we buy burgers, the patties aren't always glistening with meat juice or covered in bright, colorful veggies between a fluffy bun.  So yeah, a little advertising (as in a mild lie) goes into the process, and making that happen takes a little work.  I'll get back to this a little later.

On the other hand, shooting everyday products is a good way to learn how to make marketable images. If you decide to incorporate people into your shots, please have them sign a model release form (yes, even if it's grandma who just wants to help out).  Once you get a few good shots on hand, you can build a portfolio to sell yourself to clients in need of new photography for their web presence or sell stock image packs that can be downloaded.

Where the Jobs Are

Look in the mirror.  While Indeed and a few other general job search sites have few listings, the majority of those are in major cities.  And although some are remote positions, they may give preference to someone in closer proximity or has the freedom to travel with minimal notice.  Soliciting your own gigs with a good portfolio may be your best option when starting out.

Other listings called for food styling experience, which means you not only have to know how to position or plate the product but possibly prepare from scratch.  Yep, as in cook! And if you're working with the pros, this means long hours, patience, and dealing with funky attitudes...but the exposure and money can be great!

While foodie culture has been a super-hot commodity for the past decade, the good news is that formal training isn't necessary.  Food styling was covered in my merchandising class and some culinary schools offer short-term training.  However, if you're serious about wanting to get in on the food game, it may help to get in on a basic cooking class.  

I've noticed since the pandemic that many adult schools and community colleges are offering non-credit classes in food preparation and/or catering.  Many are being taught through Zoom, so you can probably get some valuable connections from the comfort of home.  In the meantime, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the tricks used to make food more appealing in advertising in the video below.  Enjoy!