September 22, 2008

Food styling is the art of manipulating food to look a certain way.  Usually the desired goal is to make the food beautiful or enticing, although sometimes historical accuracy or dramatic effect trump attractiveness -- see Big Night or Tampopo.  Whenever you see food in the media -- be it in magazines, books, newspapers, television commercials, or movies -- a food stylist was involved.

Approaches to food styling can vary widely. Some stylists lean heavily on artificial colors and food additives. Common tricks include painting “roasted” turkey with brown coloring, creating scoops of “ice cream” from a concoction of frozen vegetable shortening and powdered sugar, and using white glue in place of milk.

At Cooking Light, food styling means portraying the honest character of a dish. We take great pains to show our readers an accurate representation of any given dish in terms of texture, color, and portion size.

Our photography is natural – meaning that we typically rely on sunlight instead of artificial lighting, and that we never use fake foods or ingredients of any kind. Ever.

All of the food styling in Cooking Light is done by members of the Cooking Light Test Kitchen, which means that the food stylists are intimately familiar with each recipe and its individual qualities. This helps us show you each dish at its best while keeping it real.

Sometimes "keeping it real" means repetition.  Do you know how quickly a perfectly made soufflé falls? In minutes. That means that behind every gorgeous soufflé photograph in Cooking Light there was a hardworking food stylist making the recipe as many times as it took to get the shot.

The food stylist is not a lone operator. A photo shoot at Cooking Light is a real team effort, requiring the collaboration of many specialized talents. Along with the food stylist are a photographer, a photo stylist, a food editor, and a designer from the art department. We have to consider the big picture to do a good job on even the smallest photo.

We take great pride in the images we produce. We hope they please your eye and whet your appetite.

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