Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Selling the Sizzle

Ah, food stylists.

To my mind, there are two sub-categories to this profession:

Number 1: The really good ones.

And Number 2: The crap ones (or the number 2 ones).

There is really no in-between.

Either the photo will entice you to really want to eat it,'re gonna throw up a little in your mouth.

There really is an art form to it. It is more than mindlessly snapping a picture of the food. Or the raw materials that magically converge to make the food.

And what is this Potter-esque spell cast upon the comestibles, you ask? Well, there should be a glisten to the meat, a dewy moisture and vivid color to the vegetables. A look to the sundries that beg out to you - nay, that beseech you - : Use me. Pour me. Savor me.

Think of most any glossy magazine with a food feature. They are selling the sizzle, people.

Sure, they might be plying various tools of the trade to bring the inanimate to life, but I do not care about their trickery. I want to know what it's supposed to look like at its best.

What I don't really ever want to see is what I was witness to when perusing one of the community newspapers this morning. This was clearly a case of Number 2's at work.

As in, bah - just take a picture of the package and be done with it.

Glisten? Not in their vocabulary. Lighting? WTH - do you think they are artists? It's food, dammit. You eat it, you use what you need and get rid of the rest. Who needs lighting for that?

So, in the faint hope that there may be a Number 2 (stylist) out there with Number 1 aspirations, let me critique your work, and give you some pointers.

Item 1: White Scented Rice 20 lbs.
What we have here is a picture of a saggy bag of rice. It's kind of sad, and kind of lumpy, like a hunched-over buxom granny wearing a gunny sack at her great-nephew's wedding.

We don't need to see the whole bag (that's what she said). Make us think of Thailand - of hot, sticky, beautiful Thailand. Only do it with rice.

Item 2: New Zealand Greenshell Mussels
You've given me: (a) a picture of the box, with what appear to be pinky-orangey things I can only assume are mussels, and (b) a disgusting header.

Firstly, don't be lazy. Food styling by putting a picture of a product with a picture of the product on it is like one of those pictures of me looking in a mirror in mirror. Vaguely arty, but kind of dizzy-inducing. And a little obtuse to those who are unable to see your clever nuances.

To be quite honest, though - I don't know how you could possibly pretty up mussels. They look like something I cough up after a good workout.

Good luck on this one.

Item 3: Frozen 31-40 Shrimp
You have a picture of 5 shrimp, on a white background, huddled together in some sort of oceanic orgy.

Perhaps you could put some context with the shrimp. Because right now, this could be a picture of them on the ground in the parking lot, or on a plate at La Circque. I don't know. And I want to.

A sprig of parsley might be a nice touch. Everyone loves the parsley.

Item 4: Fresh Chicken Feet
Again, I really don't have anything constructive to say to help you out. What I do know is that your photo of a pile of chicken feet looks like a crime scene photo from the Foghorn Leghorn Gazette.

This is not appetizing. Everyone loves the Foghorn.

Item 5: Fresh Beef Bubble Meat
Where do I begin? How about let's start with the phrase, "Bubble Meat"? Where, exactly, is that cut on the cow?

And why, dear God, is it bubbly?

Perhaps just a picture of a cow with an arrow might suffice.

Item 6: Mandarin Egg Tofu
What does one do with this food item? I sure would like to see an "after" picture here. Give me some ideas.

Because the "Before" picture? Looks like a take-out packet of chunky mayonnaise.

Item 7: Long Green Bean
I am sure, with the slightest of efforts, these could be made to look quite savory. Place them in a bowl, curled up. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. I don't even need to know that they're not cooked.
Sometimes, mystery is a very good thing, indeed (although never in the case of Item 5).

Just showing me a picture of two bundles of them, laid out with elastics tethering one end? It would appear to be some alien haar weave, waiting to happen.

And quite frankly? The only thing sizzling right now is my retinas.

Get on it, Number 2s -we are living in a gourmet world.

And if you can artfully sell Bubble Meat there, you can sell it anywhere.

Just make sure you sizzle that a little bit longer than usual.

To get all the bubbles out.


Mental P Mama said...

Where the hell are you?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

You had me at nay.

Then I read everything else and howled with laughter.

The Foghorn Leghorn Gazette crime scene photo simply pushed me over the edge.

(*raucous applause, very loud whistling and stomping of the feet*) Encore! Encore!

Cormac Brown said...


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