Brand Assets: An Interview With Food Stylist Kim Krejca

McDonalds published a video last month about how they prepare a hamburger for a media shoot, and it got us thinking about all the work that goes into a product shoot – especially food modeling.

At Mainstream Data, we don’t do any sort of product shoots (how many lights does it really take to make a screenshot look good?) but we do work with a lot of companies who do, whether it’s a shoe or a piece of food or they’re marketing a burger for someone else. Because so many of our clients get involved in this field, we thought we would too.

The McDonald’s video was interesting, but we wanted to dig a little bit deeper into the field, so we interviewed Kim Krejca, an expert in the field of food styling, and came to better understand the huge amounts of time and money that goes into creating content for just one item.

Krejca is a food stylist that has been working in advertising for more than 25 years. Food styling is an industry where professional stylists will either create imitation food or manipulate real food to look its best for a camera shoot. The piece of food is often called the “hero” or “star” and an entire team is dedicated to making it look its best.

The typical tools used for a photo shoot depends on the type of food being styled. Krejca explains, “What is almost always on set are dental tools, tweezers, paint brushes, cosmetic wedges, q-tips, tacky wax, wooden skewers, rubbing alcohol, oil, and zap-a-gap adhesive.”

One prep day is usually needed for every set day; during this prep day, the stylist is cooking anything that will hold, and the photographer is adjusting the lighting and set. Krejca says, “At that point the client, photographer, and myself discuss changes to the food styling, then I make the hero. Typically 5 to 7 shots can be done in a day.”

Krejca say there are many tricks that have been passed through the industry to enhance color or skirt around the negatives of some foods. For example,

  • a pineapple will be soaked in water with yellow food coloring until the desired color is achieved.
  • Sesame seeds will be glued onto buns to make them appear more appetizing.
  • Red lipstick will cover green parts on a strawberry.
  • Grill marks are carefully made one by one with a skewer, then waxy eye brow pencil will be used to darken the marks.
  • Kitchen bouquet (a seasoning sauce) will darken meats or make fake coffee and tea.
    “I always use fake coffee,” Krejca says. “Real coffee has an oily film I can’t control.”
  • Glue will be replaced for milk in cereal commercials.
  • To make ice cream, often Crisco is mixed with powdered sugar, and then WD- 40 adds some highlights. When a client wants real ice cream, the stylists will use dry ice to maintain the temperature until ready for pictures, and will also blow through straws (check out 5:40) to get the exact perfect melting in target areas.

Then of course, Photoshop takes over to enhance color, correct blemishes, create a setting, and so forth, says Krejca.

With all the work that goes one to get just 5 to 7 photos, we understand how frustrating it can be when you look over a product and find out a couple different groups ordered more than one product shoot. During an audit of a new product, one Fortune 50 company realized that between all the different groups in their company, they’d ordered more than 30 photo shoots for this single product. You probably don’t need to work on replacing parts of a shoe or soda can with glue or adding grill marks, but we imagine there is still a lot of work that goes into each shoot – and that’s a lot of time wasted when people don’t know if they already have usable product photos.

Mainstream Data has a simple solution to this problem. Put all your brand assets on one platform, give everyone access to the content they need to see, then you avoid all the confusion. This means there won’t be another 30 product shoots and that means you’re saving money and time.

Contact us today to set up a demonstration to see how Mainstream Data can help you manage, publish, and measure your digital brand assets.