Unless you are a professional food stylist, you most likely would not need an extensive arsenal of supplies. A modified version, with the basic essentials, would definitely do the trick. To keep it simple, I will call them…The Basic Twelve.
1. Tweezers- A good assortment of shapes, styles and sizes…tweezers are more nimble than fingers! If you need to accurately remove from or add to your plate, tweezers are invaluable.
2. Spray bottles- These are a mist…I mean a must. A good spritz of water can bring failing food back to life.
3. Small brushes- A good assortment of pastry and small brushes. These are good for touch ups of color or shine, adding glycerin water droplets or brushing away crumbs in hard to reach places.
4. Kitchen Bouquet- This is an amazing and versatile liquid! Easily found in your local grocery store as it is sold as a gravy browner. It is usually in the isle with BBQ sauces. (Check out our article on How to Use Kitchen Bouquet for Food Styling Beverages.)
5. Glycerin- Another versatile tool of the trade. It can be mixed 50/50 with water (it is generally too thick to spray by itself) in a spray bottle and spritzed onto fresh vegetables or a glass for condensation. It is thicker than water so the droplets have more weight. I like to use it full strength to apply, with a small brush, “water droplets” to tomato slices in a sandwich or hamburger. They are there 80% of the time, don’t know why, but they are… check it out. I also like to use it to “juice up” meat or anything that is looking a bit dry. I prefer it to oil which makes things look…well…oily.
6. Cleaning supplies; Windex, paper towels and cotton swabs- The camera sees smudges so it is essential to start with a clean plate. You can store the Windex in a small spray bottle so it’s not so large on your tray. Having the paper towels already pulled off the roll and stacked makes it easier when you need it quick (the smaller Select-a-Size rolls work great).
7. T-pins- These hold things together and in place when necessary such as building a sandwich or hamburger. Remember, what the camera doesn’t see doesn’t matter. Just be sure the camera doesn’t see it!
8. Scissors- I have an assortment on hand in varying sizes and strengths. Good for trimming rough edges off meat,bread, etc.. Honestly, who can live without scissors?
9. Knives- An assortment is good. The three knives I use most are paring, bread and a slicer. But you can never have too many knives in my opinion.
10. Bamboo skewers and toothpicks- Used to fine tune positioning or to keep things in place.
11. Wedge shaped cosmetic sponges- Useful to prop up food from the back…where the camera doesn’t see.
12. Squeeze bottles-Good for strategically applying sauces and condiments. That’s the thing with food styling, you want to have the control of what you see as much as possible.
Before you start preparing your food, have these ready. You don’t want to be scrambling around looking for a toothpick or spray bottle when you are ready to take your shot. It’s a good idea to have them all handy on a tray. I use a sheet pan with a towel on it so things don’t slide around, but anything you have on hand can work. What’s important is that all your tools are visible and within reach.