Interview with a food stylist – Michael Giletto

Finchi 0188 I am going to try a series of interviews with food stylists-some of which I have worked with and some that I have only communicated with on Facebook. They will be from various locations around the world. The questions are based on a what I thought an emerging food photographer would ask. My first set of responses came from  Michael Giletto. Michael is a food stylist and an executive chef working in New York City and New Jersey. Michael and I go way back, we’ve worked together many times both for clients and “play dates.” The questions for each responding stylist will be the same. Here are the questions and Michael’s responses along with some photos that Michael and I have worked on together.

  1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) Most of the  assignments come through referrals of friends, Photographers, media contacts and or clients themselves…surprisingly some from Craigslist™. When you first started, was it different? When I started I would not say different, I would say much easier then now…more demand, tight budgets and fewer projects are in place now.
  1. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency Pork bites on handlesor the client? Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking? When booking, it really is wide open these days to whom is arranging the shoot…all the above apply, I do have a strong set fee in place, however with new budgets and new clients and very green media contacts straight out of school it tends to be a negotiating game now.
  1. Do you work with an assistant? If so, what is the role of the assistant? Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time? I usually work alone unless the project is multiple days shoots then I usually call in an assistant, the assistant will help load in and out, follow my lead with prepping the staging of the food in level formats, reading the recipes over and over to assure proper form and to make sure we deliver the correct message the client is trying to send. Teaching is in every form from the minute our feet hit the floor to the last second that camera gets turned off…
  1. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. Pickled Beet Salad Food Photography What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable? The one I enjoy themost makes the day fun, laughing, jokes, shoots on days off, is open to being creative, open-minded, follows my lead sometimes. And most importantly you build a life of friendship with that photographer and all by just a simple Craigslist posting turning into a man whom you can confide to, cry too and he never lies, always tells the truth even if it hurts!  
  1. There is a protocol when discussing changes on set. Do the photographers you most often work with prefer that you talk just to them or engage directly with the client/art director? Which do you prefer? Both, but I tend to speak to just the Photographer, the photog is the one with the eye behind the lens, Im just a back up eye…
  1. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Why?     What type of food do you enjoSea Bass Food Photographyy working with the most? Why? I enjoy fish, whole, fillet and or raw…the skin colors are always a delight on the camera and the texture really stands out! Most difficult ….hmmmmm…. thinking ….. cheese-enough said!!!


  1. When do you feel most creative? Spring and summer months…everything is vibrant, alive and growing…makes for great food photos
  1. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what? Gosh…I hCucumber Salad Food Photographyave learned some many things…lighting, mirror work, shadows and highlights, F stops and time management of food as well as for the clients, learning set design, prop staging, blocking, how to use sunlight and lighting as if its real
  2. sunlight…lots more
  1. Chef Michael Giletto

    Michael Giletto at our first shoot together.

    What advice would you give to someone starting out in food styling? Learn with and from your photographer it’s a real eye opener to gain his or her knowledge.

  1. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist? Keep it fun and a open mind on angles you never know when that one angle is the prize winner.

You can visit my portfolio to see more of Michael’s work. He has styled at least half of my portfolio.

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You can take the teacher out of the classroom but…

My photography interest started in High School. I took photography as my art class with Mr. Flicka. Little did I know how that inspiration would affect my life. In college, I became an assistant for a local wedding photography studio but, my chosen field of study was Chemistry and I wanted to be a high school chemistry teacher. It took almost 3 years after graduation to finally get a job teaching science but, junior high – not high school. During that time, I started photographing weddings on my own. I stayed in junior high for 8 years and finally moved to a high school. Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, NY. I was finally a chemistry teacher. I taught there for 23 years.

So, now, I am retired from teaching and back to a career in photography – food photography. It’s been 5 years that I have been out of the classroom. Why am I talking about this today? Today, someone on Facebook thanked me for being such a good teacher. I am an administrator for a Facebook group of food photographers and bloggers. I have become the “teacher” in the group. I am teaching food photography – more from a technical point of view since the aesthetic point of view varies so much from one individual to the next. So, what did I learn today? You can take the teacher out of the classroom but, you cannot take the classroom out of the teacher. What did you learn today? Visit my portfolio at

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Being in the right place at the right thyme

A food stylist, Janine Kalesis asked me to do a demonstration of food photography at a charitable event for They sponsor a food and wine show with celebrity chefs and local restaurants and wineries. Janine was demonstrating food styling and I was demonstrating food photography. In spite of all the photographers that say don’t work for free, I thought that this was a worthwhile donation of my time.

I arrived at the event early, set up my equipment in the small space and put out my portfolios. I took photos of the food that Janine was styling. Janine was demonstrating how to make fake ice cream, how to dress a burger and a cold drink. At best, I thought I would be getting some images for my collection.

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Well, to my surprise, a few days later, I received a phone call inquiring about taking photos of a catering hall. They saw us at the food show and liked what they had seen. Unfortunately, Janine and I were not available on the same days and then I was off to my vacation in Israel. So, we agreed to set a date when I got back. Happily, they did call again and we did the job. The hall was beautiful and so was the food (and based on my lunch, delicious as well.) So, to all of those that espouse to not work for free, I whole heartedly disagree. If you do good things, good things will come back to you. I’ll post a link to the catering hall when the website is done.

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How Sweet It Is

BrownieA spoonful of chocolateIt’s been a long and snowy winter and not much has been going on until recently. But, things are looking up and March has turned in to quite a busy month.

If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I shoot lots of chocolate and desserts. This has been a punishment for me. All of these delicious, gorgeous treats and I can’t have any of them – I’m diabetic. Well, I’ve been paroled.

Finally, I have a client with delicious desserts that I can enjoy. They have a version of their Brownies and Chocolate Mousse that are sugar free . Woo Hoo!

Brownies and Mousse

And for those of you in a different prison than the diabetic prison, these products are also gluten free, nut free, kosher, and they even have a kosher for passover version.

I am editing this post to add the name of the website where these images appear.

Brownie Circles

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Happy 2014

I just wanted to take this moment to wish everyone a happy new year. Happy 2014

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Woo Hoo!

The first time I watched CreativeLive was when Neel of told us that Penny DeLosSantos was appearing on the show. I had no idea that this message would have a major influence on my life. CreativeLive presents 3 day courses that are free to watch live. I watched and I watched and I watched. I was hooked on CreativeLive. I’ve watched many photography courses since.

This week was no exception. Studio Lighting – The Power of Control with Tony Corbell was on. Tony was showing how to use light modifiers for portraits and I usually don’t do portraits. However, I was intrigued by his sense of humor, simple explanations and “old school” posing techniques.

What was different about this CreativeLive course is that Tony Corbell was hosting a photography contest. All you had to do was post your best studio lighting image on Facebook. So, I did.

There were hundreds of entries. Mostly portraits but some still life images. At the end of the third day, Tony critiqued six images and WOW, one of them was mine. I was soooooo excited. His critique was very complimentary and I was in the running for winning a prize but, not until after the break. Boy, that was a very long 15 minutes.

So, to cut to the chase, I won second place. Woo Hoo! Thank  you Tony Corbell and thank you CreativeLive. Really nice prizes too…pocket wizards, Induro tripod and ball head, WHCC photo box and Triple Scoop Music. Cool!

wine on black 768

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am a fan of the photo books at Well, in preparation for PDN Photo Plus Expo 2013, Adoramapix asked if they can use my photo book as a sample for their booth. WOW, what an honor. I was blown away. Thank you

This week, Adoramapix asked me to give them 5 food photography tips for their blog. Having already made a “tips”post, I referred them and summarized the first few into 5 tips. They are using my tips and featuring my website on their blog.

This is so cool.

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