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.

About Jerry

I was a science teacher for 31 years. During that time I photographed wedding and Bar Mitzvahs for about 15 years but that was in the days before digital. Being a teacher, I had my summers free so I assisted food and commercial still life photographers in NYC for 3 summers and fell in love with it. Having a wife and a mortgage, it was not practical to give up a job in teaching and go into photography so I put off my dream of becoming a food photographer until I retired from teaching. Now I am living my dream - I am a food and product photographer servicing New York City, Philadelphia and all of New Jersey.
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