Denise Vivaldo is one of those food stylist that is well known in the food photography community. Based in California, Denise’s team is called upon to style all over the world. Denise is the author of The Food Stylist’s Handbook as well as several other titles. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post. When Denise talks, food stylists, food photographers and recipe developers listen. Here are Denise’s responses to my interview questions.
1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) When you first started, was it different?
Currently, from repeat clients, referrals and through my website. In the beginning, through my catering clients and photographers.
2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client? Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking?
Client usually books me directly.
3. 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 work with several assistants and other stylists, depending upon the scope of the particular job. We often use interns. Teaching on the job is something I leave to the stylists who work with me as I no longer have the patience for it.
4. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable?
Good mood and appreciative. Provides coffee, snacks and a nice lunch. Clearly states suggestions and opinions. Good control over their clients and managing their clients’ expectations.
5. 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?
They prefer that I engage with the client.
6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Why? What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? Why?
Frozen yogurt is awful. Very difficult to have a the right temperature for photography if using the real thing. Seafood is my favorite. It’s naturally beautiful to the camera.
7. When do you feel most creative?
When I can style food that I have also written the recipes for.
8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what?
Way too much to put here. But I will say this, photography is hard, lighting is hard, and it’s a joy to work with talented photographers.
9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio?
Restaurant concerns are adequate space and an area to work without disturbing the business of the restaurant. Studios are all different. Some have full working with kitchens with lots of prep tables and refrigeration. Other studios only have a sink in the bathroom and a microwave.
10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist?
Make sure the stylist knows what equipment and space is available at the studio or location. Include stylist in all relevant email.