Interview with a food stylist – Sefa Firdaus

Besides asking the stylists that I have worked with or communicated with for various projects, I put out a request on Facebook to find food stylists from all over the world. I was curious how the stylists outside the US relate with their photographers.  I received several replies. What I didn’t expect was that some of the food stylists were also photographers. One response was from Sefa Firdaus  Sefa is a food photographer and food stylist from Indonesia and currently getting a Masters degree in Germany. Here are her responses.

1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) Directly from the client (or their agency) as they searched for a food stylist through the net. 

When you first started, was it different? When I did my first food stylist assignment, I got it because I was the food photographer. The client searched for a food photographer, when we met, they were asking for a food stylist. It was totally different from what I did as food stylist for my food blog.

2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client Most of times were directly with the photographer, or agency.

Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking? I have my standard fee but I did negotiate for each booking, depends on the load of the work.

3. Do you work with an assistant? For a small project, nope, but for the big one, yes.

If so, what is the role of the assistant? My assistant role is to provide everything that I need during the assignment, like garnish and props. When the assignments are including cooking the food, she helps me to prepare the ingredients and cook.

Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time? I did both. Have a meeting before the D day and on location.

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? I enjoy working with the photographer who let me explore my creativity but at the same time give me feedback on my work.

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? Most of the photographer I’ve worked with let me to talk directly to client/art director.

Which do you prefer? I prefer that we talk to the client/art director together.

6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Indonesian foods. Why? Indonesia foods are tasty but they do not look good on camera. For example is the infamous rendang.

What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? I love to work with soup. Why? I think because soup is my comfort food.

7. When do you feel most creative? When the deadline is near J

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? Yes, for sure. If so, what? Studio lighting, as I am a natural light photographer.

9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? The chef. Normally I have a chat first with the chef to have some connection. Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio? So far my concerns are only with the refrigerator to store my garnish.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist? To give each other space in doing their job but at the same time advice each other. It is better for the photographer to meet up with the food stylist before the D day, to discuss the concept that the client wants.

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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