Interview with a food stylist – Lulu Soubhi

Here is another food stylist, Lulu Soubhi that is also a food photographer. Lulu is located in Cairo, Egypt. What I am finding in these interviews is that, no matter where the photographer is from, most things are quite similar. One distinction is the question on the food that you find most difficult to shoot. Lots of different answers for that one 🙂

1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) When you first started, was it different?

When I first started; it was the photographers who would contact me for the job, because most of the clients didn’t realize nor understood the role of the food stylist as they thought the food looked good enough for shooting as the chef presents it. But, in the past couple of years things have changed, and now the client knows the importance of the food stylist in a photo session.

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?

I usually book with the photographer, but only after meeting with the client. Each booking is different, it really depends on the items we are shooting, the direction, the props… etc.

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’m very lucky to have a very detail-oriented organized assistant. He helps me purchase the ingredients and material, and on location he assists me by preparing the contents of each plate, i.e. he cuts the vegetables, prepare the mashed potatoes, he is literally my third hand on site. It’s certainly an asset if the assistant learned on set; this could be very useful for both of us in the future.

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 prefer to work with photographers who don’t treat food like any other product. I love to work with those who know what it means to show the texture, freshness and not to be afraid to take close ups. And mostly I love to work with photographers who have a passion for food.

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?

Usually I talk to the photographer only.

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?

Meat, as it loses its juices quickly and once that happened, it loses its visual appeal. It’s a challenge but I love it

I love working with vegetables, sandwiches and desserts

7. When do you feel most creative?

When the client is open to new ideas and when I don’t have to work with clients branded plates or corporate identity

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what?

I’m actually a food photographer when I’m not a stylist

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?

On site in a restaurant, if the restaurant is providing the ingredients, my main concern would be the freshness and condition of the items. In the photographer’s studio my main concern would be having enough backup or test items.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist?

I believe every photographer should read about food styling, and try to watch how things are done. Also good communication is very important. It’s a mutual thing.

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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