First, Kristina has been a food stylist since 2009, and she’s learned some hard truths about the industry. She’s here to tell you that competition will only make you bitter, but community will help you grow. She knows why it’s important to show up, stay humble and make a difference.
She’ll show you how being a team player will get you more work and how to become indispensable to the people around you.
For Kristina, working as a food stylist isn’t just a job—it’s an opportunity to create beautiful things with people who care about making their work better. Additionally, she knows that it takes a lot of hard work to get there, but if you’re willing to put in the effort and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, then success isn’t out of reach!
My whole life has revolved around food and my interest in the many ways it intertwines into our lives. Working with food has been the single constant passion throughout my life, starting with cooking family meals as a child and young adult, to running a bakery, my own catering business, and now as a commercial food stylist (by way of a stint as a production assistant for an eight episode block of TLC’s Home Made Simple shot in Austin). Once the show wrapped, I started Girl Gone Grits Food styling and in the years since, I have been fortunate to have worked with both iconic national brands, such as Whole Foods and McDonald’s, and regional favorites, like HEB and the Texas Beef Council.
[00:00:00] Mica: Welcome to the seventh episode of The Savory Shot. I'm your host with the most Mica McCook. I'm a food photographer based in Austin, Texas. First things first, did y'all catch episode six with Amy Cooper. Y'all. Don't sleep on that episode. It's packed with real talk and vulnerability. We took a deep dive into why women need to get loud, knock on doors, kick them down, if you must to get seen and get heard. Y'all.
You don't want to miss it. There's some real truth bombs in that episode, but I want to talk about today's guest. This one, y'all?
Is really special. Today's guest is Kristina Wolter. She's a food stylist based here in Austin and has been working her food styling magic since 2009. [00:01:00] Y'all she's been in just about every food styling situation you can imagine. Christina first came across my radar in 2016 when I was just getting started in food photography.
My friend Brio recommended that I reach out to her, but y'all.
It took me four years to gather up the courage.
But, Hey, when I finally did it. It was worth every minute of waiting. Y'all. From day one, Kristina showed me kindness. From day one, she was so giving with her knowledge. But what makes Kristina stand out- is her heart. It's made from pure gold. She truly cares about helping new photographers and food stylist and wants nothing but the best for them.
Y'all. People like her. Must be protected. [00:02:00] At all costs. Because I can name like two people who exemplify this level of awesomeness.
I'm so, so, so happy to have her on the show. And I'm even happier to call her my friend. Y'all.
I hope you take the time to fully absorb every word she has to say, because. Kristina is one of those people whose wisdom will stay with you forever. Forever. Forever ever.
Sorry. I had to. I had to.
Real talk though. In this episode, we discuss, so many things. We talk about our mutual belief in community over competition, the hard truth about food styling and what it means to be a team player. But before we get into that. Let's start the show.
[00:03:37] Mica: I wanna start this off by saying thank you for agreeing to be a guest on The Savory Shot. I am so excited that you're here and I know that there's so much that the listeners will learn from you.
[00:03:50] Kristina: Ah, Mica, thank you so much. I appreciate it. It's my pleasure.
[00:03:54] Mica: I want to get into the meat of this. I love the bio that you [00:04:00] sent over to me. You described that you got into food styling as a production assistant on TLC's Homemade Simple. What do you remember about that first day on set?
[00:04:15] Kristina: It's funny. It was pure chaos. I was totally faking it till I made it because I knew I was working for a celebrity chef and I knew I was assisting her, which was my job. In the interview, which was on Christmas Eve, on the interview from New York, with the producers, they had said Do you work well with divas? Do you work well with people that are in charge? And I said, absolutely. I, I can flip those roles anytime. But I was super nervous because I thought I'm not a trained culinary student, so I'm not quite sure what she's gonna require from me. I don't know if we have a personality conflict.
How can I prove to her that I'm not going after her job, that I just really wanna assist her? Sounds really crazy, but lots of prayer and lots of guidance [00:05:00] over that. The first time I met her, I just adored her and I made it very clear to her that I was there to assist her in any way that was that she needed, that this was all new to me and I'd never been on a film set before. That although I've done catering and I've done all these other things. I had never worked in film. So I was super nervous and if she would guide me, I'd guide her. Like I would do whatever she needs. I believe the very first day, which was total chaos, I look at now because it's not chaos at all because I work on film shoots all the time.
But that being the very first one, I was so freaked out and nervous. I didn't have a kit. I showed up with an apron. They had two tubs like storage tubs, because they traveled with this show. So one storage tub had cooking utensils and then the other storage tub had pantry items so that I didn't have to repurchase spices and things like that.
I look back now. I would change all that because now I bring, my kit's huge. And so when I bring that [00:06:00] to a, a, a set, I bring everything. I didn't realize I was doing food styling for that show. I look back now and I realize because I was hired as a, an assistant to the celebrity chef. But I look back now I realize everything I did was food styling. And I learned so much on that show. It fed a hunger for me to wanna do more. I was like, you know, I really wanna do this, but I think if I do this, I also have to be a food photographer because I have to take really good pictures too.
In my mind, I thought it all was the same.
We bought a camera and I said, oh, now I gotta learn photography. I have no desire to learn photography. And my husband, he knows photography or he took it in college, so he had a lot of background in it. But for me it was like, Ew, that's a lot. I just wanna play with food.
I just wanna make it pretty for the photographers. That job when we were finished shooting [00:07:00] those months of craziness, I learned so much on the set there and I formed relationships with some of those people that I'm still friends with today. It allowed me to open doors in the food industry, within our community.
I was asked to sit on the board of the brand new Austin Food Bloggers Alliance at the time, the original board. They gave me the philanthropy chair, which was perfect for me, cause I love hosting things. I love doing things like that. And especially for charity work. In that group, they wanted to help bloggers by offering classes and one of the classes they offered was food photography with a local food photographer. And I remember sitting in the class and thinking to myself, what have I got to lose? I'm just gonna go up and ask her, do you take on any interns? Can I tag along? Can I like I don't and that's not like, like me, usually I'm really nervous to step out on [00:08:00] that and, and do that, but I decided I was gonna do it.
I got the gumption, I went up there and the first thing I met there was, yeah, absolutely. I've gotta shoot next weekend at a local restaurant. Would you like to join me? And I was like, yes. I went there thinking still that I needed to be a photographer. Well, we got to the restaurant, it was a French restaurant and we were doing some restaurant shoots for it.
And I was learning that this was a lot smaller scale than the production I was on. And I liked it. I noticed when they would bring the food or whatever, I was more in tune to the way it looked for her, as well as assisting her with skins and all that lighting and whatnot. We worked really well together.
And at the end of the shoot, I confessed to her that I really didn't have the desire to be a photographer. I really just wanted style the food. And she goes, well, I really don't need the competition and she said, but I really could use a [00:09:00] stylist. And if you're willing, we could build a portfolio together.
So that's what started our, our relationship. And we worked for about two years just working, building our portfolio together. And that's when I realized I didn't need to be a photographer. I've learned a lot over the years working with a lot of photographers, but I've always come into it as that's your specialty.
That's what you know. That's what you do well. Let me do what I do well, so together we can collaborate and make a beautiful image. I've stuck with that same philosophy, and there are shoots where I work with some photographers that are more advanced than others, but they all have a passion and they all have a skill.
If I can add any little bits of knowledge that I've gotten from other photographers to give to them, I will. But ultimately at the end of the day, I don't know all the lighting. I don't know all that stuff because that's not where I put my passion in. What I put my passion in was learning how to create the food and how the [00:10:00] lighting's gonna affect that food.
[00:10:02] Mica: You bring up such a good point about understanding where your strengths lie and embracing that. I had a food blog with my friend Charlotte and her strengths were recipe development, writing and that was her thing.
My thing was food photography or at the time just photography. I didn't realize that food photography would be the path that I'm on now, but we both had our strengths and then midway through, we realized that we're not good at making food look good. So we need to bring on someone who's good at food styling.
And then we have kind of a tripod, a little trifecta, if you will. I hear so much advice where food photographers are told we need to know how to food style. We need to know how to recipe develop. And I'm like, why it's not my strength. I can do it, but it's not my strength. When I have [00:11:00] clients reach out to me and they ask me well, I'm like working on the budget.
I tell them I would rather have a food stylist by my side than an assistant. If I could choose between the two, I would love to have both. But if, if I can't, I would rather have a food stylist because that's not my strength. So I love that you pointed that out and said, I don't really like photographing things.
I like to make it look good. Let me ask you this, what did it feel like the first time you saw your work on print?
[00:11:34] Kristina: I was absolutely elated. Let's be clear that even to this day, when I see my stuff on print, after all these years, I still get that same joyous feeling. And it, it may not be what you think because part of it is, is the moment I see that image, my mind goes back to the moment of making it.
[00:11:55] Mica: Ah, yes.
[00:11:56] Kristina: Behind the scenes, working with that [00:12:00] photographer, working with that video person on what went down. All the stress, the chaos, the fun, the creativity, how it all blended together, how we faked a lot of stuff to get that gorgeous image, all that stuff comes through. I remember when they first started releasing all the films for that show that I worked on.
I remember sitting there with my family and we would watch the videos on TLC and then we'd pause them and I'd say, okay, so this is what really happened. This is how that really went down. That didn't look like that, or that didn't go that way.
And it was actually, it was so funny and we got such comedy out of that because we do see these beautiful images and this world is all about the beautiful images. And we don't always see the behind the scenes and how we got to that. It's a real metaphor for life when you think about it, cause we put out to the world this beautiful image, but inside some of us struggle, some of us have chaos.
[00:13:00] Some of us are just hoping to get through the day to pay our bills and to make the most beautiful image. Because when we go home at night, it's real life. I don't wanna take any of that away from the beauty of it, but there is another side of it and there's a reality side.
So when I walk down the aisles in a grocery store and I see packaging that I've done and stuff, and I, I just giggle a little bit because I'm like, oh, so much went into that can of beans that you have no idea. Like it, there was just so much emotion and so much creativity and so much that happened on the set when we were just creating that can of beans that nobody else will see.
It's just a can of beans, you know? So it's, it's, I have that same feeling every single time I see my stuff. Sometimes I'll critique my work, but I've learned over the years that critiquing doesn't change it. It's already out there. So why are you bashing yourself for that? The client was happy.
They loved it. [00:14:00] You should love it too, and own your work. If there was something that you didn't like and you tried to stop it before it went into production, that's a different story. And that's rarely happened with me because a lot of times before it goes into post, you get to work on all that stuff.
You can question those things with the photographer or the video or the creative team, so that can be changed or that can be fixed. But for the most part, if I ever got to a point where I didn't feel excited when I saw these products in a grocery store, or I saw a video or a commercial, then I feel like I probably shouldn't be doing this job anymore.
[00:14:36] Mica: That's a good point. When the idea of getting up to work makes you go, Ugh, that's probably a sign that you either need to stop what you're doing completely or think about changing your direction. Whenever I get to that point where I'm like, oh, I got some portfolio to work on. If I'm not excited about [00:15:00] my projects, my portfolio projects, then I go look at my mood boards and I go, okay, well, why am I not excited about this?
Then I'm like, well, because I've done like five shoots like this. So let's go work on something that I haven't done before. Something that makes me uncomfortable. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just gonna wing it and hope for the best.
That's when I get excited, that's when I'm like, okay, good.
But what you're saying is when you look at your work and, if it triggers negative emotions, like more negative than positives, Mm, might be time to, to pack it in. Do you ever fear that you'll ever feel that way?
[00:15:39] Kristina: Oh, sure, sure. Some of the shoots for film is like 13 hour shoots and I'm physically drained and then I, I go, oh, can I still do this job? Or when you're trying to style something really trendy and, it's a struggle, or it becomes more of a challenge during the shoot because you're not getting into the head of [00:16:00] the photographer or the head of the creative team.
And and you struggle a little bit. Sure. You always question that. Cause you don't wanna go stale. I think that's, that's the thing. And there are days when I'm like, oh, I really don't wanna sit there and research all the trending photography guides or what's trending in food right now or what's trending.
But I realize I need to. You have to stay fresh with that. You have to keep your mind open to all possibilities, because the moment you become stale, you fall into that, oh, she's too old school. She's not gonna give me the creativity that we want, as a team, to get this whole production done.
So yeah, you do. I think you definitely do have those moments where you're tired. Where your mind is tired. Your spirit's tired. Your creativity is tired. If I get to a point where it's kind of stale or something like that, call up your community of photography friends and say, I'm in a moment and I need to do some stuff.
Okay. I need to change it up. For me the last couple [00:17:00] years, I'd say 90% since COVID, my work has been video and it's been fast food companies. I love fast food. It's intriguing and, and challenging, but it's very strict in the style guidelines. I sometimes miss editorials and lifestyle.
I've noticed on those days when I have those, because I'm doing all the other work. And by the way, there's nothing wrong with that work because it is big budgets and it pays the bills and it's fun. It's chaotic fun. But if I call my friends and say, Hey, I've got a couple days off this week, do you wanna do some fun portfolio work, something interesting, something, that'll just revive me?
That's what I do. To keep it fresh. So you're still doing your job. You're still doing what pays the bills and what's really seems to be your niche. Like I said, this last couple years, that's been my niche and I'm learning a lot about the film industry and working on bigger sets like that.
So, yeah, it, it, [00:18:00] it's keeping yourself fresh. It's, it's keeping yourself open to new possibilities, new trends. And again, we go back to that establishing your community. People you can trust. Photographers you can trust that, you know what?
Yeah, let's play. Let's do this.
[00:18:17] Mica: What's the biggest difference between your job and people's perception of it?
[00:18:23] Kristina: Oh, I'm always asked if I'm the photographer. Always. Still to this day. Even family and friends who know I'm a food stylist and how many times I've educated him. When I go to post some of my work, they're constantly, oh, you're an amazing photographer. And I'm like, but I didn't take. And I'll even list the name of the photographer.
I'll even say photo by, film by. And I still get asked that continuously. And I understand how easy it is to, to make that assumption, of course, because if you don't know about the world of the separation of food styling versus food [00:19:00] photography, and there are a lot of food photographers that do really well with their food styling.
They've had to, especially with COVID, I notice. When COVID work came on and photographers needed to continue their business and they couldn't have people in their studios or whatever, they had to learn those skills and they have done amazing. Like the stuff that's come out. I think they amazed themselves and went, oh, well, this isn't so bad.
What I think the difference is is having a food stylist on set with you means you get to do your job. And they get to do theirs. You get to sit there and take the time to do the lighting. Not, oh, I have to do the lighting and I gotta style this food at the right time and get it all.
That's a challenge and it's very hard. I applaud food photographers that do that because it is so hard. When you have a stylist that comes in, who has already made all the arrangements, who understands what needs to be done on the storyboard and has all the ingredients shopped and prepped and [00:20:00] has all the items in her kit, so you don't have to try to have a kit for food styling as well.
It just makes all the difference, because then I can hone in on what I'm doing. You hone in on what you're doing, and then we just make it all work for the image.
[00:20:15] Mica: It would be like a theater director trying to run the lightboard as well as the soundboard, as well as help the actors put their costumes on. It just doesn't make sense to do that.
[00:20:26] Kristina: It's always fun when a client will hire a team, who's never worked with a full team. That means the photography, the assistants, the lighting, and then a food stylist. And they go, oh, now I get it. Now I see why it takes so long to get that one image. I get it now, but we can't always educate people on the outside about that.
It's hard to educate new clients that don't understand why it makes it easier to spend the money in your budget to have all these separate jobs. I feel like sometimes [00:21:00] that has to be a pretty heavy load for the photographer when they're trying to put that budget together and get it back out to the client to justify it.
It is trial and error sometimes. I know when I work with agencies and production companies, they get it, they know. It's not a hard sell for them with their clients,
[00:21:17] Mica: It's the smaller brands.
[00:21:18] Kristina: Yeah, it's the smaller brands. So because of that, you know, I, I have tried to work with smaller brand with photographers and give them discounts and stuff like that, at least to get their foot in the door to show the difference and to see how much easier it is to work with somebody that's doing the food on one end and then even bringing in a prop stylist.
I bring a lot of props to my small shoots, but for the large shoots, they have prop stylists and set designers and they all bring their own specialty to the set.
[00:21:48] Mica: I'll know I, I have made it as a food photographer when I have the budget for a prop stylist. Like that's the that's the, the ceiling that I'm, I'm going for. What [00:22:00] do you look for when deciding whether or not a brand is a good fit for your work style and aesthetic?
[00:22:07] Kristina: Wow. That's a very good question because I don't know that I've ever turned anything down. I have had some, you know, agencies that'll, they'll say we need this, this and this. And, and I think to myself, Hmm. Is this something that will, you know, that I can really pull off for them and help them with, or is this something that they might do better with a stylist in that specialty?
For instance, ice cream shoots. There's specialized food stylists that just do ice creams, just do beverages, just to meat proteins. Then there's the stylists that do overall all and I can do overall all. But if you want just a stylist for ice cream, it's not so much about the skill, as it is about the equipment that comes with it.
For me, I'd have to purchase all that equipment. Is that part of your budget? Or do you wanna go with stylists that specializes [00:23:00] only in ice cream and that's all they do. And they have all the freezers and everything that goes with it. And the tools that work with making that ice cream on set.
That's all they do. That's what they specialize in. And you're not paying extra for all that because that's stuff that's already included in their fee.
[00:23:18] Mica: That makes total sense. One thing that, Frank. You know, who Frank is, shout out to Frank.
That he instructed us in photography school is not being afraid of nicheing yourself down. Knowing what you like, what you don't like and seeking out that work. It would be better to be known for one specific thing, because you are the best at that than to be a Jack of all trades, where you're kind of good at everything.
What are you getting the most value out of? Hiring the person who can kind of do everything or the, the person where, you know, it's a, a guaranteed [00:24:00] result. I know I'm going to get a result from this person because this is what they do, and this is all they do. So I want that person and I'm willing to pay the budget for that person.
[00:24:12] Kristina: I'm very blessed that I haven't had to take on a brand that is specific to something like that. I have had to add a lot to my kit for branded things like Coca-Cola. They have specific ice cubes and they have specific ways of doing condensation. My beverage kit, which is completely separate than my, cause I have all these separate kits. But my beverage kit is packed now with every shape ice you can think of, all the different condensations, all the tools that are made just for cocktails, just for beers, just cans, sodas, all of those different items. I have to be able to, to bring that kit into the set.
[00:24:56] Mica: That's so cool that you have a [00:25:00] beverage styling kit. I understand now, but as a beginner that would've blown my mind, like, wait. There's a kit for beverages.
[00:25:10] Kristina: Yeah. It's, it's really fascinating. When I have to talk about your 10 rules or whatever, but one of 'em is definitely stock your kit. I think I might have mentioned this to you, but how I started stalking my kit was after each job, way back in the early years, every job that I did, on my way home, usually stuck in traffic, I would sit there and say, okay, what tool could I have added in my kit today to have made today's job be a little bit easier? Made it work a little bit better? And then the following day I would go out and purchase that and add it to my kit.
[00:25:48] Mica: I love that.
[00:25:50] Kristina: As I did that, my kit grew and grew and grew, and now it's three stacks high with wheels, and I have to be able [00:26:00] to create a kitchen in any area.
I'm always blessed whenever I can work in a commercial kitchen, but a lot of times, if you're on location, there's not a commercial kitchen so you have to bring the kitchen to the set. This is all stuff you work out in pre-production, but I have to be able to have heating sources, what can be prepped ahead of time and heat it up, what can be manipulated?
My toolkit is huge now.
[00:26:23] Mica: I've seen it. It's it's really impressive.
[00:26:26] Kristina: So if we're doing a beverage shoot, and I know that ahead of time, it gets a completely separate kit because I had to keep all that stuff separated. I remember when I first started, I had a fishing tackle box and I was like, oh, I'm gonna be so professional. And I'm gonna have my fishing tackle box with all my little tweezers and everything in it.
And it was so cute and everything. And now it's this massive on wheels, takes up my whole car, not to mention all the food and the preps and the props and, you know, just all of that. It's really crazy. And I think a lot of people don't realize I don't [00:27:00] just show up to a set and hope that I have the right tweezers or tools to do the job.
There's so much pre-production that goes in. Every job I do I have to build my kit to that job. When I charge for my prep day, it's not just shopping. It's not just prepping the food, it's building that kit. Then breaking that kit down the next day takes a whole couple hours to break it all down and put all the props back and clean everything properly and put it back into my kit.
So there's so much more than just, hey, I get paid to play with food. I don't think people. Yeah. I don't think they understand that even if we're only shooting two days that week or one day that week, it's almost a full week of work for me.
[00:27:44] Mica: Cause of the prep.
[00:27:45] Kristina: Yeah, from start to finish.
[00:27:47] Mica: How can someone get started in this industry if they don't know anyone who works in it?
[00:27:53] Kristina: Good question. I have lots of people that reach out to me and I try to meet with everyone when I can, because [00:28:00] again, I'm a firm believer in that helping hand.
[00:28:03] Mica: Community over competition.
[00:28:05] Kristina: Absolutely. I believe there's enough work for everybody. It might be naive on some areas, but for me personally, if you are willing to take that step to reach out to me, then I have to at least be willing to meet with you. That's for me personally, I know not everybody is in that same idea of thinking, but for me, I feel for those people. I learned hard knocks. Like I learned onset, I worked for years with somebody who was such a perfectionist that we had to get it so right, so that she wouldn't have to spend the amount of time in post. And I'm so grateful for that because so much is done in post now.
I'm grateful for that as well, but it's nice to start that way. I always feel like she took me under her wings. She didn't have to, we had a great relationship. We were able to establish our roles and collaborate and work together and building a really beautiful [00:29:00] portfolio.
So my advice is knock on those doors.
Eventually, someone's gonna say, "Hey. Yeah, I'll meet up with you for coffee. I'll talk to you about my job." And then see if you can assist them or go on set with them, but because of COVID, there's closed sets. In the last few years, I haven't been able to have anybody shadow me because of that and it's a real challenge, but I will tell you this, there is a YouTube video for everything.
[00:29:25] Mica: Yes.
[00:29:26] Kristina: For all the basics of styling and you have your own kitchen. Spend the money. If you wanna learn how to build a perfect sandwich, get all the ingredients, watch the YouTube tutorials. Get a group of food stylists that are your community, just like I have with photography.
I also have a couple food stylists that are veteran stylists that I feel at any time I can call them up and say, "Hey, how do you do this?" Because they do the same for me. They'll say, "Hey, Kristina I'm working on this job. What are your suggestions for this?" And I'm [00:30:00] happy to give whatever I know, and they're happy to give it back to me.
So that's really great. If they're food photographers that have never worked with a food stylist, but wanna know what that opportunity is like so they can decide whether or not, "Oh, yeah. That does make sense to have a food stylist. I should start justifying that in my budget." Offer to, to work with them for portfolio work because you also need to see if you have a good personality to work together.
Now I've been blessed and fortunate that all the photographers I've worked with have been just amazing. I'd say the most challenging sometimes can be video people and creative teams because there's so many people that have a different idea of what they wanna see and you wanna try to make everybody happy and you wanna try to make sure that I hear what you're saying about this, and I hear what you're saying, how you want this layered this way.
So I wanna make sure that I'm making everybody happy, but I also understand that the photographer is my guide because we have to work together. We have to make that image look what the, the client wants. Does that make sense?
[00:30:58] Mica: It makes perfect sense. [00:31:00] If you personality wise don't mesh well then that communication is not gonna be all there. Having that, the rapport from the beginning makes it such an environment that you can speak up and say, "Hey, I don't think this looks right," but it also builds that trust.
You've gotta be able to trust your photographer and the photographer has to be able to trust the food stylist to make this work. If one or the other doesn't trust each other, it's gonna show in the work.
[00:31:29] Kristina: It's also okay to point out that sometimes a food stylist doesn't actually get the photographer.
It doesn't mean that they can't become friends and be colleagues. It's just that it doesn't always work on set. Some people think that if it doesn't work on set, they can't be colleagues or they can't be friends in the community of whatnot.
I think accepting the fact that, " You know what? I know I'm a good stylist, but I know that I'm not getting it the way you do your work, that you have a certain [00:32:00] style. And for whatever reason, I don't seem to get that, but someone else might get that. And that's okay."
[00:32:06] Mica: Yes,
[00:32:07] Kristina: To be able to establish those friendships and keep them longstanding is a good thing. Something I told my son when I had him assist me one time on a shoot, it was a graveyard shoot, for a burrito company. And they wanted to shoot at night and I had never done that before. So I brought him on as my assistant and I thought, "Oh, he'll keep me awake." You know? And I remember when we were shooting, it was 11 o'clock at night to seven in the morning.
And I remember, yeah. And a
[00:32:36] Mica: 11 o'clock at night til seven in morning?
Oh my word.
[00:32:41] Kristina: They wanted to shoot in the restaurant. Well, they wanted to shoot in the restaurant and of course they had to do it when off hours and.
[00:32:48] Mica: Ah.
[00:32:49] Kristina: Yeah. And so they closed off all the windows. And I remember the best advice my son had given me was "Mom, don't look at the clock once.
If you look at the clock, your brain will tell you what time it is and you'll be [00:33:00] tired." And that was the best advice because I didn't look at the clock until we were in the car going home at seven. And I was like, oh, I'm so exhausted. But I was fine the whole shoot. But I remember at one point there was a, a lull time in the shoot.
I asked my son, I said, "So what did you learn on today's shoot?" and he said, "Well, not much. I mean, we've done these before and not much difference." And he goes, "Why? Did you learn something new?" I said, "Absolutely. I learned something new on every shoot." And he goes, "What'd you learn?" I said, " Well, in talking to the chef, he was telling me about his family's secret recipe for carnitas and he told me the secret ingredient was this, this and this." He goes, "Yeah, but that had nothing to do with the shoot." And I said, "Today, but I don't know when I'm gonna need to make carnitas for a party or for another job.
And I just got some information, so click that in the back of your head, because you have that recipe box in the back of your head, put it back there because you just never know."
When you're on set and I hear little tidbits about certain types of tools on the set designers and[00:34:00] because I do so much film in the last two years, I have a lot of tools that are set tools now. Things to help the set designers out, if they're, you know, missing tapes, special reflectors and things like that, I have those just as backups.
Those are all things you're constantly having to remember that every person you interact with, any time you talk about food could help you in your future.
[00:34:24] Mica: Such solid, solid, solid advice is just be a sponge and absorb everything and remember little tidbits that can help you in later shoots.
[00:34:35] Kristina: Absolutely.
[00:34:37] Mica: I love that. That's oh, that's great. That's great to know. I know that from our shoot, I learned so much that I carry in my other shoots and I'm like, "Oh, I feel like I've gained a lot of knowledge from that shoot. Things that I didn't even think about at the time that I do now."
The biggest fear, at least that I have is [00:35:00] that I'm gonna book a commercial shoot and it's gonna show that I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. That portfolio work, that practice, gives us the opportunity to problem solve anything that could come up in a commercial shoot. When you're on the clock and there's a problem, you got like two seconds to figure it out.
[00:35:22] Kristina: And you can't show it in your face at all.
[00:35:23] Mica: And you can't show it. You, you could go in the bathroom and cry for five minutes and
then come back out and be like, "All right, here's what we're gonna do." How do you find clients when you're looking for new work?
[00:35:35] Kristina: That's another good question. For me, it's working with agencies. If you can get in with an agency, you do good. They usually will keep calling you back for more work and I've been very grateful and blessed to work with some agencies in town that keep me continuously busy. As for photographers, I mean, you can reach out just like I can reach out to photographers, but generally for [00:36:00] me to get new work, if I'm gonna hustle to get new clients, it's generally through agencies, not so much photographers. You form those personal relationships with photographers when they reach out to you.
80% of my work is callbacks. Did you show them that you were a professional on set? Did you show them that you could stay within their budget? Did you show them that you had the skills, the personality, the go with the flow because I'll tell you what, I've heard this in the industry before that a lot of photographers will tell me, stylists can get edgy with their stuff and say, "Oh, you can fix it in post. I don't need to fix that on set." And that just brings me a nightmare because I think to myself, I have to do every single thing I can possibly do, but I also have to convey to the client when I absolutely have done what I can.
I have to convey to them in a very gentle format that I have tried this, this, this, and this.
I'm happy to hear any other options that you have that [00:37:00] I haven't done. But I think this is where we're at. When a client comes to me and says, "Hey, could you try doing this instead?" I can't imagine saying to them no, even if I know that it won't work.
I don't sit there and argue with them and say, "Oh, I've done this before and it's not gonna work this way.
And you can't do it this way." I say, let's give it a try because at least a client knows you're making an effort to hear them. You're making an effort to try this, and when you do that, you're showing you're a team player. At the end of the day, it's all about the team. It's not the separate jobs. It's not the photographer who does the best work or the stylist that does the best work or the light or the sound person or all the, all the little. It's everybody.
There's no hierarchy in my book. There never has been. When I first started off doing restaurant work, the first place I walked into was the back of the house. And I'd say, this is who I am. I'm not invading your work. I'd tell the chef. I highly respect everything that you have. The only thing I'm gonna do is manipulate what you made, [00:38:00] so it looks the same on the camera. I'd do all that stuff. I had no expectations because I felt like we're all on the same level. We're all just trying at the end of the day, get this job done for the client and do the best work as a team.
If you continue with that ethic and that philosophy, more doors are open for you.
[00:38:19] Mica: You bring up a good point about checking your ego at the door. It's like, yes, you're great at what you do, but ultimately how you work with a team is what will get you more work as an artist. Like if you're a poopy head on shoots, word will travel fast and no one's gonna wanna work with you.
I also like how you say you're willing to try any ideas because I've learned, with clients that telling them, no, that's not gonna work. They're always gonna wonder in the back of their mind, well, what, what would've happened if we had tried it this way, especially if they're not happy with how the photos turn out. [00:39:00] They're like, well, we should have done it this way, but let, let's try out your idea.
It almost humbles them and make some go, okay, well, this is why you're the professional. And I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I won't throw any more ideas out there, but I appreciate you trying it. Now I completely wholeheartedly trust you in this process. And, and I'm just gonna be a bystander at this point and let you do your work and let you do your magic.
[00:39:26] Kristina: And not let them feel like they've been shut down. And also give credit where credit is due. I'll tell you just recently I was on a shoot and my amazing assistant who I adore. She came up with an idea cause we were troubleshooting something for the client and she came up with an idea that I didn't even think of.
And it was brilliant. It was one of those things like as a food stylist, we have to just MacGyver our brain to come up with ideas consistently. And she came up with this idea and we did it and the client was so happy. I could have easily said you're welcome. But no, I, I said, no, it was [00:40:00] all her, it was a hundred percent her, this was her idea.
She came up with this, all the credit should go to her. So then they were like, oh, well, thank you so much. Da da, da, da, da. When I go on a set, she is my assistant, but she's my partner.
My a hundred percent my partner. I have been training her the last couple years, so that she has a career when she's ready. She had such a hungry heart for it.
Because of that, I wanted to put that foot forward. I said I'm gonna train you in every single thing I know so that you can eventually take off when your kids are older and you need to go back into the work industry. You will have a career, you will have something, a choice to do.
I have to share this little story. She came to me when I needed an assistant and I reached out on social media. I couldn't find any assistance at the time. This was several years ago and I had met her at a party and she was so fascinated by what I did.
We had talked at the party and stuff and she DM me and she said, "Look, I have no culinary skills. I like this, but I, I take good direction. I'll [00:41:00] do whatever." And I said, what are you talking about? You're a mom of three. That means you multitask. You make meals three meals a day. Okay. You are very organized.
You have to be to get all those kids to all the different sporting events that they're involved in and whatnot. I said and you're good at making something outta nothing. And a good listener because you're a mom. You have all the skills that you need. I just need to train you in the styling part of it, but you can do all the other stuff and sure enough, she's just amazing.
I literally could not do, I mean, I can do my job and I do do my job on the budgets that don't require an assistant, but man, those days that I have her by my side so much easier.
When you have an assistant, right? You got somebody fixing the lights and doing all the, the, this things that you need to setting up the equipment?
[00:41:49] Mica: Having an assistant there is just a dream, cause I'll say something like I, can you grab the thingy with the, and they're like, they just know what I'm talking about. I'm like, oh, [00:42:00] oh thank you so much. I, I swear. I know what I, what I'm doing at the moment, but I'm just like thinking about so many things in the moment that I forget the terminology sometimes.
So it's a dream to have an assistant be so in tune with what my needs are and can meet them.
[00:42:18] Kristina: A shout out to Jill, my assistant, because I'll tell you what, she will set our kitchen up so that I can start talking to the clients. While I'm talking to the clients at the beginning of the shoot, she's got our kitchen set up. She knows my kit inside and out. She is just, she's my right hand.
I don't even like to call her my assistant because she truly is my work wife and she is my partner. She's just amazing. Finding an assistant, somebody that you can trust with all your equipment, you can trust with the knowledge and somebody that you can have on set with you when things are going chaotic and you need someone to troubleshoot with quietly off to the side.
That's gold. That's [00:43:00] absolute gold.
[00:43:00] Mica: Totally. I agree. You brought up a, a good point earlier about how you love working on editorial and lifestyle shoots and you do so whenever you get the chance. What is the difference between a commercial and editorial food styling?
[00:43:21] Kristina: Commercial food styling generally is a large brand or it can be a new brand that's just starting off, but it's usually done in a large studio. It's a different type of styling in the sense that there is creativity, but the creativity has already been pre story boarded by a creative team.
So you have a creative team. You have producers, you have directors, you have all the people on set, the lighting set. You have food stylist, food stylist assistants. You have PAs, you have a whole team of people working on this shoot. Whereas small editorial shoots [00:44:00] generally are the photographer, the photographer's assistant, a food stylist, possibly an assistant.
That's your team. So it's a large production versus a smaller production. There's a lot more work that goes into a commercial shoot way before you get to the shoot with all the pre-production, where the agency works with the client for months establishing the advertising and the marketing and how it's all gonna go down before it even trickles down to you.
And then you're pulled in a week before to talk over what they have already designed. They have storyboards, they have decks that go through each set. If I'm doing a shoot for fast food, when it finally comes down to me, most fast food companies have their own food styling guidelines and they can be books sometimes, so I have to read through.
[00:44:50] Mica: Books?
[00:44:51] Kristina: Books. Like pages and pages of how many fries, how those fries look, how many sesame seeds, [00:45:00] how the curl of the lettuce is.
I mean, there's a lot of work, whereas if I'm going into, I know, I know it's crazy. People just don't realize how crazy it is.
[00:45:11] Mica: Wow. I, I never realized how the littlest detail is included and covered and considered.
[00:45:22] Kristina: The pre-production is crazy. When I'm in a pre-production meeting, there's probably about five or six people, sometimes more. I have my list of stuff, but I'm also sitting there writing notes because I hear other people saying, "Well, what if we did this, this and this?" I have to remember what they said and put down, okay. Bring that tool for this because they might change their mind and want this because it was mentioned in the, the meeting. I have to think ahead. Okay. So they're saying that. It may not actually happen, but I better be prepared for it. So you have to have all that preparation done.
There's just so much in organizing and they will have [00:46:00] their deck, and then from their deck, I create my deck for my styling team. Everything that I have to have at each moment. You need to start on the drinks down here for this shot after lunch, or you need to be, be prepared to have these burgers made and set aside, or this needs to be frozen ahead of time, 24 hours ahead of time, the scoops in the freezer.
And how are you gonna take 'em out? There's timing in everything with my job. Part of my job is the breakdown of, of food and how it's gonna break down on set. Are you gonna be prepared? Are you gonna have all these backups? With all of that work, it might just be two days on set or one day on set, but there's so many days involved and so many hours involved prepping for it. Making sure everything is fine tuned because if you're not fine tuned and you pull it here on a film set, then they're not gonna be fine tuned and it's gonna slow up everybody else.
So you have to be super careful and super good with your timing on everything and knowing where [00:47:00] everything is. Even when you think you've gotta handle on the whole entire shoot day, there's still chaos of things where people say, "Well, you know what? Hmm, let's try this. You know what? We never discussed this, but let's do a cheese pull on that slice of pizza and cheese pulls are huge.
You have to be able to go, okay, how can I pull this off and give them in the timeframe that they need a cheese pull? Did I bring enough stuff? Did I bring the tools for it? Because a lot more goes into it and you have to be one step ahead all the time.
[00:47:31] Mica: One step ahead all the time. That's something that we have to keep in mind going into shoots like this, that we have to be one step ahead. You mentioned your food styling kits and y'all, it's massive.
Let me just put that out there. Let put that out. There
It is. Is a lot. Is a lot. It, I was like, whew. She just keeps coming in and in and in and in. What special tool do you [00:48:00] always carry with you on set?
[00:48:02] Kristina: Whew. Oh, that's such a good question. Because, like I said, it really, truly depends on the shoot and it depends on what I'm working with, but I definitely need to have my knives. I definitely need to have cutting board. I have a role that has my necessity tools. Everything from tweezers to specialized spoons. In that roll and that small green roll has everything that I need in a pinch.
I have since learned, like, especially with travel and stuff I have since learned that having a separate kit that has the necessities in it, the spatulas, the, the drink pours the extra tweezers, extra sponges, extra paper towels, all those kind of things in that one separate from all the giant tools and the specialty tools.
Like heat guns and things like that. In my other kit, it's [00:49:00] important to have that to go. Worst case scenario, if something should go wrong and you lose that kit and travel, which generally doesn't happen with the TSA locks that I have on there. But if you do, you can still get the job done. You can still figure out a way. It's got your brushes in it, your, your paint brushes, it's got your tweezers.
So I would say tweezers and paint brushes, cosmetic sponges. A lot of times set designers, photographers, they don't always carry those things. Being able to clean up a scene, take things off, manipulate the food with this, some spatulas and tweezers and, and knives. Those are the most, super most, and then a, a squirt bottle for condensation, for anything from fruit to drinks, to whatever a small travel size works.
I like to keep, do you know the pill boxes for every day of the week.
[00:49:52] Mica: Yes.
[00:49:53] Kristina: So I like to keep those they're really inexpensive. I like to keep those because they don't take up much room in my kit and I fill those with [00:50:00] spices. So I have separate salt, pepper chili powder. If you have to add anything, you're not bringing a whole spice rack with you to the set, you have your own little box that you can bring right on set, open it up and say, I can put a spec of black pepper there, or some chili across the top or some green parsley.
[00:50:18] Mica: Genius.
[00:50:19] Kristina: And it doesn't take up much room and it makes a huge effect on set.
[00:50:22] Mica: Oh my gosh. My, my head is exploding just a little bit.
[00:50:27] Kristina: And that's something a photographer can have too. If a photographer is trying to build a tiny little food styling set I've, I've told this to a lot of photographers I've worked with. If you just need something off to the side, I can give you a list of shoebox size of things that you can have on set that will make your just a little bit easier.
[00:50:46] Mica: I remember you mentioned that you had met up with a, a food photographer who wasn't quite at the level where they could hire a food stylist and you sat down with them and gave them a list of like, here are the [00:51:00] necessities that you should have for a food kit to take on your on your own.
are some of the things that you told that food stylist or that food photographer to put in their list?
[00:51:12] Kristina: I told them to get a small tackle box, just a small one to the set, when you're setting up. You can go to Walmart and get a small tackle box.
And in that tackle box, make sure you have a pair of two different types of tweezers and make sure that you have tea pins that you can get in the sewing department or craft supply, or even online. Tea pins will make your life so much easier when you're trying to stick it in a, in a, a sandwich, or you're trying to lay things down. Make sure you have Q-tips on set. Make sure you have cosmetic sponges for lifting. Another trick that I've used, because a lot of people use sticky tape and things like that to tape things down or to hold things down. Go to your drug store and get silicone ear [00:52:00] plugs, you can mold them to put 'em into your ears. Use those for everything. They're super cheap. I go through them on a weekly basis. You can toss 'em when they're done, you can take the littlest piece off of it or the biggest, or build them up.
They work and they're clear. You can usually Photoshop around them if you need to very easily. Make sure you have a good pairing knife in there, cause you never know if you have to cut and make sure you have good scissors. Scissors are key because you're always having to trim things or cut things down or you don't know if you need paper or whatnot on set.
Have travel size bottles for sprays, have one with a glycerin water mix. One to one ratio for any kind of condensation that you wanna have set and then have one for just water for like produce or something like that on set.
But I'd say those right there are your basic, you should have on set, even if you're a photographer or if you are a food stylist and you're just starting [00:53:00] and you're just starting to work. Those are the absolute basics. When you wanna start upgrading and start buying tools, then you can start buying the heat guns, and you can go into a whole line of different styles.
[00:53:12] Mica: But that right there, what you just list said, that's a, that's a good start.
[00:53:16] Kristina: Absolutely.
[00:53:17] Mica: That's gonna be so useful for new photographers who aren't quite at the, that level where they can hire a food stylist for shoots. Let's pivot over to trends. I wanna ask a few questions on that.
How have you seen trends change over the course of your career as a food stylist?
[00:53:38] Kristina: In the last decade, we've seen everything go from Martha Stewart, bright light to dark and rustic. Styling in general used to be very controlled and then we got into, a decade ago, we got into let's show crumbs, let's show a rustic look, and let's not be, let's not use [00:54:00] all the fake stuff because now with lighting, we don't have to worry so much about how long it sits on set.
I've noticed that when I first started styling, a lot of this stuff was definitely what everybody hears. Oh, the mash potatoes. Oh, this, and there's definitely a place for those kind of things. And I still use those to this day for certain items, but for the most part, they didn't wanna do the faking.
And I don't know if it's the laws of advertising have changed so much or just the equipment for lighting and being able to have digital cameras, but the trends have gone from like bright and light to rustic to now we're in harsh shadows. I have found just like in fashion, the same as in food, that if you start following on social media sites, photography around the world, especially like in India and in Europe, like you're gonna see food trends just as fast [00:55:00] as styling trends. That helps you have a, a leg up in the industry of seeing where the trends are gonna go.
And now we're keeping in with the harsh shadows, but we're also keeping it very rustic. Rustic to the point where it's just like a messy plate that has already been eaten. The food's gone. It's just showing the plate because it's more, it's more artistic.
It's more telling the story because ultimately from the very beginning of, of days in home economics and food styling, the idea was how are you gonna tell the story? How are you gonna make your food as attractive and appetizing as possible for the camera so that it brings the viewer in. And so now we wanna tell the story.
What I'm seeing is we wanna tell the story of that person's culture. We wanna see culture, we wanna see slow food. We wanna see where our ancestors came with the food. It's so important. And I have always, always been drawn to cultural food since I was very young. I lived in a very diverse neighborhood, so I had so many [00:56:00] friends that were in different cultures.
And so one of the big things with them was we would have sleepovers. And I remember the families would always say, "Okay, well, she's coming over. What, what, what would she like to eat?" And I always say, have a, make whatever your family eats, whatever your culture eats. I wanna learn that.
So from a very young age, I would learn all about the culture of food and that was intriguing and passionate to me. I'm seeing a surge now of a younger generation that is trying to break into those slow food roots and to recreate these cultural foods.
A decade ago, people were combining the cultures. They were doing cross connections of cultures and restaurants. You were seeing all kinds of Asian flare with Latin fair and everything was. Fusion was going everywhere, which meant our food photography and our food styling had to be fusion too.
So you have to stay on trend and the trend changes as fast as fashion changes.
[00:56:55] Mica: Yes.
[00:56:55] Kristina: Being able to follow food photography in other [00:57:00] countries and other cultures will help you stay fresh in what's trending.
[00:57:05] Mica: That's such a good answer. You brought up a such a good point. I was gonna ask you, how do you stay on top of trends and make sure your work always looks fresh and current. And you answered that. Looking at what other countries are doing and, and not just focusing on what the west is doing. By the time the US finds out about something, I mean, I feel like we're always late.
[00:57:28] Kristina: Yeah, no, we are. We absolutely are.
[00:57:31] Mica: I am loving the hard light, hard shadows. I thought the bright and hard shadows was overdone. So I'm glad that that's finished with. Now I'm like, okay, well, what's, what's new. What can we do with this hard light? How can we have fun with this?
When the, the one minute food cooking videos became a thing.
I. I. I, hated that. It was on [00:58:00] Facebook everywhere. The little fast hand movements and the time lapse. People don't realize that this beautiful loaf of bread that you see before you is a day's long commitment, but they've condensed it down to one minute and it has us all thinking I could do that.
And then you're like, shit, I can't actually.
[00:58:20] Kristina: I'm absolutely guilty there for work. Yeah. I I'm guilty because I worked on some of those Taste Made videos. So I can tell you like the stress of having for stop motion is real.
[00:58:33] Mica: I did one stop motion. I just wanted to see what the process was like. And I learned pretty quickly that, that's not me. I know it's the rage right now. I know people are getting hired for doing it. And I say, go for it, shoot for the moon.
[00:58:48] Kristina: Those videos you're losing a key component in my idea of when you're looking at a video that's shot so fast like that, and there's a place for it.
I, I believe there's a place for everything, but to [00:59:00] me, when I see those videos, we're missing the hands. We're missing story.
I wanna know a little more about the background that they're shooting that in. I don't wanna just see an overhead of a bowl with all the ingredients. I wanna see a little more of the beauty behind it.
[00:59:18] Mica: Have you ever heard of a Peaceful Cuisine?
[00:59:22] Kristina: No, I haven't.
[00:59:23] Mica: It's Peaceful Cuisine. I love this channel. His videos are like 15, 20 minutes long. He does not rush through this, but he makes these recipes and you just watch him.
He made these vegan sesame cookies and he makes them from scratch. It's just a closeup of him, his hands. He has videos where there's like a little bit of backing music, which I kind of prefer. Then he releases a version where it's just the sound of him cooking. He really takes his time, crinkles open the [01:00:00] bags.
Like it's not a rushed process at all. I guess that's where the name comes from. It's so peaceful and beautiful and artistic. If you get a chance, check it out.
[01:00:10] Kristina: Oh, I love watching Japanese food videos.
It takes me back to when I was a kid and I would read cookbooks instead of storybooks in the library. I'd check out cookbooks. I would take the time to look at the pictures and to read the stories of the recipe. And I, I think because we're in such a quick society now where everything has to be so spontaneous.
[01:00:33] Mica: Instant gratification.
[01:00:35] Kristina: We're numb to those stories. We're numb to reading the articles in the magazines. Maybe it's my age. I don't know but I still love that.
[01:00:43] Mica: Oh, yes. Oh yes. I like to read cookbooks. Ironically, I don't like cookbooks that have pictures in them.
I wanna form my own imagination of what I envision something like this to look like. Once I see a picture, it's already burned in my head and I'm like, [01:01:00] it's the only way I can see this dish now.
What is one trend in food styling that you're excited about right now?
[01:01:10] Kristina: I would say that we are moving towards those type videos and the slow food and because of the cottage core and the vintage. We're bringing in a lot of the vintage colored glasses, and we're bringing in a lot of the vintage kitchenware into styling. That's becoming a trend based on the trend of cottage core and the boho style and a lot of that, because a younger generation is starting to adapt their decor in their homes that way. I feel like it's being adapted in our food photography as well. I personally love that because one, I have an obsessive amount of vintage props. So any excuse I can to justify using any of those [01:02:00] is great. It's cool watching the younger generation, like my kids that are in 30 and twenties, getting back into that and they're pulling that back in and it's, it's kind of trendy and it's fun. And I'm over here going, this is awesome. I don't know how long it'll last because it is a trend, but I'm loving it. think it's fantastic.
[01:02:20] Mica: I'm big into genealogy and I have a membership with newspapers.com. One of my favorite activities besides reading the original Dear Abby letters from 1955 and beyond, I like to go back into like the early 19 hundreds and find recipes that housekeepers and housewives share in the newspapers.
This is way before social media and television. The only way you could get a recipe is from the newspaper. It's just really cool to go back in time and see that. I wanna ask you this, what does it take to be a [01:03:00] great food stylist?
[01:03:01] Kristina: I'm gonna be very careful how I answer this. I think you need to have a knowledge of how food breaks down on set.
[01:03:16] Mica: Hmm.
[01:03:16] Kristina: You need to know your proteins, you need to know what's gonna collapse and what you need to have backups on. You need to have a kit that's prepared for all craziness and chaos of anything that's thrown at you. You need to actually have a knowledge.
If you say you can do that job, you better practice, practice, practice. If you've never done it before, so that when you walk on set, you look like, you know what you're doing.
You have to have an easy personality that gets along with a lot of different personalities, because you're gonna go walk into creative teams that have all different types of personalities. And if you have the easygoingness of understanding that everybody's ideas are important and that you're gonna do your best to get everybody's ideas [01:04:00] acknowledged, then you will possibly get a call back. It's important that if you're going to take a job, you take it extremely seriously.
And you don't just show up with your tweezers on set and say, oh, I'll just figure it out when I get there. A lot of planning and organization is involved. It's okay to be extremely organized. Far more organized in my job than I am at my own personal life. I will go to the extremes to have the perfect plate of food for you where at home I'm okay just flopping some food on a plate. Some people will say, oh, what you are at work is how you are at home. It used to be a running joke in my family when I was blogging where my, my kids would say, do we get the hero plate tonight? The one you shot because it's not gonna look like that on the rest of the table. So yeah, I think being easygoing and not so uptight, but also honing in on your skills and knowing that [01:05:00] you can do what you say you could do when you were booking the job, is super important.
[01:05:05] Mica: Is there anything that you've learned throughout your career that has helped you grow as an artist and as a person?
[01:05:14] Kristina: If there's chaos on this set, the image is probably gonna come out really beautiful. I can't tell you how many times I've been on film sets specifically. There's so much going on and there's so much chaos everywhere because there's talent and producers and creative teams. Sometimes 60, 75 people and you walk in and you've just been told you get the laundry room to set up your station in.
I know from my experience that if I get stressed out at the beginning, it's only gonna carry me through the rest of the day. So try your hardest. Even in this, the most challenging situations to not let the stress at the beginning of the shoot, create the outcome for the whole [01:06:00] day. The second thing I've learned is for years I went going, oh, I'm not good enough.
I don't know if I've got the skills that it takes to pull off this job and then I'd get there and I'm like, oh, I do know how to do this. Stop second guessing your talent and your abilities and your passion. You would never talk to another person who is trying to be a stylist the way you talk to yourself.
[01:06:26] Mica: Yes. I tell people, if you ever find yourself, trashing yourself and your work. Listen to what you're saying and, and ask yourself, would you ever say this to someone else? So why is it okay to say that about yourself and what good will it do to, to bash your, your own work like that?
There's a difference between critiquing it and saying, this is how it could be better next time. But just trashing your work all together, that doesn't do [01:07:00] you any good?
[01:07:00] Kristina: It's easy to do that in the beginning years when you're building your portfolio and you're hyper sensitive your work.
Learn in the moment. Keep a file on Pinterest. That's just private for you, a board that has all your inspiration, inspiration on props, inspiration on lighting, inspiration on the styling of the food, the trends of the food. You can keep all that stuff for you. And that's basically your mood board.
[01:07:24] Mica: What do you hope the listeners take away from today's episode?
[01:07:29] Kristina: Well, I hope they realize that if they're going into styling, it's not a, it's a fun job. It's very rewarding. If you're passionate about food and creating food, it's a great way to get paid for that passion. But there's also a lot of hard work, like any job. You do need to put the hard work in, and there is something to be said about having an organized business with an organized kit.
If you're just gonna start and you have nowhere to begin, [01:08:00] take those steps, take those scary steps of reaching out. You may have to reach out to a handful of people before one person says, yes, I'll meet with you, or yes, I'll show you. But at the same time, don't expect them to teach you everything.
You have to put the work into it. You have to do the research. You buy the books, you look at the YouTube tutorials. It's super important that you do that.
[01:08:23] Mica: And just remembering to do the work. I mean, ask people for help. It's okay to ask for advice, ask for help, but you still have to do your part in taking an active role in your education.
[01:08:39] Kristina: Build your kit slowly, be serious about this business. If you don't have the money, extra money this week to buy a certain tool, that's okay. Figure out how you're gonna make it without that tool.
I highly recommend shadowing or assisting for at least a year with a stylist, if you can get in on that. There's a lot of like Facebook pages [01:09:00] for food stylists and things like that, that you can join. Don't give up if this is what you really, truly, truly want. If you are expecting to just go into it without any idea, especially commercial photo, I mean, it took me several years to work that side of it and work that side with my business and get in with agencies and film companies to be able to do that kind of work.
[01:09:26] Mica: If you could say one thing to someone out there who wants to be a food stylist, what is the first thing that they should do? The moment they decide to get into food styling?
[01:09:44] Kristina: Read everything you can about it. Learn what it really is. Sometimes people think that food styling is just building a pretty picture of food, but they don't realize all the layers that go [01:10:00] into it.
[01:10:00] Mica: Where can the listeners find you?
[01:10:03] Kristina: You can find me on my website at Girl Gone Grits, dot com. The Girl Gone Grits was the name of my blog when I originally started. I had moved here 20 plus years from California to Texas. So, my blog was Girl Gone, Grits, cause grits is the acrimon for girls raised in the south.
And since I had not actually been raised in the south, but I got here, hence the Girl Gone Grits. Since I already had that name, we just thought that it would make. It would be an easy transition for my business name as well. You can find me on Girl Grits on Instagram, social media, uh, and Facebook as well.
[01:10:44] Mica: Well, Kristina this is probably, and when I say probably 99.9, 9% my favorite interview thus far.
[01:10:55] Kristina: Mica, I just adore you. What you give back in social media to so many [01:11:00] struggling photographers, the way you speak so much truth. I have always been a fan of you because of that. And when I first started following you, I'm like, who is this gal and her mouth. I love. I love her. And you were speaking such truth of the, the, the highs and the lows of your business and the freelancing and, and, and the truth about. You follow all these photographers and they talk about how glamorous their job is and how beautiful and their images and everything.
But you were speaking the truth. Like this is hard. Freelancing is not for the weak.
And I was like, I need to know this gal. I need to know her. When you reached out to me, I was just like, I was probably just as an awe that you reached out to me as I was, or you said you were with me because I thought this girl gets it.
She gets it. She knows the hard work and she knows this is a struggle. Freelancing is not easy. Yes, there's a beautiful side to all of your images. They're gorgeous, but there's also the truthful [01:12:00] side in your story and in your feed and what you talk about. I just applaud to you for that.
[01:12:06] Mica: Thank you. Thank you. It means the world to me to hear that. I keep it as real as possible because I feel like I owe it to people behind me. I love what I do now. I knew going into freelancing that this was it. There's no other options for me. I'm making this work. But if I had known in the very beginning, how much work was involved and how many moments of doubt that I would have, that I would have prepared myself a little bit more. I just want people who are getting into this to know that it's not always gonna be an uphill battle. They're gonna be up and downs. It's gonna be like one of those little weird edge to sketch graphs. You're gonna have highs, you're gonna have lows. It's just as important to talk about the lows, because it's when you're in your low moment that you [01:13:00] really need to like tap into why you're doing this.
Because when it's not going well, that's when it's easy to quit, that's when it's easy to walk away. So I just wanna keep it real and make sure that everybody else knows. And also, I just wondered, man, am I the only one like struggling around here? Is this normal to like, to, to struggle this hard? I feel like I am I struggling more than the average person. So I'm just gonna say it. And then I realized that a lot of people were like, oh my gosh, I'm going through the same thing too. So I'm glad that it's appreciated. Thank you for so much for being on this episode.
I'm giving you a virtual hug. We're recording this episode via Zencaster, but thanks again for being on the show.
[01:13:49] Kristina: Thank you. I must admit I was a little nervous because I don't like to do these things. I felt so comfortable with you. So I really truly [01:14:00] appreciate that. I hope that we've inspired some food stylists out there. Some budding food stylists that are really passionate about this world, because I, I, I see 'em popping up everywhere.
I see food stylists are at least in my area here. There are so many now that are coming to the surface. If there's any way to help them, and I truly believe that there's enough work for all of us. ,
[01:14:24] Mica: Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you guys for listening, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Kristina and feel free to, uh, reach out to me as well. Thanks again. Bye guys.
[01:14:38] Kristina: Bye.