From the confines of his bedroom in Singapore, food blogger C.R Tan decided that he wanted to do the recipes he was developing more justice. His perfectionist tendencies sparked an eventual decision to build out his website with a new hobby that involved both his camera and dishes of beautifully prepared food.
In the process of improving his skills, C.R had fallen for food styling and photography. And as he built his practice quietly, doing the hard part of figuring out his own style, properly lighting subjects, composing scenes and editing photos, he realized that it was all paying off.
People started to take notice. And when we say “people,” we mean local and international media outlets — think Hypebeast, SAVEUR, CNN Travel and Instagram headquarters. It wasn’t long before the mouthwatering shots started booking him jobs, notably with McDonald’s, Google, Guinness and the Changi Airport Group.
C.R’s work is now recognized as the premiere food styling work coming out of Singapore. It’s an incredible thing to gain recognition for your most beloved hobby, let alone being able to support yourself doing it. And for C.R, who’s been doing this for five years, he still gets excited by the initial client brief. As he explains, “I love my job because each client’s brief is different and challenges me to push myself to deliver and further improve my style and skills as a photographer… seeing the end result and the client’s satisfaction gives me a great feeling of recognition.”
And while food styling and photography is a rewarding enterprise, it can be difficult to really know what you’ve gotten yourself into, which C.R speaks to. Sometimes, production projects (for large clients) have tight timelines, added stress and he has to juggle many hats (producer, photographer and props stylist), though it always pays off and makes him a stronger creative.
Although he can’t imagine doing anything else, C.R thinks that if he wasn’t a food stylist and photographer he might be dabbling in food and beverage, acting as a barista, or working in the culinary space — as is apparent, he can’t imagine not being involved with food!
Here are his best tips to develop a career as a food photographer or stylist.
How would someone get into this profession?
There are many ways to do this — I started off as a blogger and then slowly ventured into the market by shooting for small businesses. That helped me build a good, solid foundation, as well as confidence before moving on to larger scale projects.
Building your own personal brand, engaging with content creation, and getting that work out on digital platforms also helps in getting prospects to notice your work, which is crucial as a freelance creative.
A more conventional way would be to shadow under a studio or photographer and build the network and skills from there while building your own portfolio on the side.
Do you have any advice to those seeking to make this their profession?
Find your niche, be one of the best in that particular field, keep creating, build secondary skills to support your main pursuit.
Ask yourself these questions — where do you want to position yourself in the market? How do you brand yourself? How do you get your work out into the market by utilizing digital platforms? Will you build a network that will be able to help you in the long run? These questions come into play depending where you are and the market you’re in. Plan your strategies to reach the end goal!
Do you have any tips of the trade to make styling/photographing food easier?
Always have a mood board on the side, take references of the composition and intended styling, lighting and editing, which you can then apply to your subjects. Keep practicing. Eventually, you will come to a point of realization where styling, lighting and editing will become second nature in your creative process.
To learn and see beautiful food photography by C.R Tan, visit the Blog