MONIQUE SOURINHO - food photographer, stylist, recipe developer, and professional taste tester. Nothing fills my cup more than connecting with like-minded people (especially over a great meal). To learn more click here.
A Day In My Life As A Commercial Food Stylist
Ah a day in the life as a commercial food stylist… This is probably one of the questions I get asked the most. So on that note, let’s begin!
Read on for all the details about what a typical photoshoot day looks like for me.
Well, actually, this ‘day in the life’ technically starts a day or two before the true ‘commercial food stylist day’ really begins. I need ample time to prepare, of course!
I spend a lot of time wrapping my mind around the project days prior to the photoshoot. Then I begin mapping everything out. I make lists of what I’ll need, what might be useful, and the tools + supplies that will make my day flow easier.
Next, I go grocery shopping — though sometimes it feels more like hunting than shopping — for the freshest ingredients that have ‘visual appeal.’ I make sure to keep everything in insulated reusable bags, and sometimes even coolers filled with ice (depending on how far I am from a fridge). This ensures maximum freshness.
Afterwards, I scurry on home to play Tetris with my refrigerator. It’s always an interesting game, to say the least. Following that I play another game of Tetris, this time with my car. I try to pack as many non-perishable items as possible in my car, and then I call it a day.
Next, sleep. And recovery (from the grocery slash hunting mission and the multiple Tetris games, and also the mental energy spent planning).
Then, I mentally set myself up for success as much as I possibly can. Sometimes that means taking some magnesium to help ease my muscles. Since I know I will be spending all day on my feet I like taking preventative measures. Set locations typically are on hard surfaces.
When I wake up, I transfer everything from the fridge into the same reusable bags and coolers. Then I place — okay, shove — it into my car. I zoom on over to the set location and I make multiple trips transferring everything from car to on set.
Depending on the project, I’ll hire an assistant for the day. And by depending on I mean usually, and by assistant, I mean Alex Vollono, who is by far the best person I’ve ever worked with. He just gets me and that is an invaluable connection that I hope everyone gets to experience, time and time again, in their entrepreneurial lifetime!
So, now that we’ve established Alex is likely along for the ride with me during this day, let’s move on.
I will ask Alex to help with the mise en place — French for everything in its place. This means prepping as much as possible, in terms of slicing produce, weighing the items out, and organizing them into reusable containers, then rushing them into the fridges available.
While Alex is working on that, I organize everything else within my power. Formulating a game plan that coincides with the order of the shot list makes life a heck of a lot easier! With photoshoots, you really never know what can happen. Obviously you want things to go smoothly and well, but I catch myself approaching with the mindset: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Not in a negative way, but in a way that fortifies you and your teammates up for success, no matter what comes your way.
As a rule of thumb, I live by this saying on photoshoot days: it is better to have things and not need it than to need it and not have it. Every little detail matters, especially when expectations are to hyper-sensualize products, both in larger scales and zoomed in to the finest details.
That said, overwhelm can easily creep in on these days. I always ensure my health needs are met. I hydrate as much as possible throughout the day. In order to remain sharp, full of energy, and attentive, I always make sure I eat something that fuels me, without weighing me down.
From breakfast, to lunch, and snacks in between, I tend to calculate from a more logistical standpoint. Will this item boost my performance? Does it have enough fiber and nutrients to keep me satisfied until my next meal? Will it be enough, or will it be too much? Will it set off sensors in my brain to the reward system simply because I am craving it or will it push me into a food coma and make me drag my feet for the remainder of the day? (So many questions!).
(Though, one of my favorite snacks as of lately are these Masala Chai Energy Bites. They are full of fiber and natural sweetness thanks to the dates. They boost me up and sustain my energy until lunch or dinner time and are incredibly simple to make! Recipe here.)
My days always begin with my ritual of sipping water, digesting adaptogens (to prevent responses to stress) in vegetable capsule form. I gradually wake up with functional mushroom coffee paired with vegan creamers enhanced with triglycerides (aka some of the lovely natural benefits from coconuts). Is it extreme? Perhaps. But it’s something I cannot shake now that I noticed a difference within my brain activity. Just as every detail matters for what I put out on these photoshoot days, every detail matters for what I put in.
(And, luckily for me, I partner with Laird Superfood, so not only do I get my coffee and creamer fix—I get to share it with you, too. It may or may not be an obsession of mine.)
During the photoshoot, I aim to be as hands-on as possible. I’m always tuned in, listening for anything that I can help with or solve for my clients. Photoshoot days mean being in the now.
Be there, be attentive, and be quick to offer solutions. That’s my motto. At the end of the day, I am part of a team. And the team’s goal is to carry forth the project and to communicate well. Their problems are my problems, and any problem can turn into a learning curve, not only for that moment, but for future projects as well. (This is also known as developing experience!)
Hours later, the day wraps up. Everyone kind of moves a little slower from working diligently and everyone wants to finish the project, and finish it STRONG. That way, we can all wholeheartedly, and unapologetically, cheers to success with drinks afterwards.
(With one of the agencies I work with, there is a running joke that if we don’t have celebratory drinks after, we can upset the shoot gods—and no one is willing to risk that!)
Afterwards, it is time to clear the scenes, clean up, and wash away the worries. Playing that final game of Tetris with the car is not nearly as difficult. The area that was formally bountiful with props, foods, and tools is now empty. It is fresh for the next assignment to flow through!
Side note: Another rule I live by on these days is to always clean up and sanitize. This way it looks even BETTER than it did before you got there. This is also another principle that applies to basically everywhere; respect goes a long way.
Finally, after packing up, sharing some drinks, the work day is over and it is time to return home.
Once I’m home, I kick off my shoes, wash away the day, and I drift off into a slumber. After all, I have to recover for the next adventure that awaits…
I hope you enjoyed coming along with me for a typical day in my life as a commercial food stylist! Stay tuned for more posts like this coming soon! Maybe next time we’ll chat about what a day in my life developing my personal recipes looks like, because that day is veryyy different.