Chicago-based food and prop stylist Johanna Lowe rarely goes to a photo shoot without her kit of kitchen supplies.
It's full of knives, scissors and measuring cups, — expected tools for the trade. But then there's the electric paint stripper, for melting cheese or browning, and the cat syringe, which she uses to create tiny water drops on fruit.
Lowe's job is to make food being photographed — be it for ads, magazines, websites or books — look beautiful. That involves cooking, baking and prepping the food and, of course, always being ready for any culinary twists.
"The job of food styling is 90 percent problem-solving," she said. "Creativity and talent is one thing, but also thinking on your feet and coming up with solutions quickly is crucial."
At a recent shoot with photographer Anthony Tahlier for Tazo Tea, a brand sold at Starbucks, Lowe arranged a flower just so, bristling the petals and training them to pose for the desired composition. And with a knife in one hand and an orange in the other, she meticulously spiraled the peel, folding off the skin to make the fruit appear striped.
Lowe, a former photographer, has done work for Crate & Barrel, Kraft, KitchenAid and more.
Using fresh food is key in the niche industry, Lowe said. You can't fake fresh.