By Danny Freedman
Friday, January 7, 2005 2:49 PM
SUZANNE SPRINGER, 37
JOB: Freelance food and prop stylist
SALARY RANGE: $30,000 to $40,000 a year for beginners, said Springer; sky's the limit depending on your gusto.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's in interior design from Virginia Tech
WHAT SHE DOES: Springer is the force that makes you salivate when you see a photo or display of food. A dish has to look "as wonderful as it would taste," but edibles are temperamental subjects. What looks good in real life might not be photogenic. "You could have mashed potatoes that end up just looking like a white blob," said Springer. Or "stew that looks like just a big bowl of, ewww, sludge." Much of her time is spent experimenting with natural ways to keep the meat looking succulent, the fruit fresh and the greens green, even under hot studio lights. Brushing grilled chicken with oil, for instance, can make it appear fresh-from-the-oven hot. As a prop stylist, she creates illustrative still lifes, such as using a candle, medicinal jars and gauzy cloth to set the tone for a story on witchcraft in U.S.News & World Report. Work starts with a brainstorming session with the art director and photographer, followed by shopping sprees for props or ingredients.
WOULD YOU WANT HER JOB? A last-minute hitch can unravel hours of preparation: The food's ready, but the lighting changes and the food "dies," or it rains on an outdoor scene.
HOW YOU CAN GET HER JOB: Springer met her food-styling mentor while doing catering and event planning. A culinary background will teach you presentation and how to work with food. Build a portfolio by assisting others, even if that means tracking them down (perhaps through local restaurants) and making cold calls. There's always room for assistants, especially ones who work for free at first.
This article orignally appeared in Express on August 16, 2004.