Food Styling : lessons learnt food styling on location in the bush

A recent food styling shoot on location in a hot , humid and remote part of South Africa had me reflecting on a few professional and personal challenges to styling on location.

1. It’s not so easy.
It means packing as much as you can into 20kg allotted luggage allowance. Including chopping boards, knives, props, tool kit , manicure set ( for the hand model holding the sun ripened fruit) and then whatever space is left over for a few clothes and toiletries. It means lugging a whole lot of heavy stuff, a long way, in a small plane, with even smaller leg room.

2. You can’t control the weather. Or the client.
No sun means no sunrise shot of the dew glistening on the fruit in the early morning, despite getting up at 5 am 3 mornings in a row.
No sun means no beautiful dappled light through the trees , and no typical fire streaked African sky at sun set.
What it does mean is that there are many things beyond ones control when shooting outside of a studio or even a city. No basic amenities, running water and even toilets. No shopping mall with a vast and varied array of props for that last minute request from the client for an extra special item to make the shot “just perfect”
It means adjusting quickly and improvising where necessary to get the job done. And a few deep breaths.
See point 3.

3. Attitude is everything.
Life lesson número uno will serve you well when only getting a few hours sleep, facing unpredictable and changing circumstances , dealing with different personalities and surviving on very little coffee.
You can’t control the weather but you can control your response to the frustrations, delays and unreasonable requests.
Grit your teeth. Adjust your sails. Do what it takes. Smile and wave.

4. The grass isn’t greener on the other side and the view in the rear view mirror isn’t as rosy
Sometimes I miss my old life. My single life of jet setting, touring numerous continents, cooking and staying in glamorous locations, and of only being responsible for myself and answering to no one. Sometimes I read blogs, look over the fence at friends lives on facebook, and I want some of it , or some of it back.
Or so I thought.
Yes the opportunity to have a double bed to myself ( albeit for only 5 hours a night) complete control of the air con and tv remote ( not that there was even time for the latter) and an escape from the often mind numbing routine of domestic life, can seem so attractive.
Change is as good as a holiday they say. Well it was no holiday but the change was awesome. I came home and held my nearest and dearest just a little tighter and longer than I normally would, and gave thanks for the incredible gifts I have been given and often forget or quickly take for granted.

5. You can never be too prepared.
We covered the basics, sun cream , hats, and long sleeved t shirts. We didn’t plan for snakes, spiders, scorpions or even cuts and scratches. A basic first aid kit, cooler box with ice packs for cold waters, flask for coffee, wet wipes, tissues, insect repellant during the day ( not just for mosquitoes at night) and acetone!
(Who would have thought the hand model would have nail polish on ? )
Have all made it onto the checklist for next time.

Next time ? You cry.
Oh yes indeed!
What’s the point of learning lessons if you can’t implement them.

Happy traveling and food styling!






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