#FoodPorn may be trending online, but the genre itself is centuries old. The Italian artist Caravaggio painted the fruit basket in 1599 and broke the Renaissance with his first still life with perishable goods. Leave it to the Italians to elevate food to its high art status! In 1999, four hundred years later, Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier by French master Paul Cézanne became the most expensive food painting ever sold for $ 60.5 million. Social media has taken our collective love affair with dining to a whole new level! With over 165 million posts, #FoodPorn is a growing Instagram battleground for likes and palates and a multi-million dollar platform for the next generation of food business owners.

Photo by Amanda Anselmino

People eat with their eyes first. Three quarters of consumers admit that they use pictures to use social media as a personalized food guide to choose a place to eat. Research confirms that exposure to desirable foods increases our cerebral blood flow and stimulates appetite. Droolable images are an alluring marketing tool for restaurants, chefs, and grocery stores. As the stakes rise, food styling has become an integral part of what happens behind the camera. From using cardboard between pancakes to counterfeiting canned ice cream with icing and powdered sugar; Apparently, it’s all about the visual tricks in the art of storytelling through food.

Courtesy Allie Tong

We reached out to three women from the San Francisco Bay Area who are leaders in food styling to talk about their jobs and what it is like to be superb in the food industry, where men hold over 80% of decision-making roles To provide services! How do they make us crave “just one bite” ?!

From burger overdose to crispy cheese

“When I think of food porn, I think of big, messy food that increases our cravings for pleasure,” said Amanda Anselmino, a food stylist based in San Francisco. In 2006, she made a game-changing decision to move from professional poker to cooking. In 2010 she became a full-time food stylist to explore the art of eating beyond the kitchen. Her most notable work includes GFF Magazine, for which she styled grilled peaches with cardamom honey yogurt and double chocolate peanut butter biscuits. Another example is a risqué combo for Jank Magazine with a model posing with a taco in a classic contrapposto pose. Disadvantage? Sometimes you have to cook fish at 5 a.m. Not appealing, not even for a Michelin star dish.

Photo by Nico Oved

At the moment, Anselmino claims to have gone through a burger overdose. From rare meat burgers to plant-based burgers, America’s favorite foods often top the list of foods that are photographed. When it comes to “not-so-pretty” dishes, it can be difficult to get an eye-catching shot. “I think about what people love about a certain type of food and try to emphasize that,” says Anselmino. This is one of the reasons the cheese train is one of the most basic promotional tricks. “It’s about showing certain appetizing aspects to convey that hungry mood.” Anselmino uses mashed potatoes as a filler to look a little more realistic. “For example, I usually fill the inside of the burrito with mashed potatoes because that’s when you get that nice, soft, round shape,” she explains. “I put the ingredients right on the cut edge to hypnotize [the audience] with how good it looks; Otherwise, burritos are a pain to photograph. “

“For a while it was all about the ‘natural look’ but now the style is leaning towards shots of food in very strong lighting and there is a preference for saturated, bright colors,” Anselmino points out to the New York Times Magazine section of food . She cites Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can aesthetics as inspiration for the trend. The still life is worth $ 11.7 million, by the way. Food and art attract a lot of money these days!

In your face – and your feed

For Allie Tong, a Bay Area food stylist who posts as @ allie.eats, #foodporn describes the kind of food on your face and she wouldn’t change that! Instagram helped turn her hobby into a business that doubles as a food diary and a millennial professional resume. Thanks to its 26,000 followers, it has drawn the attention of hotel and catering companies looking to work together. She is a content creator and social media manager for restaurants, hotels and brands such as Hong Kong Airlines and Shangri-La Hotels.

Courtesy Allie Tong

To evoke this “in your face” feeling, Tong uses a variety of strategies: lighting up how unusual something might appear, not being too picky or too careful in creative decisions, acting as quickly as possible, but leaving a mysterious element to be resolved . “I’ll take different shots depending on the dish,” says Tong. “To decide what to post, I look at my current grid and try to alternate overhead shots with straight ones.” The ultimate goal is images that look too pretty to eat. The Inpreview app, which is used to preview their Instagram feed, has become their co-conspirator. “Before posting, I’ll be editing pictures in Snapseed or Lightroom and then adding a few minor edits as soon as I open them on Instagram,” says Tong. She wants her colorful and vivid images to convey how she feels while eating: “Happy, it just makes me happy.”

Cold food for hot social media

When Michelle Giang aka @savoreachbite left her job at NBC to pursue an Instagram dream, it was one of those moments that is now or never. Now the California-born 24-year-old food stylist lives between San Francisco and New York and creates viral #foodporn images. One of the hardest changes was knowing that she would get paid every two weeks and not knowing how she would make money in the first place. Running a quality blog is a challenge, but she enjoys working with clients or making recommendations from the industry. She worked with UberEats on Chocolate Day and was a judge on the Culinary Clash fundraiser at the InterContinental Hotel. “You can’t just build a reputation in a week. It takes time to build audience loyalty, ”says Giang.

Courtesy Michelle Giang

In a restaurant, she usually asks the staff: “What’s the nicest or strangest thing you have on the menu?” As soon as the dishes arrive, she takes photos. One of the greatest advantages of being a food stylist is that you can eat a lot of good food. The downside is that she often eats it cold or dry because it takes time for the plate to be Instagram ready. “I think the caption takes longer than the photo. It’s so hard to find the right expression, ”explains Giang.

Instagram #foodporn stylists often act as photographers, restaurant critics and social media strategists with one click. When sight believes, our stomachs increasingly rely on our eyes to make decisions about what to eat. From street vendors to well-known institutions, these influencers explore and share the world of groceries in always engaging ways. One day it could mean eating homemade huevos rancheros in a hammock and the other day hopefully trying the world’s most expensive dessert: the Faberge-inspired creation by Marc Guibert of Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel in Windermere, England. A chocolate vision so beautiful that it is suitable for a modern Caravaggio. Just don’t forget to program it first!

Co-author with Camila Encomendero.