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Food stylist reveals her best tricks for getting mouthwatering photos

From smooth, delicious ice cream to Instagram-worthy eggs, Diana Jeffra dishes on all the secrets behind food photography.

food styling, food, milkshake, ice cream, food styling tips
Representative Images from Canva

Who knew there was so much craft behind a photo of a milkshake?

Has this ever happened to you? You’re minding your own business, when suddenly an ad for food pops up. A perfectly stacked burger with nary a sesame seed out of place…fries the color of the sun at summertime…a milkshake so impossibly frothy you don’t know whether to sip it or slather it on your body…you had only eaten lunch an hour ago, but now, as if by magic, you’re starving again.

Of course, when you finally do make it through the fast food window, your order looks nothing like that dreamy photograph. Many of us know that this expectation-vs-reality moment is because an entire team of creatives work together to create the image that sold you the idea of the food.

In other words, it’s an art form. And if there’s any doubt of that, just watch a food stylist at work.


Food stylist and recipe developer Diana Jeffra has wowed over 18 million people on TikTok with her video of what appears to be delicious cookies n’ cream ice cream, which actually contains no ice cream at all.

In the video, Jeffra explains that the faux ice cream was created to appear in the background of a photo for an ice cream sandwich company. Which in turn meant that the product would have it last a couple of hours without melting.

Though she does use non-food products on occasion to get the look she wants, Jeffra tries to stick to the real deal. So for this recipe, she whips together a combination of frosting and powdered sugar, adding in additional scoops of the latter ingredient until she reaches her desired texture, after which she kneads in Oreo bits.

And voila, smooth, mouthwatering “ice cream.” And it’s still edible, so win win!

@culina_creative How to make fake cookies and cream ice cream for photography. #foodstylingsecrets #foodstylingtipsandtricks #foodstylingvideo #foodphotographyandstyling #foodstylist #foodstylingtips #fakeicecream #foodstylinghacks #foodstylingtiktok ♬ Live Your Beautiful Life - Gray Griggs

Also, an interesting caveat: Jeffra mentioned that this image would not be used on the product’s packaging, and therefore it’s “not considered false advertising.”

She also mentioned that since food stylist can be a hard business to break into, she wanted to give others some helpful tips on the creative side, hence her behind-the-scenes videos which on more than one occasion have been called “fascinating” by viewers.

Take this video for instance, which has 445,000 views, where Jeffra shows how to create perfectly photogenic eggs.

@culina_creative How to food style eggs for food photography. #foodstylingtips #foodstylingvideo #drippyeggs #foodstylingsecrets #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylingtipsandtricks #eggphotography #foodstyling ♬ Souvenir De Paris - Martin Taylor

If Jeffra is creating eggs that will show by themselves—i.e, on a plate next to bacon or pancakes—she drops the whites into a pan with oil, then drops the yolk into the center. But if the eggs are supposed to go on a sandwich, she might place the yoke further on the edge so that it’s visible. She might even use a pipette to give the sandwich that delectable “egg drip.”

“Food styling is all about controlling the food to get it to look a specific way for the camera, “ she says in the clip.

Or this one of a milkshake, which has nearly 2 million views.

“I know it looks delicious, but trust me, it’s not,” she says, revealing that what you see is actually a cup of mashed potatoes in a very glamorous disguise.

@culina_creative Food styling a fake milkshake for food photography. #foodstylingtipsandtricks #foodstylingtips #foodstylingsecrets #milkshake #foodphotographyandstyling #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylist #fakeicecream ♬ Souvenir De Paris - Martin Taylor

Jeffra apparently takes instant mashed potatoes, adds chocolate syrup, and whisks in water until she gets her desired texture (because, again, texture matters with ice cream). She then transfers the mixture to a cup, and tops it with whipped cream, aka “white chocolate pudding mix and cream.”

Once the milkshake is placed on set, Jeffra sprays it with a glycerin-water mixture to “make the cup look cold.” Talk about insider secrets.

And if you’re thinking, “I could get down with some chocolate potatoes,” you’re in good company with folks in the comments section.

Or how about this: ever wondered how they get non-melting ice for fancy drinks? Sure, you can order some pretty uniform ones, but in this video, Jeffra shows how she makes them herself:

Even this simple trick for how to get a perfectly unwrapped candy bar is so so cool:

@culina_creative How to style a candy bar in its packaging with @Kate Grewal #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylingtips #foodstylingtiktok #candyphotoshoot #foodphototips #foodstylist #foodstylinghacks #lifeofafoodstylist ♬ Golden Hour: Piano Version - Andy Morris

Food styling really is a unique blend of art and science. There’s a need for precision and attention to detail, a willingness to think outside the box, probably a healthy dose of perfectionism and of course, a good eye. Kudos to the folks who can do it, even if your work leaves us with some uncontrollable cravings.

By the way, if you’re hoping to get into food styling yourself, Jeffra swore by a book titled "The Food Stylist's Handbook" by Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan in her interview with Good Morning America.

Plus, you can follow Jeffra on TikTok for even more amazing insider tips.

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