Food Stylist: Harry McMann

Photo Credit: Jim Noble

Harry McMann

1. How did you get into food styling?
                I was recruited out of culinary school by a photographer, who had an ongoing project with a supermarket chain. They were fairly simple shots, but high volume. It was a great way for me to get my foot in the door. I liked the work, and discovered a niche that wasn't being filled at the time.

2. Where do you look for inspiration?

                    I subscribe to the usual magazines, Saveur and Donna Hay are a couple of my favorites. But food photography is everywhere. I can't look at a package shot or a TV spot without trying to figure out what they did.

3. You seem to have a lot of hot/prepared food in your portfolio. How much of that is actually hot? How do you make it look hot?

                It's usually not hot. Room temperature works best for most products. You need to keep it looking moist and shiny, that gives the impression that it's fresh and hot. Also steam if it's appropriate.    

4. What is a trick you use to keep the glasses chilled?

            My usual method is to use Rain-X on the glass and then spritz it with a 50-50 mix of glycerine and water. It works best if the glass is brand new.

5. For your ice cream shot, how long did that stay “fresh” on set?

            The ice cream was fake so it will last indefinitely, I use Cool-Whip which is pretty stable. As long as nobody bumps anything, the photographer should have 30-40 minutes to work with it. Of course if you're using real product, it's a different story.
6. What has been the most challenging thing to style?
            People are usually surprised to hear me say that the simplest things are often the most challenging. Things like peanut butter, or oatmeal are difficult to style with and aren't very photogenic to begin with. When you're working with something like that it could be a long day! I've seen more than one photographer pull  their hair out trying to get a good image of a single strawberry.

7. Do you work with an assistant or is it solely you?

    Both. It depends on the size and scope of the project. For film and TV, I usually have assistants because the day moves a lot faster, and I don't want everyone waiting on me. A good assistant is worth their weight in gold.

8. Who is your dream client?   
    My dream client was one that got away. I was approached once about working on a project with Julia Child, but nothing ever became of it. For me, that would have been the ultimate.

9. For your restaurant clients have they been in studio or at a location?

        Both, but it seems that lately I'm working on location more. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I can work either way.

10. Favorite thing to style?
                I hesitate to pick a favorite. I like drinks because when they're shot right, you can get some really cool images. Clients seem to like my burgers and sandwiches, also my ice cream. I live in Maryland so I get a lot of seafood shoots. But It's all good, there aren't many foods that intimidate me.