Food Styling – Korean Style

Fancy Korean Rice Cake

Fancy Korean Rice Cake

So here’s my excuse for not posting lately…I have been taking Food Stylist classes in Korea since January. In the recent weeks, we have had 3 photo sessions where we prepare the food and table setting and a professional photographer takes food photos for us. It is total chaos until everything from table linen to forks are all set to look good on camera. We also get help from our professor on some tips on styling.

It has been a really fun and interesting class overall, we learned all the different food styling areas: package styling, tv/video ads and print/magazine ads. Each area has its own difficulties and quirks but personally my favorite is the print/magazine ads as it has more to do with how a photo feels and the stylist has more freedom on how the shot is designed.

We also learned tips and tricks on how to make foods look yummy on screen. How to show “sizzle” by adding additional ingredients to foods. It’s not particularly my favorite thing to do but interesting nonetheless. One of the most interesting story I heard was from a tv ad stylist-it was when she had to style 200+ glasses of beer for a TV ad.  They could have easily used computer graphics but the producer wanted the real scene. She told us that by the time she was done pouring the 200 glasses, the foam from the beer was already all gone! So their solution was to use hair mousse mixed with beer for the foam!!!

One of my goal in taking the food stylist class was to learn how to style Korean foods. So the photo you see on top is my attempt to style Korean rice cakes (yes, aren’t they so pretty? It’s the latest trend and has no traditional name – these are quite expensive and often used as gifts to relatives as part of Korean wedding tradition) in a more modern way. The photo below shows Korean songpyeon dduk (송편떡) – the little oval shaped colorful rice cakes – which is traditionally made during the Korean fall harvest (chooseok) time. The square shaped pink rice cake is called Seolghee/Seolki/Seolki/Seolgi Dduk (설기떡). This photo is styled with more traditional colors and feel.

eongpyeon and Seolki Dduk

eongpyeon and Seolki Dduk

Anyway, this week we have our final class + exhibition of our class member’s photos so I should be able to come back to blogging very soon!


  1. Caroline says

    A food photography class sounds really interesting. I bought a book on food photography but I can imagine that it’s much better to get hands-on experience with talented people.
    To be honest, I find the backgrounds in these 2 pictures way too busy for my taste. Nice colors but there is so much going on everywhere that your eyes don’t really know where to rest. But these little rice cakes do look delicious indeed.

    • says

      I actually agree with you that the backgrounds are too busy. I would have preferred to have more blank space in the background too. I think partly it’s a style difference of different cultures and different generations. Koreans actually like things to be more busy and cute. Many of the younger students in my class also preferred less busy backgrounds but we kind of had to follow the professor’s advice on these…Thanks so much for the honest comment, I appreciate it. The little rice cakes actually do taste as good as they look.
      Also, these photos are meant to be cropped before they are used – not sure if that makes a difference..

  2. says

    It will be good to have you back – I’ve missed you!
    One of the things that always depresses me about Korean cookbooks is how gorgeous everything looks! I end up eating at my computer table, and if I’m feeling luxurious I add a napkin under the food on the plastic tray. 😛 And I can never remember which sides the rice and kimchi go on – isn’t there some rule about where the red foods go . . .
    Well, even so, the pork spine soup I made yesterday (with a real pork spine!) is good, and today it’s 돼지갈비찜 on the menu. So I guess the tase is what counts.
    The photos are lovely! It would be fun to see two versions of your recipes – one of how the food actually looks, and one glamor shot, hair mousse and all. But maybe the Internet is no place for reality. 😉

    • says

      Hi Judy! I missed you too! and my blog..
      Like you, I often end up eating my lunches in front of TV or at my computer table. As for where things go – if there’s rice and soup, rice goes on the left and soup on the right. There isn’t a particular stop for kimchi but it just stays with other banchan in the center. The photos I have been putting up so far are how my food actually looks. The food style class does teach you tricks to make your food look good but I am not sure I actually want to do that with my food. I kind of feel it’s almost false advertising.. :) What I really wanted to learn was about styling the food, on the plate and also on the table. I still have a long way to go but I feel my photos are somewhat getting better…

      Hope to talk to you soon…take care.. enjoy beautiful weather in CA for me!

  3. gregsamborski says

    Hello JinJoo, my name is Greg Samborski and I’m a photographer in Seoul, Korea. I’m looking for a food stylist to collaborate with on an upcoming project. Are you still in Korea and would you be interested in working together. Please contact me via the email provided or my website: Talk to you soon!

    -Greg S.

  4. Kathryn Kim says

    Hello Jinjoo,

    I just joined your community. Your blog looks great. Simple yet still traditional. The photos on your food styling is wonderful too. But, I wonder if you might consider doing a video showing how to cut up fruits. I see other Korean people cutting up fruit for after dinner dessert and mine never comes out pretty. I’m not looking to do anything fancy I just want to cut up different fruits in bite size pieces and make it look presentable. I’m a bit embarrassed to even ask as it seems so simple but I’ll risk looking foolish… I’m looking forward to trying out your recipes! Thank you. :)

    • says

      Hi Kathryn! Thank you for your compliments. Nothing to be embarrassed about.. It’s actually a fun idea. I will definitely consider the video but not sure if I have the right stuff to do it. 😉 I’ll have to figure it out. In the mean time, try searching on with the word “과일 예쁘게 깍기” or “과일 깍는법”. I also found one link – It’s probably a bit more than what you want but you can certainly see the basics. If you have trouble with the peeling itself, you just need to remember to always guide your knife with your thumb and progress little bit at a time. Also make sure you have a good sharp knife. Practice makes perfect so good luck!!

Would LOVE to hear from you!