Arts & Culture
February 14, 2024
5 minute read time

Styling with Mars Guisala

The PINO Team
Photos by
Illustrations by

Give us a short background of yourself and what you do.I graduated with a Multimedia Arts degree from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. Before I found my calling as a food photographer and stylist, I tried my hand out in the different areas of the creative industry. I worked as a 3D artist, a graphic designer, and I even dabbled in leather-crafting. Eventually, I was able to find my niche and now focus my career on food photography, food styling, and props styling.

What drew you into working in styling?

It was on my fourth job when I discovered my interest in food photography. I was then a graphic artist for a hotel. As such, my work involved styling, taking photographs, and designing the hotel’s marketing materials featuring its restaurants’ dishes, among others. This opportunity gave me a lot of time to freely experiment and practice a specific set of skills that would later become my main craft.

Initially, I was happy with just taking photographs of food. But eventually, my clients also needed styled layouts mainly for social media posting. Although I had no formal training in styling, I was eager to learn the skill to supply this growing demand. I drew up a game plan for myself and put it into action. By researching, taking online courses, and practicing at home, I slowly developed my skill in food styling. From something that I only had to learn to supply the needs of a handful of my clients, this learning process inevitably led me to realize my love for styling as well.

What is styling to you?

There are two types of styling, Props Styling and Food Styling.

Props styling involves decorating the setting of the whole shoot layout. If the setting is a kitchen, then you’ll have to bring cooking pans, chopping boards, knives, and other items that would create the intended mood or atmosphere required for the shoot.

Food Styling, on the other hand, concerns making food look their best, emphasizing the factors that make them look most appealing and appetizing. Every so often, this also means having to substitute some of the food’s elements and ingredients to really capture that effect. For example, many food photographers have felt the frustration of taking that perfect photograph of frappes because the whipped cream shrinks in just a minute or two. To prolong that period when the whipped cream looks its finest, a food stylist would substitute this food element with a more stable material.

What is a regular work week like for you?

My typical work week usually entails planning for shoots, meeting with clients, and going to markets and hardware stores to procure the props and ingredients I would need. By focusing 80% of my efforts on preparatory work, I can ensure that I enjoy shooting and styling, as well as consistently deliver the best output for my clients. While it involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work, this process helps me manage my time wisely so that I can focus and do my best on every project.

“What I find most exciting about this industry is the fact that I get to work with different kinds of people from all walks of life.”

What are some challenges you face in your line of work?

There will be times that you will have to think fast to solve unexpected issues during the shoot. It could be a sudden layout change, or one of your machines or equipment could break or malfunction. As such, it’s vital that you also prepare a backup plan for situations like these. I’ve learned that it is true that you should always expect the unexpected and stay calm when the unexpected arrives. By doing so, you’ll be unfazed by whatever problem arises during your shoot, and you’ll be able to show your client that you’re a professional who can handle such situations.

What’s exciting about the industry you work in?

What I find most exciting about this industry is the fact that I get to work with different kinds of people from all walks of life. Through these people, I regularly get exposed to brands and cuisines that I would not have otherwise stumbled upon by myself. I’ve learned to be more bold and adventurous in trying out new things.

Any advice you can give to someone who wants to follow in your steps?

To those thinking about pursuing a career in styling and photography, I encourage you to take your first steps by practicing, learning through online lessons, attending workshops, or even just looking at styled photographs for inspiration. Doing these things will not only hone your skills, but they will also be a source of motivation as you see yourself getting better day by day. I can’t emphasize enough that we should always make time for ourselves.

Lastly, as members of the creatives industry, we understandably put our primary focus on our craft. But do note that the business aspects of this job are just as important as its creative aspects. Finding success through your creativity requires you to go beyond your art. You also have to learn how to properly communicate with clients and how to price the value of your work.