Food stylist-photographer gives insight into craft of dressing up dishes

FOR Soo Yin, a picture is worth a thousand words, if not more when it comes to food. The food stylist and photographer, better known as Sycookies, has a keen eye for tiny details that showcase the essence and origins of a specific dish in a picture.

“The most important aspect of a picture would be the storytelling factor,” she said.

“I believe every dish has a story to tell as it represents culture, history and roots. That is why it is very important to correctly and accurately deliver the story of the food and dish itself.”

Being one of the nation’s most prominent visual creatives for food, it seems like Soo Yin has successfully found and developed her niche. However, it was not too long ago that the Kuala Lumpur native was on a different career trajectory.

“I come from a science background. I did medical science at university. But I did not enjoy my internship. At the time, I was already dabbling with food styling and photography through Facebook and my food blog. Thanks to support and practise, I realised this is what I enjoy doing.”

$!A close-up of bubble tea. – PHOTO COURTESY OF SYCOOKIES

What is an average day like for you?

Most of the days are usually the same. When I am not out on the field, it is like a desk bound job, more so during the current circumstances. But generally, I have to do a lot of planning before shooting, such as planning a mood board, dealing with clients and getting food ingredients. The planning part and the actual execution are two different processes. It can be very time consuming.

But apart from that, I spend my time doing post-processing, which is the editing work.

Are the skills of a food stylist innate or learned?

Techniques are something you can learn, and creativity is also something you can brush up on. However, it helps if you are creative from young. For me, I was lucky because my parents are into art. I also have older siblings who are into art as well. For instance, my sister is a graphic designer who used to help me when with my artwork when I was young.

Art has also always been my thing since I was young. I used to represent my school in competitions. Although I did not think it was something I wanted to pursue, I am glad that I decided to do so.

Do you keep up with the latest photography trends for inspiration?

Yes! I think keeping up with trends is very important because you can brush up on your techniques. I believe this will trigger my creativity. For instance, during the last movement control order, there was a trend on TikTok that presented pancakes in a bowl instead of the typical presentation. It gave me a fresher perspective on things.

Do you think social media has helped advance your industry?

Absolutely! It helps open up opportunities and provides a larger footprint for your work. For me, it has helped tremendously as I have received many job enquiries from clients through social media. It has also given my profile a bigger reach.

Although there is competition, I view them as a healthy opportunity to improve and progress.

I also treat social media as a platform to reach out to other creatives, where we can share thoughts, creative works and exchange ideas.

Is there a client or brand you would like to work with?

No, but I am open to working with lifestyle brands. More importantly, I am keen on working with talented individuals in the creative field whose values are aligned with my philosophy. One person would be Zung Heng from Ninja Kitchen.

He has fully embraced our local food and enjoys telling the world stories about them. I think that is a wonderful thing.