These breathtakingly beautiful treviso radicchio were on offer from Fishbowl Farm at the Portland Farmers’ Market last week. As gorgeous as they were, I was having a hard time getting an image I loved of them. I had two perfect cabernet-colored heads lined with sensational lime green veins and yet I just couldn’t quite get a photo that did them justice. I finally surrendered and sliced them open for the grill. Salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil and they were ready to go. I placed them in a pan and headed out to the grill staring at their beautiful innards, and suddenly realized THIS was the photo. The worn pan, the way I had put them in it, the interior colors, everything was just right. So dinner was delayed another few minutes while I took this shot. It was a good reminder that sometimes you can’t force a photo, that the stars might align when you’re simply going about your business. The trick is to always be aware so that you don’t miss that golden opportunity!
I’m sorry to just have a photo of the Boston skyline to share with you (the view from my sweet suite at a Boston University dorm) after having recently returned from the International Food Styling and Photography Conference, but no doubt I will have numerous food photos of my own (other people’s are below) to come that will demonstrate a few of the many things I learned during this jam-packed (so to speak) weekend. Wow! My mind is a bit overloaded what with all the socializing, networking and fascinating information imparted. This will require more than one post as my head is swimming with so many interesting tidbits. I’ll start out by mentioning the presenters that most inspired me.
First inspiring talk: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, a food photographer and chef/stylist team who were both instrumental in the early days of Saveur magazine. I’ve long admired Hirsheimer’s work and was thrilled to listen to her (Christopher is female for those of you who don’t know) and Melissa talk about how they came to own their own studio together where they self-publish the new publication Canal House Cooking and collaborate on cookbooks, as well as, from the sounds of it, create and eat amazing food in a beautiful setting every day. What a life! The main reason I was excited after listening to their presentation was that I felt validated and hopeful as a result of learning how they work. Here are two amazingly successful women, doing what they love and doing it the way they want to do it. Christopher, echoing a theme running throughout the weekend, said during her talk, “We are at heart cooks; it is why we are able to please ourselves.” Christopher uses natural light, loves gritty, authentic shots (with fun things like paper towels and plastic bags), and said that their clients might be slightly alarmed were they to witness them at work because of their haphazard approach. That just made me feel so good! I’m definitely a trial and error type shooter and sometimes worry if a client were to see me at work they would think “this person doesn’t know what the #^^&$*(! they’re doing!” But I’ve learned recently that a lot of photographers operate this way. It’s really the end result that matters. Hersheimer said it’s all about emotion and creating images that resonate, so as long as your resulting image does that, that’s what’s important. It does not matter how you got there. And I love that she gets there shooting non-tethered (without the computer attached to the camera), with natural light and simple props because those are all things I do. So, thank you, Christopher and Melissa for validating my work approach and style!
Secondly, I was intrigued by the story of Beatrice Peltre, a Boston-residing, French freelance food writer, stylist and photographer whose fame came about as a result of her lovely food blog, La Tartine Gourmande. Beatrice started her blog as a way to do things that she loved: cooking, photographing and writing. She was doing it for her own amusement, but she quickly amassed quite a following because of her great recipes, lovely photos and entertaining stories about her life. Soon people were contacting her about paying work. It did not matter to them that she was just creating these dishes in her home and shooting them in her living room. What mattered was the level of authenticity in her work. This message really resonated with me as well. If you are authentic in your work, it creates a level of trust with clients. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Just be yourself. As a result of the blog, Bea was approached about writing and taking the photos for a cookbook, which she will be completing soon. Quite an inspirational success story!
Lastly, the beautiful compositions and tones of James Tse’s and Pornchai Mittongtare’s (he’s Thai in case you’re wondering) food photos have filled me with endless inspiration for future food shoots. Both of these guys are soft-spoken, unassuming, but very funny and talented food shooters. I love James’ use of cool tones and textures, and his simple, but elegant sense of composition.
He shoots mostly on location and yet in every photo of his, the food is absolutely mouth-watering. Pornchai’s work is mostly done in the studio and has a very graphic sensibility, but it’s every bit as eye-pleasing and appetizing as James’ work. Many thanks to these two, as well, and all the other presenters, for sharing their work and tips with all of the eager attendees. And, of course, a very big thank you to Lisa Golden Schroeder and John Carafoli who organized this amazing conference for the second time.
Speaking of tips, I’ll devote the next post to some food photo tips I learned at the conference. I will also do a post on the trends in food photography that were discussed. But for now I’m off to shoot some food!