Sunday, June 3, 2012

Food Photography Workshop in Charleston

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a 3-day 4-night food photography workshop.  With one of my best friends.  In Charleston, South Carolina.  Taught by the two incredible ladies who I very much admire.  It was basically a dream vacation. Helene Dujardin of Tartelette fame, and Clare Barboza, food photographer extraordinaire put together a truly perfect weekend - complete with tons of hands on practice, lessons from the masters themselves, field trips that gave us a chance to put our newfound knowledge to the test and explore the wonderful city of Charleston, and plenty of downtime for drinking wine and bonding with each other.

There is so much to tell, that in an effort not to write the world's longest post, I'm following Annie's lead and will be splitting the trip into 3 parts.  I'm also going to do my best to avoid overusing the words amazing, awesome, incredible, and perfect.  Even though that's basically how I would describe the entire weekend.  :)

Annie flew into Atlanta and we road-tripped to Charleston on Thursday morning.  When we arrived at the sweet mansion beach house, we unpacked our stuff and then joined the other participants for cocktails and nibbles as we chatted and got to know each other.  In true southern style, a low-country boil was prepared for us by Helene's assistant Laura (she's a professional chef and cooked for us all weekend - we were totally spoiled!).

More wine and sangria were consumed, and then Helene and Laura set up what was the most adorable ice cream sundae bar ever.  After stuffing ourselves and taking a short walk around the area, we called it a night - we needed to rest up for the coming days!

The next morning, Clare and Helene led us through the nitty-gritty details of the basics of food photography:  aperture, shutter speed, camera settings, natural light, etc.  While most of the information wasn't new info per se, some things definitely clicked more for me, and it was immensely helpful.  Following the first presentation, we were let loose to do what we all came for:  take pictures of food!

I started by taking a few shots of this gorgeous chocolate cake, then I played around with some berries and a pecan pie.

The pie was particularly challenging, but I wanted to push myself.  The filling was super oozy and the pie didn't slice well, not to mention the less than appetizing color and texture.  But I was happy enough with the shots I ended up with nonetheless.

After lunch, we had another presentation that focused on styling and composition, and then we followed it up with another shoot.  This time our assignment was antipasto, and we were told to take pictures of two subjects:  something pretty, and something ugly.  Anyone can take a good picture of pretty food, but when you push yourself to photograph less than attractive food you'll learn the most.

I started out with my "ugly" shot, and I chose a delicious but not-so-attractive seafood spread.  To make it appear more attractive, I used cute dishes, added some fresh herbs for color, and some sliced bread.

I just loved the red pappadew peppers in this aqua bowl:

My pretty food shot actually ended up teaching me a lot.  I decided to move to a different location to shoot this cheese and fruit tray, and while it seemed like the back porch had enough light, it wasn't good light.  It wasn't really coming from a specific direction, there were some weird shadows and bright spots, and it was just kind of flat.  Compare the light in this photo with that of the two above pictures.  It taught me to really think about the direction and brightness of the light that I use for photos in the future.

After this shoot we wrapped things up for the day, had some time to relax and hang out, and then chowed down to a wonderful pasta dinner.  As an aside, can I just say that staying with a group of food enthusiasts has its benefits?  We didn't just have spaghetti with marinara.  Oh no.  Fresh pasta with smoked tomato sauce.  Short rib ravioli.  Beet and goat cheese ravioli with browned butter.  Salad with the freshest of veggies.  And of course, the wine was flowing.  We turned in pretty early, because the next day we were up bright and early to hit the Charleston Farmer's Market!

The trip to the market was another photo assignment.  We were to focus on telling a story through photographs.  It was challenging, a little stressful, but so much fun.  I took tons and tons of pictures, so I'll be doing a separate post soon to tell you guys all about it!

Part 2 of our morning's assignment was then to photograph our brunch.  Our lovely hosts prepared a truly perfect spring brunch for us to shoot and then eat:  roasted asparagus and tomatoes, bacon, farm-fresh eggs cooked to order, toast, english muffins, fresh fruit... I decided to go with a fried egg over asparagus and roasted tomatoes.  I crumbled some bacon over the top, took some pictures, and dug in!

We had the remainder of the afternoon to relax, start going through our photos, and/or explore the area.  That night, we took another field trip.  This time we were treated to a truly fabulous meal at Lana Restaurant in downtown Charleston.  I'll also be doing a separate post on our dinner out.  Stay tuned!

The next morning, we began our final day of the workshop (sad face).  Clare and Helene each walked us through their thought process for styling and shooting a scene, and then we were given our final assignment:  make and photograph a picnic lunch.  The initial plan was to then walk to the beach and enjoy our picnic lunch, but everyone was so hungry that we ended up just eating there at the house.  I chose to shoot a corn and black bean salad:

We spent the rest of the afternoon uploading our 15 favorite shots from the weekend, and then as a group we reviewed and critiqued each participant's photographs.  I won't lie, I was so so nervous when my photographs were up - but of course no one told me I was terrible, and I seemed to get good feedback overall ;-)

To cap off the weekend, we were treated to another homemade meal - this time, pizza!  Clare and Helene's husbands and Laura prepared a feast of gourmet pizzas and plenty of vino.

The next morning Annie and I tearfully set out back to Atlanta.  The weekend really was just incredible.  I learned so so much, was pushed outside of my comfort zone, and forged some wonderful friendships.  Clare and Helene are masters of their class, yet they are both so humble, generous, and down to earth.   I loved that they didn't give us a set of rules to follow for setting up a shot.  They encouraged us to develop our own style and method, while offering technical feedback and suggestions.  Getting to know them, as well as the rest of the participants, was one of the best parts of an already pretty perfect weekend.


Kathy Martin said...

I've really been enjoying your Charleston photos! My husband and I vacationed there last summer and these lovely pictures remind me of the wonderful time we had! Thanks for sharing! :)

Jen said...

what an amazing opportunity! thank you for sharing. your photos look great and charleston is one of my favorite places!

Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes said...

Sounds like a great trip, Josie! Dying to visit Charleston.

Shawn @ I Wash...You Dry said...

Sounds like a fun time! I really like the picture of those tomatoes...or are they pepper? Either way, love the color and pop of them!

Hezzi-D said...

This sounds like an amazing trip! Your food photos are very pretty too.

Anonymous said...

My brother in law lived in Charleston for a stint, and it was so beautiful that he almost convinced my sister to move there with him! And he's a West Coast boy all the way through! :) I am so glad you got to go and meet so many wonderful ladies.

Joanne said...

I read about this on Annie's blog but am amazed all over again at how amazing it sounds. And your pictures are awesome!

JulieD said...

Very cool, Josie! I love Helene and her husband, Bill. Looks like you had a blast! I can't wait to see your other wrap-up posts!

Jessica said...

I have to admit, I'm a bit jealous of your weekend! What an awesome opportunity! Your photos look great. I agree things like pie can be very challenging, but if we don't push ourselves we'll never grow! I think the seafood salad spread photo turned out really well, I'd eat it. :)

Photographer in Charleston said...

Amazing works, I like colourful projects. Thanks for sharing.

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Charleston Newborn Photographer said...

Who doesn't love a relaxing weekend in Charleston South Carolina. Filled with great places to eat and even better scenery

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