Well, the dust has finally settled after a whirl wind trip out west in October. While I was mostly there to attend the 2nd annual Food Bloggers of Canada conference (thanks for bunkin’ Robyn!) my main push for going was to up my food styling game (okay fine, and visit some friends and family there too) with the pre-conference workshop with the legendary Janis Nicolay, Matt Armendariz & Adam Pearson. When the session quickly sold out, I knew that I made the right decision in coughing up the extra dough. The small group of like-minded bloggers, photographers and gawkers that I met and collaborated with cannot be overlooked either, so thanks to everyone who attended!
The room itself was a dream. Set up inside the Four Seasons hotel the quality of light (diffused- thanks for the rainy skies Van City!) allowed us to utilize natural light and have ample space to food style, shoot, rinse and repeat. Armed with tripods, cameras and cookies, we devoured Adam’s buffet of props which he kindly loaned the crowd and got our hands dirty learning all the tips and tricks from Adam’s tool belt.After watching Adam meticulously style a seven layered sandwich with all his food styling arsenal (rip out pieces of the bun to make the sandwich sit better, mist lettuce & tomatoes finely for a fresh look, use toothpicks to prop your meats up and create movement) we were let loose to create our own sandwiches and salads, or get straight to shooting by grabbing a small stack of cookies. Some people crowded around Matt and picked his big juicy brain for photography tips, others gravitated towards Adam for prop and styling tips and Janis was hands on with everyone floating through the crowd and pointing people in the right direction.
I jumped right in and got to work on my own sandwich creation. The labour of love wasn’t lost on me one bit. I’ve never in my life put so much thought and care into each fold of meat, slice of onion and curl of lettuce as this one. I was sort of doubting myself, but one look at the finished product and I was pretty satisfied. I stole some of Adam’s beautiful cookie sheets and used them as both for the foreground and background, shooting at f 2.8 to create a seamless look.
Remembering Matt’s advice, I also swung the tripod around and shot the sandwich like a portrait…
Next, you don’t make friends with salad, but you probably won’t make any enemies either. I borrowed this beauty salad off a pal and got shooting. The fork position was guided by my right handed-ness, although one look from my hubby the leftie said I did it all wrong…something about the Queen being upset about not setting things up properly, but I think it’s a casual reflection of myself. RIGHT?!
Saving the best for last, I stole some cookies and milk and in between calling home to my kids snapped a few more shots, this time with Janis carefully guiding me to my final image.
As a pretty seasoned shooter leading into the conference, I was now feeling a lot more confident when it came to props and styling. I now judge every piece that could potentially make a good prop- old cardboard can be painted the colour du jour to mix things up. By having an interesting background and foreground and using colour to help set the mood can make the food pop. There’s no need to spend all your hard earned dough on the latest tablecloth that your guests will likely never get to use. And there’s also no point in styling with elements that have little or nothing to do with the subject. A cooling rack in the background for shooting cookies works, but does a rolling pin if they’re drop cookies? Not so much.
Many warm thanks to Adam, Matt and Janis for sharing their time, tricks and tips. Thanks to Ethan and FBC for providing all the ingredients and for putting together the workshop! I look forward to many more of them!