Food Photography Workshop London • Makelight Workshops
This is the Summer of adventure. Holidays, end of eras, new beginnings and firsts. We are setting off for Heathrow this afternoon, ready for our early morning flight to Lakitira with Mark Warner Holidays and when we get back I am straight into my first book shoot. An actual real life book.
I have worked for Honeybuns for the last couple of years and it is a great honour for them to put their faith in me and my camera for their second recipe book. I am nervous and excited in equal measure and I know I may shed a few tears when I hold the first copy in my hands next year. In preparation for the book shoot I wanted a refresher on my food photography skills. A hectic life with busy boys has meant the recipe posts have been few and far between on this blog over the last 6 months, all my new cocktail ideas are in a notebook, my new yellow casserole dish is still sat on the side waiting for the citrus chicken connection I dreamt up one night at 3am.
So when I saw that two of my favourite photographers and bloggers were hosting a workshop in London this month I booked it without hesitation. I have watched Emily's blog grow and mature, move in a different, more focussed direction over the last 18 months and I respect the advice she gives me over messages and emails greatly. Catherine is a food photographer extraordinare. Effortless, timeless and humble. Her photographs are instantly recognisable, the gentle, understated natural hues and intricate styling that appears almost accidental. The set of forks here, the spattering of crumbs there. Accidents on purpose. There's an ease, a calmness about her signature style that oozes talent. Catherine doesn't saturate her colours, she lets them breathe, an art that I am still trying to master! To pair things back, not just in terms of styling but let your focus of the photo shine.
I wanted a chance to pick their brains, to talk amongst other enthusiasts and to see in the flesh if Emily's heavenly studio really was a real place! It looks too good to be true!
But it is true. Walking in was like a wave of calm hitting you. A clean white space, interspersed with vintage folding chairs, a contemporary white trestle table and an abundance of props. Every surface is blessed with prettiness. Every window ledge is decorated with petals and postcards like keys on a piano. Everyone couldn't help themselves but to widely run their fingers over all the treats and trinkets we've admired in Emily's photos, spotting plates and treasured pieces that feature in her Instagram feed.
To be quite honest, we could have spent a day just playing. Wandering from corner to corner, capturing something different every time. It's a space that demands creativity, I felt totally at ease amongst the other students, all giddy with the same sense of anticipation and excitement.
Emily's workshops are gentle but informative, inspiring and encouraging. There was no formal presentation, just a natural flow through the course sections. We all gathered around the central trestle table, we listened to Emily and Catherine talk through the outline for day and we shared our own personal aims for what we hoped we would take away from the workshop.
Catherine is a font of knowledge when it comes to the journey of a food photographer. I was fascinated when she talked through how she found her passion, how she created a portfolio with her business partner and husband and how they manage work and home life with two small children. Catherine speaks with authority on the subject but with a sense of humility that makes you want to lean closer and closer, in case you miss a second. She shared an abundance of hints and tips and watching her create vignettes was an absolute treat. Witnessing her thought process, her methodical way of working from the conception of the idea, to sourcing props, to setting up the shot and then finally to the capture.
The day for me felt like a complete indulgence, but one that challenged some of my pre conceived notions about food photography and gave me a chance to talk through my nerves around the book shoot in 2 weeks. The workshop encourages you to develop your own signature style, and as I walked around the room it was a pleasure to see how everyone approached a shot slightly differently, even though we were all using the same props. Everyone's natural style shone through, with some preferring a clean and minimalist feel and some, more like me who for them, more is always more!
It felt like I had come to a retreat for the day, with no rushing, no pressure. There was lots of opportunities for individual time with both Emily and Catherine which meant that more experienced photographers had the chance to discuss their issues and those who had come to develop their styling skills more for their social media also got the same level of attention, without being bombarded with technical information.
I wanted to try and practise my style in both a more atmospheric, moody feel as well as my more natural brighter, colourful way. I scoured the room and looked through the terrific array of props laid out meticulously on the window ledges and tables.
I borrowed a fellow student and loved how everyone worked together, sharing ideas and inspiration. The thing about Emily's workshops is, if you like creating beautiful images you are bound to like all the other students and have lots in common! There were students who have booked every single one of her workshops, bloggers, non bloggers and bakers. Emily is a force. She is determined, focussed but a force like a sweeping tide on a Caribbean beach. Calm, encouraging, supportive.
It was so interesting to sit down together at the end of the day, all of us more worn out than we probably had realised whilst buzzing around the studio, and hear her goals for the next year. There's no sense of embarrassment for her commercial drive and ambition and nor should there be. She wants to grow her portfolio of workshops and help and inspire others to improve their skills. Her refreshing honesty is powerful to listen to. Understated ambition and utterly charming.
I felt spoilt with talent, company and encouragement at the Makelight Food Photography & Styling Workshop. I got to say hello to some of my favourite friends on Instagram and spend a day doing exactly what I love.
If you are looking to develop your own food photography skills, whatever your level of knowledge, I would absolutely recommend this course. Go and be inspired, I guarantee you will leave the day feeling exhausted but in the best way possible! Full of ideas, wanting to scour car boot sales for preloved props and try out your new found skills.
Catherine and Emily are running the workshop again in September, you can find all the details here.
And a massive thank you to Anges de Sucre for providing us all with the most incredible selection of cakes, macarons and marshmallows. Delicious!