Sometime last spring I was scouring the Internet for information on food photography — specifically, lighting for food photography — and I stumbled upon the website for the Food and Light Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. After a few weeks of thinking about the logistics, I signed up — admittedly a bit terrified that I’d be in over my head —but excited nonetheless.
The time finally came, just last week. As the workshop began, the instructors asked us to write down our goals: what did we hope to gain from our two days of learning? I immediately wrote down, “Learn to understand and control light.” And underneath that, I should have written in all capital letters: CONFIDENCE.
Jen Yu (Use Real Butter) who organized this event, spent time with me one-on-one talking about post-processing and the artistic choices that go into altering images. She also gave us great advice on how to get the most out of our camera settings. Diane Cu (White on Rice Couple) talked about the principles behind food styling and demonstrated them brilliantly. Matt Wright (Wrightfood) gave us the basics of lighting for photography and how to light our shots to create interesting images. And Todd Porter (White on Rice Couple) demonstrated how to use artificial light and how simple lighting adjustments can affect the mood of an image.
We were given plenty of time to apply these concepts on the spot. And plenty of feedback was available. I began the first hands-on shooting session staring blankly at some pea pods, but after some coaxing, lots of positive reinforcement, and more photography concepts to think about, I managed to take some great photos. I even ended the workshop by winning “most creative” photo. I did learn to understand and control light, although I’m definitely going to need more practice. And I learned to trust my instincts more.
I think in the long run, however, confidence might prove to be the most valuable thing I gained from the workshop. Over the two days, my confidence grew out of my increasing understanding of all these food photography concepts and being able to apply them on the spot in the workshop. Best of all, the learning environment was really positive. But really, if you throw four professional photographers and a huge table of food into a well-lit room, good things are bound to happen, right?
I’m grateful that I spent the time and money to invest in my passion. And I’m grateful that I risked doing something that I felt uncertain about. I’m a better photographer for having done so.