California Food Photography Workshop Recap

date07.20.17

A look back at a California food photography workshop hosted in Sebastopol, California co-hosted by Snixy Kitchen, The Bojon Gourmet, and Foodness Gracious. With access to a prop selection filled with local ceramics, attendees took styling, photography, and editing lessons, and then applied the guidance in real styling shoots. #CAFoodPhotos

California Food Photography Workshop

It feels a little surreal that the California Food Styling & Photography Workshop I hosted with Alanna from The Bojon Gourmet & Gerry from Foodness Gracious kicked off nearly a month ago. I started and stopped and restructured this recap post many different times, until I realized that, ultimately, food is the storyline.

When my husband and I travel, we make lists and turn them into spreadsheets of the things we want to do, organized by their proximity to food. We plan our trip around what we want to eat and how we’ll get from one meal to the next, covering the things on those spreadsheets in between. In a similar fashion, this workshop proceeded much like one of our trips. Organized around what we wanted to eat and photograph, the rest of our content sessions filled in the spaces around the meals, always with the food in focus. This was a workshop designed for folks who like taking pictures of food after all. So, I’ll let photos of the the food that we styled and ate tell the story.

California Food Photography Workshop

California Food Photography Workshop Attendees

The gang, left to right: Carla, Gerry, Lisa, Renee, Kimberly, Denisse, Jenna, Alisa, Reah, Annelies, Me, Annette, Alanna, Judy, & Alysha. (Not pictured: Fawni).

We gathered – the three of us plus Carla assisting behind the scenes and twelve attendees – in a beautiful craftsman home in Sebastopol, CA. There were walls and tables made of reclaimed wood, fruit trees, and a vegetable garden out back. Yet, somehow I almost exclusively took pictures of food. Together with Gerry & Alanna, we set an early goal of creating as many opportunities for our attendees to get their hands dirty with lots of food styling and clicking. I got so caught up in the beautiful dishes our attendees were styling (they even brought their own edible flowers and bread!) that most of what I captured were six-second snapshots of our meals thrown on a board with a tossed linen. Maybe a fork.

Yogurt Bowls

Breakfast yogurt bowls with my puffed quinoa crumble and Alanna’s blueberry chia jam

When I get nervous, I channel my anxiety into actionable details – creating packing spreadsheets, unpacking spreadsheets (yup), shopping spreadsheets, and to-do list after to-do list after to-do list. Unlike a vacation – and much more akin to our DIY wedding – I didn’t rest until it was over and still felt like I needed more time to spend with everyone. I felt so immersed in the adventure and now that it’s over, I’m still soaking it all in, trying to fill the gaps in my memory of things that flew by in the moment. I’m so thankful for our attendees who shared their photos with me and, now, with you. Look, I really was there. And Gerry and Alanna too!

Yogurt Bowls

California Food Photography Workshop

California Food Photography Workshop

California Food Photography Workshop

Four photos above from attendee Alysha Yoder

Beet hummus bowl

Beet hummus platter with Sabra hummus and Bread SRSLY gluten-free toast – styled on Jered’s Pottery and Erickson Woodworks board

Cheese Platter

Bellwether Farms cheese platter

It still feels surreal. Surreal that I got to co-teach alongside two photographers whose work I admire so much – among many other things, Alanna for her elegant stories that dance around the page and Gerry for the way he captures movement and texture in crisp images that pop off the screen.

And together with them, I feel so honored to have gotten to teach and collaborate with such an artistic group of attendees who asked thoughtful and eager questions, and who brought and shared their own knowledge and experience. The group was so diverse in style and personal trajectories, yet somehow it felt as though we’d hand-selected each one to fill a need in a symbiotic collection. We planned ice breakers in case we needed them, but conversation flowed faster than wine over the dinner table.

Moroccan Summer Tagine

Our first dinner: Moroccan Summer Tagine – I’ll share the recipe soon!

Mint Mango Haupia Tarts

Our first dessert: Mint mango haupia tarts in the vegan coconut crust from Alternative Baker

Creamy Romesco

Our second dinner: creamy romesco from Vegetarian Heartland over rice pilaf with roasted veggies and fried halloumi

One of the early questions we fielded (and the most frequent one folks ask when they find out I’m a food stylist) was whether we ever have to “do anything” to the food to make it look appealing that then makes it inedible. The answer is a resounding no. Aside from an occasional toothpick to hold things in place, the food we shoot is always edible. And eat it we do (albeit cold, usually).

While all our meals at the workshop were designed as opportunities to capture photos of plated food, we specifically designed our lunches each day as styled shoots. Lunch doubled as opportunities for our attendees to take the lessons – on shooting in manual mode, selecting lenses, food and prop styling, composition, lighting, and finding your voice and style – and apply them in a real setting. First a salad bar styled shoot with California figs sponsored by Valley Fig Growers and then an organic summer veggie pasta bowl styled shoot sponsored by Lucini Italia. For lunch dessert (totally a thing): a melty ice cream styled shoot with Tillamook. With access to a spread of our favorite ceramics, vintage flatware, and linens, along with 12+ distinct shooting surfaces, folks got to tell their stories behind the lens.

Summer salad with dried figs

Summer salad styling shoot with Valley Fig Growers styled on a custom Woodville surface (In case you’re skeptical about ordering a board from overseas, I’ve ordered five boards from them now and their customer service and shipping was seamless every time!)

Chocolate Olive Oil Sundae

Chocolate mudslide Tillamook ice cream topped with Lucini organic extra virgin olive oil and flakey salt

Tillamook Ice Cream Sundae

Ice cream sundae drizzled with Alanna’s tahini hot fudge, styled and captured by attendee Denisse

Carrots & Hummus

Shot styled and captured by attendee Renee during the finding your voice style session

Besides drawing inspiration from a room full of 12 attendees all styling and shooting at once, one of the major highlights for me was geeking out with everyone about Lightroom. We went under the hood and dove deep into the features of Lightroom and then used editing in Lightroom as a tool for storytelling through personal style. While I absolutely enjoy the styling and shooting side of things, there’s something about Lightroom – where technical meets creative – that stimulates both sides of my personality. And the intricate questions from our attendees fed my enthusiasm.

Vintage Flatware

Copperware pots

Scenes from our antique prop shopping excursion

California Food Photography Workshop

Squid Ink Tapioca Crisps

First course of the four-course meal prepared by Chef Green to wrap up the workshop – served on Jered’s Pottery

I’m still in awe of all the people that came together to pull this workshop together into something magical – from co-hosts Gerry & Alanna, to the inspiring and eager attendees, to the sponsors, brands and artisans that donated their time and craft to make the whole event memorable and unique. I cannot thank them all enough. And an enormous heartfelt thanks to Carla for being our day-of wedding workshop coordinator for three days straight (if wedding coordinators also did all the dishes, prepped all the food, advised the photographers, and hardly slept).

Check out our hashtag #CAFoodPhotos to see all the photos shared from the event. Be sure to hop over to see Alanna & Gerry’s recaps of the event!

Want to join us next time? Our hope  is to take what we learned from this first workshop and host more California food photography workshops in the future.  To be added to the workshop mailing list to hear about upcoming workshops, e-mail CAFoodPhotography@gmail.com.

Can’t wait until next time? If you’re local, feel free to e-mail me about private lessons or if you’re looking for an instructor for a food styling and photography workshop/lesson.

California Food Photography Workshop

Carla in the kitchen, photo by attendee Alysha Yoder

California Food Photography Workshop Welcome Bags

Welcome bags with tools for cooking and styling

Heartfelt thanks to our sponsors and supporters:

Sponsors:

Attendee welcome bags:

Workshop donations and gifts:

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Nancy Stern says:

    You and Alana rock!!!!!!!!!!! I am so thrilled that this workshop was a great success. The photos are amazing and personally knowing your food I have no doubt it was equally as delicious!!!

    I love that you are committed to the quality of what you do. You are impressively organized which is the foundation for your ability to produce a successful workshop. Anyone who attends a workshop or who might decide to work directly with you most certainly will make great strides in their skills.

    Can’t wait to see what the future holds!

  2. Bella says:

    Oh Sarah! I am so happy for you guys that this workshop was such a success…knowing what it is like to pull these off, I am so impressed by everything you guys accomplished!

  3. So beautiful!! I love all these photos and hearing a recap of how it all went! I hope I can attend one someday!

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