this past weekend, professionals across the food industry – chefs, photographers, stylists, creative directors, nutritionists, students, teachers, you name it – gathered at boston university for the third bi-annual international conference of food styling and photography. and let me tell you, this conference was intense. every moment was packed with presentations, photos, techniques, business advice, self-promotion tips, lighting and composition advice…even the breaks involved everyone scrambling for a cup of coffee, asking presenters questions, and trying to get someone your business card, hoping they remember you when they get home.
i attended all four days of the conference, and it was totally worth the time, energy and money that i had to sacrifice to do it. i learned so, so much about the industry – though a lot of it as information on what to stop doing, or start doing – and i feel like i have a better understanding of different careers that exist in the world of food and visual media.
each of the sessions focused on a different element of the food styling and photography industry, letting participants hear from all different perspectives. friday started with “essentials of teamwork,” showing how stylists and photographers work together to create the perfect shot, and giving more insight to each of their roles. the morning was spent with the amazing delores custer, who demonstrated how to style and control difficult foods like pizza, ice cream, foamy beer, and how to create the perfect dollop of whipped cream. in the afternoon, we were able to watch photographers deborah jones, jeffrey kauck and viktor budnik work with food stylists lisa golden schroeder, nir adar and karen tully to create shots of cheese for an imagined company. we got to observe their styles and techniques, ask questions, and they even tethered their cameras to computer programs so that we could see the photos they were taking while they worked. deborah and lisa also let us see the differences between various settings, like iso and aperture, so that we could see how these subtle changes affect the overall look of the photo.
saturday and sunday were the main parts of the conference, and had the largest groups of people attending. saturday was particularly packed with
sessions, with the morning looking at both communication and upcoming trends. nanci doonan dixon and noel barnhurst spoke about communicating with clients and creative heads effectively, and antoinette bruno and leslie harrington gave insight into upcoming trends – new food styles and plating techniques, as well as colors and textures that will become more popular over the next year or two. after lunch, we heard from david ledsinger and sarah fletcher, gaining understanding on art directors and what they need from photographers and stylists before shooting, as well as during post-production. afterwards ilene bezahler and michael piazza from edible boston magazine spoke about their publication with john carafoli, highlighting grassroots organizations and local foods.
sunday put a focus on multimedia and creativity, exploring different ways to expand personal businesses and add new opportunities for growth. jamie tiampo discussed high end video techniques and new multimedia, and clark dever explained how to harness the power of social media to your advantage. kate baldwin showed the audience how to copyright photographs, writing pieces and blogs, and explained why it’s important to protect works and images. the afternoon featured a great presentation on collaboration and creativity with clare ferguson and jeff kauck, revealing how photographers and creative directors work together. after the presentation, participants finished up the main part of the conference by networking, talking with experienced stylists and photographers, as well as presenters to gain more knowledge and ask questions.
the last day was about a topic close to my heart – food blogging. jeremy zilar ofthe new york times kicked it off by discussing elements of a successful food blog, giving tips for design elements and strategies for keeping things clean and simple. steve adams and lara ferroni did a big presentation on how to take effective photos, and gave tons of information on how to shoot and edit, which software programs work well, and how to make blog photos great. they also did a full demonstration, taking photos in front of us and editing them, as well as showing how shooting tethered can make a big difference when learning photography and editing skills. after the break, the afternoon was spent with james scherzi, diane cu, todd porter and jeremy zilar looking at incorporating video and multimedia into food blogs. they discussed equipment, editing tools, and making the transition from still photography to shooting high quality videos. storytelling is crucial to this process, as well as not losing sight of the client’s needs and representing them well.
needless to say, i filled a notebook with sketches and scribbles. i still have so much to learn, but this conference gave me some of the tools i need to improve my writing, photography, food styling, blogging, and my ability to start my own business if i decide to. i met some truly incredible people, and got to hear from some of the industry’s leaders.
here’s hoping that over the next few months, i’ll really be able to implement some of the things that i’ve learned in my photography, and here on this blog.
p.s. i’ve gotten your emails and texts – i have tons of notes, and i will be typing them up over the long weekend. they’ll be posted attached to this blog as pdf files, once i figure out how to do that! i’ll send out tweets as they go up – sorry for the delay, but i want to make sure they’re clear to those that couldn’t attend the conference themselves. thanks so much for your patience!