PERSONAL WORK

Shortlisted.

Woop!  Proud to announce that an image I submitted from a recent test was shortlisted for the Pink Lady Food Photography Award! The shot in question, below, was of a whopper of a baguette packed with goats cheese, prosciutto, griddled courgette, roasted tomatoes, olives and basil oil and styled beautifully by Livia Abraham.

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Out of over 8000 entries, to get to the final 600 or so is obviously very exciting but I’m doubly honoured as it sits amongst images by photographers whom I’ve worked with over the years and who’s work I greatly admire.

Interestingly, the one image I got shortlisted was one I wasn't even planning on entering! It's not necessarily my 'usual' style of shooting and I had spent an hour or so one day filing through which images I wanted to put in...I took a screenshot and emailed it to myself before submission so that could look at them with fresh eyes the following day (on the bus to a shoot, which is apparently where I make all decisions, small or large!). That screenshot can be found below...

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I didn't enter anywhere near this many in the final submission, I edited it down that evening to a much smaller number but its interesting to note it didn't appear in my initial selection and I'm not sure I could tell you how or why it ended up in my second! I'm glad it did. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut.

The shortlist has some very strong images this year. I'm occasionally surprised what kinds of image end up being selected in the various categories and its always fun to see current trends in different countries and across different disciplines.  I'm looking forward to the winner being announced soon and hope to visit the winners' exhibition at the Mall Galleries, SW1Y 5BD, its on from Wednesday 25 April - Sunday 29 April 2018 from 10-5pm (closes at 3pm on the final day).

See you there!

H x

Lemon Squeezy.

After the success of the previous 'Modern Rustic' test, Toni Musgrave and I agreed to get together for a test to make full use of the 'zero bookings period' that occurs between the last toffee penny being consumed and the tree being taken down.

She had the idea of doing something bright and light with lemons, having a list of citrussy recipes freshly-squeezed and ready to go. "I'm in - let's do this!"

Keeping things simple and food-focussed this time, with colours inspired by last years work trip to the Amalfi coast, I took to the prop house myself to pick up a few key items.

I do enjoy prop styling, but I'd be the first to admit...I mostly feel like I'm winging it every time I go in to pull things together!  I can do it for my own shoots but to take someone else's brief, and prop it creatively with so many considerations: serving size, type of recipe, overall feel of the story, size and proportion, the look of the publication, how the photographer works with props, not to mention budgets and availability and logistics and personal style...its an artform, it really is.

We sailed through test day, with help on the day from one of Toni's friends, and I had a bit of fun with the lighting, harnessing the few rays of sunshine we have during the short, grey days we have so often in January and making the studio feel like a summery lemon grove in Sorrento. 

My favourite shot of the day: this magnificent Lemon Meringue Pie, a particular family favourite of mine and a dessert that holds dear memories of my mum and I crouched over a pan, stirring the lemon curd-like filling (admittedly shop bought, on occasion!) and waiting patiently for the squidgy capsule of citrussy essence to dissolve and pop, before both inhaling deeply that sweetness and sharpness all at once. So satisfying!

Fun to prop, fun to shoot and fun to eat.  Tests SHOULD be fun, shouldn't they?

H x

Modern Rustic.

In December I was very lucky to have been passed the details of an interiors stylist that wanted to do a test. Having assisted a few interiors photographers and having an interest in trying something familiar-yet-new I jumped at the chance and I'm very glad I did.

Antonia McKenzie worked very hard, taking my vague idea of contemporary place settings and hand-thrown crockery and combining it with what I was assured was going to be the colour of the coming year...beige. Now, I was willing to admit that my work thus far has been punchy shadows and bright colours but I loved the idea of challenging myself and doing something quieter. Calmer. I had to overcome my past experiences of growing up in RAF-base houses, painted a safe 'magnolia' colour as standard (YUK) and look at the colour, or lack of, as an opportunity to explore tone and texture instead.  Antonia put me at ease by henceforth calling it 'soft, warm neutrals' instead...which sounded much less frightful.

Bowls

When it came to the food, I knew the theme needed something classic: rustic and full of texture but not too 'comfort food', flavoursome and interesting without too much overwhelming colour. I was suggested (by long-time collaborator Amy Stephenson - Thanks Amy!) to get in touch with Toni Musgrave, a food stylist also looking to grow her portfolio, who took my ramblings and our collective pins on Pinterest and gave Antonia and I lots of elegant dishes to work towards in terms of props and composition.

With all the pieces of the puzzle lining up, test day came round quickly. To my team's credit, we ended up shooting VERY close to Christmas and so were somewhat against the clock as I'd hoped to shoot both aspects of the shoot in daylight.  I had a blast; both Toni and Antonia are brilliant fun and I got the chance to shoot a little further away from the food than I normally do, include a bit of the studio's charm and even snuck in an extra ravioli 'prep shot'.  

I've been enjoying furthering my photoshop skills recently, particularly the various techniques there are to manipulate colour. Shooting daylight (particularly in winter!) has its drawbacks, one of which is the colour temperature varying throughout the day depending on time, cloud cover and occasionally reflections of your surroundings.  I feel like with softer pastel colours you notice these differences more and I took my time with this set of images, looking at them as a group and balancing the colours accordingly so that the series had consistency.

Editing

I must admit I had fun with the process on this one, as it was so different to how I usually shoot and feel as though the team worked really well together! By the time we all sat down for a debrief, cuppa and slice of that delicious cake at the end of the day, floor mopped and hard drive backed up, we'd already dreamed up our next one.  Thanks again to 'The Two Antonias' for being marvellous and making what could have been a challenging brief a joy to shoot as the last day of 2017!

H x

Merry Christmas!

I LOVE Christmas. Christmas is a time for family, for sharing, giving (and eating!) and, for me at least...testing!  I can usually expect the assisting work to tail off a week or so before the festive break so I take the opportunity to shoot as much as I can whilst I have the time off. 

I avoid shooting anything Christmassy in mid-December as the industry (and I!) have normally moved on to Easter feasts or January health food recipes by that point, but this year I couldn't resist.  

The beginning of December meant that a few new bits were added to my kit: a gorgeous new KinoFlo and a whole load of (second hand) flash heads for me to play with - shooting past six is now not just a summer thing! I'm loving them so far, as you can probably tell!

Inspired by a shift towards the GIFs presented in portrait format, for phones and social media etc, I also shot a little how-to of my go-to...cheat's puff pastry mince pies. They are so quick, and so absurdly easy you can make them half hour before anyone 'pops round with a card'. 

I'm really grateful to anyone I worked with this year; photographers, clients, food stylists & their assistants, stylists, art directors and designers...I'm learning more every year. I would also like to thank my family, friends and my brilliant other half for making this year so memorable. I wish everyone a totally fabulous Christmas and a very happy 2018!

H x

Sandwiches.

Sandwiches are great, aren't they? Seriously. The practicality of carrying anything messy by stuffing it between some carbs (presumably so that you can get it to your face with a higher percentage of success) has led to some beautiful creations: the classic ploughmans, the salt beef on rye, the 'Club', the humble chip butty, the PB&J, the late night kebab, the cheese toastie, the lobster roll, even the Sausage & Egg McMuffin....the BLT: needs no more explanation than three simple letters.

Seems like a good enough reason to pick some cool ones, make 'em, shoot 'em and eat 'em!  Along with me for the ride was the highly travelled and highly trained Livia Abraham, whom I met on a very big advertising shoot and got talking about testing together.

I'm very glad we kept in touch and got to shoot together; the results are (as usual) a little different to how I usually shoot  - I wanted to try my hand at something cleaner for one of the shots, and it was a recipe I didn't imagine at first would work for such a set up...but I'm glad I pushed to try it and am pleased to still be picking up tricks and tips from everyone I work with, from all disciplines. 

These were fun to eat, by the way. All of them. That drippy basil oil on our baguette shot was PERFECT amongst the goat's cheese and squidgy roasted tomatoes and parma ham. In fact, I chomped into that so enthusiastically I nearly skewered myself on a stray toothpick.  #noregrets

H x

BBQ

As soon as the weather heats up, my mind turns to eating outdoors.  I'd eat all meals outside if I could, and love taking some avo on toast down to the little roof garden on our building. I've never shot on location outdoors personally but was looking forward to the challenge, so I pitched a BBQ test to Georgie Hodgson, who I've been following on Instagram for a while now (@memyselfand_pie, for those out of the know) and crossed my fingers and hoped that Lauren Miller, about-to-be-featured-absolutely-everywhere legend prop stylist, was available to make this a little different from the summer shoots that appear every year.

We were very lucky with the weather as it turned out to be the hottest day of the year, and despite a few hiccups at the beginning (who needs a BBQ for a BBQ test anyhow?! NOT Georgie!) we were done and eating frozen watermelon in the park next to the studio by 3pm. Awesome.


I love working with new people so it was great to get Georgie involved, having never even met before! THE POWER OF INSTAGRAM. That said, Lauren and I have seen each other (in person!) in prop houses, hire studios and random shoot days for well over a year, and had been trying to get something in the diary for months before this opportunity came up - I'm very glad she was able to stay for the whole shoot and we got to see her in action.

This test day also HAPPENED to fall on my birthday, and I couldn't have asked for a better team, better weather (or a better cocktail) to celebrate. Cheers guys!

H x