Eat, Write, Retreat food blogger conference was exhilarating! Held May 4–6 in Washington, DC, this event gave me a chance to learn, network and connect with inspiring friends and colleagues. And, I was proud to be associated with several clients participating in the event. For the second year, I came with photographer Renée Comet (at right, above and below) and stylist Lisa Cherkasky (at left, below) who taught the event’s Food Styling & Photography class again.
We set up a studio/classroom in the hotel ballroom (above). Renée brought a simple lighting set-up, and replicating the arrangement in her own studio, the camera was tethered to her computer so we could view shots immediately in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Here, she used her laptop, which sat on a podium and was tethered to a projector, so all could see their work via Lightroom on the large screen at the other end of the stage.
In several small groups, participants collaborated to experience the process of creating a food photograph, while being given expert insights and critiques. Quickly assembling elements, they selected props brought from Renée’s studio, and from food and equipment products supplied by sponsors.
Above, participant Emily Nichols Grossi considered adding a green sprig to a glass of iced tea. Behind the camera, Renee gave feedback as the composition came together; while Lisa offered information on styling techniques. Many participants gathered around the set to shoot their groups’ projects with their own cameras, and Renée shot all groups’ compositions in several stages. Renée and Lisa discussed with the groups how various elements of the photo could be improved (by altering props, composition, lighting, camera angle, etc.) and made adjustments until a final composition was shot. In some instances, they followed one of Renée’s basic tenets: “If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to scrap it and start over.” Several times, groups asked Renee and Lisa to just rearrange their elements, and shoot them from scratch—however they would approach the job themselves.
Above, Lisa demonstrated a tip: Delicately introducing a touch of dishwashing liquid with a needle-topped squeeze bottle makes a few tiny bubbles, giving fluids more visual interest and a fresh-poured look. The screen displayed a closeup of the bubbles so the whole room could see the technique that Lisa employed.
Here is Renee’s beautiful final shot. A number of her final shots are found in her event post on her blog, Cometphoto, which I edit.
It’s been great to see some of the comments on the class from the group in their event recap blog posts:
Kathy Blake, of The Experimental Gourmand said, “One of my favorite parts of the conference from last year was back…a hands-on food styling and food photography workshop with Lisa Cherkasky and Renée Comet…They let us get our own hands in the mix…to create tantalizing pictures…it was fascinating to me to see how the pros do it.”
Liza Hawkins, of aMusingFoodie said, “Renée Comet and Lisa Cherkasky were nothing short of amazing, and I would gladly watch and learn from them any day.”
A nice comment was also left on Renée’s blog post from Kristy Bernardo, of The Wicked Noodle. (Bernardo won a scholarship to the event from Feastie, based on her own photography.) Kristy said, “This was a great workshop and I have a notebook filled with tips and ideas – thank you!! So wonderful to meet you in person, too!”
The audiovisual setup for the event was facilitated by Marie Joabar. Her connections and expertise were integral in all presentations. An excellent photographer and instructor herself, Marie knows her equipment. She coordinated the audiovisual coverage at last year’s Eat, Write, Retreat, representing her then-employer, Penn Camera photographic equipment. She was Penn Camera’s Education Programs Manager and Corporate Trainer for over ten years. When Penn recently was bought by another company, Marie employed her experience to start her own business, Capital Photography Center (CPC).
She offers classes taught by experienced, professional photographers for “the new camera owner wanting to better understand its features, an amateur photographer aspiring to become professional, or an experienced photographer wanting to learn…Lightroom or Photoshop.” I am proud to be working with Marie on CPC’s social media. She was glad work with Eat, Write, Retreat again this year and hopes that some of the participants will consider classes offered through CPC to help take their blogs’ photography to the next level. She left company brochures and a large, wildly fragrant bundle of rosemary, picked that morning from her own home garden (and bundled into the large totebag gifted to all attendees by sponsor, Feastie). It was almost all gone by Sunday afternoon!
On opening night, Zoe’s Chocolate Company was the diva of the evening, featured at the Dessert Mixer. I am proud to work with Zoe’s on their social media also, administering their active Facebook page and Twitter account. Their customers are very engaged, and it’s impressive to see how much they appreciate the gorgeous, delicious chocolate made by this fantastic family of artisan chocolatiers! It was fun to feel the excitement in the same room with people as they discovered the rich, complexity of Zoe’s excellent chocolates. Store manager Alex represented the company—bearing beribboned party favors, sharing information about the business and serving three flavors of chocolates: Apple Pie, Sesame Crunch (AKA Tahini) and Black Raspberry with Crystallized Rose Petals. Judging from the rapturous post-event tweets I’ve seen mentioning @zoeschocolate, I know some attendees are practically addicted to Zoe’s Chocolates already. Fortunately, Zoe’s has two retail shops and they sell in various other locations (and, they are happy to ship almost anywhere)!
Months ago, when planning Eat, Write, Retreat, organizers Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict told me they wanted to offer the group an opportunity to give back to our DC community. A DC local like me, Robyn is very conscious of the need in our area for food-related services and donations; and, I have joined her for several service projects that she organized. So, I was honored that she asked me to select the recipient group for our project and to coordinate the details. I chose my personal favorite, DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), an organization to whom I donate regularly myself. A dozen pairs of hands made quick work of assembling 100+ individual servings of very healthy trail mix, which DCCK shared with their various partner agencies. When the donation was ready, I handed off the large, heavy carton to DCCK’s friendly driver, Saladine, who happily brought it back to their nearby facility (and photogenically posed for my iPhone pic).
I love DCCK because they “use food as a tool to strengthen our community”—from feeding the hungry in our schools and on our streets, to providing foodservice-industry job training, to raising awareness of nonprofit-organization political power. So, after days of considering food as art, fun and business, this project was a good way to remind us of food’s fundamental purpose—which was a solid way to wrap up the event for me.
Glad I got to meet so many talented, interesting people again this year. I look forward to getting even better acquainted with everyone via the many active conversations that will continue throughout the year on Twitter and Facebook—on behalf of myself and my great clients!
(Renée Comet is the talent behind the tempting principal photography for Zoe’s Chocolate Company marketing, so I thank her for recommending me to Zoe—and to Marie of Capital Photography Center! Thanks, Daphne Domingo for your good event coverage, and for allowing us to use your images.)