I have always had a great love for baking books, ever since I was a child, I would go through all my mother’s baking books and drool over all the images. I started baking from these books and every Christmas I’d get a new one. What I liked best was the wonderful photography more than anything else.
I did a short course in photography, back in the days of film, and I remember loving every minute of it. I used to take my camera everywhere. It wasn’t until much later that I started shooting food, when I started my blog, and then I became hooked. Apart from that one course I did at the beginning, I was completely self-taught at the start. As time passed I started attending further courses and shadowing some of the great London based food photographers. It really helped me a great deal and gave me a deep insight into how the industry worked. Food photography is a constant learning experience and I really do learn something new every single day.
It’s always hard when you’re starting out in this profession. I was lucky that my blog gained some media exposure, but at the same time I also started making connections in the food industry, and was lucky enough to be introduced to a few people that knew editors and art directors and offered to show my portfolio to them and make introductions.
It was through these connections that I first met the art director of “delicious” magazine and showed her my portfolio. She liked what she saw and offered me a feature shoot a few months later.
For me, a well-organised, professionally run shoot day is the best way to work. The more organised the day is, the less can go wrong and the better things flow. The props and accessories are usually delivered the day before from the prop rental houses. The shoot day starts early for me: I set up my gear by the studio windows, have a couple of test shots and make sure everything is working. Then the food and prop stylists arrive, we go through the props and the recipes to be shot and then the food stylist starts cooking. Around this time, or at some point in the day, we could be joined by the art director, or sometimes even the editor, who come to oversee the whole shoot, to make sure everything flows smoothly and they are happy with the final shots.
I’ve always dreamed of shooting a book like “Turquoise” by Greg and Lucy Malouf, a beautiful combination of food and travel. I’ve just come back from a shoot for Food and Travel magazine and it was a truly life changing experience – the people, the food, the way of life. I’d love to shoot more assignments like that. I’m just about to head over to Paris for a new restaurant shoot, after which I’m off to Russia for a cookbook shoot, followed by shooting my own cookbook when I get back.
There are so many photographers and food bloggers that have influenced and inspired me: Anson Smart & Chris Court for their beautiful lighting, William Meppem for his simplicity, Con Poulos for his amazing work and David Loftus for the magic he creates and captures in his images.
Growing up, we had a huge fruit and vegetable garden in our back yard and that helped me learn so much about where food comes from. In summer I now plant herbs and vegetables on my little balcony and visit Pick Your Own farms as often as I can. There’s something so soothing, comforting and important about being connected to where your food comes from – growing, and harvesting it yourself – it’s a beautiful process and the results always taste better.
I think rustic and relaxed will always be a classic way of shooting as it’s very atmospheric and many people can relate to it. I can also see a trend in modern and minimalist food where food is the main focus and does all the talking. Of course, there’s also dark, almost all black photography, which is really “in” at the moment.
If I had to give advice to anyone interested in entering this profession, I would advise to read lots of books and blogs and study the craft of photography. Practice every day, even if it’s shooting with your phone, do it every single day as you will learn so much. Shadow good photographers and learn from watching and listening. Don’t wait for the perfect project or assignment to come along, create it yourself, right now. Act professionally. Try, try and try again. Don’t give up. Don’t get emotional. Don’t take rejection personally. Don’t take life too seriously. Have fun. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you do make mistakes, forgive yourself. Don’t dwell on one thing, do it to the best of your ability, then move on. Oh, and no regrets. Ever.
Mowie Kay’s portfolio: www.mowiekay.com
Mowie’s food blog: www.mowielicious.com
Follow Mowie on Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest: @mowiekay