Lessons in Photography & Styling

At the beginning of April I headed to Bristol for a photography and styling workshop with the lovely Carole aka Mademoiselle Poirot.  I was full of excitement on my drive into the City; having a day ahead of me to learn new skills and meet new people.  I’d only bought my first DSLR a few months before, and was eager to discover how to get more out of it, and finally move away from the manual settings.

There were eleven of us in total, including Carole and Silkie who owns and runs The Forge, where the workshop was held…and what a great bunch they were.  From bloggers and successful Instagramers to those running a business curious about how to present their products in a more appealing way.

As soon as I walked in to The Forge, and was greeted by Carole I fell in love with the place.  Bare bricked walls, huge windows offering lots of light, with views of Bristol, a coveted Ercol sofa in one corner, and a beautiful kitchen area on the other side.  It was a photographer’s dream!

Carole had laid out the most eclectic selection of props for us to use later in the day…I wished I had such a collection myself.  It really was a feast for the eyes.

We all sat and introduced ourselves, and then Carole began, talking us through some of the key features in photography – ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.  There was much discussion about where to find and adjust these settings on our various cameras.  I invested in a Canon EOS 100D thanks to advice from my cousin who is a photographer herself.  I chose this camera as it’s a compact DSLR, and is not so cumbersome to carry around as others I had seen.  I didn’t want to spend a great deal on my first DSLR, but also wanted a good brand that offered the features that would give me more range and flexibility in my photography.  Canon also has a wide range of lenses for when I was ready to upgrade.  My camera came with a standard kit lens of 18-55mm.  However, during the workshop I started to see the limitations of this lense, so will be looking to upgrade to a second soon.

The workshop was focused on food styling, and Carole had made the most delicious blood orange cake, which she styled.  We then had the opportunity to take numerous photos of this display – my shot of the styled cake is above. After lunch we then got to eat it!  It was interesting how Carole added a range of items to build up a ‘story’ of the cake – a slice being eaten, the cutting of the cake, fresh blood oranges to give a hint of its flavouring, and beautiful flowers arranged around it.  I personally love styling with nature, so this really appealed to me.

Lunch was then served!  Pictured here is Silkie who owns and runs The Forge getting the table prepared for a veritable feast of vegetarian delights.  It was good to chat to the other women over lunch and get to know more about their background in blogging, photography etc.

After lunch, it was our turn to style our own display.  So, I paired up with a lovely woman, Harriet, and we selected our favourite items from the props table and set to work.  It’s harder than it looks!  But, there is something really enjoyable about creating your own display.  I love trying to tell a story about the products you’re working with, or trying to emphasise what the products represent – whether that is their use, their ingredients, their benefits – there are lots of ideas to explore.

I was drawn to a beautiful bottle that contained a verbena and eucalyptus candle, some tiny vases and of course eucalyptus to give emphasise to the scent of the candle.  Plus, I LOVE eucalyptus – the shade of green, and it’s lovely aroma.

Harriet and I styled the selected items in our own way, and had the chance to photograph each, and share our suggestions.  It took time and several tweaks as we stood back and surveyed the display we had created.

This is one of my favourite layouts that we created…

There is still much I need to learn – I have a lot of respect and admiration for Carole’s artistic eye – the displays she creates for brands are stunning.  But, this is a really enjoyable journey into finding my own style and learning many new skills along the way.  I think practice, practice, practice is the key to anything…and on that note, as it’s a glorious sunny day here in Wiltshire I’m going to take my knitting out into the garden and get some much needed practice!

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