The Perfect Pic

One of the fun things about exploring a new world is learning from the pros. A couple of weeks ago we were in the test kitchen gathering items for what would be the day's photoshoot. I was delicately frosting the luscious chocolate ganache cupcakes and Linda was preparing the crowd-pleasing seared scallops that would go along side an elegant pile of mixed greens dressed in a meyer lemon vinaigrette when Mike Davis, photo editor, and John Givot, photo intern, walked into the kitchen. Mike wasn't technically participating in the shoot for the day, but he wanted to get John in on the action. The day's photographer would be none other than Martha Holmberg, editor of FOODday and Mix magazine. At times she escapes from her desk saturated with topic ideas, articles to review and edit, new products to test that will either pass or fail, and a general list of to-do's for both publications to spend time on another one of her many skills; food photography.

As the scallops were perfectly seared and I was slathering my fourth cupcake with ganache, Martha walked in ready to get moving with the shoot. Linda plated up the scallops with their golden brown edges and carefully piled a small bunch of mixed green leaves next to them. The two walk over to the far side of the photo studio and I quickly followed. Martha appeared to be getting frustrated with the outcome of her shots as she would 'click,' 'click,' 'click,' and then check her camera on what she had captured. There was just something she wanted - an angle, a lighting aspect, a focal point - that wasn't coming through as she expected. Just like clockwork, Mike and John walked back in. With an apple in one hand and lanyard-laced glasses, Mike gently stepped in, carefully positioned a white styrofoam square next to the plate and calmly began talking Martha through the shot. Over the past year, one thing that has caught my eye about the food world is the photography itself. Photography is something I've never understood, nor do I think I really have the patience for it, and because of that I respect it so much. How do photographers get that perfect shot? How do they know what the right lighting is, what the correct angle should be, and what focal point they want? We were all sort of mesmerized to hear his thought process outloud of what he's thinking in his mind when he's shooting. As the veteran photo editor was coaching the veteran magazine editor, John the intern decided to snap some shots of the scene.

photo by John Givot

As we moved on from the scallops, the delectable cupcakes were next. We first began by testing out some shots of me holding the cupcake; sort of an offering if you will. Again, the shots just weren't coming across as Martha had hoped (she assured me my cupcake holding skills were perfectly intact and that I wouldn't be fired). We then moved on to sitting the cupcake on the table. Mike had to depart by this time, but John hung around. He wasn't shy about trying his hand at teaching Martha a few tricks of the camera. It was one of those moments where the student had an opportunity to show his skills in the profession he hoped to grow in, and it was fun to watch. Martha was all ears and open to hearing his thoughts on tweaking the lighting this way or angling the cupcake that way.

A friend once told me that if you're really passionate about something, you're never truly an expert at it because you continue to have the drive to learn more about it. I think that day in the studio was a perfect example. After years of food magazine editing and being involved in food photography, Martha was still open to suggestions about getting that perfect picture. On the flip side, I saw Martha's willingness to listen to the intern as a way for him to grow and teach what he knew thus far in his education to someone who many would consider to be an expert in this field. And in the end it made an exciting learning experience for all of us.

If you are somewhat of an expert in what you do, make sure you nuture those around you who are trying to learn a little bit more. Yes, sometimes you're too busy and just want to get the task at hand done, but if the opportunity presents itself, teach. The outcome is you will have given a little extra spark to someone that may take them a bit further in their life's accomplishments, and at the same time, you'll reinforce the knowledge, expertise, and most importantly, passion you have within you.



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