I love Social Media Week. Hundreds of great events, mostly free, in 12 cities around the world. Fantastic opportunities to learn new things, reinforce what you think you already know and meet lots of interesting, like-minded people. Everything on the schedule is good. But without a doubt, there are a few things that are just that little bit special.. On Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to photograph The Mask of Joy‘s fabulous Pleasure Garden Ball at the Museum of London (pics and more info on that to follow in a later post – although I will say for now that the production was outstanding). And then last night, I was one of the lucky few who’d snapped up a place on the food photography workshop organised by Great British Chefs (GBC).
As its CEO and founder, Ollie Lloyd, explained, GBC was set up as antidote to the rise of celebrity chefs, who can often be more about style over substance, rather than truly great food. He wanted to put a spotlight on some of the genuinely amazing chefs who are creating wonderful dishes around the country, and give them a forum for sharing their recipes and experiences.
Last night’s event was held at Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea, owned by of one of the chefs that GBC works with, the legendary (and very cute) Tom Aikens.
On arrival, we were greeted by GBC’s lovely Head of Social Media, Mecca Ibrahim, and a greatly-appreciated glass of wine. We all chatted amongst ourselves for a while and when the evening kicked off and I looked up, I was quietly excited to see Tom ‘amongst us’. After Ollie’s intro, Tom welcomed us to his place and talked a bit about his work with GBC, before returning to the kitchen where he was cooking up some wonderful dishes for us to photograph – and eat.
Then it was over to the other star of the evening, the photographer, David Griffen. Cornwall-based David takes about 50% of GBC’s photographs and as such spends much of his time travelling the length and breadth of the country meeting chefs. The work on his website speaks very loudly for itself. It’s outstanding. So I was very excited to have this first rate photographer teaching us.
And like all good teachers, David did his preparation. He emailed us all in advance to find out what cameras we’d be bringing and what specific questions we’d want answered. The workshop had a particular focus on food blogging (it being Social Media Week, an’ all…), so, amongst other things, David was teaching techniques for taking food pictures in restaurant conditions – i.e. probably using your mobile phone, in low light, trying not to draw attention to yourself with a flash. It’s a subject that David knows well and has even dedicated a blog to. So he also sent us all links to useful photography phone apps that we could download in advance, for discussion on the night. I responded to his pre-event emails and not only did he take the time to reply to me, but throughout the event he told people they should contact him with any further questions.
The workshop was a three-hour, hands on guide to photography, from the basics to the more complex. From advice on aperture and shutter speed, to lighting techniques and remote triggers. David covered a lot of ground and effortlessly answered the never-ending questions thrown at him by our group of 20+ people.
It was an evening packed full of tips, tipples and tasty, tasty food. And with the flowing wine and the interesting people, I feel extra spoilt to have also come away from it feeling as though I’d really learnt something (although, you may disagree, looking at my photos…).
Ollie and Mecca put on a fantastic event. Tom was a wonderful host – nice guy, great food, lovely venue, friendly staff. And David was a brilliant teacher. We even got handouts! We were all lucky to bag a place on this workshop. I’ve no doubt they’ll charge for it next year. And who could blame them.