No matter what subject we aim to be proficient in, if we want to stay on top of our game as the time moves forward, we must dedicate time to educate ourselves regularly to hone our present skills and learn something new. Food photography and styling are creative niches that require creative mindset, technical knowledge and hands-on talent from us - so we need to train multiple areas to get better and better output.
Among other insightful things on creative education, in this episode of the 'Let's Talk About...' blog post series you will get your questions answers on when to sign up for courses and when to book 1-on-1 sessions and learn more about how to start your journey as an educator through the first-hand experience and advice of the one and only Joanie Simon.
If you are interested in learning more about camera angles, manual settings on your camera, composition, food styling tricks and tips, or even business practices you can check the previous episodes of this popular blog series by clicking here.
From hobby towards profession
Pretty much everyone has at least one food or drink-related photo in their camera roll, right?
The reason why we capture our edible subject can be various: we want to refer to something we cook or bake, share a cool-looking cocktail with our friends, preserve the beauty of the festive table at an important family event, save a visual memory of a restaurant experience... - you name it. At this point the beauty of these images is the 100% amateur, instinctual approach, there is no planning or specific technical knowledge involved: just use a simple device, point and shoot and as a result you create visual information for future reference.
One day you might notice that food and drink photos are ruling your camera roll, which easily means that you discovered a new hobby in this photography genre. You might decide to even share the photos of your delicious creations with fellow home bakers, mixologists, cooks, foodies or restaurant ehnthusiastics. Technically you still shoot as simple as possible, but you start paying more attention to details to get more and more aesthetic results.
At some point you might come up with an idea or a need that makes you feel the urge to take better photos. You do your own research: you find both elementary and advanced information on the topic via blog posts, videos, other creators and educators. You soak up the knowledge from free resources, add new practices to your workflow and try things out in practice - you take noticeably better photos utilising the newly adapted technical knowledge.
As you dig deeper you have more questions. Many of these are still answered by free resources, but some important questions are not getting publicly answered as detailed or as specific as you would require. Some of your experiments and test shots are not bringing the result that you expect based on your previous self-studies so you might feel a bit stuck, while keep searching for answers, learning new things and practicing more.
Food photography and styling occupies a big slice of your free time and you have dreams about how could you utilise your talent. Your own unique style is still in-the-making: you get inspired by others' work, try to adapt the main concept, composition, colours or style of the visuals that resonates with your creative self. You can clearly identify some topics you need help with and have some challenges you need to overcome in order to make those dreams come true.
As time goes by, you receive encouraging feedback on your work from not only your family or friends but also from strangers, customers, fellow creators and even some of your idols engage with your work. You take the opportunity to assist professionals on set to experience the atmosphere of real collaborations, learn how to approach various situations and get insights of the workflow. You feel that it's time for your food photography and styling-related dreams to turn into ideas and actionable goals.
It is totally possible to start offering your services without external help and grow your business in your own pace through trial and error while you keep moving towards your goals by keep utilising the endless amount of free resources you can access.
I personally recommend to start considering to invest into education only if you benefit from diving deep into those topics you cannot process on your own or overcoming challenges that you did not find a resolution for on your own.
Working together with an educator directly (coaching, 1-on-1 sessions, mentoring...) or indirectly (pre-recorded courses, videos, educative materials...) can give you a good framework, build confidence, provide you with working practices, save you time on self-research, increase your efficiency, help you to learn how to use a new gear, software or technique, teach you a practice, workflow or mindset that will bring you closer to your goals, and many more.
Investing into education is not some sort of effortless shortcut or magic wand that will bring you to the finish line - if you ever get a promise like this, be suspicious. To get the desired results you need to take your time and put effort into the process of working out your own vision and good practices - but it is much easier with the support, guidance and encouragement of your educator or mentor.
Education is not only for beginners. Those successful creators you personally admire are also learning from others by taking courses, consult with their mentors, learning news skills from other pros and keep utilising free resources to get better results.
With constant education we can turn our ideas into beautiful visuals while solving various technical problems, keeping up with new technology and providing better services to our clients.
I collected the most common ways and main resource types you can utilise to learn more about food photography & styling:
- books, e-books
- thematic blogs
- social media
- video sharing platforms
- promotional workshops
- pre-recorded courses
- subscription-based education
- other creators' BTS
- assisting professionals
- feedback sessions
- 1-on-1 consultation
- long-term mentoring
Exercise: Discover your learning goals
These helping questions will help you to reflect on your creative journey and define your learning goals.
- What is the reason why you started to do food photography & styling?
- Which skills did you learn previously, that improved your work the most?
- Would you like food photography & styling to become your main source of income?
- What is your main creative goal right now?
- What is your biggest struggle at the moment?
- Is there anything that you hope to do more?
- If you could join your dream session right now, what do you hope to achieve with your educator/coach/mentor?
I invited a professional creator and educator friend who you already know very well through her amazing YouTube videos, courses and generous online resources. Welcome, Joanie Simon on board!
Who are you and what is your photography specialty?
I’m Joanie Simon, a food photographer, content creator and online educator based in Phoenix, AZ. I specialize in capturing food and collaborating with brands and businesses large and small on creative projects to highlight their products and recipes.
How did you END UP becoming an online educator?
I met a lot of local food bloggers between 2015 and 2017 who asked me to help them improve their food photography. I started holding workshops, but I realized there were common things they were all struggling with (primarily shooting in manual mode). I realized it would be easier to send them some YouTube videos to learn the basics before our workshops so that then we could have more fun getting creative when we were all together. As much fun as it is to teach about the exposure triangle, I wanted to make it easier for them to learn the basics before they got to the workshops.
After uploading those videos to YouTube I discovered there was an audience full of people looking to learn food photography and the channel started to grow. I continued to make videos based on requests from the viewers and that’s still what I continue to do today, teaching on YouTube, Instagram, my website and in my online courses.
DO YOU still seek learning opportunities and work together with mentors at your level?
I just bought a new-to-me course this week in learning how to edit videos in DaVinici Resolve with editing expert Casey Faris. I also read a lot of business books and personal development books. I am currently reading Robin Sharma’s 5am Club and recently finished re-reading The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. I have also been a member of a private coaching program for online marketers for the past year (not something they offer through their website and is invitation only) with Shawn and Andre from Tiny Little Businesses.
In what cases do you suggest investing in paid education?
One of the best examples of when it was valuable to invest in paid education was when I was learning how to shoot and edit videos. I had started with free resources I could find online but I knew there was a lot I didn’t know. I enrolled in a video course that felt way outside my comfort zone price wise, but I knew that the educator knew what he was doing and I liked his teaching style. Granted, I could have continued to cobble together information from the internet and learn through trial and error, but after taking that course I was able to fill in the gaps I needed after just a few days and now that investment has returned many times over into my own business.
Whenever I want to learn something new that feels daunting and overwhelming or I want to skip the trial and error, and it has a strong potential for impact in may business, if I trust the educator offering the course, I have always found a return on that investment.
How can creators benefit from online courses and how from 1 on 1 sessions?
Courses are a great way to learn tangible skills and efficiently take in information based knowledge. It’s so convenient these days to learn on demand.
1 on 1 sessions can be helpful as well as long as there is a good match between the mentor and the mentee. It’s a way for the learning to be extremely customized. It’s also very important going into a 1 on 1 experience to know what your specific goals are for the experience.
WHAT would you suggest to fellow creators who would like to start their journey as educators?
If you truly enjoy teaching and providing support to other creatives, being an educator can be incredibly rewarding.
Like I mentioned, my journey as an educator started in small local workshops. That was a wonderful way to get familiar with the needs of food photographers, to hone my skills and see the opportunities for what to teach online. I am always keenly aware of the questions, requests and feedback from those I’m teaching as it helps in the continued improvement of my skills.