Stop Fighting Shit That's Not Working | Jennifer Hulley Food Photographer, Hamilton / Toronto Ontario
I recently moved into a new house. A house that I bought for the kitchen/dining space. It was HUGE.
It was open concept, there was an island, a great amount of space to work and three windows. I was going to be able to cook, bake, prep, shoot and edit all in the same place!
Basically I was building an empire: a food photographer's dream come true, a combined kitchen/dining/studio/office space.
Except it wasn't.
I started to unpack my furniture and my things and slowly bit by bit I realized I wouldn't be able to accommodate my massive desk and gargantuan iMac downstairs. "Oh well, that's ok," I told myself, I'll just keep the editing to upstairs" and so I started to create a semi office/workspace for editing and processing in one of the spare rooms.
Eventually once the dust had settled (quite literally) I tried shooting in this new kitchen space. I had so much room to work with! I was free to move around and lay stuff out everywhere, it was amazing! I just needed to get the right light and start capturing things in my own style. Well, this proved harder than I thought. What I had neglected to foresee was the fact that all 3 windows in this space opened up to a COVERED porch. The covered roof basically increased the distance between my set ups and the light source which created a very long tunnel of light. This made for very dramatic lighting with incredibly deep shadows. Good for some types of shots, but not everything. I tried to capture some images at different times of day and the pictures looked like...well, shit. The lighting was dark and dramatic and incredibly moody but it wasn't working for me. I tried lifting the shadows with a reflector and this was proving impossible, and frankly even at its brightest time of day I still needed to up my ISO like crazy and use a longer shutter speed which called for a tripod because I have crazy shaky hands. It seemed the list of set up requirements of my "on the fly shooting" set up were beginning to accumulate. The more I tried to shoot the more frustrated I became and the more "buyers remorse" set in. What had I done?!?
So I stopped shooting for a few days and I started sulking.
Later, as I was moving furniture around in the other rooms I stopped and noticed how nice the light was in my "office" where my desk and computer was located. I sulked internally for a few days about how annoying it was that the light up here was so lovely and downstairs it just sucked. Surely my food photography empire would collapse and I'd be a failure.
I kept researching options for shooting downstairs...looking for fold up tables that I could move around during the day but then realized that I'd still have issues with the light. I started playing around with opening and closing the door and noticed that I was able to flood the space with a bit more light, still dramatic and tunnel-y but there was definitely more. The most light I could find was right up against the doorway on the ground. And so, I shot on the floor with the door open IN JANUARY. This seemed to help a bit and I managed to get an image that wasn't too bad.
Alright, maybe this could work....But then, I was shooting on the floor with surfaces set up next to an open door! This is not going to work. I started looking online at places like Lowes for floor to ceiling glass door panels that could maybe be put in front of my door to allow me to open up light and keep the cold and wind in. That's a possibility.
Later that week I was trying to find a home for one of my favourite antique hall tables. It didn’t work here, it didn’t work there and I was too attached to get rid of it. I loved the look of it – the detailing in the legs, the weathered wood that formed the top. I moved it to the living room, and then to the bedroom as a side table. It was too high, I knew that, but I was going to force it to fit in somehow. Eventually I grew frustrated and I was trying to emotionally prepare myself for the fact that it might not have a home in this new home. I was sad. "Its such a great texture on top," I told myself, "it would be awesome to shoot on..." And I started thinking about how I could squish it downstairs again.
I don't know how it hit me but thank god it finally did. IT WAS AN AWESOME SURFACE TO SHOOT ON. THE LIGHTING IN MY OFFICE WAS AMAZING. MOVE THE DAMN TABLE TO YOUR OFFICE. Right?!
At this moment I stopped and asked myself "what would you tell someone you were coaching if they were struggling to shoot?" I'd tell them to move to where the light was right, to do whatever they needed to get the shot. So maybe it was time to take my own damn advice? Simple but apparently not so much. It’s amazing how easily we can become a victim to tunnel vision when we set plans, goals and ideas. As a hyper driven industrious #bosslady person, I constantly am setting goals, plans and working towards the various ideas that I have. In this moment though, I realized how easily I can become blinded to alternatives and options when I am in the zone.
The lesson here? Stop standing in your own damn way and stop fighting the shit that’s not working.