As bloggers, photographers (beginning, amateur, advanced, whatever the skill level may be) and even readers, I am sure each one of us has someone or many whom we look up to for inspiration and learning.
Heart to Heart as a series brings out interviews of such hugely talented, immensely creative and accomplished people. People who inspire others by being who they are, doing what they do and how they do it all. One such gifted photographers whose work I am an ardent fan of, right from the beginning of my blogging days (and I’m quite certain even you might be!) is none other than Helene Dujardin of Tartelette.
Who does not know the beauty of Helene’s photographs in the food blogging world? If you happen to be one of the few who aren’t yet acquainted, I strongly recommend that you reserve several hours, for once you start browsing through her photographs, you’ll never know how time flies!
Thank you lovely Helene for taking time out of your super busy schedule while juggling life in two cities.. I am incredibly happy that this interview is finally a reality!
What was your moment of epiphany for blogging and/or photography like?
I don’t think there was a definite epiphany moment as far as blogging. Much like everything I have done in life, it was a progression from the path I was on at the moment. It was like keeping a journal, but one that came with a template, that allowed my geeky side to play with html and fonts, one that was forcing me to practice a language that was not my first, etc…As far as photography, maybe the day I started getting inquiry for bookings. When I actually had to ponder if I were ok doing this. See, I hate to do things halfway so in order for me to put on my photographer’s hat, I wanted to make sure I had something relevant to contribute to the visual arts. Photography and sharing it should never be about you but about how much you are willing to learn, do, progress and produce your own creativity.
What do you enjoy most about blogging/photography?
Probably those exact same things. Blogging has definitely slowed down the more work I got and now I only post once a week but I still think of my blog as my “fun” time a page where I can share what I discover or would like for people to experience so they can pass that on also.
I live for collaborations and sharing, being inspired and constantly working on things I love. That’s why I enjoy working as a photographer as much as I do. Everyday, I get to collaborate with a food stylist and a prop stylist. I get pushed and inspired by them and my creative director. I am constantly working with them to create beautiful images.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I think everywhere. Nature. Fruits, vegetables, plants. It can be a drawing or paintings. Quotes, novels, poetry. Words, visuals, textures, smells. Everything inspires me.
If you were to start blogging all over again, what would you change or wish you had done better?
Nothing. I never look to the past. I think the blog stands as a testament of what I have accomplished in the last 6-7 years. The paths I took, the friendships made, the people lost, the voice I gained.
You make food photography look so easy. What according to you is the most challenging part of food photography and how do you overcome it?
I honestly don’t know. I have never asked myself that question. Actually, hold that thought. I did not ask myself that question until recently, when I started working at Oxmoor House. Every time I would start shooting, my food and prop stylist would ask “can we come in a little tighter?” – I like to stay a bit distanced from my subject and now that I shoot a bit tighter for certain looks or moods dictated by the book, I look back on my some of my blog images and realize some would have benefited from being shot a tad closer. Can’t explain why I always start far back and slowly get closer. I think I like to ease my way into the shape and texture of a shot.
How do you manage time and maintain blog and life balance?
I have yet to figure that out!! Right now, I am living by myself transitioning into my new position as Senior Photographer at Oxmoor House in Birmingham Alabama. My husband is still in Charleston and even though I am enjoying and discovering my new town, I have more time by l myself to work on personal projects. That’s different from last year and I am sure it will different next year.
When it comes to creativity in blogging or photography, how do you keep things fresh?
I constantly read books. Cookbooks, lifestyle books, classics. Same things that inspire me also keep me alert and wanting to create more. Reading a recipe and wanting to recreate it with my own personality behind it. Studying the work of photographer in a particular cookbook; it’s light, the texture. the composition. Lifestyle and decor books are a visual feast too. The colors, the pairings, the styles. They all keep my eye in movement.
What is typical process for one of your posts from start to finish?
For my blog, what I usually do is develop or re-create on paper 3-4 recipes. I will shop and prepare them on Saturday, cook and shoot on Sunday. I then go through all the photos and select 3-4 for one post. On Monday and Tuesday I write and try to upload on Wednesday.
What is your take on post processing? What according to you is “too much”?
I have always been of the old school “get the shot right in camera as much as possible, the right crop, composition, light, props, etc…” I can’t stand hearing “I’ll fix it in post” or “I’ll clean that crumb in post”. I’d rather take a couple of extra minutes getting my shot right than spend 10 minutes on the computer trying to remove a crumb or fix things.
Three things to seriously improve one’s photography from good to great
* Time on tool: practice everyday. Make time everyday to spend some time with your tool, whether you want to get better using your camera or practice your understanding of food styling as it relates to camera angles or how to use props and compose.
* Look at other people’s portfolio. Not to copy but to immerse you in all the diverse styles photographers from each other but also how photographers evolve or vary their own look according to what they shoot.
* take chances. If you are not comfortable with a certain area, whether it be lighting, composition, propping, etc…take a chance and try exactly what you would not do. You may be surprise. And you will grow.
What is your food styling philosophy?
I always say that I am not a food stylist but that I play one for my blog. And it’s true. I work with amazing food stylists and I am glad that their philosophy is like mine: using the freshest of ingredients, taking the time to prepare and cook them. If I start noticing that I am fussing with the same plates more than 5 minutes, I take a step back and usually start over. Keep it natural, and approachable. For me, creating a story starts there too, by keeping it real, as if someone is about to come share a meal with you.
A piece of advice that you’d like to give aspiring bloggers who believe they have what it takes?
Never compare yourself to others. Always say “why not?” and never be afraid to put worth onto your work because no one else will.
A few of her favorite photographs…
A lighter rapid fire round:
Ingredient(s) you love to shoot : raw meats and fish
Memorable childhood meal : my grandmother’s Berber Couscous
One food you’d never eat : have to add “never eat…again” raw shrimp
Cuisine you wished you knew to cook : Burmese and Vietnamese. I eat them often and cook a couple of dishes but I want to know more.
One item from your bucket list : no bucket list here! Just do! do! do!
Favorite photographer : Just one? It varies all the time but I would say, I always circle back to the one who always makes me wonder, ponder, question and pushes me visually: Peter Frank Edwards.
If not for a chef or photographer, you’d be : a paper shop / craftstore owner?
A photography gadget you swear by : white fill card
What would you choose for your last meal: my grandmother’s Berber Couscous
Passion, Creativity and ________? Kindness
My personal favorites from her photographs..
Amazing interview. Helene is such an inspiring personality.
Jody and Ken says
Great interview with a great photographer/blogger. Thanks. Helene’s book was the first thing I read on food photography. Thanks. FYI, the link for the Penny De Los Santos workshop is dead (nothing happens when you click it.) Ken
Radhika @ Just Homemade says
Ken, You’re a life saver! Done. Fixed it. Thanks a bunch for bringing it to my notice…
I have her book right on my bookshelf. Great book, amazingly handy!
Jody and Ken says
I’ll check it out. Ken
The Vagabond Baker says
Wonderful post, a great insight! Thank you.
Manju @ Manju's Eating Delights says
Lovely post, thanks a lot for sharing. You both are an inspiration to me 🙂
Nicely done! Just one thing though- maybe “raving” is the word you wanted to use in the beginning of your post? Ranting has a different meaning.
Radhika @ Just Homemade says
Thanks for the correction Spence. Done.
Lovely interview and I am a HUGE fan of her work. It’s her book that changed my view point and started improving my photography. I still refer to the book at times. I do hope that someday I get to attend her workshop too!
Great Interview! Thanks so much for sharing and thank you Helene. Her book is such an amazing resource. And Radhika you are right time flies by, looking at per photographs .. they are such masterpieces. And she makes it seem all so easy.
Jody and Ken says
Rhadika–Sorry, maybe I misunderstood you. I assume you were talking about Helene’s book, right? Penny de los Santos doesn’t have a how-to photography book, does she? (I couldn’t find anything–that’s why I’m asking.) Thanks. Ken
Radhika @ Just Homemade says
Ken, Sorry for the confusion.
I meant Helene’s book, so helpful!
Not sure about Penny’s book. Wish she did! She has a #TED talk video if you are interested, not on technical aspects of photography though..
This is awesome! So inspiring