Crackers and Dips

After wrapping a photo shoot for BUST magazine (check out the Feb/March issue of BUST to see what we worked on!), amazing food stylist Lauren LaPenna and I decided to do a test shoot. For those of you who may not know, a test shoot is basically when photographers and stylists collaborate on their own project to build up a portfolio and test out ideas. No one gets paid for this.

Side note: I’m always up for testing! Just shoot me a message if you have an idea.

I was stoked when Lauren told me she wanted to do a shoot with dips. She ended up making a White Bean & Sage dip, Olive Tapenade, and a delicious hummus. For me, a vegan, this is classic bar food (am I right fellow vegans?). I knew almost immediately I wanted to do a rustic bar scene with fun lighting and lots of textures. With that in mind I channeled my inner Anna WilliamsKQD, and Anders Schonnemann (specifically his breathtaking drink shoot in Issue 29 of Jamie magainze).

Lauren and I turned on some good music, cracked open a few beers, and got to shooting…

Lauren is not only an amazing food stylist, she is an incredibly sweet person. Whenever we work together she goes out of her way to set some food aside for me to try. These dips she made were downright delicious. I’m not going to post the recipes here since they are her own creation but they are up on her blog! You can find the recipe for the Olive Tapenade here. The hummus here. And the White Bean & Sage dip here.

I’m going to talk about myself for a second. Feel free to just ignore this paragraph if you could care less!

If you read my blog regularly you may have noticed that the look and the vibe of the photos in my past few posts have been really inconsistent. You could even say they have been drastically different. Lately I’ve been feeling very eager to narrow down and define my aesthetic as a photographer. To be clearer, you know how sometimes you see a photo or a painting and you can say without hesitation who the artist is because all of their work has a similar aesthetic?  That is what I’m looking for. I am proud of the work I do but it’s admittedly inconsistent in its overall tone. I find it difficult to nail down a look because there are so many things I still want and need to try. The point of this ramble is to say that the month of October is all about me trying all the things I’ve been wanting to try and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. What I like and what sucks. I think the only way to find what I’m looking for is to make lots of work and try different things. So bear with me and my inconsistent photography for the time being! I’m going to be experimenting like crazy.

I think that is the most I’ve ever said about myself on this blog. Back to food photography…

The fun thing about doing test shoots is you can try a lot of different things. Here is an entirely different approach to the same food.

Natasha - The dips look delicious! Love the bar scene too, the photos are amazing :-)

Mandee - I can’t believe it’s taken me a whole week of VeganMoFo before I’ve managed to visit your blog, Vanessa! Your shots look amazing, as always, and I often see photos online (twitter/pinterest) and I know they are yours right away. I hope you enjoy experimenting this month and that you find the signature look you’re going for :)

Also, dips – YUM!

christelle is flabbergasting - I’ll just be repeating what others said before me, but I do think that you have your own style- recognizable from other photographers! That’s fun because I was talking about the same subject with a fellow photographer yesterday and we finally agreed that you -the photographer- is probably the last person who’ll see that you’re consistent in your work. I was finding her style consistent (and I find yours too!) but mine, not. But people tend to say to me ” yeah, I recognize your pictures!” (whhh-hhhat?)
That being said, I am firm believer of “you have to try and experiment to know your style and push your limits” so I couldn’t agree more (and look forward!) on this month of food photography exploration on your blog!

Kelly - I’m a huge fangirl of your photography, and I think you do have a very distinctive aesthetic! I always recognize your work, whether I’m scrolling quickly through my Google Reader or flipping through VegNews. :)

Athena - As some of the other commenters have said, I too think you have a distinctive and recognizable style and aesthetic… something I’m still striving to achieve but is quite elusive. For me it’s sometimes hard to look at others’ work… one day it can be inspiring, other times, inhibiting. Anyway, I think you’re doing a great job. Your enthusiasm and all that you put into your craft and trying to get better through testing and trying different things is something to look up to. Now I’m going to look through my Jamie issues and find that specific shoot by Anders S. :)

Angela - I just had to comment on this post. :) I actually think you do have a very distinct style, as others have said. In fact, I was just showing my husband your website last month gushing over this very same thing! I do think it’s hard for photographers to see their own style, while it’s easy to spot in someone else. I have always felt that way about my own photos (and I’m not even close to the level you are!).

With that being said, I think it’s totally cool to play around with different styles. Do you think it’s possible to play around with other styles but still keep your own feel/aesthetic in them at the same time? I’ve often wondered this myself.

Keep up the great work!

Cathy Pyle - I agree with other commenters, I think you do have a distinctive style, which I love; your use of colour, texture and light are always gorgeous. An inspiration!

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com - Your test shoots are amazing!! You need to provide food photography lessons. How about to me? :D

Divya - Sounds and looks like a very successful “experiment”! As for your aesthetic as a photographer, I think you do have your own style/signature look. I can always recognize your photos on Pinterest even though they might be done with different “vibes”.

Look forward to more experimenting!

FoodFeud - You know, it’s funny what you say about trying to find yr YOU in the photographs you take; I was honestly thinking the other day that you really do have a specific aesthetic! It’s something about textures and layered lighting and organic materials.. I don’t really know much about photography but I do like yrs a lot. maybe you not finding yr photographic voice has something to do with shooting other people’s work more than yr own lately. Anyway, I hope it works out for you.
That said, you probably go to fancier bars than I do. The spreads don’t really scream “bar food” to me, but the photos work anyway.

Evan Thomas - Wow, these photos are freaking gorgeous. I would say you have a pretty definitive style. I’ve definitely been scrolling through my pinterest dashboard and seen photos that I knew off the bat were yours.

Roy - for an “experiment” these photos look fantastic!!!

Caitlin - it’s so fun to see all of your test shoots! thank you for sharing. and no matter what aesthetic you have, it’s gorgeous. i love all of them ;) and look forward to seeing you test different ones out this month.

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