Tartelette Visits Los Angeles: Food Photography Workshop

Tartelette helps Shawn of Kitchen Fervor with photographing her beautiful tarts

Helene assists Shawn of Kitchen Fervor with photographing her roasted eggplant ricotta poppy seed tarts.

Last Friday, Mr. DG and I drove to LA to make a quick weekend visit to both of our families. It was also the weekend of the food photography class taught by Helene Dujardin, the famed blogger and food photographer of MyTartelette.com.  I have been looking forward to this class since I signed up in January when I luckily saw a tweet by La Fuji Mama that there were still a few places left.  The class was held at the Academy of Culinary Education in Woodland Hills, which is owned by Chef Cecilia Castro. The school offers individual thirty-week professional baking and cooking programs. Graduates of her programs have worked at restaurants such as The French Laundry, Farallon, Chinois and Border Grill. 

A captive audience for Tartelette's tips and suggestions Helene demonstrating with her Canon Mark II. Seen next to her are Jen of Devour the World, Carrie of Deliciously Organic, Gaby of What's Gaby Cooking, Rachael of La Fuji Mama, Jenny of Picky Palate, and Shawn of Kitchen Fervor.

Helene emphasized that it is important to use the equipment that you are most comfortable using. A high-end pro camera is not necessary to capture beautiful photos. Knowing how to use your camera to achieve the photo you want is a process of discovery. The suggestions she made were not revolutionary, just common sense -- but, of course, I hadn't thought of any of them! Such as - practice taking photos starting at the largest aperture and closing it down in increments of one stop per image so you can see how the aperture affects each photo.

Canon comparison

Canon shooters deep in thought: Jenny, Rachael, Gaby and Marla of Family Fresh Cooking.

Helene suggested using a white board, reflector or a mirror to illuminate the subject's foreground, especially if using tricky back lighting. Using a reflector to bounce light back on the subject helps to brighten what would be the darkest side of the object. Below she is helping Rachael fill in the shadows using a compact mirror and a white board.

Tartelette, Helene Dujardin, lends a hand to Rachael of La Fuji Mama

I think the majority or all of the food bloggers in the photography class cook recipes at home and document them on their blog. I do plan on doing that with Dishy Goodness in the near future, but so far, the emphasis of my posts has been restaurant reviews. Since I'm usually taking photos of plated food at a restaurant, I don't have much experience with styling my own food or using props, linens, etc. It was definitely a new experience for me, and I look forward to improving my food styling with the tips Helene provided.

My first attempts at working linens and props into my food photos

I bought random linens from Stein Mart and Marshall's and tried some different color combos before settling upon the pale green solid napkin and geometric grass green and white napkins. Between work and the two-hour trip to LA, I didn't have time to cook or bake anything for the class, much less think of how to transport it from Indio to Woodland Hills. So I purchased gourmet chocolate chip pecan cookies to use as my subject. The white dishes are my own -- part of the Villeroy Boch "Dune" dinnerware we received for wedding gifts. Helene suggested that coffee or some beverage in the empty cup would complete the montage, but for a first go at working with props, I think I have a good start. Lots of practice is sure to come!

And a few more shots trying to incorporate Tartelette's suggestions

Thank you, Rachael, Jen and Gaby for organizing this class with Helene! And thank you, Helene, for flying out from Charleston to teach this class (and two macaron classes, as well!). It was great to meet other people as addicted to food and cooking -- and blogging about it -- as I am!

My fellow classmates were as follows:
Brianne - www.chefbri.com


  1. wow what a cool class! everyone looks like they have fancy cameras!

  2. Great write-up! It was so nice of you to include all of our links, too. Your pics look fabulous, hope we meet up again soon. Bookmarked your blog!

  3. Hey Donna! The pictures turned out beautifully. Love those green linens. So Springy. Take care....
    -Shawn (Kitchen Fervor)

  4. Yay! Great write up! It was such an informative and fun class. Thanks for including links to everyone's blog too.

  5. Thanks for the write up! Recipe blogging is so different from restaurant blogging. I would go a little bananas having so many different linens and props at home ;-)

  6. Wow, what a fun class to attend! Those cookies look delicious! Can't wait to see more of your fabulous pictures on Dishy Goodness. =)

  7. The Actors Diet: Thanks for the late night visit to my blog! A "fancy" camera is not necessary for nice photos, as Tartelette explained to us. Knowing how to use the camera you have is the key. Have a great weekend!

    Cathy @ ShowFoodChef: Wow, thanks for bookmarking Dishy Goodness! Nice to have met you, too!

    Shawn of Kitchen Fervor: So nice to meet you last Saturday. Your tarts were so perfectly done...they looked delicious!

    Kristina of Former Chef: It's my pleasure to include everyone's blog. I am happy to share wonderful blogs whenever I can.

    Gastronomer: I agree, recipe blogging IS different. I am wondering where I'm going to store my random linens now...:) Thanks for visiting!

    Dio: Hi! It's been far too long since we've had a good girls' night out! The cookies were delicious -- I bought them at Marshall's. Soft and chewy. :) Hope to see you very soon!

    Food bloggers: Are you going to the 3/27 Food Blog Forum with White on Rice Couple & Steamy Kitchen in LA? http://foodblogforumlosangeles.eventbrite.com/

  8. What a fantastic class! It looks like you were in great company, and the photos that are emerging are gorgeous. Wish I could have been there!

  9. Hi, Liren! It would be wonderful to meet you. Any chance you can make the 3/27 Food Blog Forum in LA?? Let me know.

  10. Great post! How lucky to have had the opportunity to meet, and learn from, Helene. I love collecting interesting linens and dishes, etc., to have on hand for blog photos, and that aspect of food blogging is almost as addictive as the baking and picture-taking itself. Gorgeous blog you have here, by the way!

  11. Wow!!! What an impressive post. I love your coverage of our great day. Your photos came out wonderful, you all ready look like a pro! I just posted my take :)

  12. It was great meeting you last weekend! YOur photos are wonderful! Thanks for posting the names and websites of those that attended! Now I have a list so I can visit everyone's website!

  13. Hi, Jane! Thank you for your nice words. I love that you are starting a new career in pastry -- how wonderful! And your work looks great!

    Marla - Appreciate you reading my post. Just read yours, and I love how you put the bowl of oatmeal on the apple! Great idea.

    Carrie - It was a pleasure to meet you, too, and thank you for the compliment! I look forward to your cookbook as photographed by Helene!

  14. How fun! Thanks for posting about your class. I adore Helene! Your photos are stunning!

  15. Hi, Maria. Thank you kindly. I am ever learning with photography and am glad I got some tips from someone experienced in food photography like Helene.

  16. You are sooo lucky - and it looks like all the tips have been put to good use! Loving the tip on the apperture - I will try it soon!

  17. Oh my goodness Donna--STUNNING photos! I'm so glad that you were able to come to the class and look forward to seeing you again!

  18. You are a natural Donna! Your whole set was gorgeous. Confidence. Have confidence in your skills and abilities and you will go places!

  19. Hi, Trissa! Nice to "meet" you! Let me know how your experiment w/aperture goes. :)

    Thank you, Rachael! So thrilled to meet you finally. I hope to see you again soon.

    Helene: you are too kind. I appreciate your encouragement and your input about my photos at the end of class was truly helpful!

  20. Hi Donna,

    I was just thinking about how I would love to make it down to the 3/27 Food Blog Forum and was considering how I could make it work! But, we've got a lot of travel coming up in the next few weekends, so it might be tough to squeeze in. It's a shame, though, since it's just a drive down the coast! Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to meet soon! Are you attending the event?

  21. Hi, Liren! Yes, I am going to the 3/27 Food Blog Forum. It'd be great to meet you in person and chat! Hope to see you at another event sometime soon. Let me know if you figure out a way to come down for the forum. :)

  22. Have a wonderful time at the Food Blog Forum. I can't wait to hear all about it, but I hope you'll capture some fantastic photos (I'm sure you will) and tell us all about it.

    BTW, I am passing an award along to you. I really enjoy your photography and your blog SO much!! You were one of the first people to come to mind. You can see it here:

  23. I wish I could have attended. Looks fun. Hope you learned something wunderfu!

  24. Hi, Liren! I will do my best to recap the Food Blog Forum. Too bad you can't make it down here. :( And thank you for the Sunshine Award! What a lovely idea and I'm flattered to have been included in your 12 honorees! Thank you!

    Hi, Cafe Pasadena! Welcome to my blog. Thanks for stopping by and sending me your comments!

  25. Great post! What a great group :) I look forward to seeing you Sat. I'm going to the seminar.

  26. Hi, Diane! Thank you! I look forward to seeing you, too. So excited about the line-up of speakers and the chance to meet/see people I've only seen in tiny avatars or in blog photos. :)

  27. Hi Donna,

    I'm a little late in posting a comment since I am just finding your blog. And what a great blog it is! Thank you for this post and your post on the Food Blog Forum event in LA. Great information. What an amazing experience you had here too! Your photo's turned out great!
    Look forward to following you.

    All the best!

  28. Hi, Heather! Welcome to Dishy Goodness and thank you for your comments! I am so glad my blog is helpful, and, hopefully, somewhat entertaining! Thanks for following me, and have a great weekend!



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