FBC2015 Recap & Happy New Year!
Looking back, 2015 was an eventful year for my little blog. I reached a pretty significant milestone in July (100 posts yay!) but the biggest highlight was attending my first Food Bloggers of Canada conference.
The organizers, Melissa Hartfiel and Ethan Adeland, did an outstanding job putting together a program of speakers who did more than just inspire. Each session was not only informative, but provided a set of practical tools we could use to grow and improve the content on our blogs. I left every presentation bursting at the seams with ideas and a long to-do list.
Things got started on Friday with New York Times photographer Andrew Scrivani hosting an intimate pre conference food photography workshop on shooting with available light.
Armed with their trusty cameras, the students were settled into a space that was once the newsroom of The Montreal Gazette. The room had magnificent floor to ceiling windows which offered plenty of light and had been staged with numerous props, backgrounds, and a wide variety of food materials. For the first half of the workshop, Andrew spoke about the fundamentals of working with light, always illustrating his points with examples of his work, demonstrating his basic set-up, and sharing some of his tools of the trade.
After a quick lunch, he broke the class down into smaller groups and set them loose styling and shooting. Andrew and his assistants, Montreal blogger Aimee Wimbush-Bourque and photographer Tim Chin, moved from group to group working with each student while fielding questions and offering advice. They made a great team, Aimee demonstrated styling and propping tips and tricks, while Tim and Andrew focused on lighting and camera settings.
Delivering an effective food photography workshop to an audience of bloggers with very diverse levels of experience is no easy feat. Andrew succeeded by focusing on the material that would be most useful for the group, and providing practical accessible solutions to common food photography challenges. Since the class was designed for both IPhone and DSRL users, he didn't spend a lot of time explaining the technical aspects of exposure. Instead, he talked about finding the light in your space and strategies for modifying light to suit your subject. It was hard not to be inspired by Andrew's passion for his craft. You can find Andrew's online food photography workshop here.
The classes on Saturday and Sunday included everyone; each session ran for about 90 minutes with conference MC Mairlyn Smith moderating and keeping the ball rolling with her boundless energy and down to earth wit.
Saturday morning began with the keynote speaker, Ricardo sharing his journey from radio host in Regina to his own successful TV show and magazine today. The lesson learned, take risks!
Next, Meghan Telpner spoke about developing your own unique brand and building an online community. My big takeaway from Meghan's presentation was the importance of authenticity.
Sarah Huggins and Lesley Ellen Harris translated legalese for bloggers, basic copyright and trademark issues were explained and a barrage of questions were patiently answered. Kudos to both lawyers for not once slipping into legal jargon.
After lunch, Casey Markee SEO expert scared the pants off me. I had no idea the depth of my ignorance on this topic. Thank goodness Casey generously provided plenty of online resources for further reference.
Sunday morning was all about storytelling.
Things got started with a panel discussion including Jennifer Hayes (dairy farmer), Jay Nutt (chef), and Tiffany Mayer (journalist). The panelists each provided practical advice for connecting and working with the people who produce and prepare our food. I left the session with a powerful urge to hug a farmer and kiss a chef.
Andrew Scrivani continued the theme offering his insights on visual storytelling, he talked about the use of lighting and props to create a compelling narrative. This was followed by a lively Q&A with audience.
After a quick coffee break, Ayngelina Brogan and Davida Kugelmass led the final session, titled 'Take a Leap'. They each shared their journey to becoming full time bloggers and offered advice for monetizing our blogs. The lessons learned were many: take risks, you don't get what you don't ask for, know the value of what you bring to the table and don't under charge, and always do the 'paid' work first and streamline the 'unpaid' work.
Check out other more detailed conference recaps here.
The best professional conferences are part professional development and part networking. Networking is not as easy as it sounds ... fortunately, the conference organizers orchestrated a variety of events designed to allow people to easily connect. The weekend started with a stand-up reception with snacks served by the sponsors themselves.
The seating arrangements for the beautiful meal that followed were designed to ensure that all delegates were given the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, workshop speakers, and the conference sponsors. Dinner conversation at my table went from the role of social media for small scale dairy farmers, to the nutritional profile of mushrooms, to how to field dress a bison. Not your average chit chat. The speakers and big time bloggers/cookbook authors/TV personalities were sprinkled among newbies like myself, one big community.
To wrap things up on Sunday afternoon, a 'speed dating' session was organized for bloggers to meet with sponsors and brands, just in case you didn't manage to connect over the previous two days.
No detail was overlooked in the planning and execution of this event. Everyone in attendance was treated like an honoured guest. It was three days of first class gourmet meals, plenty of laughs, and many informative moments with a community of more than 150 inspiring and creative people who are all passionate about the food they grow, cook, eat, and feed their loved ones.
I was a member of the volunteer team for this year's conference, packing swag for delegates and taking pictures throughout the weekend. FBC is an amazing community, and I have to say that I feel really proud to be a member, and grateful to be able to contribute. The unique and defining quality of the FBC conference was the overall atmosphere of generosity, everyone was there to learn and share.
Motivated and empowered by this experience, I've decided to make some changes to my blog in 2016. Starting in January, I'll be launching a new series of photography tutorials and food styling resources that I hope my fellow bloggers will find useful. I plan to continue to post my very best recipes, culinary adventures and travel tales, but I'll be adding some new content to the mix. My goal is to provide one photography tutorial each month, I'll also share some of the tricks of the trade that I've learned over the past 12 years as a professional food stylist. Stay tuned, exciting things are afoot!
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, yummy New Year!