Peace of mind

When I have time,  I try personal ideas and and shoot new images for my portfolio and for stock. Such personal images can lead to new commissions and sometimes the image itself gets picked up and used commercially.

When I shoot these images, I’ve usually had an idea in my mind for a while and sometimes the image I envisaged develops into something better.   Without a client deadline or brief, there is the option to experiment and to spend a lot of time tweaking things like lighting and composition. However as time is usually at a premium between commissions my personal images tend to be produced one or two at a time.


food photographer leeds carrot soup
Carrot soup. Copyright Tony May 2007. Food photographer Leeds, Yorkshire.

I styled and shot this image of carrot soup in my studio quite soon after setting up my business, in order to build my food photography portfolio and to try as a stock image.

My studio in Leeds has some windows which can be covered or revealed, to shoot with or without daylight. This shot was lit by two windows behind and with a studio flash head and a reflector at the front to add detail and highlights to the soup and front of the bowl.

Whilst commercial food photography normally involves a home economist and/or food stylist (or for editorial shoots, the chef)  to prepare and style the dishes, I styled this shot myself.

The image was shot on a Hassleblad H1 with a tethered Phase One back and processed using the Phase One Capture One RAW processing software. That digital back was ‘only’ 11MP but the image has been printed many times and prints beautifully with smooth tonal gradations at 18″ across.

Squash soup with harissa and coriander, food photography by Tony May
Squash soup with harissa and coriander

This image of squash soup with harissa and coriander leaf was shot in a second session a couple of months later using some of the same props and a similar lighting set up.

I added the images to my portfolio and submitted them to a couple of stock libraries. I entered both images in my first attempt at the annual competition of the Yorkshire Region of the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography).  The carrot soup image won me the overall title of Commercial and Advertising Photographer of the Year in the Yorkshire Region which was a real surprise and helped get me some good publicity.

That then led to me and the carrot soup image being featured by Phase One in their “RAW News” newsletter.

Phase One Featured Photographer Tony May
Phase One Featured Photographer

That in turn led to discussions about licensing some of my images to Phase One to support some unspecified marketing activities they were planning, but which were described in a pretty low key way (is that a Danish thing?)

So I was pleasantly surprised when Phase One launched its integrated Phase One 645 Camera System, using the slogan “What The World’s Best Photography Is Made Of”,  to see the carrot soup image used to illustrate the “Peace of Mind” message in the global internet launch campaign. The image had previously been described as “Zen-like” so I guess people find it calming and peaceful.

Phase One Camera Launch Tony May Image
The launch of the Phase One Camera

Not all personal images bring this much back, some just bring experience and variety to the portfolio,  but this image, shot speculatively, has really worked well for me.