penny's masterclass | new york city

About a week and a half ago, I set out on a trip to New York City that I knew would answer a lot of questions I had about my future. Come June, I'll be freelancing full-time  and after this unbelievable trip of learning, meeting, and eating, I'm so excited and enthusiastic to hit the ground and conquer the world with my camera.

I've never been more pumped about something...besides maybe a great french press coffee on Saturday morning. I was also outrageously fortunate to have met such amazing creatives who are at the top of the industry during my short time in the city: photographers, branding + marketing agents, food stylists, prop stylists, editors, and all the ambitious, warm-hearted folks who make awesome things happen. Since a few days before my trip, I've literally been pinching myself to make sure that I'm awake and that this is real life (enter David after Dentist gif here) as I got answers to all my cold-call emails about networking. I have to constantly remind myself that everyone had to start somewhere and people have hearts and are willing to connect young freelancers to the industry. Seriously, y'all, people are awesome and that's all you need to know. 

A blustery + flurry-filled Saturday was the whole reason I made this trip. It was the day of Penny De Los Santos' Master Class at the Good Light Studio. It was full of so much industry knowledge and demos from the best of the best.

Liza Jernow taught us how to style an epic sandwich for the perfect hero shot.  Maggie Ruggeiro and Amy E. Wilson magically created a half eaten Chinese take-out set and discussed collaborative projects. Karen D'Silva told us the honest truth about branding and marketing photographers and gave us tips to create consistency in our portfolios. And Judy Haubert gave us the low-down on how Saveur styles and shoots recipes and stories. I'm not going into all the details of the industry that they shared (take the class if you want them), but these empowering women have worked for Gourmet Magazine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart, Real Simple, among other amazing publications. Stephanie, Penny's assistant, and Jay, her digital tech, were also great resources of information, especially on discussing photo shoots. 

Penny let us in on her lighting tricks, inspirations, styles, all sorts of wisdom on the industry and being a freelancer. We ended the day with some solid wine, meats, cheeses, and fruits at her beautiful historic home in Brooklyn. This let us network with each other, review portfolios, build photo-friendships, and create a community that loves food and strong photography. I left this experience with so much clarity, direction, and confidence and finally feel like I've got the tools and attitude to take on the food world. 

Total fan-girl moment above. We were discussing the differences between Penny's Hasselblad set up ('s a beauty of a camera) versus my Nikon D800 (which is still my baby) and I got to set up with Penny's light system and shoot this hero shot. P.S. Penny's shot has much purer color, cleaner details, and just all the epic Penny-ness to boot.

The sandwich below is the leaning tower of sandwich basically. Liza taught us how to style this sandwich as she effortlessly draped meat, painted the bacon, and stacked it perfectly.You would never know from a forward shot that it was leaning back so far. Pro tip: don't eat it afterwards or you'll get a bite of broken toothpick! 

Head's up Jerry, Mom + Dad, these ProPhoto lights giant white silk curtain, and  Xrite ColorChecker Passport are on my wish list. Just sayin'.

It was mesmerizing watching Penny, Maggie, and Amy work together. Keep in mind, the image below is just a shot with the window light and modeling light and not the actual lighting set up. Keep up with Penny's portfolio in case she posts it because the light is drool-worthy, like her camera. 

Thanks again to all the awesome folks who made this master class so awesome. I learned a ton and hope to return next year. 

Stay tuned to the blog for a few more posts from NYC!