Graduate, Liam Desbois wins the Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture category at the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards, 2020.

Liam Desbois, Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Award winner 2020, discusses his work and his experience as a student on the Editorial and Advertising Photography Course.

When did you graduate?

I graduated back in May of 2018 after two years on the course, having already completed three years of photography at college back home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Why did you decide to come onto the Editorial and Advertising Photography course?

My lecturer at Aberdeen college recommended the course to me, having studied on it himself many years ago. I attended open days at three universities, including one in London. I had a very strong leaning towards a career as a food photographer prior to university and the other two courses were adamant on turning me into a journalism/fashion photographer which was very off-putting. In contrast, Trudie, the course leader, championed it and encouraged me to pursue a career in food photography even going as far as to introduce me to current and past students who had been successful in that very field. Alongside the extremely welcoming nature of all the lecturers I met that day and the unique focus of the course on the editorial and advertising side of commercial photography, it was a no brainer to choose ED&AD.

Were you able to draw on the transferable skills learnt on the course after you left and started working?

Definitely, the studios and rental equipment that were made available to us put me in very good stead for studio assisting, as I was familiarised with various items of kit and lighting. The focus on narrative was also hugely transferrable. Every time I shoot personal work, I ensure the entire series is visually cohesive and tells a story, whether that is through the props, theme, season or the food itself. Creating mouth watering food images is one thing but the course taught me how to think beyond that. This could be through adding elements of intrigue in a shot that make the viewer think about what exists beyond the four corners of the frame or cues that invoke senses other than sight, such as taste or smell.

Has the course prepared you for working within the creative industries?

Absolutely, I firmly believe that the courses focus on the professional industry is unrivalled. You develop your photographic skills on the course, but more importantly it teaches you how to approach industry professionals and get a foot in the door almost a year before you’re even ready to leave. These communication skills made for a smooth transition from the course into working full time in a photographic 
job role.

What have you been working on since you left University?

For the first 2 months I worked as a freelancer, assisting on a couple of books and shooting a couple of small jobs for the Deliveroo app. I then began working with Jonathan Gregson full time as his photographic assistant. As photographic assistant, I was mainly in charge of lighting, retouching and looking after clients. There are countless other responsibilities but you learn those on the job. I’ve had the pleasure of being on shoots for clients such as Waitrose, Tesco, Lurpak, BBC Good Food and M&S to name a few. Alongside this, I was also the studio manager of Montford Place Studio. This involved managing a busy diary, allocating options, dealing with rates, confirming and organising all bookings made. I also opened, closed and maintained the space.

I regularly shoot my own personal work with food and prop stylists, we call it test shooting. It gives us a chance to be creative and experiment with the food, props, lighting and concept. As a full time assistant, I can’t shoot for my own clients, so it’s a perfect way for me to build my portfolio in the meantime. This work is ideal for getting the attention of art directors and people who are in a position to commission photography, making sure you’re fresh in their minds for when you are freelance and in a position to shoot for them.

An image from a recent test shoot based around sticky foods (“Baked Figs”), went on to win the Marks & Spencer food portraiture category of the Pink Lady Food Photography Awards 2020.

Would you recommend the Editorial and Advertising Photography course and if so why?

100%. The lecturers are second to none and put their absolute all into making sure you are set to achieve your goals. You’re always treated as an individual and advice is catered to your work specifically, ensuring the best possible feedback is given. Feedback classes were also a great way of sharing experiences and seeing how everyones work is developing throughout each module. The quality of teaching and the industry related knowledge you are provided with really does set you up for life in the real world. Having spent a couple of years there, it’s obvious to me why ED&AD photography has won course of the year.

Instagram: @liamdesbois
Twitter: @liamdesbois

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