The Writings

Death By Chocolate - My Shoot with Lee Reizian Holmes

You figure that every woman loves chocolate, but to love chocolate as a means for creating art as well as consuming it is a whole different conversation. Talking to Lee - a former marketing and ad agency employee - you can tell chocolate is more than a girl's best friend, to her. Her company name explains it all: Art By Chocolate. Being around food all my professional life as a cook and restaurant manager, it was fun talking shop with a fellow foodie. You can certainly tell it goes beyond creating your typical Valentine's Day lottery chocolates when you speak with her. After I got off the phone with Lee as we discussed the plan for our upcoming shoot, I knew it was going to be a fun day at the office.

I arrived at her place one Saturday in March and scoped out the lay of the land: there was no kitchen that she used, per say - it was more of an art studio and a laboratory meshed into one downstairs room. The Dr. Jekyll to her Mr. Hyde counterpart in the basement was a very posh sitting room, where she conducted her business meetings in a great and convenient part of Dupont Circle. Even though the natural lighting (or lack thereof) left something to be desired, the color scheme was a fantastic background to compliment the chocolate flower bouquets I'd be shooting. For her latest creation, she has edible gold leaf that is applied to the chocolate, which can also have colored "dust" applied as well. This is supposedly the latest trend in chocolate, and it's something Lee does extremely well. So well, in fact, that she's in talks with Dean & Deluca to design a chocolate exclusively for their retail (knock on wood).

This shoot also marked another exciting moment: the day I finally got to play with my three-foot product seamless. I had purchased it a while ago, but never had the need to use it, so it was great to finally try it out. I noticed one thing that was going to be a problem: a harsh shadow cast on the product as a result of my light. However, utilizing a spot light lamp that was in her meeting room (Home Depot's finest), I got around this problem and managed to create some stunning images - some images that Lee and I figured would be more wall hangings than marketing images! My goal was to live and shoot by her company name: photograph art from the resulting art made with her chocolate flowers and leaves.

The main thing was to focus on getting the flowers and leaves to shimmer without being washed out and without harsh shadows. I tried using a single light directly behind the camera, but the shadows were too harsh. So, to prevent this, I added one more light, but had to use a lighter background to "bounce" the light off of back onto the chocolates, which lit the food up evenly. Quite a strange concept, but one that seemed to work out just fine.

What really made this shoot successful was the collaborative efforts between Lee and myself. Being both artists and culinarians, we already had a vision of what we wanted the photos to look like. However, we were able to communicate our ideas to each other and realized we were both on very similar planes when it came to the images.  Realizing that we are both artists, the creative aspects of this shoot were very enjoyable, and being able to work alongside someone who was extremely creative and was open to bouncing ideas off one another made me come to the conclusion that this is why we had such success.  Furthermore, we weren't afraid to experiment and play "trial and error" with our ideas, more so not being afraid to fail, though I noticed our favorite shots from the shoot came when we experimented. Plus, I took a lot of her ideas as an educational tool because of all of her previous experience with marketing and advertising - a field I'm sure I'll be photographing a lot more.

Overall, this shoot was extremely fun and a tremendous success. Lee was beyond a joy to work with, making the shoot better than I could've imagined and the type of shoot you wish every one was like. It seemed like just about every photo was useful and creative, which would stand out to her clients for her website relaunch. I was pleased with the results, but more pleased about the idea of working with her again in the future for her upcoming products and website remake.

If you have questions about how these shots came about or feedback, shoot me an e-mail and we can talk shop!

Until next time,

- Patrick

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