“I didn’t buy my first camera until I was 30”
How a successful Finalist’s love for photography and food grew…
For our latest blog, we interviewed Lynne Kennedy, who has been a Finalist of the Champagne Taittinger Wedding Food Photographer category every year she has entered the competition. After scooping her first Finalist award, Lynne was called by the editor of a famous publishing company asking her to join their photographers list. So take note of her tips below!
Lynne hasn’t been a keen photographer since childhood; she didn’t buy her first camera until she was 30. But her love for the art and her success with it has been growing ever since…
We Did It!, 2nd Place, Champagne Taittinger Wedding Food Photographer, 2021
Jodie and Boo celebrate after eloping to the Isle of Skye to get married in September 2020
- Tell us about your artistic background - was it always inevitable you’d be a photographer?
It’s a long and bizarre story as to how I actually became a photographer, and it’s something I came to quite far on in my working life (aged 37!). Photography is not something I did at school or as a hobby or anything like that, but, I do remember that from aged around 13 or so, I was an avid magazine buyer and it was the photographs I loved to look at, so perhaps there was a subconscious love of images even though I didn’t realise it.
While working in London in my late 20s and early 30s I became aware of Lonely Planet books on travel and the amazing landscapes and portraits of different cultures around the world and I loved looking at those types of images, many of which were about food.
The first camera I bought was when I was 30 and had signed up to climb Mt Kilimanjaro for charity. I wanted some half decent photographs and did a lot of research and bought a Canon film camera. It was on auto the whole time, but I returned with some passable shots. I had the bug then, I think, and decided to do a weekend course on developing film and because I am quite an impulsive person, I decided I had to buy all the darkroom kit myself, because I was hooked, so I bought the kit and had it set up in the tiny, windowless kitchen of my studio flat. I lived off microwave meals because the enlarger was sitting on top of the cooker and I didn’t want to move it all the time.
I took photos of anything and nothing, just so I had something to develop, but I was starting to learn about composition then. When I decided to take a year out to travel - at 34 - I took a compact digital and my film SLR and came back with lots and lots of images of my trip from London to China by train and bus, and then India and Africa and the Himalaya. My only regret is that I wasn’t a better photographer when I went on that trip, because if I’d had more skills and known about Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year, oh my goodness I could have come home with a huge number of incredible shots from all these countries.
After that trip, I decided I wanted to be a travel writer/photographer but what actually happened was I left London, returned to my roots and got a job as a reporter on the local newspaper in the Highlands, where I’m from. One day the editor said he fancied serialising my travel stories and photographs and a couple of months later, after seeing those, a local couple asked me to photograph their wedding. I explained I was not a photographer and they needed a professional, but they kept nagging me and eventually I agreed. I was petrified but loved it and the rest, as they say, is history!
I was 37 at that point and had worked in marketing and PR in London for a few years but never had any idea I would end up as a photographer. I did one more year at the newspaper then left to photograph weddings full time, later specialising in elopement photography, mainly on the Isle of Skye, which is a huge attraction for tiny, intimate outdoor weddings. I love that job but photographing food, in particular people working with food, ignites something in me that I can’t explain. I just feel in my happy place when I’m documenting food stories.
Steam, Shortlisted, The Philip Harben Award for Food in Action, 2021
Isle of Skye baker Barry Hawthorne rises early every day to produce all the bread for the bakery and cafe he runs with his wife Liza. This was just after he opened the oven to take something out and of course the heat required for baking bread is pretty hot so he got hit in the face with the steam!
- How did you get into capturing images featuring food and drink elements?
Over the last ten years, I’ve become a bit of a cook (I love feeding people) - friends and family always give me good feedback and I managed to get an audition for Masterchef last year (sadly not quite good enough I guess!). As I I started cooking more, I bought more food magazines and cookbooks, and I started taking more notice of the images as well as the recipes.
I was gifted a book about a chef in Iceland who was showcasing the amazing producers whose food he uses in his recipes and I realised that I wanted to create something similar, but based on the Isle of Skye; we have an incredible natural larder here as well as some fantastic chefs.
It was only then really, once I’d had the idea, that I started going out and photographing people working with food, and some finished dishes, and that was when the spark was ignited.
Soaked, Highly Commended, Champagne Taittinger Wedding Food Photographer, 2022
A young couple who just got married at a beautiful, hidden Scottish loch, got back on the boat for the return trip. The groom was trying to spray a bottle of non-alcoholic fizz but it wouldn't spray and then, right at the end, it surprised them both with a little explosion!
- Why do you enter Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year?
A friend told me about Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year and while I was entering some of the other categories, I saw the Champagne Taittinger Wedding Food Photographer category, so I thought that given I photograph people getting married, I should really find something to enter!
I was absolutely flabbergasted when I received the email to say I was shortlisted, then that I was a Finalist (I also had a shortlisted entry in the Food In Action category) and I remember watching the awards online and as the names were read out my heart started beating a bit faster and then Fred said my name as runner up. I won’t lie, I was slightly gutted not to win but I was very proud to have got 2nd place, the very first time I entered.
After that, it was a no-brainer to enter in 2022 and I was very lucky to have two Finalist images in the Champagne Taittinger Wedding Food Photographer category and six shortlisted across other categories.
- How do you choose which pictures to enter?
I choose images which I hope will make the judges react in some emotional way - either by finding something beautiful, exciting, humorous or emotionally raw. Great action shots work too such as champagne bottles being opened! I’ve been experimenting more with slower shutter speeds recently, to evoke a feel of movement.
The competition is so huge and the standard is so exceptional that I think you need to submit shots which you think will elicit a reaction from the judges as that’s the only way to stand out.
Salt Harvester, Shortlisted, Bring Home the Harvest, 2022
Chris Watts and his wife Meena run the Skye Sea Salt Company in the Scottish Highlands. They pipe seawater into their three polytunnels, leave the water to evaporate, and then harvest the beautiful salt crystals. It was an incredible process for me to document and the salt is of an exceptional quality.
- What impact has your success in the competition had on you and your work?
After I came second in 2021, I had a call from an editor at a famous publishing company to ask if I would like to go on their list of photographers and I was completely gobsmacked and delighted at the same time! That was not something I was expecting and although I’ve yet to have a commission, it was wonderful to have had that call. I am shooting my first cookbook with a very experienced food writer/cookbook author at the moment and that is coming out this year. Most of all though, I think the awards have made me realise that I really want food to be a big part of my future work. I am also hoping that it might be a bonus when it comes to publishing my own book about Skye food.
- What would you say to someone considering entering the competition?
JUST DO IT!! What have you got to lose? I honestly never expected to get anywhere when I sent in my first submission in 2021, but I got a second place! It’s worth a little bit of time filling in the entry form and choosing some images because you just never know! Also, entering this competition pushes you to learn new skills and produce better work which is always a good thing.
- How to stand out in the shortlist by Caroline Kenyon January 4, 2024
- Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year changed my life January 2, 2024
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