Kim Bainbridge: My Student Photography Story


For the very first time, our Student Food Photographer of the Year category, which is supported by The Royal Photographic Society (RPS), is free to enter. The category is for students (full or part-time) currently attending a photography course at a recognised college or university. The subject matter of the photos may be anything relating to food, so you can cast your net wide!

For our latest blog, Kim Bainbridge, who has impressively won the Student category twice, shares her photographic journey with us.

By Kim Bainbridge


How it began

During twelve years of travelling across the world, I took thousands of pictures of everything that I thought was worth documenting. But when I settled down in Newcastle upon Tyne and had time to look at the pictures, I was very disappointed. The pictures didn’t reflect my memories. It couldn’t be the camera's fault, because it was a really expensive one (in 2006, Canon 350D) However, the camera never had changed settings and had stayed in auto mode all that time.

I did some self study and eventually took several classes to learn photography. I was immediately hooked and tried every trick that I could find to manipulate the light and be creative with my compositions. I had decided that I wanted to combine my passion for travelling with my new found hobby (obsession) and would become a travel photographer.


Starting a photography course as a mature student

When I joined the BA (hons) course at Newcastle College, it was made immediately clear that that dream was too far to reach. First of all, my fellow students were all much younger ( I could be the mother of half the class) and being twelve years on the road had given me a severe disadvantage in being unfamiliar with computers, social media, and had no experience with the fast pace of technology in general.

With that dream shattered, I continued with the course and tested every direction within the photography world. From macro to astro, from events to portrait and everything in between. I learned a bit of everything and liked it all. But had not yet found what I wanted to do with my degree.


Pot of Tea’ by Kim Bainbridge, 1st Place, Student Food Photographer of the Year, 2022


Discovering studio photography through lockdown

Then the COVID pandemic hit the world and this turned out to be my breakthrough. Being forced to study from home, I discovered the delight of studio photography. For a study task, we had to create a front cover for a food magazine. I didn’t just make one, I made seven. I also continued to experiment with lighting and techniques and got better in manipulating layers in post production.

To my great surprise, four of those experimental photos were shortlisted for the student category of Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year, which is supported by the RPS. I couldn’t believe when my ‘Orange Juice’ became the third place winner and was still yelling my head off and nearly missed the announcement that I also had won first place with ‘Pot of Tea’.


My prizes for winning Student Food Photographer of the Year- from one-to-one tutorials and memberships, to magazine articles and commercial enquiries

I had no idea what the prize was, and to be honest, I didn’t care. Just seeing my pictures on TV was the best thing I could dream of. But as it turned out, I won a year membership with the RPS, which is fantastic because there are loads of benefits. Free, or discounted workshops, a beautiful magazine with loads of information about what is going on in the world of photography and being in a community with like-minded people.

The second prize was a private tutorial with Zoe Whishaw who is a commercial photography consultant. She had a look at my portfolio and website and was brutally honest and direct. I can’t say that it was very pleasant to hear, but acted on all her advice and suggestions. This turned out to be a good call. She definitely knows what she is talking about.

I was also interviewed for an article in the RPS magazine. This “little” chat was published in the September/October 2022 edition and covered six pages. Through that article, I was contacted by a bespoke jewellery designer in London and they liked my style of being creative with composites.
This made up my mind to continue my practice as a still life photographer.


Orange Juice’ by Kim Bainbridge, 3rd Place, Student Food Photographer of the Year, 2022


Growing in confidence

Graduating the BA (hons) with distinction and winning Student Food Photographer of the Year made me float on a pink cloud and this made me continue to study. I started the MA course at Hartlepool, School of Arts. I handed in the FMP (final major project) just a few weeks ago and await the results with tension. I am quite confident that I have passed, but it will be a close call. The MA course is very academic but I just want to be creative and have fun with my camera.

I must be good (read my confidence) because this year I won again the third and first place at Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year with ‘Tea Garden’ and ‘Amazonian foodscape’. I believe this was the first time in the history of the competition that this has happened. Never before the same winner twice and third AND first place.

Another year membership of the RPS, and another tutorial with Whishaw. And as you can read, another chat. The tutorial was much more pleasant than the previous one as I did (mostly) as suggested. Still, there are many improvements to be made.

Now the study is finished, it is frightening to be let go. As full of confidence that I am a good photographer, I am so insecure in putting myself out there. The time of doing jobs for charity or getting paid in chocolate and cheese is over. I am now focusing on improving my portfolio (as suggested by Whishaw) and getting some professional help with building a website. Then I will do my best to get commissions and become a professional commercial still life photographer.


My advice to photography students? Don’t give up!

My advice to the photography students out there is: don’t give up! Becoming a professional photographer is hard because the ever evolving technology and the amount of competition is huge. But if you really give it all your best, you can make it out there. Be creative, do what you like but listen to the professionals. Tutors, teachers and other professionals do know best, even though you don’t alway like what they say. Don’t be afraid of changing your mind either. Experiment in different genres and who knows, you might discover that you like, for example, studio photography just as much as travelling the world.


Amazonian Foodscape’ by Kim Bainbridge, 1st Place, Student Food Photographer of the Year, 2023


Definitely enter competitions!

Entering competitions is a great way to compare yourself to your peers. Getting proper feedback from real photographers has got much more value than a “like” from your friends on social media platforms. You don’t have to win, (although that makes it way more fun.) It is a great way to improve your skills and creativity.


Enter for free today

If you are studying a photography course, or know someone who is, please do encourage them to submit some images to the Student category. It’s free to enter, so what have you got to lose?

The winner and two runners up of the Student Food Photographer of the Year category will receive an RPS Membership, worth £55. The winning student will have their work and an interview published in the award-winning RPS Journal. In addition, they will have the unique opportunity to have a 60 minute one-to-one Zoom meeting with Commercial Photography Consultant and Mentor, Zoe Whishaw.

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