We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Grow and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Leslie, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
There are so many things, but the one thing that comes to mind is that there’s a lot of unpaid time planning the details of a shoot and that it takes a collaborative effort amongst myself and the food & prop stylists that make up my team. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes before the shoot even happens; emails, building estimates, tracking down payment, creative calls, thinking about what can be accomplished in a day and what kind of team it will take. While I’m thinking about lighting, composition, and anything technical, the stylists think of all the small details that take the shot to the next level. They are scouring the internet and shops to find all the elements that bring the image to life.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a food, beverage, & still life photographer living and working out of my studio in Los Angeles. I shoot a variety of styles depending on if it’s a personal project or paid client jobs. A recurring theme in my work is how I incorporate light, color, and texture into my images. I’m always looking at how light and shadow interact. People often describe my work as being bold, colorful, minimalistic, and detailed. I want the viewer to see food textures like they wouldn’t usually see, feel like they are part of the scene, and entice them to want the dish or drink. I know I’m doing my job right when someone says, “You’re making my mouth water!”. After graduating from photography school, I decided to make this my full-time career. I hustled day after day, saying yes to every job that came in no matter the price and often it was “for exposure”. It’s part of the job starting out. That’s fine in the beginning to gain experience working on-set with a client, but the reality is that the exposure usually doesn’t turn into anything and won’t pay the bills. The biggest struggle is knowing your self-worth and not letting the client take advantage of that. The market has become oversaturated and incredibly competitive. Companies are wanting more content for less money without sacrificing production value. There have been countless ups and downs, and I’d have to question anyone who hasn’t experienced this running their own business. Without struggles, challenges or failures, how do you grow or push yourself to get better? When the emails aren’t flowing in, it’s easy to fall in the mind trap of questioning if your work is good or not—I’m guilty of that! But I’ve learned through the years that I need to utilize the downtime for test shoots, updating my portfolio, networking, and practicing different lighting setups that I wouldn’t usually try on a paid client shoot. While I wish I’d assisted more after I graduated photography school, I’m proud that I’ve figured out many things on my own, mostly through trial & error, tons of googling & YouTube, and practice! I’m a perfectionist, so I’ll go at something until I get it just right. I’m also really proud of a new personal project I’ve been working on called #myquarantinepantry. The inspiration behind this on-going series came about while being locked down during the early months of COVID. When jobs canceled and the economy shut down, I hit the refresh button like everyone else, took some much needed R&R, and tried to figure out some creative solutions to continue working for clients. I had a couple of last-minute rush shoot requests that utilized the props & surfaces I had available and shot them in my home studio. With that, since I wasn’t able to work with my team of stylists or rely on stores to make deliveries on time, I was forced to think outside the box and use what I already had on-hand. From there, it was like a lightbulb went off, and I had a flood of ideas hit me! Since I’m a food photographer, I looked at what I had most readily available – aka my pantry! (And also thinking of what we all just stocked up on not knowing if the stores would restock.) With over 10 years of shooting, I’ve acquired quite the collection of spray paints, papers, and different props leftover from various projects & shoots. I’ve always been drawn to a clean, graphic & bold style, so it was only natural to explore and challenge myself to do that kind of styling as well. This series has been a creative outlet to keep my creative muscles working, learn some new skills, and distract me from everything that is happening right now. There’s more to come!!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe so much credit and recognition to my mom, sister, husband, and family. They have been my biggest supporters throughout my journey and deserve a tremendous amount of thanks, love, and gratitude for encouraging me to pursue my passion. They’ve witnessed the excitement when I won my first advertising billboard campaign and listened to all the failures and bumps I’ve hit along the way. Highs & lows are part of this industry and to be expected. Through the years, I have learned that you have to fail often to see growth and success, along with dedication and a ton of hard work. I have a small group of lady friends/colleagues that are in the same industry. We consider it a safe place to ask for help, feedback, or extra support when we need it. The photography industry can feel very competitive and isolating at times, so it’s nice to have people you can trust or bounce ideas around. My agent has also been an essential part of my growth and success. She is my strongest advocate and knows when I need that extra little push to get things done. With her years of experience and knowledge of what clients are looking for, she challenges me to explore different mediums and styles to be ready for anything.

Website: www.lesliegrow.com
Instagram: @lesliegrow
Linkedin: lesliegrowphoto
Other: https://thisisetccreative.com/leslie-grow/ http://foundartists.com/leslie-grow https://www.workbook.com/portfolios/view/leslie_grow/galleries

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