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CreativeLive Student Profile: Food and Still Life Photographer Hilary McMullen

by Whitney Ricketts
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Seattle-Based Food Photographer Hilary McMullenWe’re in non-stop awe of the vibrant CreativeLive community of learners and doers. Last week, we profiled creative visionary — and portrait photographer — Berit Alits. This week, we’re over the moon to highlight Seattle’s own Hilary McMullen, a still and food photographer whose impressive client list includes Sasquatch Books, Seattle Magazine, and Nordstrom.

Hilary quit her day job less than a week ago — leaving her office job behind to pursue a full-time freelance photography career. Here’s Hilary’s story in her own words:

Describe yourself in three sentences or less:
I stumbled upon food photography in college through an assignment and fell in love. I gravitate towards most things quaint and classy and am a farm-to-table kind of gal. Expanding my knowledge about anything, really, is one of the most important parts of my life.

Still life with eggs, as shot by Seattle-based food photographer Hilary McMullen.

Still life with eggs, as shot by Seattle-based food photographer Hilary McMullen.

Do you have a day job?
Up until last Friday actually, I was a full time digital tech at Nordstrom Studio N sprinkled with days of shooting product with them and building my food portfolio. Starting Monday with my first cookbook, I am officially jumping into the freelance world to pursue food/still life photography full time.

My other full time job along with Nordstrom was and still will be, promoting my business, testing, and attending any informational workshops about the industry that I can fit into my crazy schedule.

What is your dream job?
Shooting cookbooks in an adorable rustic, woodsy studio (my house) and traditional food preparation/lifestyle in different cultures.

A gorgeous way to start the day — shot by Hilary McMullen.

A gorgeous way to start the day — shot by Hilary McMullen.

What is your biggest professional challenge?
I’m shy and look young for my age and that can get in my way of being taken seriously. I’m working on it ;). Also, bidding for jobs can be intimidating. Communicating with fellow creatives helps make it less so.

How do you get inspired?  
Often inspiration comes from strong emotional responses. Sometimes I see things that make me feel happy or intrigued and create a certain mood/scene in my mind. Mainly props in thrift stores, colors, old doors/ windows, vintage paraphernalia, food that triggers a memory or perhaps it’s just interesting looking. Also chatting with people can spark ideas sometimes totally unrelated to the conversation which can lead to some fun projects.

Beautiful shot of wok-fried pork and rice by Seattle-based food photographer Hilary McMullen.

Beautiful shot of wok-fried pork and rice by Seattle-based food photographer Hilary McMullen.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
South East Asia is at the top of my list. I’m fascinated by the food culture and lifestyle. I suppose lounging on the white sand and swimming in the blue sea wouldn’t be half bad either .

What’s your favorite cL instructor or workshop — and why?
I found the food composition workshop with Andrew Scrivani to be really interesting.  I enjoyed hearing the perspective and story from an established food photographer who has adapted to major changes in the industry. Along with being passionate about the subject, he took time to interact with the audience, both of which I appreciated.

If you could teach anything on cL, what would it be?
I would be interesting to teach a class about food, prop styling, and creating a certain mood. Ideas about what kind of foods could go with which props and why from my perspective.

If you could attend a cL class with any instructor in the world, who would it be?
I would love to see a class taught by Katie Quinn Davies. She has had an interesting and impressive road in becoming a food photographer and I would be ecstatic to hear her tale.

To see Hilary’s portfolio, check out her website — and don’t miss her gorgeous blog full of lush images from her recent projects.

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Whitney Ricketts

Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive's Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.