November 20, 2015
Lauren Lear, 32, Owner/Photographer
Lola Studios, Lauren Lear Food Photography, Portland
Treats like fresh-baked chocolate brownies drizzled in warm, rich chocolate fudge are what gets photographer Lauren Lear out of bed every morning – but not for breakfast.
Instead, it’s desserts and other sweet and savory dishes that are the focal point of the 32-year-old’s most recent work, for which she’s received some significant attention.
Lear’s photos of oysters from Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland made her a finalist in the global Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition in May.
She discovered her love for food photography last year after Leigh Kellis, owner of The Holy Donut in Portland, hired her to photograph the company’s doughnuts, which are made from Maine potatoes, and come in several different flavors, such as maple, coffee brandy, pomegranate, and dark chocolate sea salt.
Last year, Lear’s images were published in magazines such as Time, Inc.’s Food & Wine, Courrier Japon, Boston’s Northshore, and online at Thrillist.com.
“I kind of fell in love with it, and realized I had a knack for it,” said Lear, who has since gained more restaurant clients.
“The photo market is so saturated with men,” Lear said. “I think it’s pretty unique that I am relatively young female breaking out into the field, and already getting attention for it.”
The Virginia native who now lives in North Yarmouth has been running her photography business, Lola Studios, part time since June 2010.
Before opening her studio, located on Congress Street in Portland, Lear worked as a sales manager for Kennebunk-based Stockfood America, a food media agency that provides images, videos and features on food and drink themes.
“When I am working, it’s not really work, because I really love what I’m doing,” said Lear, who decided to run her studio full time last March.
She started Lauren Lear Food Photography, a sister company to Lola Studios, in mid-September, which features high-end food from Portland’s restaurant scene. In addition to The Holy Donut, Lear works with Empire Chinese Kitchen and Vinland Organic Restaurant, both on Congress Street, and Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern on Allen Avenue, on a regular basis.
Lear has more than a decade of experience – the last five years in Maine – specializing in fashion, business portraits, weddings, maternity, pets, fantasy photography, and more.
Her fantasy photography clients work with her and makeup artist Caylee Patenaude to express themselves in a way they’ve always imagined using costumes and props.
Describing her work as “whimsical” and “creative,” Lear said her fantasy photography is what makes her stand out among the other Maine photographers.
“It’s not necessarily for the picture, it’s (also) for the experience,” said Lear, whose business combines her passions of photography and theater, which she developed an interest in as a teenager.
Lear has bachelor’s degrees in photojournalism and theater from Ball State University in Indiana. Beginning as a fashion photo intern for JIVE Magazine in Atlanta, Ga., in 2005, Lear has held several jobs in the field since then, including as an assistant photographer in New York City.
A photo editing internship with Aurora Photos, an outdoor recreation-based stock photo company in Portland, is what attracted Lear to Maine five years ago. And though her initial plan after college was to work as a newspaper photographer, she said, she’s happy, and proud, about where she ended up.
Her goal is to continue to be published in magazines and eventually travel and photograph the food around the world.
“I’ve always loved food and being creative,” Lear said.
Lear encourages other young women to pursue their passions whatever that may be.
She said the more time and energy she dedicates to her work the more she benefits from it. And while starting your own business is “a lot of work,” Lear says, “It is also the most rewarding” because “you are winning that client for yourself and your passion – not to fulfill another person’s dream.”
The photography business, especially, said Lear, has its perks.
“Photography, in particular, gives you the freedom of making your own schedule, meeting new people, stretching outside of your comfort zone, and doing what you love for your day job,” she said. “It makes Monday something to look forward to.”
But what’s the best part about her job as a food photographer?
“I can make the food, I can style it, and take all the time I need to make sure everything is perfect,” Lear said.