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From a plastic Halina to a Hasselblad, Karen Thomas shares her photo journey

Karen Thomas Food photography
Image was taken with the Hasselblad H6D-100c and the HCD 28mm lens (Image credit: Karen Thomas)

A love of food and a passion for photography is what led Karen Thomas to become a successful food photographer. The pleasure of food has been a long-time obsession for the London-based photographer who has worked with high-profile clients such as M&S, Nestle, Costa and Waitrose.

Her interest in photography started when she was gifted a film camera as a child – a very different system to the Hasselblad H6D-100 she now shoots on. Working in both photography and videography, Karen gets an immense amount of satisfaction working to briefs, planning a shoot and executing a project with beautiful imagery. Whether she’s working with flash, constant lighting or natural light, Karen’s aim is to ensure her subject is brought to life with the lighting choice. 

This year, Karen was chosen to be a Hasselblad Heroine, but it isn’t the first time she’s received recognition for her stunning work. She’s won The Food Photographer of the Year and Tifa award, she’s been selected as one of Shutterturff’s (opens in new tab) top food photographers in London and she’s even had her own BBC Good Food podcast where she discusses her work.

Following Hasselblad's announcement, we caught up with Karen to discuss her background in photography, her achievements and her inspirations.

(Image credit: Karen Thomas)
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How old were you when you first took up photography?

I’m not sure the exact age but my Dad bought me my first 35mm red plastic Halina camera when I was at school. 

Who or what inspired you to do so?

My Dad is really into photography and so I learned a lot from him and then I went on to college and then university to study photography.

Do you have a favorite photo or project you've worked on?

I don’t necessarily have a favorite as there have been so many amazing shoots over the years. I love shooting tests and I recently did a project with a 28mm lens. I don’t usually shoot wide angle as it’s not generally flattering to the food but I wanted to really immerse the viewer into the action, whilst at the same time giving a sense of the environment which the wide angle allowed me to do. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Get an agent early in your career otherwise when you eventually get one, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! 

What does it mean to you on being chosen as a Hasselblad Heroine?

It’s a great honor to be chosen. I’ve always loved the cameras and it’s fantastic to get recognition from a brand that I have so much respect for.

What has been your biggest obstacle in getting to where you are?

I wouldn’t say there was one particular obstacle. Each step of my career has taken a lot of hard work and motivation. You can never sit back, you always need to stay relevant and keep evolving.

To view more of Karen's work, head to her website (opens in new tab).

Read more: 

Best camera for food photography (opens in new tab)
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Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specialises in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylised product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.