How to Improve Your Food Photography in 9 Easy Steps

“A photographer is like a cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”
George Bernard Shaw

One would think that getting a brand new latest model camera like the Lumix DH5 Panasonic Compact System Camera, Nikon D810 or Canon Mark IV for example, would allow you to become a pro photographer… well, one would be wrong! The equipment you are shooting with is important for sure but it isn’t everything. I am not a pro, and I still have a lot to learn but at the same time, I already possess some knowledge which I can share with you, knowledge which hopefully will allow you to shoot more mouth-watering pictures. I focus on food photography because this is what interests me but you can adapt my tips below to any still life subject.

So, let’s get started – how to improve your food photography in 9 easy steps!

Know your camera

Seems like a no-brainer, does it? But be honest with yourself, when was the last time you actually reached for the manual? Do you really know what all the buttons or sliders actually do? It doesn’t matter what camera you have, if you don’t know all its functions, you will never be able to get the most out of it. Most people buy a new DSLR, set it on auto and hope for the best… well, this really isn’t the way to go.

Invest in some photo lighting

You can have the most expensive, top of the range camera but without some good lighting, you still will not be able to take a decent photo. It would be ideal to be able to shoot in all natural light all of the time but this isn’t always a realistic option. And no, you don’t have to sell your car in order to obtain some photo lights. Check eBay or Amazon, you can get a set of continuous softbox lighting for £30 or so… and yes, they do work well…

Understand the light

Once you have the lights in hand, you need to understand how to light your object. Food should never be light from the front. Ideally, you want to backlight your dish or set the light on the side (try an 11 or 1 o’clock lighting position) but never in front. In addition to your new light, play with diffusers or fill cards… it all depends on your needs; they will allow you to mellow the light or reduce harsh shadows especially if you are shooting with one light only.

Take care of your background

The dish is always the hero of your shot but everything else you see around it is equally important. Most people struggle with backgrounds but actually, the lack of a nice background is very easy to fix… look for inspirations all around you – wallpaper, tiles, wooden or vinyl flooring boards, old cupboard doors… Pop to your local DIY shop and ask for some samples of pieces of wallpaper you like, buy a length of clip on flooring and when you get home simply cut it into 3 shorter lengths and connect them as intended and tada… you have a wooden looking board done.

Work on composition

When you are setting your shot, look through your camera, pay attention to all the details you can see. Make sure your background is clear of clutter as well as clear of any dust or stray hairs… Decide on the angle of the shot, prop accordingly and frame. Remember about the rule of thirds, negative space and a colour wheel. Sounds like a lot but practise makes it easy.

Pay attention to props

I know that props can make or break the food shot. I personally lack in this department, I have an entire cupboard full of cooking props but I hardly ever use them… like I said before I am still learning and it looks like I am kind of stuck for the moment on the styling front. Summer is coming and with it car boot or yard sales, which are perfect for stocking up with unusual kitchen utensils like old plates, cups or glasses.

Plate your food right

Your food is your hero so make sure it looks as good as possible. Don’t just flop a spoonful of mashed potatoes on the plate next to your beautiful, juicy steak… place it with purpose, shape it and keep the plate clean. I see so many pictures of food which to all intents and purposes looks like road kill… it might be the best pasta bake ever created but if you present it so it resembles a dog’s dinner no one is going to cook it, trust me. Some dishes are hard to plate nicely, maybe try shooting them as the bubble away in your cooking pot or for baked goods whilst they are still on the baking tray… not everything has to be presented on a plate.

Shoot in RAW

No matter how great a photographer you will become or are now, your pictures will need some editing, even if it is just emphasising a small burst of colour, or the contrast… there is always something which didn’t go according to plan or could be improved. To make editing as easy as possible and to keep as much details as possible you have to shot in the RAW format. There is no compression between RAW and a .jpg file during and after any editing process and once you start shooting in RAW, you will understand why…

Practise, practise, practise

This is the best advice I can give you. Practise makes us better, we learn from our mistakes and next time we will know how to fix what went wrong during the previous shoot. Practise with your camera settings, with different angles, different lighting or colour… there is no better way to learn than practise!

I could write and write and write, as the topic of photography is never ending but as I am not writing a novel I will stop here. I hope that those few tips will help you understand what’s important and allow you to start taking better pictures.

Good luck and if you have any questions you know where to find me.

Would you add anything to my list?

* This is a collaborative post.

How To Deal with Fever Phobia

Fever phobia as in the treating of a fever as illness in itself and the inappropriate over response to childhood fever isn’t as rare as one might think. According to the survey commissioned by Braun over 50% of parents lower their child’s temperature before it reaches a reading of 38.5°C.

 Fever phobia as in the treating of a fever as illness in itself and the inappropriate over response to childhood fever isn’t as rare as one might think. According to the survey commissioned by Braun over 50% of parents lower their child’s temperature before it reaches a reading of 38.5°C.So why are we so afraid of a fever?

Well, there is only one answer which comes to mind… lack of knowledge.

It looks like many among us worry too much about a fever causing serious health problems without actually understanding it.

Fever is usually the manifestation of some sort of infection… yes, it might be uncomfortable for a little one but a fever is a sign of a healthy immune system fighting off the infection. Bringing it down prematurely can actually lengthen a child’s illness by stopping the body’s natural defence against the infection.

This is why it’s extremely important to know how high a temperature is actually a fever… to make it more complicated this changes with age… what is an acceptable temperature for a three year old can be classed as a high fever for a newborn.

In general, fever is defined as a central temperature higher than 37.5°C but slightly elevated temperature really isn’t a reason to worry about, just keep your eye on it.

How to deal with fever phobia?

  • Well, you might want to start with updating your knowledge about fever itself.
  • Secondly, buy a proper thermometer.
  • Third, stay calm and try to understand your child’s temperature before turning to medication such as paracetemol or ibuprofen or rushing to the Emergency Room.

Braun has tackles fever phobia by developing a range of thermometers that help you to measure your child’s temperature and are comfortable and accurate. Some of the new models include an Age Precision feature, which allows you to set your child age and the thermometer will alert you when the readings are elevated and how much elevated.

We were offered to test one of the Braun’s new thermometers. We received the Braun NTF3000 no touch + forehead thermometer and OMG it’s a brilliant piece of kit. After using in-ear thermometer for years, I have to admit, I totally love the no touch technology! It’s so much easier, quicker and most of all with no discomfort to the child at all as you don’t even have to touch them they won’t even know what you’re doing.

The Braun NTF3000 is small, light and stylish, it’s extremely ergonomic and it fits in the hand perfectly; it’s safe, hygienic and practical… I could go on and on and on…

The proximity sensor (up to 5cm) works brilliantly and the readings are super-fast.

The Braun NTF3000 features colour coding, which are in addition to the number reading, plus you can turn on a sound alarm if you wish to do so (just remember to turn it off for night time temperature checks or run the risk of waking someone up).

Once the thermometer arrived we must have use it 100+ times checking the temperatures of all household members and anyone else who would let us just to see how accurate it would be… well I would say it was super accurate with temperature changes of only 0.1°C.

The Braun NTF3000 has a RRP of £52.99 but a quick Google search brought up a few shops having it on offer below £40… frankly I think this is a steal.

It’s a brilliant thermometer and a definitely must have for any family with kids. From now on there will be no more struggles and pleads to hold your head still when it comes to checking temperatures as this simple task is now totally non-invasive.

Thank you Braun for this great gift! It really made life easier especially at times when there is enough concern and worry in a parent.

Do you suffer from fever phobia?

Have you ever used no touch thermometer before?

How do you check the age of your skin care, perfumes or make-up?

How do you check the age of your skin care, perfumes or make-up? Have you ever wondered just how old your skin care products really are? Is that brand new, just bought mascara still in date? Is this rare vintage perfume you found on eBay actually still going to work?Have you ever wondered just how old your skin care products really are? Is that brand new, just bought mascara still in date? Is this rare vintage perfume you found on eBay actually still going to work?

All… or almost all cosmetics are marked with a PAO – Period After Opening – this is the open jar symbol with numbers inside of it… 3, 6, 12, 24 months after opening… no problem there… you buy something today, you open it and you know exactly how much time you have until the product starts to deteriorate.

But what about the specific production date itself?

Obviously even unopened products can’t be perfect forever especially if they are not stored correctly and there is often some sort of a cut-off point after which they may start to be unsafe to use.

According to EU law, the manufacturer isn’t required to put an expiration date on any cosmetic products, unless their shelf life is less than 3 years. So all those face creams, perfumes, eye shadows and powders which normally have longer shelf life come with no date… or at least not a date which can be easily spotted or read by anyone without an insight but there is a solution…

CheckFresh is a website which helps you decipher batch codes of most publically available cosmetics and it will provide you with a date of manufacturing; then you can decided if the product is or isn’t safe to use.

This is one of my recent discoveries and I wish I had known about it earlier.

The CheckFresh website is easy to use:

  1. Select the brand you want to check
  2. Look at the pictures and read the batch code description – you would be surprised how much they might very from brand to brand
  3. Type your batch code into the box
  4. Press check and tada…
  5. The information is there… right in front of you!

Old cosmetics can contain harmful microbes and it is really important not to use something which is seriously out of date, especially if you have sensitive skin.

I actually checked the entire contents of my make-up bag… well… needless to say, I need to go shopping as some of my favourites had to go to the bin… better safe than sorry, right?

Check out the website, it’s free to use and tell me what you think about it?

Now you know what I know, do you think it would be helpful for consumers if all cosmetics had an expiry date clearly marked on the packaging?

5 Top Tips on How To Pick & Stick to The Diet

5 Top Tips on How to Pick and Stick to the Dietwhat is dietWe all have diets, for better or worse but we do all have them.

The type of diet I want to talk about is the diet designed to lose weight, get fit and healthy; the type of diet most of us have thought about, talked about or event attempted to implement at some point; the type of diet which gives us headaches and sleepless nights as we aren’t able to follow through and keep to its requirements…

During the last 10 years I have put a lot of weight on which I struggle to shake off. I have to admit, I have thought about different diets, and yes I event attempted some but with no great success until now… so what changed? Well, I think I realised a few very important things and I would love to share my discovery with you in form of my Top Five Tips on how to pick and keep a diet.

Be Ready!

This is the key. You have to be ready. You have to decide that enough is enough and you have to desire the change.

So many of us start our diet for the wrong reasons and thus we simply can’t follow through with them. You have to be ready!

Unfortunately I don’t have a recipe as to how one becomes ready for a change. For me it happened in late spring after I received a set of pictures from the shoot we had done for one of the newspapers. It really hit me, “OMFG am I really so fat!.”

Until that moment I knew I am “bigger” but seeing myself in the mirror each day didn’t bother me so much… until I saw myself through someone else eyes… I didn’t like that view.

I was ready!

Visual your goals and know your weak points

Knowing what you want to achieve is extremely important. You have to have a clear vision as to what you want and why you want it, as well as an understanding of what is standing in the way to your goal. You need to face the fact and analyse your life and get to the bottom of your problem – are you an emotional eater, are you just overeating or are you simply having an unhealthy or unbalanced diet? Knowing where the problem lies is necessary, otherwise you can’t target it, which means you can’t fix it.

It’s harder than it seems to actually admit to our weak spots. For me it is cake. I love baking and I especially love eating cake but having half a loaf tin cake in an evening whilst watching TV isn’t really the best idea is it?

Pick what’s right for you and ask for help

Don’t follow after the masses. The fact that celebrity A is using diet B really doesn’t mean it will be good for you. Once you know where your problem lies and what are your weak points, you will be much more able to pick the diet which strikes at the heart of it.

There is no shame in asking for help. Even if you are super strong willed, you can’t do it by yourself. Talk to people, join or start a Facebook group, read about and learn how others have tackled any given problem.

Currently I am having double support; I am using:

  • XLS-Medical Max Strength which is a fat binder. Additionally a weekly consultation with a dietician to chat about my progress
  • Slimpod from Thinking Slimmer, which is designed to help deal with my sugar intake with the support of a Facebook group.

I have to admit at first it wasn’t easy to talk and write about my problems and concerns but it gets easier and it helps to know that you are not alone in your struggles.

Be kind to yourself and learn to trade

Setting rules and following them to the letter isn’t easy. I know it, you know it, we all know it. I hate rules and as long as I know that I can’t have something then inevitably it ends up that all I can think about is exactly that something and so I want it more than ever now… Well depending what type of diet you choose for yourself you may well have to learn to live with some restrictions in your life or learn how to trade. Think about it as a type of swapping game – trade a piece of cake for a longer walk; have a glass of beer or wine if this is what you fancy but then later on go and play with the kids in the garden… You have to learn how to allow yourself some of your guilty pleasures but you have to remember that everything has a price… learn to pay for your moments of indulgence with some other small sacrifice. Ying and Yang.

Think long term

Let’s be honest with ourselves, most “diets” simply don’t work, especially the “magic diet” types. Yes, they might help you shed a few pounds but not forever… once you stop and go back to your old habits the weight will creep back most likely with some additional lbs. This is why it is so important to think long term. Don’t think about a “diet” as a short term fix… think about it as a new beginning, as a start to a new you and a new chapter in your life’ think about it as a long term commitment which hopefully will be transformed over time into a new healthy lifestyle.

That’s it from me.

This is my guide and the stages I went through in my process of getting to the point in my life where I am now… I am ready for a change, I know what I want and with help of others I will achieve it. I am learning to deal with my personal “trading game” to find the right balance in swopping goodies for hard work afterword’s and I believe over time this new routine, which I am developing now, will stick and then stay forever.

Happy dieting everyone!

Fresh Strawberry Shake

Fresh Strawberry ShakeI love berries, especially strawberries. When I was a child my parents used to have a small field of them. I remember each year around mid-June spending hours out there helping them pick them up… hard back breaking work but it didn’t stop me loving them.

Anyhow, I find that now-a-days shop bought strawberries, or any other fruit for that matter, hardly ever tastes like the real deal, but better them than nothing, right?

One day, last month I was very lucky to return home from a bloggers meet-up with a brand new Philips blender in my bag thanks to Currys and Joe Blogs. Now, there is no stopping me. Most days I blend something in the hope of creating something special.

This strawberry drink is my latest invention and I really hope you will like it.

Ingredients:

  • 250ml vanilla yogurt
  • 250g fresh strawberries
  • 2tbsp ground almonds
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1tsp honey (optional)

Fresh Strawberry ShakeMethod:

Wash the strawberries and remove the green stalk.

Pop them into the blender and blend until smooth.

Add the yogurt, ground almonds and cinnamon and blend some more.

The final shake isn’t sweet, so if you prefer a sweet/er option, add a spoonful of honey and blend until smooth.

That’s it, you are all done.

Now drink and enjoy!

My Fresh Strawberry ShakeTop Tip: Ground almonds will add a bit more substance and tons of vitamin E into a drink but not a lot of flavour. If you prefer a stronger almond flavour and don’t want to use any artificial flavouring, you can use whole almonds and process them yourself. Take a good handful of whole, good quality almonds (the ones from Wonderful Almonds are perfect for this job), spread them on baking tray and roast them in an earlier preheated oven at 175C or 155C if fan assisted for about 5 minutes. Then remove them from the oven and stir well making sure that they are all turned over and pop back into the oven for 2-3 minutes… remove them and check if they are ready (there should be a wonderful powerful aroma filling your kitchen and they should be hot to the touch). If needed pop them back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes, after another invigorating stir. They shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to roast, normally it takes only 10. Ideally when finished you want your nuts to be shade or two darker than when you put them in the oven and the smell! The smell should be very nutty but be careful as you can’t let them get scorched and definitely not burnt. If you think that your nuts are ready remove them from the baking tray and cool in a different cool dish. You might think that this is a lot of messing around to roast some nuts and it is, but trust me it is worth it. Freshly roasted nuts have an amazing aroma and much more definite taste. Once cold pop them into food processor and pulse them until grounded. Don’t wiz to much or they will get hot and the oils will clog them together and you will end up with almond butter, so pulse and take your time, then finally add into your shake.

What’s your favourite fruit shake or smoothie?

Yum

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