The Most Important Rule for Food Photography

During our Open Day visit at The Little Black Cow Farmstay a few months ago, we got to see, amongst many other wonderful things, an old butter churner. It was a funny coincidence, as I had already planned of making our own butter at home.
Every school holidays there are a few new recipes being tried out. Some stick with us forever and become family favourites, some remain a one off.
Ages ago I watched Matt Preston doing one of his cheat recipes on MasterChef and printed myself that recipe from their website: No Prove Bread with Butter and Raspberry Jam.
Well, jam is not exactly difficult and I make it regularly, I was more after the bread and the butter.
Bread making is lovely and a journey. For years and years I used to make our own baguette and it was just to die for. But bread making takes time and one cannot rush the proofing, and the kneading is a labour of love. I cannot do it when pressed for time or feeling hectic …. therefore it hasn’t happened in a long time.
This No Prove Bread was too easy, and absolutely wonderful. Not really a dense type of bread, more a Ciabatta, but oh so yum.
And we made our own butter. I don’t have one of those fancy kitchen machines, I still have a handheld mixer which has done me great service and I would never want to exchange it for anything else. Let’s just say it has personality.
Gotta love it when recipes are vague. Looking easy peasy in the video, the words only read ‘Mix until mixture splits’, and I think we almost got to the end of my poor handheld mixer. After looking at lovely thick, creamy, swirly waves of thickened cream and sourcream mixture for what seemed like ages, within half a second the whole gorgeousness turned into watery slush with bits in it, which was of course the butter.
We made garlic & herb butter out of it, that was to accompany our freshly made bread and the barbecued steaks that were sitting in their marinade.
It would have to be a strange person who can resist the smell of freshly baked bread, so we tested it with Nutella. Yum.
As it was evening and neither the right time nor the right light for an elaborate photo shoot, I had great plans of doing that the next day. Half a loaf of bread was meant to be left for that.
Unfortunately it grew legs. The teenager and the husband confessed. My apologies for their greed :)
And so I have discovered the most important rule for Food Photography: make sure there is enough food to take photos of

So all I can present you with are some measely shots from my phone. I was requested to make the bread again for a Sunday morning, so I have two more photos, minus the yummy butter.




Lots of Love

Lots of love in this engagement shoot.

Very gorgeous couple, and very eager to try to achieve this photo collage. I had suggested it and they had a much better plan than I did because with very little thinking time and no practice they jumped right into it and I just had to keep up snapping  :)

If I had to instruct them I think I might have gotten myself confused with all the arms and hands and right and left ….

It was great shoot, lots of laughter, and very relaxed. Loved it :)


Our take on String Art

The boys always had their name on their doors in one form or another. The old name signs were, well, old. So last school holidays we agreed to tackle making some new ones.

Being a house with lots of photography, I suggested including some photos. And the young one had found some pictures with big string art and wanted to somehow incorporate that idea as well. We had done some little card string art ages ago, so they are well familiar with the concept.

As with most creative things the most time is spent on planning and thinking and measuring. To fit the door, we were pretty much set in terms of size, so that was easy for a change. At the local hardware store we got some lovely thick, but light wood panels, and had them cut to the correct sizes. As we needed the initial M and the initial J, one wood panel had to be longer on the vertical side, the other on the horizontal side.

Both decided on the photos they would like to have included. It was my task to fit these photos on a sheet of paper that would fit their respective wood panel. I did this in Photoshop, naturally.  I desaturated the photos a lot, left only a hint of colour, I wanted the look quite graffic.

One’s favourite colour is blue, the other one’s is red, so the colours of string were easily decided on, too.

I found nails with a nice head and the appropriate length. The idea was to have the nails very sparingly around the board, it was merely to outline the initial, and gaps were meant to remain. The nails also were meant to avoid people’s heads and faces. I cut out the initials on large sheets of white paper, to use as a guide.

The photo collages were printed on normal paper, and simply pasted onto the wood panels with Mod Podge, being very careful to smooth the Mod Podge with a sponge, rather than a brush. After several layers of Mod Podge (and a lot of drying in between) I applied a couple of layers of glossy sealer.

Once that was dry, we placed the cut out paper initials on each wood panel and strategically hammered the nails (avoiding heads) gently in regular intervals. This was fun, but one has to be careful because missing the nail means hitting the photo collage :)

Last step was wrap the string around the nails. It took a few attempts to get it all around and fill the gaps, without filling them too much.

And there you have it: our take on string art  :)


Clean-up Art

The recent clean-up of my studio let me `find` a great many things for which I had great craft and art ideas. One thing I found was the large and sturdy shoe box of my husband’s work boots, which was filled with seashells, rocks, beach glass.

When we moved to the coast the kids were very little. And as all little (and possibly very many big) kids they LOVED collecting seashells. It was a new thing and exciting and one way to spend time at the beach, especially in the beginning when they needed to be eased into this new thing, the ocean, which was loud and wild and a bit scary at times.

As this shoe box naturally contained the best and most beautiful shells, sea glass and rock pieces and pebbles ever collected, something had to be done with them.

With the help of a plain old lattice piece from the hardware store and a lot of Liquid Nails, all these special beauties found their place on our new garden artwork.
Once the Liquid Nails were dry and our fingers cleaned from this extraordinary sticky stuff, a coat of outdoor suitable clear sealer was applied.
Now it decorates the most boring side of our garden and makes us happy every time we look at it.

Note: This post is not a call to action for depleting coastal shorelines of seashells and/or rocks. All these shells were collected in a space of about eight years, which puts it in perspective. If you intend to collect seashells from a beach, you should check with local council, as it is illegal to remove ‘anything’ from very many beaches in Australia.



Location Barriers

Photography is about so much, equipment, practice, post-production, did I mention practice? One thing not mentioned a lot is location.
Location is everything. For portrait outdoor sessions I have my few favourite spots around town. Depending on what the clients wish for we can meet in the park, the beach, at the lake, each place in its own right special and different. It doesn’t need a sprawling meadow or towering mountains in the back to make a family photo look great. Sometimes a small patch of grass, some wild flowers, foliage from low hanging branches, rocks or pebbles and a gentle slope into the water are all that is needed.

In the end it’s all about the light, and when the light is beautiful, the photo will be, too.

That’s it for booked sessions. If I’m going on my own, to capture sunsets and stunning landscapes or cityscapes, it’s a whole lot of a different story.

Seriously, I admire fellow photographers who are able to show off their photos of a different location on every different day of the year. No idea how they are doing it.

Many are a one-person business, too, maybe it’s me … and I always thought I’m so organized ….

Anyway, many times all plans fail because there is some extra driving to be done, a re-scheduled soccer game, a lift to a party or to work, extra homework and the printer is acting up …. and the one night of the week with a beautiful sunset goes by without me and my camera.

Some locations have been on my mind for a while, but they are in ‘iffy’ places, dark, out of the way, secluded. The older I get the less I like the idea of being alone with my gear in an area where shouting might not help.

That’s when husband comes in. Very often he’s the savior, because when I say ‘oh I always wondered how it will be like on that cliff at sunset, we might have to crawl through some shrubbery’ or ‘remember that dark alley with the awesome neon sign’, he’s the one getting me to that location. And staying with me, while I take my photos. And getting me there a second, and a third time, so that I really get the most out of the place.
That includes road trips. So when I said last year ‘I really would like to go to Vivid’, he made it happen this year.

And while not in any way ‘iffy’, I was glad he was there to shield me and my camera from the masses, because even for a Tuesday night it was ridiculously full. I have to add getting hit over the head by a tripod, carried by a very eager fellow photographer, to my danger list.

So we went to Vivid, the light festival in Sydney. I am quite happy how things went for the first time. Now for a second, and third time …


Positive Facebook

Many people lament Facebook and its quirks. Ever since the last big changes in 2014 especially small business feel the effects in a negative way, as no matter how much time and effort we put into posts and maintenance of our sites we tend to gain little reach and even less exposure.

But, as with all negative things there are always positive, and since I’m a glass half full kind of girl, I have found myself a wonderful positive outcome from good old Facebook:
Shared on the page of the very unique and special Handmade in the Hunter Markets was the post about The Little Black Cow Farm Stay.

As it should be with social media, after scrolling down their posts, I got intrigued and visited The Little Black Cow Farm Stay website and read through all their blog posts.
That lead to my knowledge about an Open Day, which my young one and I were very excited to participate in during the Easter Holidays.
What a wonderful day we had! Feeding the goat and sheep and Willow, the little black cow, and patting the one week-old guinea pigs. We checked out farm machines and olden day tools and devices. Some very clever and futuristic art was created as well.

And I took photos. I had asked permission beforehand, even though it was a private visit, I cannot help myself now can I  ;)
See for yourself what fun we had.


Old Fashioned ?

During the January summer holidays I had finally tackled the long overdue clean-up of my studio. New props and backgrounds meant I was running out of space. Oh, the things I ‘found’.
If ever you see a person rummaging through the ‘sales’ box at the craft and art shop, that’ll be me. So many ideas and things to do and create! The kids and I have done lots of little and bigger projects over the years, but there was a backlog. There’s one thing I never run out, and that’s ideas.
As I had run out of space though, these ideas had to be put into action presto, to get some of the boxes empty and ready to take on new and different goodies.
Years and years ago I found this DIY Clock Set in said ‘sales’ box at the craft shop. I have a thing for clocks, and finally, I found a nice use for it.
I measured the wooden clock face and used Photoshop to create the background by incorporating the originals of some of my favourite digital restorations.
Once printed on normal A4 paper, I cut out the circle shape and glued it on the wooden clock face using ModPodge. Once it had dried, I used a paint sponge and gave it several thin layers of ModPodge, letting each dry completely before applying the next. Last was a thin layer of acrylic sealer, just to give it a bit of shine not too much, I’m not a huge fan of the big gloss.
Then the clock motor was put in (it runs on battery) and that was that. It sits on the sideboard in my office now and I like checking the time on this one much more than on my laptop or my phone. Call me old fashioned :)


Environmental Portraits …. How to

As I said in my previous post, the term ‘environmental portrait’ is referring to portraits taken of a person in their environment. Most photographers call them location shoots, and the location can be anything from a client’s home, studio or business, to their boat, the local skate park or playground.
As these are the types of photos most people take themselves, whether with a point-and-shoot camera, a DSLR or their smartphone, I thought it could be a good idea to write down some tips to make the result perfect every time  :)

The Subject
Know the subject, which, obviously, if it’s your kids or Pop, you do know them quite well.
The aim is to take a photo of them in a situation that says something about them. This could be Pop at the jetty with his fishing rod, doing what he loves. Or the kids zooming along the Flying Fox in the park. Or Nan during special Tea & Cake day in the retirement village. Or the early morning birthday celebration.

EnvironmentalPortrait1(All my example photos are from the young ones birthday a while back. As it was early morning, the light changed within minutes, and as I didn’t want to miss actually being there as a Mum, taking photos was not the first priority. Nonetheless, despite so not being a morning person myself, they do show what I mean. And they show that it doesn’t take a gazillion of photos to document one special event. It’ll be in our hearts anyway, and thanks to the few photos, it’ll be in our albums now, too. They are not overpolished, there is bed hair and sleepy eyes and the clothing didn’t matter. Feel the love?)

The Context
In any of these circumstances it will be relatively easy to identify the things and details that say something about the subject. It will also be relatively easy to identify any item or angle that adds interest to the photo. Picture Pop putting the 10th fish in the bucket. Nan folding her hands in her lap after she’s done eating cake. The kids tipping the sand out of their shoes after the Flying Fox excitement. Birthday Presents.
If you get any of these shots you will be putting your subject and their environment into context. It will work every time.

EnvironmentalPortrait2He LOVED the wrapping paper, so I decided on some selective colouring in post production.

The danger will be having too much in the shot. A cluttered background or too many people in the shot can distract from the main focal point, which is your subject. Crumbs or a coffee stain on the table cloth, too many boats in the background …

EnvironmentalPortrait3There’s always the suspense …..

Knee Lock Syndrome
Zooming in on your subject and selecting an appropriate depth of field could be all it takes to make it work. Don’t be afraid to change your position. Kneel down at the jetty to get Pop from a lower angle. Stand on a chair (safety first though!) to get Nan from a higher angle. Don’t suffer from Knee Lock Syndrome: MOVE!

EnvironmentalPortrait4He is a great hugger. I made sure I was much lower than him to show he’s still our baby.

Posing your subjects may well be hard or even impossible for you in these circumstances, and with these subjects – I know that well from my own extended family :( . It is easier for me, the photographer who was hired to take photos, to instruct people how to put their head and where to place their hands for a particular shot. Whether to look at me or not. Whether to smile or not.

Camera Settings
There is no point telling you what camera settings to choose, as the thing with environmental portraits is that they will all be completely different and unique every time. If you’re using an DSLR start with choosing the correct White Balance for the day and weather, if you’re not in Automatic. If you do the Flying Fox thing with a smartphone, you may well be out of your depth, because it is not capable of doing such quick photos well.
You will have to adapt not only according to place/time of day/inside/outside but also according to your equipment. And your capabilities.
Be brave, and relax, photography is about creating and documenting a memory.
And don’t give up if at first you don’t succeed :)

The Environmental Portrait

If you are like most people you probably were thinking this post is going to be about photography in connection with some environmental issues, sustainability, global worming or the like. Not so.

The environmental portrait is a cousin of the studio portrait. Photographers can take pictures of a person in a studio setting or in ‘their environment’. I came across this term a while ago, and I didn’t know that’s what you call them.
There you go. It’s a fancy way of saying ‘photos in your home’ I guess. When I am discussing different shoot options with a potential client, I tend to talk about a ‘photo journalistic approach’, as in taking pictures while my subject is doing what they’re doing.

A studio setting can be a bit overwhelming for many people, they feel put ‘on the spot’, and they prefer to have me come to their home and take photos while they sit in their favourite chair, have a cup of tea, cut some flowers, read a book.
While I love the ability to fully focus on people’s faces in the studio setting, I do also love the photo journalistic approach aka environmental portrait. This is what I do at home all the time, after all. My family is very used to me having the camera out and taking photos while they are busy with something – or nothing for that matter. They’ve all heard me say ‘just because the light is great right now’ too many times.

Environmental portraits work well with clients that want to be photographed in their work place, artists for example.
Environmental portraits also work really well with children, as they don’t have to sit still, don’t have to be clean and nice and on their best behaviour. It could also be environmental portrait if we were to meet in the park and I take photos of the kids at the playground. I normally call this type of shoot ‘location shoot’, but there you go, maybe I have to rephrase in the future.

Have you heard of the environmental portrait before? Let me know, I am intrigued.

Attached is a photo montage of an environmental selfie, for a bit of fun.

Times Four

Instagram is FUN

In December 2014, Instagram hit a major milestone, when they could boast a whopping 300 million users, and thus passed Twitter. Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing social network, and it is in essence simple to use: take a photo, add a filter, write a short text or just hashtag, and post. Too easy.

And that’s exactly what’s so appealing. Photos don’t need to be perfect, it’s about fun.

That’s what I think anyway.

One can log into Instagram on the computer and look at images, but Images cannot be shared via the computer, only via a smartphone that has the Instagram app. However, there are a lot of photos on Instagram that were taken with a proper camera, worked on in Photoshop, emailed to a phone and uploaded via their photo gallery onto Instagram. I follow the Canon page on Instagram, naturally none of the photos they feature are taken by a smartphone, which is fine. But all in all I think it’s a bit like cheating if someone is not using a mobile device for taking images, Instagram is a ‘mobile photo-sharing social network’ after all.

So, I’m using Instagram as yet another social media arm for my business, as such I have linked my Instagram page with Facebook. That is not a problem, since Facebook bought Instagram a couple of years ago, and everything can be integrated nice and easy. Everytime I publish a post on Instagram, I can chose whether that particular post goes on my Facebook page as well, or not. Same with WordPress: my Instagram feed shows up on the landing page of my WordPress page.

I quite enjoy exploring the boundaries of my smart phone camera plus the Instagram internal editing options, on their own, or combined with other photo editing apps.

I’m handling my ‘big camera’ enough so I’m very much content being much ‘lighter’ with the smartphone.

My young one asked me whether I will be an Instagram sensation (meaning will I be featured and promoted on Instagram by Instagram and ending up on the ‘Popular Page’). I found this very entertaining article on, which has analysed this question. I don’t tick all the boxes, therefore I had to tell the young one that it’s probably a ‘no’. He was disappointed for about half a second and then delved right into lengthy explanations about the latest video of his favourite You Tuber (he clearly is a child of the 21st century). So I’m concluding he’s not somehow psychologically scarred if I’m never ending up on Instagram’s Popular Page ;)

Instagram has two great advantages over Facebook as a social media site for business: Unlike Facebook, there are no ramifications if you didn’t post several times a day, every day, all the time, and engage and like and follow meticulously all the pages that are close to you. The second advantage is that you can find a totally new and different group of followers than on Facebook, thus increasing the overall reach of your social media efforts. Statistics tell us that 46% of Instagram users are male, and 54% female, making this platform the only one that is almost equally used by both genders. I found it best following a group of photosharing enthusiasts (like #lovelysquares, #nothingisordinary, #hiyapapayaphotoaday, #yourdailysnap to name a few). It can be quite challenging at first to wrap your head around their specific ‘theme’ and incorporate that theme with your daily happenings and work.

Of course there is some etiquette one should adhere to: don’t ask people to follow you, don’t over-hashtag your posts (11 is apparently the magic number), engage with people and they will engage with you, don’t overgram (nobody likes their feed filled up by one user), keep posts clean and easy to understand. As always, don’t repost someone else’s photo without permission.

Over time you will figure out which particular hashtag will give you a surprising amount of reach. For me #inthestudio has worked amazingly good. And, like Facebook, the time of your posting could matter a great deal.

Instagram is great to use when I’m out and about, to create some behind-the-scenes glimpses in the world of az pictured. That includes the sunset, occasionally my lunch, my dog, my studio, or anything else that catches my eye during the day.

And even though I can share through Facebook, I make sure I don’t always do. Regardless of what the social media gurus tell us, I’m not a fan of showing the same thing everywhere, it’s just really boring.

I am still pretty much a newbie on Instagram, if you have any tips or tricks to share, please do.

And if you’re not there yet, I hope to find you on Instagram soon :)



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