Loaded Apricot Meringue

Time to step up my game and start making food specifically for the camera.  I had some ripe apricots and a pomegranate, and experimented with one way of combining them, but it didnt work out so well.

Today I bought this giant vanilla meringue, setup the shoot – broke it apart, loaded it with greek yoghurt/creme fraiche, apricots and shot it.


Everytime I shoot I make ALL OF THE MISTAKES!!!

So here is what I learned this time round:

– taking time to setup the gear, style the shoot using a standin, getting the lighting etc right is well worth it

– pay attention to the positioning of your hero item on the food – in this instance it was the sliced fan of apricot – except I didn’t notice the first shots were of the BACK of it *sigh*

Still looked pretty good tho!

– if you are mixing up whites, make sure they are the same tones – the white of the board is quite blue toned but the plate is a lot warmer and then the meringue etc is other tones of white.

– cut apricots go brown quickly – I need lemon juice or something to stop that

– on your first shots ZOOM IN AT 100% and view – and check for cat hairs!!

I have two white long hair cats and the fur gets into everything!  There are two in this shot and I didnt notice til 3/4 way thru, so most of my shots were wasted.

– tweezers are amazing – glad I am assembling a tool kit

– paper towels and a spray bottle of water are my new best friend – cleans up pomegrante juice off the background (and hands)

– if you want your food to look messily assembled – you have to work carefully to make it LOOK like that!

Food that is messily assemble just looks awful – you have to build it up in careful layers

And finally – yes its hard work, but it does pay off 🙂

I am TOTALLY eating this BTW !

Posted in Camera Adventures | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Zephyr Marshmallow

  One one of my food FB groups, a lady posted an image of gorgeous pink swirly meringue looking things – turns out they are an east european dessert called Zephyr.

Zephyr recipe link

They are a marshmallow made with agar instead of gelatine – which means I can make them for a vegetarian friend 🙂

The recipe is a bit fiddly and my piping bag was too small and I made a bit of a mess.  Plus I wasn’t sure how much working time before it set so I could pipe them – turns out there was plenty of time – its sets over several hours.

Today was camera day – carefully transferred over to a clean sheet of baking paper, onto the tray and into the studio.

I think I positioned them a bit too far apart for the size, the camera exaggerates distance, so I will remember that for next time.

These were made with tinned cherries but came out much paler than I expected.

The mixture is very firm and pipes really well, and holds its shape as it sets.  Some swirls were more successful or artistic than others 🙂

This was a new recipe for me and made a few mistakes, lots of learning and ideas of ways to fix it for next time.  Despite that I still got nice swirls that were set and able to be shot and moved about without too much damage.

Plus they get to be eaten once finished!

I also used some of my shiny new LR skills in editing these images – to give you an idea of the difference here is a Before/After shot

That was a fun way to spend 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon!

Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Props and Accessories for Food Photography

One of my biggest challenges when I started out with shooting food was not having enough variety of props.  The range of things you need is quite extensive and will also depend on the style of shooting you do as well:

1.  Backgrounds
2.  Fabric
3.  Cutlery
4.  Plates
5.  Other props
6.  Random stuff

Its expensive to have to gather a collection together so my philosophy was simple – get simple classic pieces that can be used over and over again – the extra fluffy bits you put with it can change the mood/theme/style as necessary.

This means we can build up a solid library of elements that can be used in a variety of different ways.

Second – I *scrounged* hard! Go through the cupboards of friends and relatives and dig into the dusty back corners that never get used.  Go to markets for bargains.  Take time to buy the right pieces, I walked away from many cute things because it wasn’t the best fit for my requirements.  Resist the temptation to buy everything that appeals 🙂

Make friends with secondhand shop owners – I was such a regular at one place, they knew I was looking for old tarnished silver ware and they had a box full from an estate sale they didn’t want to polish.  I got about 12 good pieces for $10!

Third – Make stuff if you can.  I made a whole heap of my own backgrounds.  Note this isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, but you get a totally unique look, plus the skills to make new ones to suit in the future if needed.

Finally, be creative, you can use various elements in new and different ways, mix and match in unusual combinations and see what happens.  I have some white feathers acquired for another project, and am using them as foreground interest in winter themed shots.  No one has pointed out that feathers aren’t particularly winter relevant yet 🙂

Lets Look At Props


When you build your scene you start with the backdrop and baseboard ie backgrounds.  These will set your colour tone and provide the first level of texture

Here are some of my custom made ones – the grey industrial one is a personal favourite

Here is a finished shot with the grey one

Also with backgrounds I use plain black and white a lot as well –  either FoamCore sheets or big sheets of heavy grade cardboard (from art shops).  Light and easy to work with – double sided.  I also have smaller ones to use as my reflectors and V-flats.

Lots of people use vinyl backgrounds they have purchased online, unfortunately its way too expensive to ship them here to NZ, plus the exchange rate doesn’t work in my favour a lot either.  So I opted to make my own, but there are LOVELY options you can by online.


I use fabric a lot – first I was really afraid of it because I couldn’t get it to look right.  Then I realised that using the right colour fabric and also the texture of it makes a big difference.

Light weight open weave muslins and similar in neutral tones help add in soft subtle texture and soften the hard lines of plates and cutlery.  Heavy linens add more impact and scale when required

This is a sample of some of my white fabrics – you can see there are different shades of colour in these


very light gauze, muslin, heavy cream linen, white linen

I use white fabric a lot to drape in the backgrounds and hide the join between the background and backdrop.  If you buy big quantities from fabric supply places its more cost effective and you can cut smaller pieces off and hem for napkin sizes etc.

Here is a draped background shot showing the effect.

Coloured Fabrics

This is a sample of some of the different coloured fabrics – this probably 20% of my total collection.

I buy a lot on line – Etsy, Silk&Willow and Mollycoddle (baby prop supplies) are my main sources.

Here are some closeups so you can see the different textures

Here is an example with one of the light open weave fabrics, used to soften and frame the lavender salt.

Hard Props – Plates, Cutlery Etc

OK this is where it can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to.  I have spent a couple of years building up my collection, and I am *absolutely* on a budget here.  Take some time and scrounge, shop online for bargains, find out where other people get stuff.

My cutlery is all old tarnished vintage stuff, it doesn’t reflect as much as shiny new stuff, and I personally prefer the classic styling.

My plates are all simple plain MATTE finish (very important) and I have a collection of old tarnished silverware as well.  Love my round slice of wood board, that was a recent treat.

Old glass bottles are good for background interest and stand in for milk bottles.  Glass jars are good as well.  My most favourite piece of all is a big slice of black slate that was designed as a cheeseboard.  Its very matte and textured and looks great in close up shots – see below.

Other Accessories

Ribbons, string, snips, feathers, fairy lights, dried leaves, nuts, twigs, dried berries, fresh flowers and so on.

So there you go!

My first bit of advice is decide on the style you like for propping your shoots.  I use Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration a lot.  Build up some boards and see if an obvious theme develops.

Then use that as a basis for building a list of base props to start with – some plates, cutlery, fabric, backgrounds.  Enough to get you started.

Once you begin to experiment, then it will probably grow quite organically.  Turns out I have a real thing for collecting spoons LOL

Remember – HAVE FUN and play 🙂  That is how we all learn!


Posted in For Beginners | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Styling a Food Shot

Got a splendid haul of red currants in the garden this year and what better way to showcase them than with a gorgeous tarnished silver jug on a clean white background?

Now I have my flash up and going, its so much easier to get a good well exposed white background, I am quite excited about this 🙂

Anyway, I have seen a bit of discussion in some of the food photography groups I am on about styling a shoot.  Some people are uncertain about choice of props or what they can do.  Some are possibly a bit impatient and want to get into the fun of shooting.

So this is my process through one shoot and its a very simple layout, as follows:

1 x white baseboard
1 x white foamcore background
1 x white fabric draped
1 x jug
1 x paper towel
Redcurrants to suit


White painted beadboard base with white foamcore against the wall for background.

There is an obvious shadow and dark join where these two meet so I use the white fabric to hide that line.  It also adds soft texture in the background when shot high key and with a f stop that blurs it in the background – F4 in this instance.

EDIT :  Only the header and final image (same shot) are edited in LR – all the rest are unprocessed RAW files

First setup – scrunch the paper towel into the jug so it mostly fills it, and then fill the front side with currants and scatter a few around artistically.

Drape fabric in the background so it looks nice.

Fabric has a tuck in it which throws a shadow forward in the background so tuck it down a bit (follow the first line on the board down to the fabric to find it if you can’t see it)

Continue to tuck fabric down til it sits flat and isnt throwing a shadow

Better but when we do a landscape shot we have issues at either end now

Change angle and bring up more of the fabric in the right hand side behind the handle of the jug, but we have another dark shadowed area and it doesn’t look nicely draped

Rearranged the fabric behind the handle, draping nicely, looks like one piece of fabric now

OK now we have the background sorted!  Now to the subject itself….

First we went and picked more currants and filled in all of the top so we could do other angles of shots.  Making sure that all the holed are full and it looks nicely overflowing.

In reality the layer of currants is about an inch deep, but you would never know….

Top shot and the decorative currants on the boards are not looking so good on this angle, need more.

There we go, but its not a good angle for this jug, so back to the side on shots

Yes I like this angle better but we have some currants that need to be moved – one just above the handle and the one above the lip of the jug are intruding.

There, moved those two and added a spray of water for freshness

A side on shot from a DIFFERENT angle again and I am liking this a lot but there is now a currant behind the bottom of the jug handle that needs to be moved.

And the final shot – also edited in Lightroom.

Lots of little tweaks here and there, paying attention to the details, starting from the background and working forward to the subject.

Then we work the subject across ALL angles, and different angles require different prop/styling changes.

Everyone’s personal style is different take what works for you and make it magic 🙂

Posted in For Beginners | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Experimenting with Flash

Recently I have been struggling with my food photography due to issues with light – in short, there hasn’t been enough of it as the summer we have had so far more resembles winter.

It has been dark and overcast and raining for weeks and my studio has been too dark to shoot in after work.

So when I was recommended a Food specific course on using flash photography, I was interested and took a chance.


So far this course has explained clearly how flash works and how you need to set up your camera and setup to make it work for you.

I am no longer afraid of my flash!  Have had one for years and never understood it and now it is completely understandable.  The power is mine to control (literally) and now there can be light whenever necessary!!!

Except….. for it to properly work, the right tools needed to be present, so the credit card was taken for a spin.  Then I discovered that while my Canon 7d mk ii and 580 EX ii flash do work together wirelessly without need for a trigger – it is a LINE OF SIGHT connection.

When my brand new Godox Softbox umbrella is on it blocks the view and doesnt work *sigh* so more new toys had to be purchased.

In the mean time I decided to do some test shooting to show the difference between natural light and flash.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was my first test – Candy Canes and fairy lights later on in the day when it was particularly dark and gloomy

Today its brighter but I wanted to experiment further

Note – most of these are out of focus as I still need to balance required light with shutter speed on my camera while handholding it but suffice for this purpose.

Hover the mouse over each image to see the caption


As you can see – quite a difference, plus I am still learning how to set it all up properly.

This was my setup as well – love a Behind The Scenes shot

My first proper experiments with using a flash!

Very excited and once I get the bits I need to use the Umbrella Softbox, hoping for even better results.

Anyone else out there using a flash?  Got some tips?

Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

ICM Beach Scenes

Today I went down to the local beach with my camera setup to do more ICM – Intentional Camera Movement images.  I was recommended to check out a British photographer who does a lot in this style and he had very helpful videos on his website, taking you through his shooting process, selection of images and editing.

You can find him at Andrew S Gray Photography

After watching his videos I had some new ideas and techniques I wanted to try – he does a shorter shutter speed and flicks his camera in different directions, often blending several images to get the final scene.

This time I used my variable ND filter screwed onto my 17-55mm lens which allowed me to change the darkness of the filter depending on the light conditions and how much movement I wanted in my shots.  It is a lot more adaptable than just a single filter and easier to carry around than the square Lee one in a bracket too.


Down at the beach we have lots of beach tussock grass, it was a blue sky day with some clouds and lots of waves coming in with a stiff easterly breeze. So many chances to play.

When I got home I deleted 500 images to give an an idea of how many I took!

This is the classic style of ICM beach scene, sand – sky – waves – with some rich sea tones and colours.

I found the colours were a bit intrusive so opted for a BW treatment as well to show up all the lovely soft textural detail in the waves.

The iconic cabbage tree found all over NZ but lots down by our beach so I decided to do the usual vertical movement to emphasise the tree lines.

Not sure it really works but this is about experimenting and trying new things 🙂

A different view pointing more south and getting the Peninsula in the background with very nice wave textures.

I processed this in BW so all the different textural elements could be properly appreciated – the lines in the sand in the bottom right corner, the edge of a wave coming in, wave and sea detail and some great cloud structure over the darker land.

Finally I wanted to get a bit more creative in the style that I had seen Andy demonstrate in his editing.  He uses Nik Analog FX to do the final tweaks to his image, something I haven’t tried before.

Had a play with the double exposure and a colour preset and then bought back into PS for some extra tweaks.  Its dark and moody and has a lot of movement and I like this a lot.

So a useful afternoon shooting and editing, even if I did end up with wet feet 🙂

Interested in your feedback on these shots – what does or doesn’t work for you?

Next time – take GUMBOOTS

Posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Intentional Camera Movement

In November I am taking part in a Camera Mode Challenge – where the idea is to challenge yourself to learn more about your camera mode settings and to try something new.

One of the things I have never done is try daylight ICM or intentional camera movement.

I am inspired by these kinds of images of abstract seascapes made with ICM

So today I decided to give it a go.

Tools used:

Canon 7d mk ii with 17 – 55 F 2.8 IS lens on
Lee 10 stop filter

First problem – all my batteries were flat *sigh* so I had to charge one first.

Next I went out and set up the camera with a fixed focus point (selected it in camera and flicked over to manual focus on the lens to lock it) and put the filter on.

Switched to Tv (shutter priority mode) and started playing with the shutter speeds.  Except everything I tried around 3-5 seconds came out black.

After lots of mucking around I solved it by cranking my camera exposure all the way to +3 and it compensated for the very dark 10 stop filter and allowed me a 3 sec shutter speed.

When taking shots of flowers more than that was too long and it just became a blurry mess.

Blurry mess!

I found with the flowers that an UP DOWN movement was nicer to me than the side to side option

And you can get subtle textural differences, the above image is more of a straight up and down, where as the below image was down at one angle and up at another and gave a nice cross hatch texture

For the Watsonia flowers I found I preferred more obvious flower shapes in the image like this one below where you can see the individual florets and an idea of the stem.

Too much movement just made a big pink mess which is perfectly OK too, just not what appeals to me personally.

Different angles and speed of movement on the same subject give quite different outcomes.  You can just stand there and click and move the camera in all kinds of different ways, never quite knowing what you will end up with.

So there you go – my first learning experience with ICM – was more complicated to set up on my camera than I expected.  I need a lighter grade ND filter I think.

Does anyone else do ICM?  Got some tips to share?

Posted in For Beginners | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments