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September 12, 2016

Top tips for tasty Food Photography

Top tips for tasty Food Photography

Food Photography collage zoedawes

On your travels around your home country and further afield you no doubt come across a lot of delicious local food. Perhaps you take photos of the dishes you eat, the wine you drink and the produce displayed in shops and markets. Would you like to take better photos of that food and drink? That’s what I wanted to do when I enrolled on Aspire Photography Training: Food Portraits workshop. I’ll share with you some of the food photography tips I learnt on that useful and inspiring day.

Food Photography shoot

Food Photography Training

Our group of photographers ranged from professional to amateur, all with a desire to learn more and practise with expert tuition. Tutor, food photographer and writer Joan Ransley, took us through the basics of good food photography and showed us some of her superb photos. She then went on to explain clearly and simply how to use a digital SLR camera for close-up food shots. I had never been able to get my head round F stops and aperture settings but Joan explained it so simply that even I could understand, at least for the duration of the course! She’s a really good teacher and very encouraging. She talked about using a smart phone camera, which as a travel blogger is something I do very often. As she said, anyone can take a good photo with a phone camera if you have an eye for a scene and follow some basic principles.

Garlic and salad leaves - Food Photography Tips - The Quirky Traveller

After lunch we had to choose from a wide selection of fresh food including salad ingredients, bread, cake, fruit and accessories on which to display it all. I chose some delicious sourdough bread, olives and olive oil, pecorino cheese, Parma ham, tomatoes and salad leaves. We went outside to set up our photo shoot, with Joan and Catherine Connor, MD of Aspire Photography Training and a great communicator, sharing ideas to create a memorable photo. The following tips are especially suitable if you’re on holiday, travelling or out for a meal; in other words, short of time and needing to take a picture fairly quickly, without special lighting or studio conditions.

Italian Food Collage - zoedawes

7 Food Photography Tips

1. Create a desire to eat

Meringues and summer fruit - Food photography tips - create a desire to eat - zoedawes

Joan says, “One of the most important things you need to do when taking photos of food, is ‘create a desire to eat’. Eating is a sensual experience, so a food photographer aims to add vibrancy, enticement and increase our emotional response.” If you keep that in mind, your food photography will come alive and set the taste buds tingling. We experimented with positioning of ingredients (all fresh and delicious) and ‘props’, light sources, including use of reflectors and different angles. Joan told us some insider tricks, including use of oil-dropper/spray to add sheen, avoiding steam from hot food, leading lines and a lot more.

2. Every picture tells a story

Italian Food Photography photo shoot - zoedawes

Well, maybe not EVERY picture, but many do and when you’re composing your shot think about what you want your viewer to ‘read’ into the photo. This scene-setting shot shows all the ingredients I was to use in the main photo shoot. The aim was to showcase an Italian lunch so the bottle of olive oil and ham were the keys to setting the scene. In the background is part of a sign for Morecambe, near to where I live, so it has a personal resonance.

3. Use Natural Light

Use natural light - food photography tips - zoedawes

Natural light is much more flattering to food photography. Pick a table or seat by a window, a park bench or wall where you can arrange your food and not have to rely on a flash. That distorts colour, distracts other people around you and generally makes your food look unappetizing. Joan also showed us different types of Reflectors, including a very handy portable one. When setting up their foodie shot, the guys in the photo above made sure there was a lot of light coming in from left, to compensate for shade on the right.

4. Consider the Depth-of-Field

Food Photography Tips - zoedawes

Joan says: “Depth of field is controlled by the aperture of your camera lens; the larger the aperture ie f2.8 the narrower the depth of field. The smaller the aperture i.e. f8 the greater the depth of field. In food photography we usually use an aperture of around f3.5 when we’re photographing a plate of food close up. This will ensure the subject is in focus i.e. a piece of fish or a slice of cake and anything in the background looks soft and dreamy. For overhead shots when we need everything in the scene to be in focus, an aperture of around f8 is best. If you can control the aperture on your lens it will improve your photographs at a stroke.” I focused on the fruit and walnuts on this tasty Damson Brandy Fruitcake (made by Ginger Bakers in case you tempted!) to draw your eye to their glossy sheen.

5. Go for a close-up

Close up of sourdough bread - photography tips - zoedawes

We love to see details of the food or drink ie the bubbles in a glass of prosecco or the icing on the cake and getting in close to the subject helps tempt the taste buds. Fill the frame or just have a little of the surrounding area in shot. In the first photo, I shot the sourdough bread from above, which simply shows it on the board. In the second I went in much closer and tried to capture the dusting of flour and the bread’s gorgeous texture.

6. Use the rule of thirds

Food Photography Tips - rule of thirds - zoedawes

As you may have seen in this article on Top Travel Photography Tips, our eyes are drawn to certain parts of a picture; the rule of thirds helps you to capitalize on this. Imagine your photo is overlaid with a grid of lines in thirds both horizontally and vertically. Where the lines intersect is the ‘point of interest’. If you position the main elements of your photo on or near those points, the viewer is more likely to focus on them. In this photo, the ham and bread were the key elements. Joan added the THREE olives, the olive slices and three sage leaves to increase the threesomeness.

7. Create a ‘set’ for your photo

Setting up Aspire Food Photography shoot - zoedawes

Even if you’re taking a quick pic of lunch, spend a few seconds to look through the lens/viewfinder and see if there’s anything you could remove that might distract the viewer ie phone, dirty knife etc. Maybe you could add something. I often include a menu, guide book, or some reference to the place where I’m taking the picture. Catherine had a vast array of vintage and contemporary plates, cutlery, pots and glasses plus trays, scarves, material, edible flowers and other things for us to experiment with during our photo shoot. Joan told us of a street food photographer who uses park benches and other outdoor furniture to set up his shots. She also shared the secret of crummage; artistically scattered crumbs or other bits of food – see the Fruit Cake photo in Tip 4). Be creative; a few seconds can make the difference between a good photo and a stunning one.

Edible flowers - food photography - zoedawes

All the photos here were taken by me during the Aspire Food Portraits day. Many thanks to Joan Ransley and Catherine Connor for all the tips and tricks; I enjoyed every minute. Lara Ferroni‘s excellent book Food Photography: Pro-Secrets for Styling, Lighting and Shooting has lots more professional advice. Find out more about Aspire Photography Training Courses here.

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The Quirky Traveller Food Photography Tips

May 18, 2016

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni

Quirky Travel Photo: the ‘Great Men’ of Milan at Casa degli Omenoni
The House of the Titans - Milan Italy zoedawes

The ‘Great Men’ of Casa degli Omenoni

Tucked away in a little backstreet near Il Duomo, Milan’s famous Cathedral, is Clubino, an exclusive gentlemen’s club. Historically it is better known,  appropriately, as the Casa degli Omenoni – the House of the Great Men (rebuilt 1565-67). Adorning its facade are eight enormous male figures with serious features. They were made by sculptor Antonio Abondio, to a design by renowned Italian sculptor Leone Leoni (c1509 – 1590) to decorate his own mansion. They are Atlantes (Titans), named after Atlas, decorative supporting figures, their heads bowed to take the weight of the structure above.

Casa degli omenoni milan italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni facade with ‘Atlantes’

I was shown this impressive building during a walking tour of Milan with Milanese travel blogger Simon Falvo; you can read her fascinating blog Wild about Travel.  It’s great to go round with a local as you get to see sights that a tourist often misses. I only spent 24 hours in the city and barely scratched the surface of its many historical and architectural treasures, but these figures made a big impression. In his poem ‘The House of the Titans’ George William Russell refers to “… the tender shadow of long-vanquished pain and brightening wisdom …” which sculptor Abondoni has captured beautifully in these evocative figures.

Casa degli Omenoni Atlantes Milan Italy zoedawes

Casa degli Omenoni

If you visit Milan, search out the Casa degli Omenoni; you’ll find it at No 3 Via degli Omenoni; well worth a detour from nearby Piazza Il Duomo .

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The Great Men of Milan Italy Casa degli Omenoni - image zoedawes

March 25, 2016

Tulips from Amsterdam – spring flowers at Keukenhof Gardens

Tulips from Amsterdam – spring flowers at Keukenhof Gardens
Tulips from Amsterdam and spring flowers Keukenhof Gardens - zoedawes

Tulips and Grape Hyacinths

Tulips from Amsterdam

When it’s Spring again I’ll bring again
Tulips from Amsterdam
With a heart that’s true I’ll give to you
Tulips from Amsterdam

A popular song in the 1950s and 60s, Tulips from Amsterdam evokes springtime in Holland, with its fields of spring bulbs spreading colour and scent throughout the Dutch countryside. A visit to world-famous Keukenhof Gardens is everything an flower-lover could wish for. I went a few years ago and look forward to returning. The floral exhibitions and planting are splendid; each year there is a different theme, around which creative displays and artworks are show-cased.

Artwork in Pavilion Keukenhof Gardens

Capturing the essence of Keukenhof on canvas

Across many hectares are not just tulips from Amsterdam but every spring plantern you can imagine, flowering in colourful profusion. Surrounded by striated bulb fields, the heady scent of hyacinths, the decadent smell of lilies, the delicate aroma of narcissi envelops you in a sensual bouquet of delight …

Vase of lilies - Keukenhof Gardens

Scent from Lily Exhibition almost overpowering, the blooms each a poem of perfection.

Keukenhof tulips from Amsterdam - zoedawes

Tulips of every shape and colour

Tulips from Amsterdam and narcissi Keukenhof - zoedawes

Tulips and little narcissus in flower beds

Keukenhof Gardens Hyacinths and tulips - zoedawes

Pink Pearl Hyacinths and matching tulips

Tulips and Zocher lake Keukenhof Gardens - zoedawes

Tulips by the lake with quirky artwork

You can read more about my visit to Keukenhof Gardens here. I travelled to Holland with Stena Ferries.

The Quirky Traveller on Keukenhof windmill - zoedawes

View of Dutch bulb fields from Keukenhof Windmill

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Keukenhof Gardens spring flowers - pinterest

February 19, 2016

Quirky Travel Photo: Horses by St Moritz Lake

Quirky Travel Photo: Horses by St Moritz Lake

Horses by St Moritz Lake Switzerland - zoedawes

These lovely horses were standing beside St Moritz Lake on a sunny day in March. They takes tourists in a carriage around the popular and very chic ski town in the heart of the Swiss Alps. I was staying in St Moritz at the end of a train journey across Switzerland with a group a couple of years ago. It was our last day and I had left our hotel to explore the area before we left. St Moritz Lake freezes over every year and they hold polo matches, horse races and even cricket tournaments on the ice during January, February and early March!

St Moritz Lake Switzerland - zoedawes

We were lucky to arrive in St Moritz on the luxury Glacier Express and be there for the colourful Chalandamarz Festival, a celebration of spring and to visit the famous Olympic Bobsleigh racetrack – great fun!

Horse sleigh St Moritz Switzerland - zoedawes

January 16, 2016

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Ever wondered why your holiday snaps don’t come out quite how you want? Do you look at other people’s photos and wonder why they look better than yours? Well, here are 5 Travel Photography Tips from photographer Clare Malley that will help you to take better photos every time.

Travel Photography Tips by Clare Malley

Man dyeing wool Marrakech -

Man dyeing wool Marrakech –

Here are my top tips for travel photography, to capture the essence of your travel destinations. They are all simple and easy to apply. You don’t need a fancy camera – an iPhone or something similar, or a basic compact camera, will fit the bill perfectly. I do hope they inspire you.

Travel Photography Tips – #1

Use the Rule of Thirds

Scooters Rovinj, Croatia - rule of thirds -

Photographs have more impact when the subject is a third of the way across, rather than in the centre. The photos above show the difference that this can make. In the top pictures, the ‘rule of thirds’ is used: the eye is drawn first to the scooter and then it looks further around, to take in its surroundings. The photos underneath don’t use the rule of thirds – they just show a rather snazzy scooter (in Rovonj, Croatia) slap bang in front of you. Use the grid on your camera’s display to use the rule of thirds to compose your shot. (For recent iPhone models, go to Settings > Photos > Camera > Grid, to switch it in or off.) You can also use the grid to make sure the horizon straight.

Travel Photography Tips – #2

The hour before sunrise and after sunset is a wonderful time for landscape photography

Sunrise Croatia -

The light at these times of day can make for beautiful and unusual photography. This photo was taken just before sunrise, near Motovun in Croatia. If you’re using a digital camera, you can keep the camera shutter open for a comparatively long time to get a good picture so use the ‘shutter delay’ setting on your camera. If you are touching the camera at all it will almost certainly spoil the picture so a tripod can help. Plenty of tripods are available online relatively cheaply, even for smart phones. Some have flexible legs to hold them in position and there are also versions with magnetic feet to keep them steady. If you don’t have a tripod, just balance the camera in position, propping it in place with something, like a bean bag, to keep it absolutely still. Of course, you can take some fab photos without doing any of this!

Travel Photography Tips – #3

Use lines and patterns in the photo to draw the viewer in

County Kerry

Look at the way the subject of your photograph pulls you in. These photos from County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, demonstrate how this works in different settings. The lines of the rocks on the left draw the viewer’s attention straight to the heart of the lake. The bridge in Killorglin leads you to a building a third of the way into the photo on the right, which adds to the effect. (Red in a photograph attracts the eye quicker than other colours.)

Travel Photography Tips – #4

Check the camera display screen carefully

Girl on phone Croatia

It sounds very obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to check the screen when you’re somewhere unfamiliar or in a hurry. The difference in the photographs above (also taken in Rovinj, Croatia) is purely down to the camera shutter being open for different lengths of time. To avoid the problem, with an iPhone or iPad camera, tap the screen where the main subject of the photo is, until you are happy with the display. Other basic cameras will have a means of achieving the same effect.

Travel Photography Tips – #5

Don’t be afraid to be quirky!

Sheep by water

Sometimes, look at your photos from a different perspective. This was part of a dull photo of sheep in a field near a river. Rotating the original 180° and cropping it made it far more eye-catching.

And Finally… I hope these simple travel photography tips will inspire you to try different ideas with your camera and composition. You’ll find you’re learning all the time, acquiring the know-how to be ever-more creative. Have fun!

Clare Malley claremalleyphotography.comClare Malley is a professional photographer working in and around the Lake District. She specialises in portraits of pets and people. She loves travel photography and, whenever the opportunity arises, gets out and about with her camera to capture the sights she sees around her. You can see more of Clare Malley’s photographs here.  Follow her on Twitter @ClareMPhoto and on Instagram @ClareMPhoto



October 16, 2015

The Equator Obelisk in Ecuador – Quirky Travel Photo

The Equator Obelisk in Ecuador – Quirky Travel Photo
Equator obelisk Ecuador - photo zoedawes

Equator obelisk

Looking up at the Equator Obelisk in Calacalí, a short drive from Quito, Ecuador, it’s very confusing as a relatively short distance down the road is a huge complex which touts itself as the ‘Mitad del Mundo’. So if this is the REAL centre of the earth, why aren’t there more tourists? Well, as you can read here on the ‘Real Equator Line‘ hoax, there a number of places in Ecuador that make this claim!

Ecuador and the Equator

In the 18th c there was a big debate as to whether the whether the circumference of the Earth was greater around the Equator or around the poles. A number of French expeditions were organised to find out; one went to Lapland and and in 1735 the other went to Ecuador, then called the ‘The Territory of Quito’ by Spain. Bouguer, La Condamine, Godin and their colleagues measured arcs of the Earth’s curvature on the Equator from the plains near Quito to the southern city of Cuenca. These measurements enabled the first accurate determination of the size of the Earth, eventually leading to the establishment of the international metric system of measurement. ‘Wikipedia. Ecuador was then renamed so its name is forever synonymous with ‘the Equator’.

As you can see from this map there are a number of markers – read more about the Equator Monuments here.

Equator Monument Map Ecuador - from

Equator Monument Map – image c/o

Well, we only visited this one and it makes for a fun photo. At some point in the vicinity we definitely did cross the Equator a number of times on our way to Mashpi Cloud Forest!

Equator Obelisk Ecuador - photo zoedawes

I travelled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with Metropolitan Touring. Read about Mashpi Eco Lodge here and the amazing equatorial birds including the beautiful hummingbirds that live in the beautiful Ecuadorian Cloud Forest.

July 3, 2015

Quirky Travel Photo: Donkey in Monemvasia, Greece

Quirky Travel Photo: Donkey in Monemvasia, Greece

Donkey walking in narrow street in Monemvasia Greece - photo zoe dawes

The narrow street of Monemvasia is barely narrow enough for the donkey to wander through. The heat funnels down from the medieval fortress ramparts and the shade is very welcome. Purple bougainvillea cascades over a wall and gernaniums add a pop of colour to the old stone steps. Wooden chairs outside a Greek taverna encourage the passing visitor to sit awhile and watch the world go by. A welcome breeze riffles through the lanes and the church bell tolls the passing hours. The donkey is the only method of transport allowed in Monemvasia and works hard for his keep. Oblivious to the ghosts of Byzantine rulers, Venetian traders and Turkish invaders, he plods slowly up hill, doing his bit to help with the restoration of this ancient citadel, perched on the edge of the Peloponnese.


Monemvasia Rock Peloponnese Greece - photo Ingo Mehing

Monemvasia Rock – photo Ingo Mehing

Originally linked to mainland Peloponnese, the island of Monemavasia has been occupied for centuries due to its strategic position, massive defences and commercial role between the East and West. Known for only having one huge entrance (easier to defend) it’s been a popular tourist destination in Greece since the 1970s. The Lower Town is now a place of boutique hotels, souvenir shops, attractive bars and restauarants along the picturesque streets. The Citadel is in the Upper Town; you need to be fit to walk up the steep hill to get there, but the views are worth it. I visited Monemvasia a few year ago during a holiday in the Peloponnese with Greek friends, one of whom bought me a beautiful silver and turquoise ring from a jewellery shop there. I always wear it on my quirky travels – a lovely momento of this attractive place.

Greek silver and turquoise rings Monemvasia photo zoe dawes

Greek silver and turquoise rings Monemvasia

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