Monthly Archives: August 2011

How To Tuesday: Photography Lighting Part I.

Lighting is the most important factor to consider when snapping the perfect photo. Light is what makes sight, colour and, more specifically, photography possible. Without the proper light your photos can appear dull, lacklustre and tinted.

Because I am primarily a natural light photographer that is the method I will discuss with you, but artificial light is an option as well. I prefer natural light because of it’s ease of use, consistent abundance and that it conveniently streams through my kitchen window. It’s not without its challenges, but in the next few weeks we’ll talk about how to overcome each of them.

One prominent challenge that natural light presents is white balance. Not everyday is filled with bright, sunny and cheerful light. Some days are cloudy, rainy or maybe you’ve lost track of time and the sun is quickly escaping.

You might have noticed that bright high sunlight is somewhat yellow or orange in colour. Cloudy or overcast light is very white. Rain clouds, evening light, shade or winter sunlight create very blue tones. That’s why it’s important to adjust your white balance settings to communicate the truest colours possible in your subject.

This effect can be achieved one of three ways. The easiest method and the one I use is to choose one of the premade settings on your camera. Most cameras, DSLR or otherwise, have a selection of at least seven basic white balance settings: auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent and flash.

The auto setting meters the light and adjusts the colour balance accordingly. This might seem like an easy choice but auto is definitely not foolproof and I would only recommend it in situations where you don’t have the time to play around to find the right setting. Daylight white balance leans towards a bluer tint to counteract the orange casts of direct sunlight. It can be tricky to use in diffused sunlight, but it’s still the setting I use most often. Shade is obviously the setting best suited to shady situations as it defends against the cool tones of true shade with lots of warm tones. The cloudy setting is also warm like shade, but not as extreme. In the cold winter months I use this setting almost exclusively. Tungsten is very blue to balance the super yellow tint that comes from indoor lighting. Florescent is very green and flash is slightly warm. I have never used the last three settings personally because I’ve never played with shooting in unnatural light, but it would be a good idea to get to know them.

Here you can see the white balance presets hard at work.

In the set of Cranberry Pomegranate Yogurt Cake photos you can clearly see the difference in colour temperature. The first I shot using the daylight setting. The image has a definite blue tint to it and the reds of the cranberry sauce actually appear more purple. The second photo was shot using the cloudy setting so I could effectively warm up the colours on that overcast day. The reds and yellows are true and the plate is white instead of blue.

In the set of Stuffed French Toast photos there’s another obvious difference. The first photo was taken using the shade setting because I was experimenting with low early morning sunlight. The image has an unmistakable warm tint to it and the pure red napkin looks more orange than anything. The second photo was shot using the daylight setting along with a little playing in Photoshop to neutralize the colour of the background. The napkin is red again and the french toast looks real instead of something moulded out of yellow play-dough.

The second method for setting white balance is manually. Using the manual white balance camera setting is simple. All you need to do is point the camera at something you want to define as neutral in your current lighting conditions. Doing this teaches your camera the exact white balance you need for each specific shoot. You can do this with any matte surface that is medium or 18% grey in colour. It could be a notebook, a napkin, a plate or a grey card that you can get specifically for this method.

The final way to set white balance is digitally while you’re processing your photos in photo editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. In Photoshop you can either play with the colour balance until you get the right effect or use the replace colour feature and choose a colour you know to be neutral and return it to it’s true hue. In Lightroom the effect is much more elegant. You are able to select the medium grey you want for the white balance and apply it to all of the photos in the shoot using the synchronize feature. That way you don’t have to fiddle with each image individually. If you can avoid it I wouldn’t recommend correcting your white balance during post-processing. It can become a crutch and sometimes, depending on the severity of white balance issues, you can’t quite restore the colours to their original states. I use post-processing white balance as needed for tiny touch ups, but I try to set the proper white balance as best I can while the camera is still in my hands.

Whatever way you choose to set your white balance it’s important to experiment with each. As a natural light photographer, light is your a challenge and colour can be your weapon. The more you play with white balance the easier colours are to identify. Have you ever had that argument over weather a school bus is yellow or orange? White balance is the key!

Fashionably Late Friday: Afternoon In The Kitchen.

Sons and Dot-ers Dress, In Your Sunday Vest, Gold Pearl Studs, Sarah’s Heirloom Style Pink Pearl and Crystal Cameo Brooch, Elie Tahari Vena Ballet Flat, Faux Leather Ruffle Shoulder Bag, Lacy Ribboned Pearl Necklace.

I love how comfortable and feminine this outfit is! The lace details, mini dots, ruffles and shiny pearls in soft pinks and powder blues are just crying out to help you bake up some brownies in style. You should probably put the purse down to work the oven though. Just an idea.

And The Winner Is…

Suzy, you are the lucky winner of the adorable Teacupcakes Cake Molds! You are going to bake the cutest cupcakes ever! Yay you!

Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com and give me your mailing address to receive your awesome prize.

Thank you to everyone else who entered and don’t forget to take advantage of your I’m With Cupcake promo code!

It’s 12am, Do You Know Where Your Cookies Are?

You’re awoken by the sound of distant thunder. Flashes of heat lighting stream through the drapes and reflect off the wall. Restless, you lay awake in bed, a thin sheet your only protection against the crisp night air. The heavy blanket long since set aside for colder weather. The scent of imminent rain filters through the open windows and a new breeze disturbs the curtains.

Curiously drawn, you carelessly throw off the sheet and pad downstairs in your bare feet. The light from the refrigerator floods the kitchen and you squint, you’re eyes not accustomed to the sudden brightness. You snatch a midnight snack and welcome the darkness back.

Blindly, you find your way to the window. The storm rolls in, clouds of violet and black blanket the sky decorated with intermittent shimmers of silver and gold. You nibble idly on your Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookie as the rain falls in an impetuous torrent.

These cookies are fresh, sweet and quickly disappearing. Just like Summer. Best enjoyed with an accompaniment of thunder and lighting.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: My imagination.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cup flour
1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 pkg cream cheese, cut into 1 tsp cubes

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Blend in the lemon zest, juice and eggs. Make sure to scrape off any bits of zest that stick to the mixer paddle.

In a separate bowl whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour then mix it into the wet ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries so as not to burst any. Refrigerate the dough for about 15 – 20 minutes to make it stiff enough to roll.

For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tbsp of dough into a ball then flatten it slightly into a disc shape. Place a 1 tsp cream cheese cube into the center and form the dough around it creating a ball again. Bake them for about 10 – 14 minutes until the edges brown slightly. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

How To Tuesday: Photography Composition Part III.

Some subjects cry out for certain camera angles. Not listening to their pleas can result in awkward ill-composed shots that make the viewer feel uneasy.

Today I’m going to talk to you about camera angles specifically popular among food photographers and how they can work for you. I’ll start with the safest or easiest angle and move up to the more dynamic or fun angles.

The head on or eye level camera angle is perhaps the most straight forward and basic approach to photographing your subject. I would choose this angle when shooting a scene that is rather plain or simple with very little depth or detail. It creates drama and an undeniable focal point. With the photo of the Cherry Almond White Chocolate Ice Cream I wanted to accentuate the drips and texture of the ice cream. The head on angle makes the viewer feel like the cone is being handed right to them. In the photo of the Focaccia I used this camera angle to emphasize the uniformity as well as the natural flaws in each piece of bread. I also force the viewer to analyze the angles created by the brown paper and the slices.

The three quarters angle is possibly the most used camera angle among food photographers because it can give depth and perspective to an otherwise two dimensional image. At this angle it is best to fill the space with props and textures to take up all that vertical space. A three quarters shot can look very welcoming and appetizing when it comes to photographing food because this is the angle that people often view food as if they’re sitting at the dinner table. With my photo of the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies I wanted to focus on the different levels created by the cookie jar, stack of cookies and lemon. Comparatively I kept the composition of the Banana Cinnamon Bread Pudding relatively sparse because I wanted the emphasis to stay on the dessert itself in the foreground which was simply garnished with the ground cinnamon seen in the background.

The bird’s eye view or overhead angle can be a very dynamic position to experiment with. This angle is not meant to emphasize height or depth but detail and texture. I would suggest shooting from this perspective when you’re subject is rather flat and doesn’t photograph well from the other lower angles. My Chocolate Hazelnut Tart is quite a flat dessert and I found that much of the beautiful detail was lost at a lower angle so I decided an overhead shot was appropriate to show you all the lovely plump cherries juxtaposed by the jagged chopped hazelnuts. Another reason to utilize the bird’s eye view is to accentuate shallow depth of field. In my photo of the rose only the petals are in focus while the rest of the rose fades away into fuzzy colour and form. The leaves and stem become merely a suggestion to the viewer because your real focus is on the bloom itself.

The close up, beauty shot or macro shot isn’t necessarily considered a camera angle but is still a fun technique to play with. It is a position that can be easily overdone so you have to treat it with respect. I would suggest not getting carried away with macro shots because it can be frustrating when the viewer never gets a full view of the subject. Instead close ups should be used sparingly and only to show extreme detail when it’s necessary. A lot of subject matter can’t be fully enjoyed without getting up close and personal like my photo of the raspberries. I wanted to encourage the viewer to enjoy the shape and texture of the raspberries. You don’t often get to see the tiny hairs on each piece of the whimsical fruit. The same goes for the buttercup. I wanted to focus on the flower from a perspective that most don’t employ. Normally we appreciate flowers in their entirety in bouquets or a garden. Not very often do we study not just one flower, but the centers specifically.

The tilt angle is definitely one of my personal favourites. It adds drama and interest to an otherwise plain and straight forward subject. Just like with the macro shoot, the tilt angle presents a normal scene in an abnormal way. This photo of the Chocolate Covered Almond Cake is, in my opinion, one of the most appetizing photos I’ve ever taken. The cake leans towards you as though it’s begging you to give in and eat it. The tilt angle implies action and movement like with my photo of the Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies. You get the distinct feeling that you’re going to have to reach out and catch them before they fall.

After shooting a variety of subject matter you begin to understand what camera angles would best suit the situation. I encourage you to move around your subject and feel free to play with angles. Don’t be afraid experiment. You might be surprised which angle you like the best. And if you ever get stuck just bend an ear to your subject and it’ll give you some pointers.

Fasionably Late Friday: Shutterbug.

Sketch You Later Dress, Can You Sparrow Some Change Belt, Lucite Carved Rose Post Earrings, Shutter Speed Bag, Handmade Orange Rose Stirling Silver Fashion Ring, Extender/Pomp Bracelet, Euginia Kim Jean Feather and Satin Headband, Shiekh Ankle Boots, Essie Clambake Nail Polish.

As I’m sure you all know I’ve been bitten by the shutterbug. My camera and I seem to be inseparable these days and I always have it handy to capture moments in time.

This ensemble is something I would gladly wear on an afternoon photoshoot. Its comfortable and flowing in tones of grey and silver with just a pop of coral.

Teacupcakes Cake Molds Giveaway.

I have another exciting giveaway for you today!

To celebrate the new I’m With Cupcake ad here on Hot Polka Dot, my friend, Jordan has been kind enough to offer up one of his sweetest products for you to win.

I’m With Cupcake is a new online boutique that boasts a unique selection of all things “cute as a cupcake”. And what better way to bake up your cute cupcakes than in these adorable Teacupcakes Cake Molds? Aren’t they just precious? Now you can eat your cake with your pinkies out!

The Teacupcakes Cake Molds include four teacup-shaped silicone molds that you can both bake and serve your cupcakes in. They also come with matching saucers to give you the full effect of the sweetest tea party ever. And if you don’t throw tea parties you’re just going to have to start!

As an added bonus, Jordan has generously offered a special 10% off promo code to all you lovely people when you spend $10 or more at I’m With Cupcake. Just enter “Hot Polka Dot” when you checkout. Also make sure to take advantage of the worldwide free shipping on all orders over $45 before taxes. It’s over on Sunday so don’t miss out!

How to Enter:

   1. Visit I’m With Cupcake, browse the cuteness and leave a comment here telling me what your absolute favourite        product is. I’m partial to the Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters, Matryoshka Measuring Cups and Yummy Cupcake Pillow        myself. I’d love to know what you think!
   2. Follow me on Twitter, tweet the giveaway (Visit @Hot_Polka_Dot to enter to win cute Teacupcakes Cake Molds        from @imwithcupcake & eat with your cake pinkies out! and leave another comment here telling        me you’ve done so.
   3. Like me on Facebook and leave even another comment here telling me you’ve done so.
   4. Like I’m With Cupcake on Facebook and leave yet another comment here telling me you’ve done so.

Contest Details:

   – If you’re already following me on Twitter, liking me on Facebook, or liking I’m With Cupcake on Facebook that’s ok!      You’re entries still count!
   – Only a maximum of four entries per person will be permitted in the ways I’ve designated above.
   – Anyone in the world is welcome to enter.
   – Upon winning please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize and give me your mailing address      to receive the Teacupcakes Cake Molds.
   – All emails and addresses will be kept confidential.

Contest Deadline:

The contest will be open through the weekend and be closed on Wednesday August 17th at 9pm MST. I will close the comments at this time so make sure to get your entries in soon! The winner will be chosen at random and announced Thursday morning. Make sure to get in as many extra entries you can for a better chance to win!

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! To see who won click here.

And The Winner Is…

Sarah from pão e queijo, you are the lucky winner of one beautiful handmade antique silver spoon ring! Congrats! I hope it makes you feel a little better after loosing one of your favourite heart earrings.

Please email me at hotpolkadot (at) live (dot) com to claim your prize, give me your ring size and your mailing address.

To the rest, thank you all for entering and make sure to stop by Dank Artistry to buy a lovely spoon ring of your own!

In Mint Condition.

You remember my friend, Kristin from Idle Wife. She did those adorable polka dot napkin folding tutorials a little while ago. Well today you can find me on her beautiful blog with some delicious Vanilla Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream.

It’s got real vanilla bean, fresh mint and luscious chocolate pieces. So if you’re hungry for more make sure to click on over to Idle Wife to check it out.

Fashionably Late Friday: Dress Blues Glam.

Blue Sleek Dress, Righteous Few Leggings, G by Guess Sady Vest, Magid Sequin Stripe Rectangle Convertible Clutch, Military Style Trend Dressy Ankle Boot, Gracianna Heirloom Style Blue Crystal Cameo Brooch, Essie Midnight Cami Nail Polish, Liz Larios Quartz Crystal Spike Earrings, Demitasse Demibullet Necklace.

I’ve always enjoyed pairing delicate feminine items with strong masculine items. We all have a soft side and a hard side and it’s fun to express them both at the same time.

Here I’ve paired a light and airy dress, flowy vest, lacy leggings, sparkly clutch and cameo brooch with heavy and military style ankle boots, spiky earrings, bullet necklace and navy nail polish to pull it all together.

It’s the perfect outfit for a night on the town or a fun party!