I love taking photos – amassing thousands of images over the years in various folders on my computer and blog – but usually find it easier to use my phone for the ease of taking a quick picture without having to go through the hassle of carrying a heavy camera around and the option of immediately editing and sharing across my social media. However, this masterclass was a great opportunity to develop some of my skills using a DSLR – something that I rarely use – and I asked The Bloke to give me a crash course on the basics beforehand.
The event took place at Dirty Martini in Birmingham, and I was joined by other bloggers in a Christmas-themed setting as Elouisa introduced us to her work and some of the techniques she uses to create different effects on her images.
There were two different challenges to complete during the workshop. One was to focus on reflection and refraction, using a glass prism to reflect lights and shapes, and the other was to use the Christmas table set up to create an image suitable for a Christmas card using a large LED light strip and a white bounce board (and there were moments during her demonstration where I had to stop myself from making lightsaber noises – it was very Star Wars-esque). I’d seen versions of the second technique many times at home when The Bloke does his own photography, but I was intrigued to see how the use of a prism would enhance my images.
I started by creating an image of the table setting. We were given instructions to use whatever we wanted in and around the table, and Elouisa gave us individual time to ask questions and tips on how to get the photograph that we wanted. It was really useful – a simple suggestion of changing the aperture (or ‘f-stop’) on the camera made my images immediately brighter, and she was really approachable and friendly. We were lucky in that we had plenty of time to create something, but admittedly I struggled – not necessarily with the actual taking of the pictures, but the creation of the content I wanted to photograph – it’s a lot harder than it looks! Let’s just say that pro-photographers won’t be quaking in their boots anytime soon!
Click on the images for the full size!
I particularly loved using the prism. My resulting images were basic and rather crude, but it was so much fun to experiment with different angles to reflect different objects and lights from around the room – this isn’t something that I’ve had any experience with before and a glass prism is now on my list of things to buy for my future images!
After we had experimented with both techniques, we were asked to choose our favourite image, which was then printed off using a Canon Colour Inkjet printer (available for purchase at Viking), with the prize for the best photograph being a brand new Canon printer, the same model that was being used in the workshop. We all had the opportunity to see everyone’s finished image and listen to the process and ideas behind what they had produced, and Elouisa chose a worthy winner.
As an added bonus, we were treated to some lovely cocktails and nibbles too! Photography, chatting, food and drink and a lovely evening well spent!
Elouisa’s Fundamentals of Photography
Natural light is always your friend. But be aware of ambient light in the room that can play with the colour balancing of your image or influence the shot.
- Turn off or block out any ambient lighting in the room.
- Use natural reflectors in the room. If you do not have anything you can use to hand, use white, light or shiny surfaces. Foam boards are a cheap and versatile piece of equipment to help bounce light – plain pieces of paper work well.
- If the lighting is too strong, harsh or windows are too big, use a clear curtain of thin sheet to diffuse the lighting.
- If you don’t have enough light available to you, use a tripod so you can shoot slower and avoid motion blur.
Creating interesting portraits using reflection, diffraction
- Use prisms, glasses, bottles, windows or even the reflection from a mobile phone screen to create interesting creative images.
- Experiment with holding items at different distances over the lens to create interesting flashes of light and blurs.
- Use shadows and reflections to create visibility through a reflective surface.
Flat lay photography tips
- Use a tripod on your camera or phone if you can. This will help with any motion blur and keep your shot consistent.
- Use the live view to help you compose the different elements in your flat lay
- Don’t be too afraid to put items a little closer together. Large gaps in-between subjects aren’t always aesthetically pleasing.
- Don’t be afraid to go outside the frame. Play with your composition, put subject matters half in shot and half out of frame – there are no rules.
- If using a camera, use a lens with less distortion to create the ‘perfect looking’ flat lays.
Food, drink, product and still life photography tips
- Practice using the ‘magic angles’ to find that sweet spot (straight on, 45 degrees, bird’s-eye/flat lay).
- Don’t be afraid to focus on the details of the dish. There is no rule to say you must get all of the plate in the shot.
- Use bounce boards, menus or paper to even out the lighting in the shot creating light and shadow where you want it.
- Use what you can find to decorate the image but try not to make it overly busy to draw focus from the dish.
- If using a camera, use a lens with less distortion to give more realistic, proportional images.
For examples of Elouisa’s work, you can also find her on Instagram here
Disclaimer: I was invited to the event and experienced the masterclass, food and drink free of charge, but was under no obligation to give a positive review. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!