Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Pictures from MasterChef Live 2011, 13th November at London Olympia

As I perused the stalls at this year's MasterChef Live at Olympia, there was a heady mix of world coffees, spices, infusions and an assortment of other exotic aromas, all under one roof.

It's really all about the food, but it gave me an opportunity to take in the atmosphere and one or two celebrities spotted along the way. I have had an interest in food photography for a while but this was a chance to see a variety of dishes being prepared there and then. Here are a selection of images I took at from the day:


Monday, 7 November 2011

Sugar and Spice: 5 Top Tips for Photographing cakes and other foods

I've recently started taking photographs of food more seriously, mainly as a result of a new business that my fiance has started, making cupcakes. This has really given me an opportunity to see what I can do technically. The main thing is to make the food look as irresistible as possible.

Here are a few very basic tips that I've found useful in getting started:
  1. Timing

    Some food may be perishable and so of course the food will look better, the fresher it is. It might be useful to set up in advance of the food being prepared or delivered.

  2. Setting Up

    When setting up the food, think about the arrangement of the food and the context. Decide on whether, for example, a bowl or a plate will work best. Fruit would normally be served or kept in a bowl. But this might not suit the particular mood you are setting.

  3. Lighting

    This is really important. This helps set the right atmosphere. The amopunt of light you use will depend on the subject and the context in which you are portraying the food. For example, it might be seasonal. Perhaps using a device such as a window, or maybe more subtle visible lighting such as a candle can help give warmth. Try an be clever and use walls and reflective surfaces effectively. Adding a glazing to bread with olive oil will also add an appetizing glow.

  4. Composition

    Think about the arrangement of the food to provide the best composition, applying the same processes that you would for any photograph. Sometimes, less is more and try and avoid too much clutter. Practice photographing both narrow and wider shots and from a number of positions to see what works best.

  5. Perspective

    Keeping a low perspective and angle than from up above makes a much more interesting shot. This also adds extra depth of field and can accentuate detail and focus on a particular area.
You might also like to have a look at my Food collection on Flickr.

Cupcakes at a cake tasting event
Festive Mince Pies
Freshly baked focaccia bread
Mini cupcakes on display

Yule log at a set table

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Edinburgh: yon Empress of the North

Last week I spent spent several days up in Edinburgh (also once affectionately nicknamed "Auld Reekie", because when buildings were heated by coal and wood fires, chimneys would spew thick columns of smoke into the air. Certainly there were signs off this from the blackened facades of old Georgian buildings.

Early morning mist, Edinburgh

Never having been to Edinburgh before, I wanted to cover some of the main places of interest in the city centre. This included the Castle and the Royal Mile, the Scottish National Gallery (with a small but lovely collection of the great Impressionists altogether in one small room), The National Museum of Scotland, Princes Street, the Scott Monument, Calton Hill and the monuments around that area, as well as a walk up Arthur's Seat (well worth the hike).

The weather couldn't be better for late October - bright sunshine for most of the time and relatively warm. I was prepared for more gloom and anticipated a more 'moody' setting, but the strong light meant that my best images were in the early morning, just after dawn and again towards dusk. I didn't want the hassle of traveling up on the train with the addition of my tripod and so, inevitably, this limited my scope for night photography.

St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
Edinburgh certainly has one of the most attractive and dramatic skylines to be found in Britain and I took advantage of this whenever possible. There are great views from Calton Hill as well as Arthur's Seat, where the summit offers the best panorama of the city and surrounding area. I shot mostly in RAW, so that I could work with my images once I got back. Any images where I thought the exposure was just too far off or the white balance was wrong, I binned them instantly.

I thought I might have had chance to take more street performers, but I guess with it being October it was a bit late for that (the Edinburgh Fringe is through August). That said, there was more than a few bagpipers on the Royal Mile and Princes Street.

The cannons of the Half Moon Battery, Edinburgh Castle, as well as in Calton Hill park made for some interesting shots, with city backdrops, experimenting with narrow depth of field. Some good interior shots in the Castle's halls and palaces too.

Royal Crests, Edinburgh Castle

Sadly, there wasn't enough time to do everything, or see everything, but I think I got the most I could from those few days, but definitely want to go back, even if just for a few days again, as part of a longer tour through Scotland.

You can see my Edinburgh Collection on Flickr.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Day four on the market stall: the final chapter?

After the previous market back on the 15th Oct, things were looking hopeful. I had made a profit and thought that if I could just tighten up on a few things, the future looked good. However, this week it was a little more sobering. Bottom line: nothing sold.

So, where to go from here? It would be pointless and futile for me to try and say it was a great day just to 'big up' my own success. Rather, I think today's blog is a reflective one. Although it was frustrating, I'm going to take away the positives with me and decide on the direction and focus of what the market is all about. So what happened?

Firstly, it was school half-term and I feel that this had some part to play. There didn't seem to be the normal amount of shoppers in Archway.

The stall looked okay, but feel in places it was a bit bare and could be improved. I was hoping to get some wallets for loose prints but these weren't available in time to be used. I'm inclined to spread a few mounted pictures out on the table to be clearly seen. I was also without my colleague alongside me, who also sells his own prints and wasn't able to make it. This might have made our combined stock look more enticing and gave us a greater presence. Here's a picture from the day...

Market stall - 29th October 2011
I had a go at running a slideshow on the laptop, but it was difficult to see the screen in the open daylight, so I abandoned it. Might try another time if the conditions are right. I  then tried using some twine and weights to display a few prints at the back of the stall, but the wind was too strong and the pegs I used were far too small to withstand it. So I had to take them down.

During the morning I spent some time cataloging my stock, so that any sales I could easily record from a catalog number. While this is important, this may have proved to be too much of a distraction. Sometimes, interaction with passers-by at the stall can help break a potential sale, or at least add some polite engagement.

Also, the box I have, with mounted pictures in, still isn't very substantial, with only a few dozen mounted. I need to really step up and get more prints mounted quickly. I might need to change the way I mount the pictures, perhaps just sticking the prints directly onto mount board rather than the conventional window cut mount, which is quite time-consuming. I might also consider using a foam board backing. I did also find this useful guide on YouTube to cutting a mount.
I added some laminated pricing and signage, which helped a bit, but I still feel that the canvas paintings are not selling themselves well enough. One or two people took business cards and inquired about the service, and this may yet yield something. I'll have to wait and see.

There are still question marks in my mind about whether Archway Market is the right place for selling photo prints. I'm not under any obligation to stay, which is ok. But I will need to think carefully about what I want to do going into the new year. There is also talk of a more 'seasonal' upcoming market and so this might be a good opportunity, perhaps bring more 'wintry' themes to sell. For now I'm going to continue but I cannot afford to continue to take losses, unless I simply absorb it and use the stall as a spring board to do other things, notably the made-to-order canvas painting.

Elsewhere, on a positive note, this week was a great escape for us as we went to Edinburgh for a few days and I recommend anyone who hasn't been there to go and visit. Got some fantastic shots from in and around the city. I hope to push them to Flickr some time very soon and will write a post on the subject.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Day three on the market stall: things can only get better

After my disappointment on day 2, now 3 weeks ago, I was afraid that this might be my last post. I now feel a bit more revitalized and I'm happy to say that it is not. The most important thing was that I was able to make a profit, and that's what ultimately keeps me going, otherwise what's the point. Thankfully the weather was ideal - sunny, if slightly chilly. My colleague and I also ended up having separate stalls (for a small supplement on the rent) and fortunately we had enough stock with us that the stalls didn't look bare. This was the first time that I had a full stall in my right and it was the first real measure of selling my pictures in a properly organized and dedicated space.

Here's a pic from Saturday:

Anyway, things were a little slow to get going but by the afternoon I had quite a bit of interest. Lots of business cards taken. I also included a card with all my sold items - definitely a good idea.

I've found that loose, un-mounted prints are actually selling well. People seem to like rifling through the mounted prints that I had boxed too. It's akin to that feel if going through album sleeves I think. My current concern is how best to package them, though, (wallets, for example) and also my base price that I'm prepared to ask.

I still think the look of the stall needs some work. A couple  of thoughts here:
  • A backdrop banner, but I'm lacking a proper Identity at the moment, so...
  • Develop the brand
  • Pricing sheets and offers need to be laminated
  • Better use of the space and general layout, still feels a bit bare
  • Keep a check on damaged frames
  • Keep a good track of items sold and how much for
  • Have a few framed presentation pieces, but keep the main focus on the mounted and loose prints
The other important consideration I need to make is to how the prints balance with my Canvas Portaits, available to order online, but how do I market them at the stall? I still don't think it's working enough for me as a 'shop front'. It's my ambition that ultimately the canvas service will take over from the stall, but this at least gets me recognized locally.

With regard to subject matter, the popular prints I can, of course, get re-printed, but I also need to keep plotting my next shoot. I can harvest what I can from existing archives, but I will need to replenish with new images. I still think that my stock is quite light, but as I get more printed I will need to think about topics/themes and how I might classify them. Maybe: Travel; Local; Music; Abstract; Landscapes and so on. I need to explore the local area a bit more. People find that interesting. The Emirates is close by as well as other famous landmarks like Highgate Cemetery. Overt time I think I'll get a better feel for what people want.

I still think about other stall locations away from Archway, but would need to do more research or investigation on fees and rates. The top of Portobello market, perhaps? Still possibly too expensive for my turnover right now. Camden Market would be great but I think that's even further off financially.

Organization of time is also important. As this is still a weekend enterprise, I need to plan my weeks carefully - when I can do mounting or wrapping, when I can think about evening shoots, and the nights are now drawing in very quickly.

Finally, feel free to tweet/follow me @manchego_photo (I will periodically post my thoughts on all things photography) or add a comment below.

Well, the next stall is on the 29th October, and further afield there's a festival at the end of November, and I'll bet it starts getting really cold by then. Brrrrr...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Day two on the market stall: a tough second week

A short post today. I just wanted to reflect on a difficult couple of days for the market stall for my colleague and myself. After the optimism of the festival on the 17th, this week made us really question what we are about, what the stall means to us and how we can effectively make money from it.

For whatever reason, there were unquestionably less people about and that meant less people perusing through our stock. My colleague, Scott Thompson - a former professional photographer for many years - was also at Lauderdale House Art and Craft fair today, in Highgate and he also found it difficult there.

I can't help but feel that people are naturally being more cautious about how and where they spend their money, and mounted, framed pictures would seem to be further down the priority list.

The feeling I get is that I need to push the made-to-order painted canvasses much more. and develop some solid marketing around it. But this is going to take time to cultivate. My website is a start at least.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Day one on the market stall: selling photography prints

Well, the first day of the market went off without a hitch and the weather just about stayed at bay for the most part. I had decided some time ago that it would be good to try and sell my photographs on a market stall. An opportunity recently came up for me to a share a stall with a friend of a friend, who is also a photographer. This made good business sense as it meant the stall fee could be shared.

We arranged the first stall date to be at the Feel Good Festival at Archway market, north London, held once a year on Holloway Road. My expectations were fairly low, having read that markets can be a tricky place to sell photographs. In the end, I managed to sell about half a dozen loose digital prints, unmounted, and a small framed picture. Not a fortune, but at least a start. Between us we managed to break even, which at least made the venture worthwhile.

There were a few takeaways from the day, which I thought would be worth sharing, for anyone else who is thinking of doing similar.

Finding a market

I've seen several blogs discussing this subject, but essentially the most important thing is to find somewhere that has the best potential to sell your pictures. Some areas, such as the obvious tourist traps like Camden Market will be great, however rents will be high and there could be a big waiting list for a vacant stall. Some might opt for starting at a car boot sale which is fine, but bear in mind that you could be a long way from a cash point and so having prints that are £30+ will be a stretch for some people.


There are lots of factors here: the dimensions of your prints; are they darkroom prints or digital; are the mounted or framed; even the kind of mounting. You could also consider multi-buys like selling your small prints at say, 3 for £10. As mentioned above, where you are selling will also come into play. Make sure you keep a record of your stock, the marked price and what you eventually sell the picture for.


Presentation is everything. A cliche but it's true. You have a large quantity of stock, we found that people are quite happy rifling through a basket to find something. Don't feel that you have to use every square inch of the stall, sometimes less is more. Experiment and try different things. Take a look at the pictures below from our stall...

Try and pick out one or two prints you could use as "show piece" items that will grab the eye of passers by. You want to try and engage with potential customers so anything that gets them interested is a good thing.

Time wasters

While its good to have people at your stall, beware of people who seem quite happy to spend hours pontificating about your fabulous work but seem reluctant to part with any cash. Humour them but sometimes you might discover that they have interesting comments or observations about your work, which of course you can take or leave. This can sometimes be an issue if your images are journalistic or of particular landmarks.

Closing up

It might be tempting to finish early if things are a little slow, but you never know, you could get that late sale. You might be surprised. Try and stick it out for as long as you can.

Finally, don't worry about making mistakes. You're unlikely to nail it perfectly first time. Think about worked well, what didn't work well and what can be improved for next time. If this is something that you've set your heart on, its worth sticking with it for at least a few market days.

And of course, GOOD LUCK!!


Friday, 19 August 2011

Welcome to my new Blog

I will be posting about all things photography related, or canvas painting.