June 28, 2013

It is all about Confetti and Sprinkles in our house this weekend as our baby girl (who is not so much a baby any more) celebrates her 4th Birthday with a few of her pre-school friends.  Such a gorgeous age and she is so excited.

I am using the Confetti range of party invitation and printables by Sarah from Style Me Gorgeous which is so pretty.

I have been busy on pinterest finding loads of inspiration and here is a sample of what has inspired me for this party.

1. Spoons :: 2. Dessert Table :: 3. Sprinkles Biscuits :: 4. Cake :: 5. Cookies :: 6.  Garland :: 7. Cupcakes

Join me on Pinterest here if you would like to see some more.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

June 27, 2013

Photography and styling are topics I can talk on all day – I have a passion for both and I have an understanding of how they go hand in hand so when I was asked recently to give some tips on how to get some great photos of a dessert table I thought I would write them down and share them with everyone.

Whether you are a mum pulling off her first dessert table for a birthday party, an event stylist or a cake decorator there is one thing for sure – you want amazing pictures to show off all your hard work!  The world we live in now is so visual – pinterest, Facebook, blogs and magazines are a constant souce of amazing images and if you want your hard work to be part of all of this then you need to have great images.

A great photographer can make event day so much more enjoyable on so many level, and I will touch more on that later as I do feel that it is important that everyone understands that the beautiful images you see all over the internet are not accidental and can at times take a lot of work to achieve.   I do however understand it is not always possible and the budget does not always extend to having a professional photographer.

So if you are keen to have a go at taking your own photos here are my top tips for photographing your next dessert table.

1. Light

The single most important thing any photographer will tell you is that it is all about the light – this does not mean the light on the ceiling but the available natural light.  When I plan a dessert table a number of things come into play but the first thing I think about is where will the table sit and how much light is available in that spot.  I avoid at all costs using my flash – natural light to me is always the way to go so try and position your table near a window or door where lots of natural light floods into the room.  Of course a nice blank wall always helps so you have a blank canvas for your backdrop but try and keep the two in mind when planning your next event.

Consider also the placement of your taller items on the table – if you place a tall cake stand and cake on the side of your table where the light is coming in then it will possibly cast a dark shadow over the other items.  For this reason it is good to place larger items on the side furtherest from the widow or light source and lower items on the brighter side.

The camera settings also play a big part in the amount of light it captures in your images – an understanding of how shutter speed, aperture and ISO all combined make an image lighter or darker will really improve your images – I am not going to go into details about these things today as this guide is a little more basic but in the future I will elaborate on this topic for those who would like to know more.

2. Angle

Obviously it is important to get a great shot of the table as a whole.  If you look at most of my tables I like to get a few different angles of the entire table.  One from straight on and a few from a little higher – to do this I generally stand on the first or second step of a step ladder or one of the little ikea two step ladders.  I am to get this “whole table shot” first up before I get any other images.  When taking the photo straight on remember to make sure that the lines are straight and your table does not look like it is on a lean.  You may need to play around with your image once it is on the computer to make it straight and in proportion.

Crop out any distractions if you can – things like power points or edges of door frames – anything that will detract from your lovely display needs to go!  Don’t be afraid to crop a little off the side of your table if there is something too distracting that you could not avoid when taking the photo.

3. Details

I love capturing details – getting in and taking a close up of an amazing cookie or a buttercream swirl.  I will usually take a photo of every item of food on the table from above, straight on and at an angle.  To get that lovely blurry background which is called bokeh you need to understand your camera’s aperture settings or f stop – to take detailed photos is one of the most important reasons to learning about your camera’s manual settings.

Basically a camera’s aperture tells you how much of your image will be in focus.  The smaller your f stop the less of the image that will be in focus and the more of the background that will be blurry. The images below show you what I mean by a blurry background. It makes the main focus of your image the hero of the picture.  You will also see here some shots taken at various angles so you capture lots of interesting details.

Also remember when taking up close detail shots that it is ok to move them to a spot on the table where the light is best – you don’t have to take your shot of the bottles hiding behind something because that is where they sit on the table.  Move them to a better spot and get your shot then move them back!

4. Time

Don’t leave yourself with too little time to photograph your table.  There is nothing worse that realising that the party guests have arrived and you still haven’t got any photos.  Suddenly little fingers are touching and moving items and the anxiety builds!  You want your table photographed and ready for the party with at least 30 minutes to spare.

I am going to let you in on a little secret here with my own parties that I hold at home – I photograph them all the day before or at least 3-4 hours before the party begins.  I then put everything away that needs to be in the refrigerator or in a sealed container and I reset up again just prior to the guests arriving.  I know I have captured all the shots I need and I can sit back and enjoy the party when everyone arrives.

If I am setting up in a venue or another home I allow 2-3 hours for set up and another hour at least for photographs – once again if need be I will ask the host to pop certain item back in the refrigerator if it is a while before the guests will be eating from the table

5. Editing Software

Most photographers use some sort of editing software as part of their process in creating beautiful images.  I personally use photoshop and have also recently started using lightroom.  These programs are amazing for enhancing your image – they can straighten a crooked shot, add light to a photo that is too dark and so much more.  It really is worth investing in some editing software – all adobe products can be tested for a 30 day trial so you can have a go with them before you buy and there are so many instructional tutorials on the internet as well as wonderful online courses to teach you how to use these tools.

Finally a word on the benefits of an expert…  as a photographer I understand that there is so much more to picking up a camera, pushing the button and instantly you have the perfect shot.  As a stylist I also understand the countless hours that go into preparing all the details that create a special dessert table.  I heard something the other day by a well know stylist about the job of putting an amazing looking image together – the stylists job is in the lead up to the event, planning, creating and pulling everything together.  On the day of the event the photographer and the stylist come together and the stylist helps the photographer to capture their vision.  The photographers job is then in the days that follow – working out which shots are the best and editing them to bring them to their full potential – all of this takes time so please remember this when you look at your photos – it can take a village to create these things so don’t be so hard on yourself!

A professional on the day of the event also takes so much stress off you – if you are the stylist putting together a table it is a great marketing tool to have the amazing photos and if you are the host of the event you already have so much to think about without having to add taking photos in as well!  There is a pretty good chance you will miss the perfect photo while you are finding a drink for your guests!

I do hope this little bit of info has been helpful.  While I have put this post together to give you some basic tips on taking better photos of your table, please understand that learning all you can about how your camera works – its setting and its capabilities – will go a long way to helping you taking a better photo.  There really is so much to learn in the world of photography and I think if you ask any photographer they would say they are constantly learning.  Practice also helps – in this day and age of digital photography it is so easy to set your food up and then start clicking – load them onto your computer and check out what worked and what didn’t and then try again.

I would love to hear from anyone if you have more questions – leave a reply below and I can respond to your answers here and keep the conversation going!

June 26, 2013

Gillian from Crumbs of Comfort Cake Design is back today to share with us more of her wonderful gluten free baking recipes.

I know brownies are one of my all time favourite desserts so the thought of missing out because of allergies or intolerance’s is just not on!  Thankfully the gluten free options are available so here is Gillian’s tried and tested recipe.

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies

This is a very moist and rich chocolate brownie recipe.  It’s very versatile and can be cut and served at teatime or can be prettied up with ganache and chocolate transfers.

150g unsalted butter
250g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, chopped
50g dutched cocoa powder
100ml boiling water
250g brown sugar
50g almond meal
50g rice flour
50g plain gluten free flour
4 large free range eggs

Preheat oven 180*C or 160*C fan forced
Line a deep ( at least 1 inch ) lamington tray with baking paper, allowing it to overhang.

Combine butter, chocolate, cocoa and water in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half filled with simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl.  Using a spoon, stir for around 6 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat

Add sugar, almond meal, and combined flours and combine well.

Using a mixer, beat eggs in a bowl for 5 minutes or until thick and pale.  Gently fold the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Pour the chocolate mixture into prepared lamington tin and bake for approx 25 minutes.

 Notes and tips

If Dutched Cocoa cannot be found it is fine to substitute with regular cocoa.  Note this is NOT the same as drinking chocolate.

If wanting this recipe to be dairy free, substitute butter for non dairy equivelant.  If in Australia, Tablelands do a dairy free spread that has a much more subtle taste as opposed to nuttlex.  For a nut free brown substitute the 50g of almond meal with 50g of gluten free plain flour.

You can add half a cup of nuts of your choice, white choc buds, or cherries to this recipe depending on taste.

Gillian Brown is the owner of Crumbs of Comfort Cake Design in Brisbane, Australia.  Gillian has spent many years working hard developing allergen aware baked goods after she was diagnosed with celiac disease and her daughter was diagnosed with anaphylaxis to peanuts.  Please visit Gillian’s facebook page to learn more about her wonderful business.

June 24, 2013

Happy Monday to everyone on this cold and rainy Sydney day! Hopefully wherever you are it is not as damp as the weather we are having here – lovely if you get to stay inside all day but not so great if you are out in it!

Today I have some beautiful cakes to show you from Thu who is the lady behind Cakes 2 Cupcakes in Sydney.

Thu found her passion for baking early on as a child growing up with parents and family who have always been in the baker business.  She lived her life watching the men in her family bake lovely cakes and breads … and smelling the lovely aromas of freshly baked cakes.   Thu’s passion for decorating blossomed 2 years ago when I decided to make custom cupcakes for her children, family and friends. I always thought they made a unique gift. It has now turned into a passion for making larger cakes like wedding and engagement cakes. I love the girly side of making sugar flowers.

Thu has been running her business professionally for nearly 2 years in September.  There’s been late nights and long hours but she loves it. Juggling 2 kids and running a full time cake business is hard work but she wouldn’t give it up for anything =)

She tells me the most popular flavour with her customers is definitely slated caramel. It’s a yummy caramel cake with a salted caramel ganache filling. Yum!

To see more of Thu’s lovely work visit her here on Facebook or here on her website

June 21, 2013

I spent another great Saturday at The School last weekend picking up more tips and ideas on photography.  The fabulous course was conducted by Brooke Holme whose work I have come to admire.  Not only is she young and pretty (and made me feel oh so old!) she is no nonsense and down to earth.

I know a lot of you are looking for a great course to attend that gives you the basics of photography and this course would be perfect for you.  The group of participants really did vary from very beginner to those with lots of camera and photography knowledge and there was something for everyone.

Brooke was easy to listen to and great to talk to and Megan Morton kept us all smiling with her great stories and her vibrant personality!  The food on the day was provided by Cassie from Fire Cracker Event in Melbourne – she even gave me an amazing recipe for tomato and red capsicum relish that I hope to share with you soon!  The amazing flowers were provided by A Floral Frenzy.

One of the other highlights for the day for me was meeting Jane from Fete Press who was also attending.  It is so lovely to meet someone in person that you chat with via the internet regularly.

Here are a few of my snaps from the day – do visit The School website if you want more info about doing one of Brooke’s courses.

Off to enjoy another weekend now!  Hope whatever you are up to is great!