During the holidays, end of the 2016 everyone was picking up a core word on Instagram for the New Year that would perhaps be the focus for them for that year. There were ‘kindness’, ‘patience’, ‘acceptance’, ‘balance’ and so on. I thought about it. There were many things to focus on but the one thing I’ve been lacking yet striving to attain was ‘conversation’. Interaction with my friends and followers on social media. There was just not enough time. Ever! In real life, I love people. I love chatting…I love hearing stories. I can go on laughing with my friends. But in sharp contrast the place which I love the most (Instagram), had the most amazing people and beautiful friendships blossoming for me but there was no time. So this was constantly on my mind when I decided to do a Q &A with the wonderful people who like and comment on my posts. Assuming (too early) that I would have a peaceful week since it’s Easter Holidays for the twins and I have tried to finish my pending projects ahead in time just so I could take a break, I thought this was my chance to give back to the community who have inspired me at every step on my journey. Well, the peaceful break, never happened. Random campaigns, an interview, back and forth emails, sick kids…blah blah blah. Finally, I’m putting it together today.
When I started looking at the questions I realized I would need to perhaps write several posts to explain everything. For the moment, I’m breaking up the topics into two posts. First, about my work..recipes, styling, photography, inspiration and the second one about my professional relationships, brands, audience etc. Keep an eye out for part 2 around the weekend.
Before we begin, let me give you a little background about myself. Before I started my blog, I was a part of the banking industry for many years. We moved countries and I was home with two toddlers, no friends in a totally new environment. Feeling quite lonely and a bit lost, I found my happy place on the Internet whilst re-discovering my passion for baking and the creative arts. My blog is synonymous to my stay in Australia. So while, like many bloggers I was perfecting my baking skills and teaching myself photography(which itself is a hell lot of work), behind the scenes a lot was also going on in my personal life. I was teaching myself to drive, to navigate my way through an unfamilar city, to get used to a different lifestyle, to help my kids adjust to pre-school. It wasn’t easy! But my blog was my therapy. A place which was not only a creative outlet but where I could connect with beautiful humans from around the world. The bottom line is that I had limited resources and had to work on a budget. Starting life from scratch meant we had to save up to buy furniture, electronics and indispensable things let alone buy props and camera equipment. The good part was that I could see a future with the efforts I was putting in (because I was getting noticed) so I wanted to make it work. What do you do in such a situation? I learnt something very useful in my banking days. Strategy! Assess your situation and make the most of what you have.
With that in mind, here are your questions and my answers. (Please pour yourself a cup of coffee. I don’t want you to go to sleep).
Which camera do you use? What are your favourite lenses?
I use a Canon 5d Mark iii since August last year. The two lenses I use all the time are the Canon 100 mm f2.8mm Macro and the Canon 50 mm 1.4 prime lens. I use the first one slightly more because I like close up shots of the food I make and this lens is amazing for those mouthwatering shots with a great bokeh. Prior to this, I was using a Canon 60D and two lenses that came with the kit. This camera was a Christmas gift from my husband…he spent his bonus on it. And no, I don’t take phone photos especially of food.
What is your lighting and camera setup?
I always shoot in natural light. And 95% of times I shoot with a tripod. It makes a huge difference if you ask me as the images are sharp and it allows me to create those action shots with ease. Regarding my setup, I shoot inside boxes. That’s right! Both eye level shots and overhead scenarios. I did not want to invest in equipment until I knew it was worth the investment and I figured out that a wooden box worked fantastically for me as it naturally created shadows for my style of photos which primarily is moody and dark. Moreover, natural wood has a rustic appeal that makes for a great background as well. If you look carefully at my images, you will notice it. (Look at the image below)
Do you own a lot of props and backgrounds?
No way! When we moved to Sydney, all I could carry were a few plates and spoons. Not even a dinner set. So I chose a few props over time that I figured could be used in multiple ways. I use the same vintage plates/ trays sometimes standing upright and sometimes upside down and sometimes layered. My backgrounds as mentioned earlier are wooden boxes and vintage trunks. I use the various sides (the lid, the sides, the base) to create a different effect each time.
When did you start taking photos? Where do you get your inspiration?
I starting working on my styling and photography skills pretty much the same time as I started the blog (about 4 years ago). It was easy to figure out that posts that looked great were drawing in more traffic. It was a gradual but progressive process. An important thing I’d like to share here is that I spent more time reading up and practicing food styling than I spent on taking photos. Styling and photography go hand in hand but most often people look at a photo and exclaim ‘Brilliant photography’. But if the colours, textures, backgrounds or placement of your main subject is not in sync, even the best lenses wouldn’t create a stunning image. Styling has a lot to do with the way the eye travels around an image and there are ways to play around with that.It’s a massive subject by itself (one that I even started writing an E-book about last year but never got to finish). Phew! I’ll probably do a separate post if anyone is interested.
Inspiration is everywhere. I find them in nature, fabrics, art, people, everywhere. Perhaps owing to my Indian heritage, I have a crazy love for colours. That is the first thing usually that catches my interest.
What sparked your passion for making cakes in particular?
I like creating and I like precision, no matter how long or elaborate the process is. Cakes are the perfect creative outlet for me. And everyone else likes cake too so it’s one happy party.
What do you do with your baked cakes?Do you sell them? Do you have a separate budget to buy the ingredients? How do you come up with flavours?
If you ever saw my kitchen, you’ll probably gasp in surprise. It’s like a mini test kitchen where so much in happening. I think I was born to experiment. I’m a risk taker constantly thirsting for adventure and my kitchen is no exception. Flavours are mixed, re-mixed, tested, tasted but most of all I go by my instincts. At some stage we all develop that kind of culinary instinct that tells us that Earl Grey and Milk chocolate are the best combination ever:-)
I don’t sell cakes. I make them sometimes for friends who are having a birthday or a special occasion. Most often after a shoot, I’d call a friend and pass on the cake or if it can be frozen, I freeze them (though rarely). I do presently have a large circle of friends(Yay!) so my cakes have no problem in finding a home. Most importantly, I take photos of cakes for the stock agencies I work for. In most cases a photo of a cake will fetch you more money than the sale of the actual cake.
Ingredients come at a price so yes, I have a budget. If you notice, I mostly use my 6 inch pans for layer cakes. There is a reason for this. The smaller the pan, the lesser the quantity of ingredients you will be using. Most often the recipe of a single layer 10 inch (or sometimes even 9 inch) cake will give you 3 layers in a 6 inch pan. And the size hardly matters in photographs. You could easily control that with the angles you shoot at/with.
Your images are instantly recognizable. Do you find this restrictive? Is it hard not to be influenced by others?
Not at all. In fact, I’ve worked very hard to reach that stage where I have my own unique style that can be recognized by others. We all start out by taking inspiration from others. We like someone’s work, subconsciously that stays with us and we try to recreate that style. Over a period of trial, error and success, we discover what works for us. The key is to go on experimenting.
What are the must-haves when you are serious about photography?
A good tripod and Adobe Lightroom. Post processing is equally important as much as capturing great shots and creating an amazing subject are. There is so much that can be fixed during the editing process whether it’s exposure, clarity, an odd angle or an imperfect frosting.
I hope I’ve been able to add some value to your questions. Please feel free to leave your comments below if you wanted to know more about something in particular.
Yogurt Strawberry Eton Mess
10-15 Meringues, crushed (store bought or home made)
1 cup Greek Yogurt
10-15 fresh strawberries, hulled, roughly chopped
Remove 4-5 strawberries, crush with the back of a fork till juices flow out. Leave aside.
In serving glasses, place a few meringues, add a dollop of yogurt, top with strawberries and the crushed strawberry juice. Repeat. Enjoy.