Salad

Modern Rustic.

In December I was very lucky to have been passed the details of an interiors stylist that wanted to do a test. Having assisted a few interiors photographers and having an interest in trying something familiar-yet-new I jumped at the chance and I'm very glad I did.

Antonia McKenzie worked very hard, taking my vague idea of contemporary place settings and hand-thrown crockery and combining it with what I was assured was going to be the colour of the coming year...beige. Now, I was willing to admit that my work thus far has been punchy shadows and bright colours but I loved the idea of challenging myself and doing something quieter. Calmer. I had to overcome my past experiences of growing up in RAF-base houses, painted a safe 'magnolia' colour as standard (YUK) and look at the colour, or lack of, as an opportunity to explore tone and texture instead.  Antonia put me at ease by henceforth calling it 'soft, warm neutrals' instead...which sounded much less frightful.

Bowls

When it came to the food, I knew the theme needed something classic: rustic and full of texture but not too 'comfort food', flavoursome and interesting without too much overwhelming colour. I was suggested (by long-time collaborator Amy Stephenson - Thanks Amy!) to get in touch with Toni Musgrave, a food stylist also looking to grow her portfolio, who took my ramblings and our collective pins on Pinterest and gave Antonia and I lots of elegant dishes to work towards in terms of props and composition.

With all the pieces of the puzzle lining up, test day came round quickly. To my team's credit, we ended up shooting VERY close to Christmas and so were somewhat against the clock as I'd hoped to shoot both aspects of the shoot in daylight.  I had a blast; both Toni and Antonia are brilliant fun and I got the chance to shoot a little further away from the food than I normally do, include a bit of the studio's charm and even snuck in an extra ravioli 'prep shot'.  

I've been enjoying furthering my photoshop skills recently, particularly the various techniques there are to manipulate colour. Shooting daylight (particularly in winter!) has its drawbacks, one of which is the colour temperature varying throughout the day depending on time, cloud cover and occasionally reflections of your surroundings.  I feel like with softer pastel colours you notice these differences more and I took my time with this set of images, looking at them as a group and balancing the colours accordingly so that the series had consistency.

Editing

I must admit I had fun with the process on this one, as it was so different to how I usually shoot and feel as though the team worked really well together! By the time we all sat down for a debrief, cuppa and slice of that delicious cake at the end of the day, floor mopped and hard drive backed up, we'd already dreamed up our next one.  Thanks again to 'The Two Antonias' for being marvellous and making what could have been a challenging brief a joy to shoot as the last day of 2017!

H x

BBQ

As soon as the weather heats up, my mind turns to eating outdoors.  I'd eat all meals outside if I could, and love taking some avo on toast down to the little roof garden on our building. I've never shot on location outdoors personally but was looking forward to the challenge, so I pitched a BBQ test to Georgie Hodgson, who I've been following on Instagram for a while now (@memyselfand_pie, for those out of the know) and crossed my fingers and hoped that Lauren Miller, about-to-be-featured-absolutely-everywhere legend prop stylist, was available to make this a little different from the summer shoots that appear every year.

We were very lucky with the weather as it turned out to be the hottest day of the year, and despite a few hiccups at the beginning (who needs a BBQ for a BBQ test anyhow?! NOT Georgie!) we were done and eating frozen watermelon in the park next to the studio by 3pm. Awesome.


I love working with new people so it was great to get Georgie involved, having never even met before! THE POWER OF INSTAGRAM. That said, Lauren and I have seen each other (in person!) in prop houses, hire studios and random shoot days for well over a year, and had been trying to get something in the diary for months before this opportunity came up - I'm very glad she was able to stay for the whole shoot and we got to see her in action.

This test day also HAPPENED to fall on my birthday, and I couldn't have asked for a better team, better weather (or a better cocktail) to celebrate. Cheers guys!

H x

Trial and Error.

I think it's important to celebrate and document the wins as well as the losses.

I had a morning free and a few props lying round the house a couple of weeks ago and decided I wanted to give a stop motion thing another go.  I've made an attempt previously, shooting some chocolate mousse *mysteriously* disappearing (nom!) but I used daylight and quickly saw the error of my ways. I said to myself; next time I do this, I'm going to give it a proper go...flash, a storyboard, props etc. 

I knew that shooting from one aspect wouldn't be that much of a technical stretch (and, to be honest, I was on my own doing the food and everything so if it didn't work I needn't ever show it to anyone!) so I decided to edit a second aspect into the stop motion below. After loosely sketching out the order of the frames, I clamped everything down as best I could and prepped the area around my camera.  Lucky for me, this salad is one of my favourites and one I used to make for the crews who hired the studio back in my 'Lanterns Studios' days, so I could make it without having to think about it too much! Plus, I finished around lunchtime and ate that whole jar!

Click below for my latest learning curve!

I look forward to giving it another go soon; one with a faster pace, less jarring cuts, maybe more indepth planning...and a stylist to help me out on the food!

I also want to give video a go soon, but that is a whooooole different software ball game!

What software would you recommend for editing video? What do you think I could have done differently in the animation above?

H x

Neon.

Here are the results of a recent test with the brilliantly creative Tamzin Ferdinando on Props and the unflappable Sophie Foot on food styling. 

I've been doing a LOT more tests recently. I think I got a bit bogged down in the 'day to day' for a lot of last year, and the tests I DID do reminded me how essential it is to dip a toe into a bigger creative pool and occasionally swim right out of sight of your comfort zone.

Well, I don't mid admitting a few of the shots I took last year were noticeably dark in tone; rich shadows, inky blue surfaces, tarnished metals and even a test devoted totally to BLACK. I think those winter months really affect me in ways I haven't noticed before. I started up a Pinterest board just after Christmas that was the complete opposite of all of these things; a bright, sugar coated pill to ease the pain of a long, grey November.

A Screenshot of my Pinterest board, which is usually how I start to brainstorm for a test. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE BOARD ITSELF.

A Screenshot of my Pinterest board, which is usually how I start to brainstorm for a test. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE BOARD ITSELF.

I have worked with Tamzin before on our 'Orange and Black' test, and this sort of brief is totally up her street. I'm so glad she was on board and able to bring the slightly abstract pins on the Pinterest board (which featured contributions from all three of us by the shoot day itself) to life in a way that would work for a food shoot - not an easy task. Not to mention all the crafty ideas Tamzin brings to the shoot on the day that make it truly special.

Sophie, who I'd met not long before whilst assisting together on an unforgettable cook book shoot, came up with some ideas for the food that would hold its own against a strong colour palate and went above and beyond in the week running up to the test day to make sure her homemade marshmallows(I know, right?!) were perfect. We also had jars of pickles in mind for the shoot so Sophie reportedly had jars of brightly coloured things stashed around her flat for a week before the test even began!

In the end we settled on variety of pickles in jars, a rainbow Asian-inspired salad with kale, avocado, slivers of pickled red onions (straight from the jar) and butternut squash, homemade marshmallows with pistachio and raspberry crumb (a perfect gift, we decided), and rhubarb ice lollies. We even had time to make a rhubarb Bellini. Yum.

I'm thrilled with how the images turned out and I hope the guys are too (they assure me this is the case) and even more happy that spring has sprung and I get to drop some colour into my growing portfolio. 

More tests next month, including a new cocktail shoot just in time for drinking outdoors - one of my favourite activites.

H x

Food styling: Sophie Foot
Photography: Hannah Hughes
Prop Styling: Tamzin Ferdinando