Monday, 12 May 2014

Vanessa Kimbell's food photography course, Northamptonshire - review

Vanessa Kimbell's food photography course
My favourite shot from the day
If a Hollywood director were to build a set for the film, 'The Lives And Loves Of A Food Stylist/Photographer' - stay with me -  it would look exactly like Vanessa Kimbell's house.

From the flourishing kitchen garden, past the gleaming range cooker and on to the rustic wooden dining table, every corner is a visual feast of casually styled prettiness. You could point a camera in almost any direction and be sure of bagging a shot that exudes vintage, artful chic.

Which is exactly what I did last Friday. 

Food photography with Vanessa Kimbell

 I'd signed up for Vanessa's food photography workshop because no matter how often I pored over blogs like Cannelle et Vanille, or bought vintage material, my photos just weren't cutting it.

Vanessa Kimbell, food stylist and photographer
Vanessa in action
Arriving at Vanessa's house in Northamptonshire, I was greeted by Andrea Norrington (our photography expert for the day) and shown into the kitchen. 

food photography course

Vanessa and the rest of the group were assembled around the central island staring at a plate of patisserie and, bizarrely, a tin of Brasso. (Vanessa explained that she's not the tidiest person and the Brasso hadn't quite made it back into the cupboard. I found this fact immensely reassuring.)

And then we were off. 
Food photography course, Vanessa Kimbell
A scene from rural Northamptonshire
 Vanessa had explained that the day would be full on, and it wasn't a lie.

We galloped through an outline of the day and some basics of food styling and then Andrea took over to explain the technical camera stuff (aperture mode, changing depth of field, etc). I loved how she used an old film camera that she flipped open to show us how the shutter and the lens work.

food photography pig in the kitchen

Then it was outside for some staged food shots and working on adjusting the depth of field in a photo. I didn't need to work on this so much, so I wandered happily around the garden, taking shots of prettiness. 

Vanessa and Andrea flitted between groups giving creative direction,"Shoot those doughnuts on the table from above, it's going to look lovely!" (Vanessa), and dispensing advice about when, or whether, to use filters (Andrea). 
doughnuts piginthekitchen
She's right, the doughnuts did look lovely!

food photography course, UKVanessa Kimbell's garden

Back inside, Vanessa produced a pre-bought risotto. Opening the packet to show us, she declared that although it looked less than appetising, ("It looks like the dog just threw up, doesn't it?"), she was sure that she could make it look mouth watering within minutes.

And so she did.

Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa, taking the 'dog' out of dinner
She flitted to the garden for some fresh herbs and flowers, fished out a tablecloth from a box in the dining room, produced a pretty plate and with some seemingly effortless primping, the 'dog's dinner' risotto was transformed.
lilac sugar
Lilac sugar, who knew?

And she did all of that while maintaining a mile-a-minute monologue about what she was doing, why she was doing it, what you definitely shouldn't do and why it's a really good idea to do this. The whole process was fascinating, informative and well, kind of jaw dropping. 

She just selected  a few key props, quickly shuffled them around a bit and there it was, an amazing scene for us to photograph.

lilac sugar

 Vanessa reproduced this hands-on, watch-and-learn display throughout the day in various rooms of her house. And we had plenty of time to roam around and take photos, while asking technical camera questions of Andrea.

 At the end of the day, when I was nearly dead on my feet and my brain was buzzing with info, we had a debrief in Vanessa's study, where she and Andrea critiqued some of our photos and gave suggestions for improvements.
food styling course Vanessa Kimbell

 I left Vanessa's house feeling slightly dazed. Over the space of six hours, she and Andrea had dispensed a torrent of incredibly detailed, useful information.

But there was something else.  

food styling tips

In addition to exuding a passion for her subject, combined with obvious talent and a string of practical tips, ("Go home and don't ever put your camera away again! From now on it lives in the kitchen and you need to use it every day!"),Vanessa also imparted a joie de vivre and can-do attitude that was infectious.

food photography

While I don't think my house will ever look like Vanessa's/the-set-of-a-Hollywood-film-about-food-styling, I did leave her home feeling that styling and shooting beautiful food photographs was within my grasp.

food styling and food photography

And for that feeling alone, Vanessa Kimbell's photography course was worth every penny.

food styling course, Vanessa Kimbell

 Find out more about Vanessa's food photography courses here.

And if you want to see all the pictures I took, view the album on Facebook.

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Baking for allergies - how to substitute ingredients (with the Allergy Adventures baking substitutions sheet)

baking for allergies, how to substitute ingredients
Make your recipes allergy-friendly with some simple substitutions

I recently had the pleasure of working with Hailey from Allergy Adventures on her 'Simple baking substitutions' sheet.

With Hailey at the helm, I joined the Allergy Adventures ship to give 'creative input' along with fellow deck hands, Julia (alimentary bites), and Nia (carrots and maple syrup).

Through many stormy waters did we sail as we were tossed about on the confusing seas of allergy baking.

Waves of doubt crashed over the boat as we looked at the brands we could recommend; are their 'gluten free' oats REALLY gluten free? Are those linseeds for replacing eggs REALLY free from nut traces?

There were many dark nights wrestling with the rudder (running out of ship metaphors now) and fighting with the mainsail.

And I know for a fact that when Julia, Nia and I were snuggled down in the fo'c'sle, Hailey was still on deck throughout many a long night, being lashed by hurricane winds, Storm force 5, Dogger Fisher German Bite.

And yet, after the storm, came the calm.

Because Hailey has produced a kick ass sheet showing how to make simple substitutions when baking, so that recipes are suitable for allergy sufferers. 

The sheet is for aspiring allergy bakers and can also be given to school teachers to help them make cooking classes a bit more allergy-friendly.

So jump into your dinghy and row your way over to Hailey's, where you can print off the Allergy Adventures Simple Baking Substitutions Sheet.

Ahoy me hearties!

And please share the link to the sheet on FB, Twitter and with your child's classroom teacher.

(Why did I use a nautical theme for this post? It has no relevance. Sometimes my fingers just run away with me...)

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