Saturday, August 4, 2012

Part 2: How to become published food bloggers?

Jake munching on a lemonade apple - the ingredient for the sister vs sister cook off
Continued from Part 1: How to become published food bloggers?

Getting the gig for Real magazine was actually the easy stage,  cooking, photographing and writing, although our passion, threw us a few challenges, mainly due to NEWBORN babies!!!

Through trial and error we have worked out it's better to have a plan of how we want our images to look before we start. We scan magazines, cookbooks and google images for inspiration and either print out, bookmark or sketch a rough idea.  For this shoot we had some specific shots to get so that gave us some direction. 
We have worked out that doing it together is a lot easier than going it alone, there is always someone to brainstorm ideas with, check camera settings, angles and hold bits and pieces whilst the other, aims and fires. 
For this particular shoot Ingrid's dish required shooting straight away whilst mine could be made in advance. The dishes that require a fast shoot are so much easier with a second pair of hands.

We have spent quite a while now musing over our photographic style and that of the blog, there are so many inspirational ideas around its really difficult to hit the nail on the head.  For this particular shoot we stuck to a simple and tight shot for both, showcasing the food. In hindsight we would have liked to mess it up a bit and make the image look like people had just started tucking in. This ironically is quite hard to achieve. Firstly we should have taken slices and scoops out of the food, we didn't for my dish because cutting warm custard doesn't really work and for Ingrid's after a minute or so it had de-flated. I told you it ain't easy!!!

Make apple tea with leftover apple peelings

Another issue we always come up against is the lighting.
After doing lots of research it seems most food bloggers seek natural lighting for food. We always photograph on my back porch (I know, very unglamorous), but it has a transparent roof, so it filters the light, even on harsh sunny days, however when the sun greets us at about 11am its a mission to diffuse and reduce the harsh shadows. We have been known to hang a variety of bedding, sarongs and table cloths from the roof to diffuse and also use a collapsible diffuser that works well but requires a second pair of hands. We did purchase 2 different sets of lights the Lowel EGO and some cheap and cheerful lights with soft boxes to allow us to shoot larger settings or even people. This  also allows us to shoot at night although we do prefer the ease and look of natural light. 

Yep, the bags under my eyes are there, no gel in the kids hair and the kids clothes were what they chose, not what we wanted.

Never work with children or animals don't they say, and especially never try it when your sleep deprived, and you have angry newborns and ratty kids. We shot these at our parents house, one Sunday afternoon as we needed extra hands to rein in the kids, hold babies, rock buggies. We set up a bit of a scene outside with apples, bowls, golden syrup and cute apple tea drinks. The challenging bit was getting our big boys to cooperate and smile! Ingrid shoots me and I shoot her and the mantra is keep it short, sweet and simple. Both our boys are going through a "pulling face" stage and whilst it can be funny, it's not what a national magazine required. The sweetener for the kids was they thought they were actually baking (awww bless them) whilst we yelled (encouraged) instructions at them. On reflection the best shots were the ones where we weren't even looking at the camera and more natural. 

A tip for getting nice shots without the clutter of your home/venue is to diffuse the background. If you are reading this with a point and shoot camera, its unlikely you will be able to achieve this BUT if you own a Canon camera these are the two options we use. One is cheap and cheerful the Canon 50mm F1.8 lens and the other, our first major purchase with Foodopera $$$ is a 100mm f2.8 prime lens. 

Making it fun for the kids and keeping them busy also works well whilst the photographer is freed up to move around the scene getting a variety of shots. The kids shoot would have been no more than 10 minutes per kid whilst we are known to spend ages trying to get the food shots right!    

Like they say though practice makes perfect and every shoot we do, it gets easier and we feel less stressed and more satisfied. Now our next challenge is synchronizing the babies...  

READ Part 1: How to become published food bloggers?

Vanessa's apple custard tart 
as featured in Real Magazine

My tart looks café quality but is easy to make, as well as economical. Custard pies are so homely and comforting. Remember the ones you could buy at the school tuck shop or local bakery when you were a kid?
I love trying to re-create recipes at home that I have enjoyed out and about. I had assumed making custard was time consuming and tricky but now I know better. I would even go as far to say, this is a no fail, baked custard tart recipe.
With a newborn baby and friends around for afternoon tea I thought I would wow my guests with the impression I was coping better than expected. The pie was changed to a tart so I didn’t need dishes or cutlery, my guests could enjoy it straight from the tart tin and devour it with their hands. (The difference between a pie and a tart is that a tart is served out of the dish it's cooked in and a pie is served in the dish it's cooked in). My strategy worked, my friends posted Facebook comments about how well I was coping second time round!

Ingrid's tip: When lining your dish with pastry, allow it to go over the sides, as it will shrink when cooked. Trim excess pastry before adding custard. 

Vanessa's apple custard tart
What you need:
400g packet of frozen sweet short-crust pastry, defrosted
1 egg white, lightly beaten


2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon nutmeg or ground cinnamon
1 cup cream
2-3 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C fan forced (or 200˚C conventional).
2. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use to line the base and sides of a 23cm loose-bottom tart dish or flan tin. Trim off any excess.
3. Bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove baking blind material and brush the pastry with egg white. Return to the oven for a couple of minutes until the egg white has cooked. This helps seal the pastry so the custard doesn’t make your pastry go soggy. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg or cinnamon. Stir in the cream.
5. Arrange the apples into the flan in a circular pattern. Pour over egg custard over, taking care not to disturb the pattern and to submerge the apples.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until custard is set. Check the tart half way through cooking and ensure the apples are still submerged. Set aside to cool.
7. Remove from the tart dish when it has cooled. Serve warm or cold with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or cream.

Prep time: 30mins
Cooking time: 30mins
Serves: 8

Keep pastry cool when working – lest it becomes too warm and will shrink when baked.
* To bake blind, line a raw pastry shell with baking paper, pressing it firmly into the corners. Fill with baking blind material like dried beans or rice, or ceramic baking blind beans. Allow the beans to cool before storing in a lidded container for use again.

On sale early August 
Cook Off #2: 
Sister vs sister: We take on Asparagus