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Holiday Photography Day 3: Food

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Paperclipping Holiday Photography Tips

This is a post from my 7-Day Holiday Photography Tips, which I sometimes gift to Paperclipping Members around the holidays. I wrote this with December holidays in mind, but I decided to share the food tips post for free before Thanksgiving starts!

Note: I’m not an expert photographer. But I’ve had some relative success with many of my photos and want to share what I know at a time when we most want stunning pictures.

Good food photos require basic photography skills: good composition, good (especially natural) lighting, great angles, etc. Food can be tricky, but hopefully you’ve been practicing the two previous lessons and you’ll be ready to apply what you’ve learned in a new way!

Holiday food shots can vary between close-up’s of Christmas goodies, to a plate of food on a table, to the entire banquet. The type you’re taking will determine your photo settings. Let’s talk about different types of food shots and some of the approaches you can take so you can get photos that capture the magic of holiday food.

Uniform Food Shot

Sugar Cookies
If you’re photographing a uniform picture of a whole bunch of the same cookie, for example, you might try a low f-stop (f/4 or under) and place your focus on just one of those cookies, allowing the rest to fade into blur. With flat cookies, I usually focus on a cookie or item that is close to the foreground, but not at the very front.

With treats that are taller and have more height, I often focus on the front ones, as I did with these candy apples.
Aug10 847
There is no rule that says whether the focus should be in the front, somewhere in the middle, or even the back. I’ve seen interesting shots where it was the back food items that were in focus. Wherever you choose to put it, the shallow depth of field adds just a touch of variety to an otherwise uniform shot and gives it depth.


If you’re photographing a buffet of a whole variety of food, the holiday feast, for example, you might prefer getting more or all of the food in focus. This means you’ll need a larger f-stop. I would try somewhere around f/7, trying to keep the aperture open enough to get light, while still getting the details. This can be a challenge!

Nutcracker Tea Party

In terms of composition, remember, all the same principles apply. There are a lot of competing details in a buffet shot, so you’ll need a focal point. The most important item, which is hopefully also the most dramatic, can be that focal point. It can be the main course, some candle sticks, or the center piece.

With a clear focal point, you can then get partial views of the other dishes surrounding the main attraction, if you want a closer view. Or you can get a wider shot and show the whole bounty.

Nutcracker Tea Party

Large Single Items

Single items can be dramatic. Use natural lighting whenever possible for food, especially single items. Try shooting your item from the same direction we’re used to seeing our food — down at an angle, like this:
Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Seeds

Then try other angles, such as directly overhead.
Cranberry Pear Pie 2
Now how about just above the level of the subject itself?
Cheesecake for my birthday
If you want your food item to look dramatic, fill the screen with it. If your item is petite, and you want to show that it is petite — miniature baked goods are trendy right now — give your item some context. Put the petite item on a plate with a fork. Step back a bit and give it a little space in your composition.

Another idea is to get low, share just a hint of the table setting around the foot item, and capture some bokeh from the tree in the background (note: bokeh are the gorgeous circles lights make when they’re blurred by a shallow depth of field).

Tofurkey for Christmas Dinner


Making Cookies
Don’t forget to capture the action and the reality! Chocolate on the fingers and fingers in the mouth are at least as cute as smiles!

Because this photo captured life in action instead of as a pose, it’s okay that not everyone is in focus.

Aiden, the focal point, is in enough focus for the purposes and story of this picture. The motion blur of the hands creates movement and evokes childhood. Blake blurs in the foreground, enhancing the idea that we’re looking past him and over to Aiden.

Allowing for this amount of blur, Izzy, who took this shot, was able to lower the f-stop and the shutter speed to let more light in.

Observe and Practice

It’s all really about lots of practice and experimentation. That’s why the best tips I can give you for photographing holiday food are to . . .

  • Study photos of food that you love, paying attention to the angles and the composition. Then try it yourself!
  • Understand the basic camera rules of lighting and focus so you know which settings will be best for your shot. If you practiced the challenges of our first two lessons, you’ll do better with your food shots.

Do you want ideas for scrapbooking your wonderful new photos? The Paperclipping Membership is on sale through Sunday, Nov. 30!

CLICK HERE for info!

December Daily Dilemmas – Paperclipping 207

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

paperclipping 207

It’s the fourth day of December. Are you four days into a holiday-themed minibook?

I’ve been finishing up my past December Daily and Merry Days mini-albums and, of course, ran into a few common dilemmas. You’ve probably run into them, too…

  • Making 2 side by side pages look decent next to each other
  • Accidentally missing an event and trying to fit it between the pages you’ve already got
  • Adding just the right details to make a boring page look interesting and complete
  • Making the items you have work with the size/type of page you’ve got in general design terms

Minibooks are the best scrapbooking schools for creativity. They pose unique challenges, which are wonderful opportunities to exercise these creative minds of ours!

Dec Daily Dilemmas 1

I created a video for anybody wanting help with these challenges, or for anyone just wanting a bit of mini-book inspiration. In this video I take you through my process for making pages in two separate December Daily mini-albums…

  • adding in an event to what I had thought was a complete book (resulting in 3 new pages)
  • changing a page that wasn’t working design-wise
  • sprucing up a page that had potential, but so far was boring and didn’t feel like Christmas

This video is for the Paperclipping Members. Click here to learn about a membership!

Dec Daily Dilemmas 7

Dec Daily Dilemmas 5

Dec Daily Dilemmas 4

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My Top Favorite December Daily Pages

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I haven’t photographed many of my pages in these albums. Maybe I’ll catch up on that this season. For now, these are my favorites of the pages I have photographed.

36 Merry Days Nov26 6340

And just to avoid any confusion, I call mine my Merry Days albums. They aren’t daily and they’re not just of December. One of them covers 36 days from November 26th (my birthday) to Christmas day.

36 Merry Days Nov26 closeup

36 Merry Days Nov26 6341

Cute fabric on packaging chipboard. Since the fabric is sheer I only adhered it underneath the sticker where it could be hidden. Love!!

36 Merry Days - inside cover

The photo does not show this off at all. I love it in person. It’s a silver glittered snowflake ornament on a gold screen-printed transparency.

36 Merry Days - inside cover

The ornament was missing a “leg” and it looked weird on the tree. But it’s asymmetry is perfect at the side of a page.

36 Merry Days: 4th_back

Turned this little guy into a pocket page. See the comments card inside the pocket? I covered the other side with paper and added my journaling with the date number.

36 Merry Days- Nov. 27

It’s all the glitter and the three colors that make me happy when it comes to this page.

36 Merry Days- Nov. 27

I attached the die cut paper to a transparency to make it sturdy.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 28

These photos capture the magic of Christmas for me. Great photos stand well on their own.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 29

I did a glittered scalloped page like this in a previous album and it was a favorite back then, too. I had to repeat it. Still love it.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 29

Some of my very favorite Christmas products of all time were these stickers by Creative Memories many years ago. I love how whimsical and “Whoville-ish” they are. I wish I could find current products like this.

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

I enjoyed getting my hands colored with this. Sprays, stencils, stamps, distress inks, embossing. All fun and I love my results. The only thing I don’t like is that the white is a Mister Huey and whenever I touch the page it rubs onto my hands. It doesn’t take away from the page itself, at least.

Wish I had a white opaque spray that didn’t rub off, though!

A few more of my favorite pages are in a video tutorial but I have not yet photographed them. If you are a Paperclipping Member, you can find that episode in the Member’s Area. Look for Paperclipping 183 – Interactive and Dimensional Minibook Techniques.

Not a member? CLICK HERE for info!

Set Yourself Up for Christmas Scrapbooking

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Nov 2012 27

What Didn’t Work Before
Last year I pulled out all of my Christmas stuff and set it up around my workspace. I found that I didn’t use most of it because the tiny bits of time I had to scrapbook didn’t allow for much play. I ended up grabbing the easy ready-made stuff.

What I Think is Working Now
This year I’ve got a new battle plan that already feels better.

I’m front-loading the technique play ahead of time. Basically, I’m task-batching. That way I have my own stuff ready-made when I sit down to scrapbook in December. And if I want to play more later on, I can. But if I find myself limited on time again, it’s okay!

Here’s how I’m batching my tasks up front before I start actually scrapbooking pages…

Nov 2012 10
Mini Reindeer + “25” die cut set * Winter Wonder Snow Man * Carved Ornaments * Joy * Townscape * Hanging Sign * Hanging Sign * Grungeboard * Sizzix Big Shot

Play-Time #1 – Manual die-cutting

Play-Time #2 – Electronic die-cutting

Play Time #3 – Glittering

Play Time #4 – Non-glittered altering

Have you run into the same problem as me in the past? Why not try batching your tasks too? Let me know if you have a task on your list that’s different from mine!

Nov 2012 22

Have fun paperclipping your Christmas!

Shine On,


P.S.> Come back for daily posts this week that will help you prep for your December Daily or other Christmas projects!

Stretch Your Leftover Themed Products – Paperclipping 184

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

paperclipping 184

I don’t buy a lot of themed products except for the Christmas theme — in that case I do buy a lot, at least for me. And that means I have leftovers every year. I bet you do too.

Ever wonder how to make them fit together onto a page?

I’ve just released a video tutorial with lots of tips on stretching leftover themed products, such as Christmas ones, to fit together on your pages.

Here are some of the things I share:

  • A layout concept for when you have only one piece of patterned paper you want to use for a 2-page spread.
  • Principles of color to help you pull together papers with slightly different color families and make it balance across your entire spread.
  • Techniques for making non-themed products fit in with your chosen theme.

Sneak Peek

This episode is for the Paperclipping Members. Are you interested in a new year of scrapbooking with techniques and design concepts that will help you with every page you make? That’s what you’ll get immediately with today’s tutorial, plus more than 180 others!

Click here to learn about membership.

Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek

Get better use of your products and make pages you love! Start your membership today!

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

We got our first Christmas card on Dec. 1 and I decided to put this year’s cards in my mini-album instead of my Holiday Cards Altered Book.

The left page was a fun one to make. Maybe I’ll share the technique in a Paperclipping tutorial at some point. Aiden made the tag on the right and I need to add a couple journal strips for my words. I’m just waiting until I have other journaling to type up so I can print it all one piece of cardstock.

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

I chose two of the cards to add as individual pages to my album. I punched page holes in the envelopes, scalloped the opening of one, and then stuck the photo cards back inside. Because of the page holes, the cards poke out to reveal themselves just a bit and create curiosity.

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1c

All the rest of the cards are inside this third envelope, which I taped to a transparency that is the foundation for the second half of Dec. 1st.

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

2011 December 94

One envelope had this cute wreath on it, so I punched it out with my Fiskars Scalloped Punch and taped it to this envelope.

(Actually, I taped the wreath to scrap cardstock before I punched it to make it sturdy).

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1w

And here on the left is the 2nd half of Dec. 1st. I turned my photos into pockets for my journaling cards. I added these cute Christmas brads by Teresa Collins to the ends of my journal cards and tied some string for easy pullout.

36 Merry Days: Dec. 1

My digital journaling overlays were designed by Ali Edwards. The bottom one came with her Yesterday & Today class last year, but you can purchase the top one — Title and Journal Photo Overlay No. 1 — at Designer Digitals.

Affiliate links where possible.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 28 + 29

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

36 Merry Days: Nov. 28

I think it’s time I catch up on posting my Christmas book pages, which documents much of our Christmas season for 2011.

Most years I buy a something new for the holiday decorating, and this year it was two boxes of these beautiful peppermint-themed ornaments from Martha Stewart. I also finally bought a tree skirt after years of wishing I had one.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 29

One of my most favorite pages from my December Daily 2009 album was a page very similar to this glittered scalloped partial circle. I loved it so much I decided it deserved a redo.

36 Merry Days: Nov. 29

36 Merry Days: Nov. 29

Available Supplies:
American Crafts Twinkling Eyes and Red Suit patterned paper.
Christmas Red Stickles
Barn Door Distress Ink – I inked my scalloped chipboard page red before adding the glitter to ensure even red coverage. The scalloped paper on the left side was a scrap of red paper.
Apron Lace Border Punch by Fiskars
Martha Stewart fine glitter in green – I think it’s Peridot
American Crafts Elf Thickers (numbers and top asterick chipboard piece)
Studio Calico Wood Veneer Asterick – These are on clearance!
Ali Edwards Love You Circle Overlays and Frames

Affiliate links where possible.

Interactive and Dimensional Mini-Book Techniques – Paperclipping 183

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

paperclipping 183

One of my favorite things about mini-books is that they’re the perfect platform for dimension and interactive elements.

Right now many of us are making mini-books: minibooks to document the holidays, and mini-books as gifts (I know there are some of you holed up trying to finish last minute gifts!).

This week I’m sharing a video tutorial that shows six different dimensional and interactive techniques that you can use, not only for the holiday season but for any other subject, as well. Actually, you can use these on your standard scrapbook pages, too.

This tutorial is for Paperclipping Members. If you sign up for a membership now you’ll immediately get 183 video tutorials!

Treat yourself to something special: Click here to learn about membership.

36 Merry Days Christmas Book: Nov. 27

Monday, December 12th, 2011

36 Merry Days- Nov. 27

When Ali shared her page for December Daily on the 2nd, I knew her banner was just what my photo of Christmas lights needed. And since I’ve had a sudden desire to use stars over the last few months (in all of my 15 years of scrapbooking I’ve never cared for stars), I went along and added stars to my page, like she did.

Other than those two elements, my overall page is different. Remember this fabric-covered piece from my last page?

36 Merry Days Nov26 6341

It’s the other side of the bingo card for Nov. 27th.

The foundation of my page is a glittered die cut. To stabilize it, I attached it to an old Hambly transparency with a loose silver flourish design.

36 Merry Days- Nov. 27

Here’s what the back of that looks like:

36 Merry Days- Back of Nov. 27

I think the white back of that XOXO paper is just find so I’m leaving it as is, as you can see in this little sneak peek of the next day.

So how are you doing keeping up with assembling these pages every day? I’m quite a bit behind (though I DO have more pages done that I have shared so far).

36 Merry Days: Nov. 26th

Friday, December 9th, 2011

36 Merry Days Nov26 6339

I started my album on my birthday this year. This is a picture of the vegan cheesecake Izzy bought me from one of our favorite restaurants, where we had gone for my birthday breakfast.

The red and white polka dotted paper is the wrapping paper he wrapped my gifts in. I really like doing that. For me, wrapping paper takes me back to a memory in a way that patterned paper does not.

36 Merry Days Nov26 6340

This is the back side of the cake page. I used an Ali Edwards Day and Month Overlay for my journaling and added the “26.”

36 Merry Days Nov26 closeup

Those presents are from the Martha Stewart Deep Edge Gifts Punch — which I highly recommend! It cut wonderfully through my thick cardstock-quality patterned paper (Imaginisce from a couple years ago).

I added red rhinestones to some of the presents.

36 Merry Days Nov26 6341

I love this little page. It was a great way to balance my two different reds and make everything flow. It’s a piece of textured dotted fabric on top of the back of a vintage bingo card, which introduces the next day.

Observation On My Process

I explained my process for this year last week. Having worked this way for a number of days now, here’s what I’ve observed: my process this year is just right for me! I’m so much happier doing it this way. Believe it or not, I’m finding it easier to assemble my pages by not having them prepped.

I also like working behind a bit and being able to do a couple days at a time. It’s easier for me to get a nice flow with all these different page types when I’m thinking about what’s coming up next.

(affiliate links when applicable).