Saturday, 24 January 2015

An Intro to Blog Photography: Shooting in Manual

Hi everyone! So today I have a little photography post that I put together because I felt that the blogging community is always eager to learn more about blog photography. I know there are plenty of guides out there for manual shooting, because I've tried to use them before, but I wanted to create a post that was from a more 'blogger' point of view. I used to get so frustrated with the online explanations of Manual out there, that I thought I could explain it in a less jargon-y way. I am not claiming to be an expert by any means, this is simply everything I learnt from nagging at my Photographer boyfriend by asking stuff like 'what do I have to set it to to get this' and also him just generally being around a lot when i'm trying to take a good picture of my carrot cake. 

So, without further ado: Manual, from a blogger's perspective. Toggle your camera round to the 'M' setting and lets go!

Ok, so the the holy trinity of good blog pictures, in my opinion, consists simply of these three settings: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. Seeing as I only have one camera, I couldn't take a photo of the camera with the camera, so here's a nifty drawing of the display that I see on the screen of my camera. You can also see these things inside the viewfinder of your DSLR, (and these settings will be available for point-and-shoot cameras that have a manual mode.)

The general idea is that you must get this holy trinity in balance in order to get pretty pics, based on the amount of light able to get into your camera through the lens. (Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.) Luckily unless you're shooting on a really old camera (I'm talking before digital was invented) there is a nifty little thing called metering that helps you work this out. That's the bar that looks like that thing below.

If you are shooting on a DSLR you probably have a spinny wheel on the top or side of your camera for adjusting this (as well as a button that looks like this:  +/-  that helps you switch between them.) My camera also has a separate button for adjusting the ISO. If you are shooting on a bridge or point-and-shoot, you might have to click arrows in order to adjust them. 

Annie Pancake // Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO Guide

I'm going to start with Aperture, as to me, this is the most important part of taking a photo. Aperture, also called f stop, controls the amount of light that gets into your camera, but also a thing called depth of field. I took a few pics to explain what I mean by depth of field, but generally those pictures of lipsticks where the background is gloriously blurred out is a result of adjusting the depth of field. The idea is that the bigger the number, the more detail the camera picks up. Therefore, to get that crisp foreground and blurry background you would need a low depth of field.

I added a new lens to my camera (a 50mm Canon lens) which gives me a super low aperture (or 'F - Stop') in order to get super blurry backgrounds of wonder. You can go really low, such as F/1.8, that makes it super soft, however it is sometimes better to shoot a little higher, like F/2.8. It gives the same effect but gives a little more clarity to your lipstick, cake or whatever it is in the front of your picture. If you don't have a lens like mine, your aperture might not be able to go down as low as mine. Usually, the one that came with your camera will be able to go to something like f/3.5, which should still create the same effect, to a lesser degree.

Below you can see the contrast between the 'low' and 'high' aperture settings using these fantastic shoes for an example.The bigger the number the more of the image we get to 'see'. (you can see that there is a lot more detail in the fur in the background of 'high' and more of the other shoe is in focus) Again, check out my hydrangeas in front of the window:

Annie Pancake// Aperture Guide Annie Pancake// Aperture Guide

To me, aperture is the most important part because it defines how your image will look. For my outfit photos, Martin keeps the aperture low for close ups (pretty, crisp pictures of handbags or whatever) and raises it for full body shots to make sure that I don't get them onto my computer and realise I'm half blurry. ;) To change the aperture on my camera, I have to hold down the (+/-) button and scroll the wheel on top of my camera to raise or lower the number.

Following on from aperture, we get to shutter speed. This is the next step I take when composing an image. If you check out the 'metering' bar, you will probably see that the arrow on it moves around when you move through the aperture numbers. The idea is that you keep the arrow as close to the middle as possible, with a few bars leeway either way. If you're raising the aperture, the arrow is likely to move to the left. This means your image will turn out too dark, moving to the left will make it too bright and washed out. For this reason, I generally keep my aperture low, but depending on your light, you are probably going to have to compensate for your choice of aperture with shutter speed.

The lower the speed, the blurrier the photos. This isn't always a bad thing, for instance: spinning rides at a fairground, a racecar zooming past, fireworks leaving trails of light behind them, car headlights zooming around a city. For these you either need to be pretty good at standing still, or own a tripod.

According to Martin's tutor at Trent, a super professional photographer learns to keep a camera steady at "1/60" (this is how shutter speed is displayed on your camera - One sixtieth of a second) in his bare hands. It's safe to say that I keep mine between 80 and 100, in order to to make sure my pictures aren't blurry. When it's super bright, you can raise it up much higher to compensate that metering, but I generally don't go below 80 to avoid blurry photos. Again, if you cycle through the shutter speeds, you will see that little arrow move around. Again, the goal is to get the arrow pretty close the the centre. To adjust shutter speed on my camera, all I do is have to move my little wheel on the top of my camera from left to right.

Finally, onto ISO. ISO does two things, first of all, it makes your photos lighter or darker, helping to compensate that little moving metering arrow, This sounds like a great thing, so you should use ALL the ISO, but it sadly can also add grain to the pictures.(By grain I mean think of how crappy your iphone pics look in your bedroom at night compared to in the day.)

The higher the ISO, the more light, but the more grain. The lower the ISO, the more 'crisp' and grain-free the photo is, but less light. For this reason I aspire to keep said setting at 100, which is the lowest it will go on my DSLR. Of course, life isn't always that easy and sometimes I have a super low aperture (remember, more light) and the lowest shutter speed I can achieve without blurriness, but that arrow is still not really hitting the middle and my photos will still come out dark. (This is usually when say, the sun is setting or I'm in a room with generally less light.) In this case, I will up the ISO in order to help my camera suck in some more light, at the expense of a bit of clarity. I say this, but usually my photos can comfortably go up to 800 or maybe even 1600 without looking awful, but the general aim is to keep it low.

Hopefully, all that rounds it off quite nicely! I hope I wasn't TOO patronising, I was just trying to come at it for someone who knew nothing beyond the Auto setting. I actually loved writing this so let me know if it actually made any sense/if you learned from it, and if you have any questions I will do my best to answer them! You can comment down below and I will strive to answer, but for a probably more prompt response, you can tweet me @anniepancake!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

1 Kitchen Organisation Tip You Should Kick off The Year With

Annie Pancake // Kitchen Organisation You Should Start The Year With
Okay so maybe It seems odd to be posting this nearly a whole month into the new year, but it doesn't really matter. It's not an entire lifestyle change, It's something I helped my mum do just before I returned to Nottingham this year, probably procrastinating from my Christmas work. Still, it seemed like a really simple idea that didn't take a fantastic amount of time, and satisfied that wonderful glorious place in my heart that likes lists and crossing them off. Not to mention that it's very much the satisfaction of spring cleaning without the actual cleaning, and with more eating. (sadly no Spring here, either) 

So what is it then? Well, it's as simple as this. Obviously overcome by the volume of dried beans and leftover Christmas food, my mum set about cataloguing the edible contents of our kitchen. Not in any fantastic and complex way, simply by 'fridge', 'freezer', 'cupboard' and 'pantry', logging each variety of weird bean or soup, (and adding a tally for any multiples)

 I'm sensing that some of you will be failing to see the point of this, so here it is. The goal was to use up all the *random crap* you buy that gets pushed behind the other *random crap* that you bought the week after buying the first round of random crap.

I'm serious when I say that, whilst doing the more strenuous foraging in cupboards to save my mum crawling around on her knees, I realised that there was easily enough food in there to last them a month. A month of some fairly perculiar dishes but a month regardless! It's a good way to figure out what you've got - especially when it's *some* but not all of the things for Mexican night or Greek night, and therefore a way to clear out the cupboards and stop buying duplicates. It meant that all they had to buy was the fresh components of the meals, and clear out space in the cupboards.

I liked it so much that I decided to do it at uni too. Mine was considerably smaller (and I know most students apparently only have a tub of gravy granules and a tin of beans in their cupboards anyway) but I still remembered I had stuff like Quorn nuggets (lazy-day-dinnertime-of-the-future score!) and peanut butter. Particularly as a student, my food has a limited life - I don't want to throw a million things away when I go home/move out, so this was good to stop me wasting money on things. It also helps because I honestly love doing a food shop (I look forward to it) and I get a bit carried away and usually do one before I need to.

If I lived alone, I would magnet this to the fridge so I could give it a thrilling little strikethrough every time I used something up, but I'm scared my housemates will laugh at me (and they probably will now that this is viewable by the public!)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Cobalt Coat and Cosy Monochrome (Underneath)

Annie Pancake // Cobalt Topshop Coat and Red Tartan Layers

Well it's about time we had a fashion post! After missing my scheduled outfit post for last week due to all that wind, rain and sleet we had (and floating around in a miasma of uni work and outside-of-uni work) I finally nipped out to get coffee with Martin and snap some outfit pics. It came just at the right time, as I bought this ***amazing*** coat from Topshop on Friday, convincing myself I needed it because, we're all totally within our rights to buy a new winter coat every year (never mind that I never seem to actually get rid of any coats) and well it was £20 cheaper than the one I bought last year so really I've saved  money. 

I was 100% reeled in by the amazing Cobalt colour of this coat (so much 'C' alliteration!) and kept there by the fact that its a pretty classic, 60s-ish shape, rather than the trend of 90s-shaped everything that is out there at the moment. What I actually found pretty weird about this coat is that it's Scuba material, which I swore I hated when it was made into skirts. Now it's a bright blue coat with cute little rolled up sleeves and massive pockets, I love it. I haven''t been caught in the rain in it yet though, so I'm curious as to whether it will soak up all the rain, or keep me dry. I honestly can't help myself around blue and I think it looks sooo cooooool with my red scarf. The day I tried it on I was also wearing red Mary-Janes which is probably what completely sold me on it.

Annie Pancake // Plain Fabrics with Gingham Layering

Underneath said coat, and what I charged around in the studio in was my black Hearts & Bows smock that I wore being a witch , over the top of another smock-ish dress from Vintage Style Me. I love how the sleeves show through underneath. I feel kind of sorry for this dress because it's only ever made it to the blog layered under something else, but I do actually wear it on it's own! It's time will come in the warmer months, I am sure. Also, upon visiting their site to find you the link I have now fallen in love with a glittery gold (smock) dress that I want. <3

I paired with it my white beret for that monochrome vibe - I honestly wear a beret every day these days - and my Tatty Devine necklace, from Martin, just because *I love him*. I got to use my fancy sparkly bag from Urban Outfitters because I had less than a small mountain to take to uni, so I could actually fit my stuff into it. I wore brown boots because I am really fashion savvy and know that brown is the perfect complementary colour for black. Also it was icy and I was thinking of warmth and comfort.

 I love how my hair stands out against outfits, I think the purple has been really fun. I will most likely switch back to orange though, just because it seems more spaghetti-y and tomato soup-y which for some reason is a good quality in a hairdo? I feel like the purple seems to fade in my hair (as in, even before I wash it) and the colour is a lot less even than the orange. I think I could get a better effect if I just left it on for longer but ain't nobody got time for that.

Annie Pancake // Plain Fabrics with Gingham Layering

In other hair news, I am full-on loving doing my hair in these twisty plaits. I literally just divide my hair like you would for plaits, then divide each side into two sections and 'twizzle' them round eachother. Let me know if that needs better explanation and I'll like, make a 1 minute video. Or a GIF. haha.

Also, I took this slightly cringy pic because I was feeling that the Vintage Style Me dress needed a little more love. ;) After this I went and ate maple bacon pancakes (yeah, I know I said coffee but c'mon. Pancakes after 11:30 pm is unheard of in most places) and then squirrelled off to work on my newest illustration brief. I'm actually enjoying posting *less* outfits on the blog, it means I can pinpoint a really good one to share, and I actually have more to say about it. I feel that by scheduling fashion posts I am making an actual *point* of it, rather than quickly snapping some picture because 'oh crap I haven't posted in  5 days'  I'll be trying to stick to one fashion related post a week, but let me know if that sucks!

Annie Pancake // Cobalt Topshop Coat and Red Tartan Layers

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Bloggers Should Read Blogs

Annie Pancake // Why We Should Read Blogs

So, I've been thinking about this post for ages, and I finally pencilled it in to my schedule this year! Today I'm here to tell you all why, as bloggers, we should read blogs. 

It's a tough one, because as an artist i'm always tempted to look at others' work to see 'how to do things', and if you're not careful, you end up with a piece of artwork not fantastically original. In the same sentence, the whole first stage of making a piece of art, or design, etc, is research. Now our lecturers are always chanting the war-chant against Pinterest and Behance and to some extent I agree. Particularly when you roll up to the studio with a artfully crafted moodboard, only to see that half of it is also on someone else's moodboard. There is only so much, and what you see daily is what is popular. It's what everyone already likes.

Annie Pancake // Why We Should Read Blogs
This debate carries over to the blogging world. Of course it does, bloggers are still creatives, even if you can't draw, or paint a picture. I know there are a lot of bloggers out there who, the bigger and better they get, the less time, understandably, they have to sit and read the blogs.

But I have to bring us back to the beginning for a minute, when you decided to start up your blog. I've got a fairly good idea that most of us were sitting at a computer, quietly accumulating blogs that we admired before we turned round and thought 'hey, I like what they are doing, I want to do that too'. I don't think any blogger has just decided to start up a blog, without having read at least one or two of them previously. Now I know that's a pretty basic argument, but I really feel like it's that simple. 

These days, with around 6 years of blogging under my belt, It's not really being inspired to start a blog any more, but the principle is the same. Reading blogs inspires me to get writing, and 'doing'. 

I used to be super paranoid about reading blogs, there was a certain anxiety attached to that little Bloglovin number, and I used to try and read them as much as possible. Nowadays, I just read when I can, once a week, and I flick through to the ones that interest me. No only that, but there are lots of blogs I don't follow, but I do end up clicking their twitter link virtually every day.

 Like my artistic research, we all need prompts. Rarely, if ever, does anyone simple 'think of a thing' and then do the thing. The skill is in bouncing ideas off other people, letting your own skill and talent grow from the tiny fleck of inspiration in somebody else's work. Reading blogs makes me a better blogger, and I absolutely think there is value in making time for reading, as long as we let our own creativity lead. 

I'd really like to know your perspectives on this: whether blogger or non-blogger!

Annie Pancake // Why We Should Read Blogs

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

In Nottingham // 200 Degrees: Cosy Artisan Coffee Fix

Annie Pancake // In Nottingham // Cosy, Traditional Independant Coffee Shop | Typography, Graphic and Spatial Design

So Sunday was my 'blogging' day, setting up some posts for the week - photographing and writing and scheduling and what have you, and I was panicking about a little section I've been wanting to introduce monthly or so this year based around *lovely things* in Nottingham. I am hoping this will span artists, crafters, bloggers and places. I was panicking because I have a nice Illustrator I want to feature, but I didn't want to post it so close to my post on the fantastic Verena Herbst, and Mine and Martin's planned date had to be cancelled! Then I remembered, on the theme of dates, that we'd gone for a little coffee break at one of the newer coffee establishments in Nottingham - 200 Degrees - just before Christmas. We also went again literally on Saturday, so the general experience is fresh in my mind. ;) 

Annie Pancake // In Nottingham // Cosy, Traditional Independant Coffee Shop | Typography, Graphic and Spatial Design
Both times we have been lured in to this gorgeous coffee shop have been in the waning sunlight, following some errand or shopping trip in town, and as a result these pictures are kind of 'moody' and ahem 'vintage' looking. (Read: noisy) although to be honest, the place isn't the brightest of establishments even in the daytime. That isn't the point though! This place has this fantastic mix of hipster-coffee shop typography everywhere that plays against the gorgeous old interiors of the building. I say this over and over, but growing up in Coventry, I never cease to be amazed by the presence of history everywhere, the thrill of little original features. 

Annie Pancake // In Nottingham // Cosy, Traditional Independant Coffee Shop | Typography, Graphic and Spatial Design
One thing that this place is recognised for, amongst all that dark wood, nestled in the fireplace, is a neon 'fire' that just fits the aesthetic perfectly. Of course I've never managed to get a picture of it as they have tactically placed two cosy arm chairs and a table beside it, and some lucky pair are always snuggled up beside it. Aside from the design, though, the place actually makes great coffee. I am not speaking as a connoisseur by any means whatsoever. All I can say is that the coffee is distinctly nice, in comparison to, say, your average Costa. There is a kind of smoothness to it that I am sure an expert somewhere could give me a reason for and then tell me all of it's bass notes, including a hint of strawberry or something. This is probably because they roast the coffee themselves, so I guess all of their coffee is specifically *200 Degrees Flavour*. As well as that they have a barista school upstairs which look so. cool. you guys. 

Annie Pancake // In Nottingham // Cosy, Traditional Independant Coffee Shop | Typography, Graphic and Spatial Design

It doesn't seem to be just me that likes the place, either. We got a seat last time and ended up sharing a table with two other sets of people. I mean, it was Saturday, but I feel like maybe a small downfall may have been a little bit of miscommunication between floor staff and Barista. What I mean is that, there were a lot of people wandering around with coffees and nowhere to sit. Still, it quietened out and we got our table back. I guess it means it's good. 

Martin and I have a little collection of go-to coffee shops that we like to go for a quick date - to actually spend time looking at eachother and talking properly, not just murmuring across computer screens etc! Of course, we still do do that, but it is nice to make a point of it, and only spend a few quid. 200 Degrees appealing to my designer sensibilities and has quickly made its way onto this little list! If you're in Notts and looking for a place to chill, this is one of the favourites. Providing you can get a seat. ;)

||This post was not sponsored even though it kind of sounds like it is - I just really like it in there! All opinions are my own.||

Annie Pancake // In Nottingham // Cosy, Traditional Independant Coffee Shop | Typography, Graphic and Spatial Design

Saturday, 10 January 2015

January Sale Purchases and Spendin'

Annie Pancake || True love is matching Initial Mugs

Ok, so the best thing about birthday money is that you can go and buy all the stuff you didn't get from your list afterwards right? Right. 

Except WRONG. 

Wrong, when your birthday is super close to Christmas and you dare not spend a single penny for fear you'll have two of whatever it is you want come Christmas day. Ok, so this might have actually happened to me this Christmas if I had thrown caution to the wind, but I was good and post-Christmas I finally got to spend my Birthday/Christmas money. I am a sucker for M&S and I descended immediately upon their Christmas Eve sale for things I knew nobody could have bought me - such as these typographic-fabulous mugs (and the bedspread they are resting upon). True love is cheesy matchy-matchy initial mugs. Tru-er love is cute photos slurping from said mugs. (Don't worry, before you all vomit, I haven't.................I'm working on it) 

Annie Pancake || Ikea Bargains

However, one holy grail sale that must be investigated above all other's is Topshop's christmas eve sale (they tell you it starts on Boxing Day but it's all liesss!) where I found these gorgeous bras and their matching pant-counterparts. Not much in the bra department is actually a huge plus where sales are concerned. They are so beautiful and vintagey and bright. 

Finally I had a nice little IKEA spree whilst I could still reach one. I have this feeling that Coventry is the only place where IKEA is walking distance from the city centre. I picked up some beautiful little cacti - c'mon, where are cacti better value than IKEA. I also got some plain unscented candles - sort of for ambience but mostly I was hoping a burning flame might make my room a bit warmer (!) and a faux sheepskin that I have been after for ages. Now I actually have to not let the rest float away into oblivion like birthday money so often does. I have my eye on a scanner... 

Annie Pancake || Sheepskin Rug Annie Pancake || Delicate Topshop Bras

Thursday, 8 January 2015

How To Be Parisian - Wherever You Are // A Book Review

Annie Pancake // How to Be Parisian (Wherever You Are) Book Review

Ever get that feeling where you don't know how to feel about something? This book gave me that. I'm determined to read more this year, so I'm bringing my 'review' of this book to you. I'm not going to discuss the underlying, interwoven themes of the books I read, but I will be telling you what I thought of it and whether you should read it.


Herein lies the issue! I'm so confused about this book. I asked for How to Be Parisian, Wherever You Are (by Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Anne Berest) for Christmas, after briefly glacing the cover somewhere, thinking it looked cool, seeing it on a friend's instagram and getting a recommendation from her, too. When I asked for it I had no idea what it was like inside - this was judging-a-book-by-it's-cover at it's finest - but I added to the Christmas list thinking that I may as well, seeing as I wanted to read more next year. 

First off in my review - it's gets loads of points for design. I love the cover, down to the lowercase author's names on the front, and the beautiful photography. It looks gorgeous in instagrams which has got to be half the point of the seamlessly clean, white aesthetic. It has that effortless chic which I guess is the point - to emphasize that Parisian aesthetic.

The content was strange. It was a collection of memories, rules, short stories, that kind of make you, the reader *the Parisian* - which I guess is also the point! I liked it because there were lots of lifestyle tips - 'Parisian style' tips, recipes, and the best way to host a dinner party, for example. There is an air of elitism about it but then, I suppose that could, again, be the point. You got the feeling that compiled within were all the things you ought to do, an entire way to live your life, based on the Parisian ideal - sipping coffee and reading a book in a streetside cafe - as if we don't have work and uni and *life* to go to. Still, the book also seemed to identify that The Parisian Woman was not this heavenly ideal  - she too skips the gym for cocktails and forgets to take her make up off, but that almost seemed to be aspirational too. I got the kind of feeling that cheating, smoking and drinking too much was seen as simply part of this lifestyle, that was required of you to reach their ideal.

Annie Pancake // How to Be Parisian (Wherever You Are) Book Review
Perhaps my conflict is that I didn't similarly aspire to this ideal. I don't drink particularly regularly, I've never smoked, I get annoyed if I forget to take my make-up off, etc. Similarly, I couldn't identify with the repeated vision of 'The Parisian Woman' who was slender and wore oversized t-shirts that seductively slunk off the shoulder. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book, I read it from 'the outside' of this world, without a fantastic amount of desire to be inside it. More of a strange fascination. 

As for whether I'd recommend it.. I finished the book in about three days, which is unusual for me. I couldn't quite stop going back to it. I'm sure it was helped by the fact that I was on holiday and gleefully ignoring my work, but I did enjoy reading it. I think. I'd like to recommend it, in order to see if anyone else felt weird after reading it! Personally, I probably won't dip back into this book, except to have a better look at the recipes. Have you read it? Is it just me being a weirdo or does anyone else feel strange about this book?

I'm not sure such a vague book review was the greatest choice to kick off a new 'feature' on this blog, but there we are, that's just how it went! Let me know if you liked this post, as something a bit different!