Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tips and Tricks : Instagram Worthy Food Photography

Have you ever opened your Instagram and scrolled through those food and/or coffee pictures that made you go, dayum, those magazine-worthy pictures must've taken tonnes of efforts to put together. What if I told you, that you (yes, you!) can also replicate those shots with minimal costs involved with some simple hacks. (I have seen people charging up to SGD $100 for a course on how to compose and capture your food photo, let's save the dollars for a cup of coffee for us, shall we?).

And oh, I have taken my shots primarily on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone, if you have those heavyweight cameras and lens, good for you. For this 'tutorial' of mine, we are going to enlighten ourselves with the Art of Flatlay.

1. Towards the Light

As cliché it may sound, the light is indeed your best friend when it comes to getting THE PICTURE (regardless if you are using the camera or the phone). Strategic location when it comes to café, choose the spot that is nearest to the natural light (e.g. daylight/sunlight, generally nearer to the window) and you will find yourself needing to edit LESS on the post-production process.

Bro Tips: That will means, sometimes, you will be sitting somewhere that is less air-conditioned or be more exposed to the sunlight, but oh well.

2. The Flatlay

Also known as taking the picture from the top, the shots are generally taken higher from the subjects. You may or may not have encountered them, but the extremist enthusiast sometimes put their subjects in improbable places like the floor, or be in improbable positions such as on the chair. Flatlay may sometimes be inapplicable for food such as soft-swirled ice cream in cones, if that is the case, take it from the side. No written rules for how YOU should take your picture, let your creativity take you to your sweet spot. 

Bro Tips : People Stare. People Talk. Haters are going to hate anyway. Don't bother them. Unless of course if the café or restaurant owners red-carded you that is.

That is how most of my unedited pictures look like from flatlay-ing
3. Background

The background on where you subject sits on is important. That is, it should carry an aesthetic value on its own without overpowering your subject. Favorite background includes wooden table (with those rustic grains or painted with monochromatic tones), white cloths, and intricate tiles (normally those who love taking their food with the floor - not that I am condoning you to put the food on the floor, but hey!). 

My favorite tone - Wood/Earthy. Note how the background works with the woods, ceramic and the plant decor.
4. Classic Styling

Unless your audience are dead set on minimalism, sometimes you need to spice up your coffee or food shot by giving it some accentuation. You will notice how these props help to empower your picture even better.

i Organic decor
Flower petals, dried flowers, twigs, leaves, fruits, herbs - Some of them are found in the cafés you visit, some Instagrammers bring their own petals and herbs along for photoshoot purpos

ii Signature decorations
Once you are comfortable with your style of instagramming, you will tend to include your personal take to your shots. Trending props include calligraphy artwork and figurines. 

iii Sensible complements
Coffee beans scattered near the coffee cup, kitchen cloth and napkins along those white plates, salt / pepper shaker - These are a few examples of sensible complements that you will generally find nearby your food and works well in the shot.

iv Product Placement
Putting trending branded materials give the picture that extra edge. Magazines such as Kinfolk and Cereal are favorite accompanying printed material. Otherwise, bracelets, iPhones, watches - really, anything that tickles your fancy.

5. The Negative Spaces

Sometimes less is more. You can have all the props ready for you but sometimes it pays to only focus on what you want to focus on your feed. You might want to hide all those chairs nearby your shots (either cropping or darkening) to give it the classic on the table shot. Give breathing room to your subject so that they can be the star of the picture.

Focus given more to the waffle.
6. The Edit

Sometimes (well, most of the time for me), it takes a little bit of TLC and touch up for the picture to turn out near perfect (on your interpretation at least). Always take the shots slightly wider to give room for picture cropping if needed. Adjust the contrast, saturation, brightness, sharpness of the picture if necessary till you get to the adjustment that is pleasing to the eyes. 

Bro Tips : For selective adjustments such as photo healing (to get rid of certain unnecessary patches) and background color tampering, I use free app such as Snapseed and for those filter-philes, VSCO is a popular filter app that gives your picture that extra personality.

Left : VSCO
Right : Snapseed
There you go. there is only so much that the basic can help, the rest really depends on your take on the picture and how it fits organically in your Instagram feed. The Instagrammers that are doing better banked on their feed consistency and that is how you can approach yours. 

Bro Tips : Waffle and Lavender Latté by Fluffed Café & Dessert Bar

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Handcraft Review : CraftbyZeus Bracelets

Beads are symbolic and used widely for prayer and devotion in various religions and civilization, as well as health and monetary denomination in certain countries. In tandem of modern trends, craftsmen reinterpret and remodel the traditional beads to fashionable, trendy accessories that appeal to all age and gender.

Taking inspiration from the exotic South East Asia, CraftbyZeus delivers quality handcrafted pieces, suitable for a complementary fashion accessory. Every handcrafted bracelet are scrupulously decorated with beads made of imported semi-precious stones and stone chips, irregularly coloured and distinctively patterned held by durable beading cord. The beads are accentuated by up to five assorted Tibetan silver and Nepalese charm which gives each bracelet customization flexibility and a sense of individuality.

Premium bracelets by CraftbyZeus
CraftbyZeus offers a selected array of collection. I chose Aegeon from the Veekaro Cobalt Signature because I was drawn to the aesthetics of the darker blue and matte black beads. The other collection such as Enigma of Angkor and Retro Shanghai 1930 speaks to the diversity of the accessories based on themes that suits your personality.

Alternatively, if you feel like having the beads assembled your way, there is a customization option at their website where you can arrange the beads and charms whichever way that tickles your fancy. 

Navigation friendly site to help choose the bracelet of your choice
You will be given an option to specify your wrist measurement to ensure that your bracelet fits perfectly. Each bracelets are made to order, just hit to their website CraftbyZeus for more info. Each bracelet comes with a slick design case, a special wiping cloth and a carrying pouch, suitable for those on the go and about. Loving the Great Gatsby vibe on the case design!

Also, do use the discount code IVAN5 upon purchase. Do let me know which design you choose! :)

In the Blues
Aegeon, Veekaro Cobalt Signature collection
Check out their Instagram and Facebook Page as well
Website : craftbyzeus.com

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Discovering Bangkok : Bangkok Temples

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist and home to more than 30000 temples, it is absurd if you were to visit all of them (kudos if you have checked them all). Converging the list to Bangkok itself, there are more than 100 temples, a fraction of them are frequently visited by the others, am lucky to visit at least 3 of those temples, known as wat in Thailand (and passing by a number of them on the road)

Yaksha, Wat Phra Kaew
Bro Tips : Wat (วัด) is generally a term for Buddhist temples in Thailand. Other variations of the same meaning word are used in Lao, Laos (ວັດ, vadand Khmer, Cambodia (វត្ត, woat).

As Bangkok heat can be slightly unbearable, it is advisable to wear comfortably but decently, as it is only respectful if one is dressed appropriately at the temple compounds (long pants at least below knee level, no tight fitting clothes, no revealing clothing, etc).

I started my journey from Wat Arun (also known as Temple of Dawn) because I was staying at the same side of Wat Arun from the Chao Phraya River. I got there as early as 8.15 am, and I was surprised as to why the place was quite quiet (or maybe visitors don't mind heading there in the late morning).

Intricacy, Wat Arun
The intricate ceramic motives encrusting the iconic central prang (Khmer styled towers) surrounded by four satellite prang makes the Wat Arun compound an artistic attraction. It is a shame that the central prang was under renovation/construction when I visited (which is most likely why there wasn't much visitors that day).

Reconstruction, Wat Arun
We then took a boat ride across the Chao Phraya river (for 3 baht) to head towards two other prominent temples - Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew.

Bro Tips : The ticket comes along with a free bottled water

Cruising through Chao Phraya 
Wat Pho, one of the oldest temple in Bangkok, is known to be the home of the Reclining Buddha (representing Buddha entering into Nirvana). The gilded statue (at 15 x 46 m) is one of the largest statues in Thailand itself (impressive feat). Speaking of feet (pun mode on), do notice that the sole of the Buddha's foot has 108 panels with symbols that Buddha is associated with.

Right opposite of the statue, are 108 bronze bowls, representing 108 auspicious characters of Buddha where visitors can drop coins into them as it is believed that it will bring good fortune.

Somehow, there was more than 108 coins given. And I thought that I missed a few bowls
Aside from the Reclining Buddha itself, the temples also offer Thai massage courses (it is said that the temple is a revered school of traditional medicine and massage) too. Probably my next trip here I shall enrol myself into a course or two.

Bro Tips : The temple complex has much to explore as well. Among the notable attractions include
i) Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn, the Four Great Chedi (Thai word for stupa, where each chedi commemorates the reigns of Rama 1 - 4 during the Chakri dynasty.
ii) Phra Ubosot, central to four phra vihara (vihara - a secluded place to walk or a Buddhist monastery) is the ordination hall for Buddhist rituals. Note the nine tiered umbrella (symbol of the authority of Thailand) over the gilded Buddha statue in this sacred building.
iii) Phra Mondob, Scripture Halls containing a library of Buddhist scriptures.

Many more historical attractions here, well, I guess you should visit this place to find out more. :)

Getting out from the Wat Pho compounds, we then traversed towards the Grand Palace, where Wat Phra Kaew is located. This place, compared to the other two temples compound that we have visited was the most swarmed (particularly from a certain Asian country known for their obnoxious travellers), which made the visit here a tad uncomfortable.

The entrance fare towards the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew is significantly pricier, at for foreigners. The Royal Guards here are more stringent as well, anyone dressed indecent will be denied entry (sarong can be rented at no cost, they do take deposits though). They even have security checking for bag's contents.

The Phra Ubosot in Wat Phra Kaew is the main reason why visitors flocked here, for the Emerald Buddha. Historical record shown that the Emerald Buddha have traveled from Chiang Rai all the way to Bangkok. The Emerald Buddha is so revered that aside from the King, no one is allowed to touch it (or photograph it for that matter).

Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, is also the place where you can find iconic figures that pops in mind when you think of Bangkok, from the golden Phra Si Ratana Chedi to the Phra Mondop library and the ferocious yaksha , demon guardians of the temple.

As your entrance ticket also include the former residence of the King, which is the Grand Palace, do not forget to check that place out too.

Bro Tips : 1.2 km east of Grand Palace is another landmark, known as the Giant Swing, used during an old Brahmin ceremony

Wat Arun
34 Arun Amarin Road, Kwang Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai. 
Accessible via cross-river ferry at Tha Tien Pier. 
Daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 100 baht per entry

Wat Pho 

Sanam Chai/ Maharaj Road, next to the Grand Palace. 
Daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 50 baht per entry.

Wat Phra Kaew

Located inside the Grand Palace, Na Phra Lan Road. 
Daily, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 500 baht per entry.