Going Digital – 5 Essential Photography Tips

I’ve had a DSLR camera for over six years now (previously an Olympus E510, I switched to a Canon 60D last summer). Though I’ve made some effort to get to grips with the more technical side of things, I’ve tended to just go for it and see what works best when I’m actually taking photos.

Right from the start, I have avoided sticking my camera on auto but wouldn’t say I’ve always known precisely what I need to adjust to get the results I want. There have also been (disappointing) times when a photo is nowhere near as good as I’d expected it to be once it’s up on the computer screen. In a bid to improve and get more out of my camera, last month I attended a digital photography workshop.

Generously hosted by the Copthorne Hotel in Sheffield and Pandora of Going Digital, the session was aimed at getting us ‘off auto’ but was equally suited to myself as a not-beginner-but-could-do-better. The workshop covered all of the basics such as depth of field, exposure, ISO, and so on, but the value for me really lay in discovering how these functions interact with each other. We were also shown the shortcut buttons for our specific camera brands – I’d really recommend taking a moment to learn these as it makes altering the settings on the go a much more manageable task!

Operating in aperture-priority mode is ideal as it gives you a lot of freedom and control over most of the camera’s settings. Most importantly, you can be more responsive to fast changing situations and different conditions than in manual mode. I wanted to share here the five most important elements in setting up your camera but also some tips on how these impact upon each other…5 Essential Photography Tips | The Tofu Diaries

  • Aperture – this refers to how much light is allowed to enter the lens and is used to control the depth of field (i.e. how much of the image is in focus).

Top tip: A small f-number (e.g. f/1.8) will let in a lot of light and create a shallow depth of field for a blurred background, whilst a large f-number (e.g. f/22) will result in more of the image being in focus for a large depth of field.

  • Shutter Speed – as you would expect, this is how long the shutter stays open for when a photo is being taken. A faster shutter speed gives a sharper image whilst a slower speed can be used to create movement.

Top tip: In aperture-priority mode, the shutter speed changes automatically according to the other setting you use. For example, creating a large depth of field will slow down the shutter speed. You can compensate for this by using a high ISO setting.

  • ISO – the ISO affects the sensitivity to light. In darker conditions, a higher ISO will give you a quicker shutter speed to still achieve sharper images.

Top tip: A high ISO will however result in a grainier image so it is advisable to use a tripod in low light so you can balance the slower shutter speed with a lower ISO to keep the photo clearer and sharper.

  • White Balance – this setting compensates for different light conditions to give the most accurate colours in an image.

Top tip: If you are shooting indoors the ‘tungsten’ setting will add a blue tint to counteract the orange cast a light bulb gives.

  • Exposure – exposure determines how light or dark an image will be. Sometimes even with of the above factors set correctly, an image will be too bright or too dark to our eyes; moving the exposure up or down will manually correct it.

Top tip: Upping the exposure will slow down the shutter speed therefore a higher ISO may be needed to still get a sharp image.

I hope to share some more photography tips in the future as I endeavour to improve myself but in the meantime you can find some fantastic landscape photography tips from Pandora here. Thanks to both Pandora and Millennium Hotels for a fantastic day!

Do you ever venture off auto? What are your essential photography tips?

Recipe Round-up: 10 Veganised Recipes from Around the World

A selection of recipes inspired by dishes from around the world and creatively transformed into delicious vegan meals.10 Veganised Recipes from Around the WorldFrom fluffy American-style pancakes to a slow-cooked tangy Iraqi stew, I would say there are few places where inspiration cannot be found for a delicious vegan feast. New flavours and unique ingredients that give each international cuisine its distinctive taste can be transported and recreated into a subtly tweaked or an entirely refashioned dish.

Here is a round-up of my favourite “veganisations” so far:

1. Egypt – Falafel Loaf

Egypt - Falafel Loaf

2. France – Mushroom Bourguignon

France - Mushroom Bourguignon

3. Hungary – 3-Bean Paprikash

Hungary - Paprikash

4. Iraq – Slow-cooker Daube

Iraq - Slow Cooker Daube

5. Italy – Frittata di Carciofi

Italy - Tuscan Artichoke Omelettes

6. South Korea – Spicy Potato Stew

Korea - Spicy Potato Stew

7. Thailand – 2-Lentil Thai Soup

Thailand - 2 lentil soup

8. UK – Tofu Bacon Sandwich

UK - Tofu Bacon Sandwich

9. Vietnam – Caramel Tofu & Carrots

Vietnam - Caramel Tofu

10. USA – Spinach PancakesUSA - Spinach Pancakes

Have you veganised any international dishes? Share your favourites and recipes in the comments!

Ginger & Cocoa Rawnie | Raw, Vegan

5-ingredient, no bake brownies that are rich, chocolately, slightly nutty and more than moreish. The addition of fresh ginger creates an extra special combination of flavours.Ginger Cocoa Raw Brownie | The Tofu DiariesThese raw brownies or “rawnies” take the raw snacks I have talked about in the past to another level; this is perfectly acceptable dessert territory. You could serve them with whipped coconut cream, a scoop of vegan ice-cream or, failing that, still feel free to munch on them as an extra special indulgent mid-afternoon treat.Ginger Cocoa Raw Brownie | The Tofu Diaries Ginger Cocoa Raw Brownie | The Tofu Diaries Ginger Cocoa Raw Brownie | The Tofu DiariesIngredients:

200g dates, roughly chopped

2tbsp mixed seeds (I used milled seeds)

2tbsp tahini

4cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

2tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra to dust

Method:

1. Add all of the ingredients together into a high-powered food processor and blend until combined.

2. In a small baking tray, dust the bottom with a light layer of cocoa powder. Press the rawnie mix into the tray – you can level it out and get rid of your thumbprints by rolling a cup across the top.

3. Dust the top with another light coating of cocoa powder. Place in the fridge and when you are ready to eat it, slice into bars.Ginger Cocoa Raw Brownie | The Tofu DiariesI’m entering this into Simplyhealth‘s healthy smile recipe competition. Did you know that, as an anti-inflammatory, ginger can help you to keep your smile healthy by supporting healthy mouth tissue? I certainly didn’t but I’ll be taking any excuse to include it in my recipes along with some of these other smile-supporting healthy foods!

What sweet treats have you made recently?

Cruelty-free Bathtimes | Blogs I Love

As an animal-lover, vegetarian, and a lover of bathtime, finding beauty products that haven’t been tested on animals and that you know are truly cruelty-free does inevitably require a little more research. There’s also the matter of making sure they are vegan or even vegetarian, depending on your requirements. It also demands a bit more trial and error in finding products that suit you and prior planning if you need to order online.

Luckily, there are more and more ethical companies popping up all the time to provide plenty of choice. In addition, there are some incredible bloggers out there navigating this territory for us and giving us something lovely to read at the same time. Over time I hope to be able to provide some useful information on the topic by sharing the brands and products I use, and new ones I find, with you – I’d love to hear your thoughts on if this is the kind of thing you’d like to read here.Cruelty-free blogs Without further delay, I am going to share with you some useful links and cruelty-free bloggers that I love:

What is your favourite cruelty-free brand? Do you have any blogs or resources to recommend? Share below or over on Twitter!

Quick Palak Paneer | Vegetarian

A twist on a classic curry, this palak paneer combines fresh spinach leaves and chickpeas with perfectly browned cubes of Indian cottage cheese in a rich, gently spicy sauce. For a vegan version, use tofu in place of the paneer!Quick Palak Paneer | The Tofu DiariesThis curry is one of my absolute favourites. Cheese and spinach, I mean what’s not to love? The version here is wonderfully simple and cooks in about twenty minutes. I whipped it up one Sunday evening when I wanted something tasty and nutritious (with both spinach and chickpeas it ticks that box) but without all that much effort.Quick Palak Paneer | The Tofu DiariesSpeaking of doing something quickly in the evening, my kitchen spotlights unfortunately made for quite “glossy” photos but I couldn’t hold back this recipe just because of that!Quick Palak Paneer | The Tofu DiariesThe spice mix here is easy to replicate as it doesn’t use anything too out of the ordinary. However if you don’t have all of them in your cupboard already then you could cheat and pick up a pre-made spice mix for much cheaper than the individual spices. In most continental supermarkets you can pick up a palak paneer mix for less than £1 (I’ve spotted this mix on the shelves of my local one before).Quick Palak Paneer | The Tofu DiariesIngredients:

225g paneer cheese, cut into cubes (For a vegan version, substitute extra firm tofu)

200g fresh spinach leaves

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 onion, thinly sliced

3tbsp rapeseed oil (or your preferred oil)

4-5 tbsp water

3 cloves garlic

1tbsp tomato purée

1 tsp chili powder

1tsp fenugreek

1tsp cumin

1/2tsp cinnamon

1/4tsp ground clove

1/4tsp ground cardamom

Method:

1. Heat 1tbsp of oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the cubes of paneer. Cook until they have browned on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil, all of the spices and the tomato purée. Stirring continuously, fry for around a minute before setting aside.

3. Heat the final tablespoon of oil into the frying pan and add the onion. Stir well and cook for a few minutes until they have begun to soften, then stir in the garlic. Gradually add in the water, stirring well, then mix in the spice/tomato purée.

4. Add the chickpeas and cook for around 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the spinach. Allow to wilt for a minute or two before mixing in. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then return the paneer to the pan. Cook for another minute or two and serve.

What is your quick go-to dinner?