Top tips for photography thanks to Viking masterclass

I attended my first ever blog event this week the Viking Photography Masterclass at the Botanist in Newcastle and want to share some top tips for photographs that I picked up.

So Thursday was a day of firsts for me – my first blogging event, first photography masterclass and first ever visit to the Botanist in Newcastle (shameful I know).

The Botanist Newcastle

The Botanist Newcastle

The Botanist is an ever so pretty venue – lots of greenery and twinkly lights and terraces to sit outside to get some fresh air and soak up the lovely sunny rays we’re having at the moment.

Inside the Botanist

Inside the Botanist

Upon arrival I was given a trusty name badge sticker with my Twitter handle (such a good idea to be able to easily connect with other bloggers) and a lovely glass of Prosecco.

Glass of prosecco

Glass of prosecco

I made friends with a couple of bloggers who were also flying solo and we grabbed a table. It was really great to be able to meet other North East bloggers and have an opportunity to network and ask questions.

The masterclass was being led by photographer Elouisa Georgiou and organised by stationery and office supply company Viking.

The first thing Elouisa told us was to get out of our comfort zones of using the automatic mode on our cameras and phones and shoot in manual. This gives you greater control of your images and means you will get better photos.

We were set a series of tasks and told there was prize for the best overall photo – a printer from Viking – very exciting.

We were given tips on flat lays, using boards to bounce the light and using prisms to refract and reflect the light.


Top tips for photography from Elouisa Georgiou

Shutter Speed – This is how fast the shutter captures your image. To stop motion, you will need a higher shutter speed number, to capture motion you will need to shoot at a lower shutter speed number to create blur. But remember, a faster/higher shutter speed means less light is being let into the camera.

ISO – The lower the ISO, the less sensitive the sensor it is to the light, the higher the ISO the more sensitive your camera is to light. For clear and less ‘grainy’ photos with as much detail as possible we always want to shoot at the lowest ISO possible.

Aperture – Also known as the F stop, this controls the depth of field, i.e. the amount of subject you will have in focus in the foreground/background of an image. A wide aperture (f/2) or low F stop has a softer focus of the background, letting more light in as well as creating a bokeh (blur) to the background. A narrow aperture (f/22) or a higher F stop has more in focus in the background and lets less light in.

Elouisa explained that getting a clear and attractive image is about balancing all three of these without sacrificing one another. If you have time but not a great amount of light, opt to use a tripod so you can shoot at a slower shutter speed to capture your image without the motion blur.

Lighting tips

Natural light is always your friend. But you should always be aware of ambient light in a room that can play with the colour balancing of your image or influence the shot.

  • Turn off or block out any ambient lighting in the room.
  • Use natural reflectors in the room.
  • If you don’t have anything you can use to hand, use white, light or shiny surfaces.
  • Plane pieces of paper work well.
  • Foam boards are a cheap and versatile piece of equipment to help bounce light.
  • If the lighting is too strong, harsh or the windows are too big, use a clear curtain of thin sheet to diffuse the lighting.
  • If you don’t have enough light available to you, use a tripod so you can shoot slower.

Creating interesting portraits using reflection, diffraction

  • Use prisms, glasses, bottles, windows or even the reflection from a mobile phone screen to create interesting creative images.
  • Experiment with holding items at different distances over the lens to create interesting flashes of light and blurs.
  • Use shadows and reflections to create visibility through a reflective surface.

Flatlay photography tips

  • Use a tripod on your camera or phone if you can. This will help with any motion blur.
  • Keep your shot consistent.
  • Use the live view to help you compose the different elements in your flatlay
  • Don’t be too afraid to put items a little closer together. Large gaps inbetween subjects aren’t always aesthetically pleasing.
  • Don’t be afraid to go outside the frame.
  • Play having subject matters half in shot and half out of frame.
  • Remember there are no rules.
  • If using a camera use a lens with less distortion to create the ‘perfect looking’ flatlays.

Food, drink, product and still life photography tips

  • Practise using the ‘magic angles’ to find that sweet spot (straight on, 45 degrees, bird’s-eye/flatlay).
  • Don’t be afraid to focus on the details of the dish.
  • There is no rule to say you have to get the entirety of the plate in the shot.
  • Use bounce boards, menus or paper to even out the lighting in the shot creating light and shadow where you want it and don’t want it.
  • Use what you can find to decorate the image but try not to make it overly busy to as this will draw focus away from the dish.
  • Use a low aperture to create bokeh in the background or move the product further away from any distracting background.
  • If using a camera, use a lens with less distortion to give more realistic proportional images.

After we’d taken our photos it was time for a refreshing cocktail (mocktail for me) I went for the raspberry grape and elderflower cooler which was really tasty and refreshing.

On the terrace with my mocktail

On the terrace with my mocktail

We were also treated to some yummy food by the friendly Botanist staff before we were told the winner of the photo competition.

The food

The food

The photographs were amazing (mine were ok but just taken on my phone) and everyone who was shortlisted absolutely deserved to be.

One of my flat lays

One of my flat lays

I might not have won the printer but I had a really great night. It was really great fun and I learnt a lot that I just want to start putting into practice straight away – getting a memory card for my new camera (second hand thanks EBay) has jumped up my to-do list.

On our way our we were all given a little present too – a tripod and Bluetooth remote to help us up our photography game.

A huge thank you to Viking, Elouisa and the Botanist for a fabulous evening.


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Useful links

Elouisa’s website is here

See Elouisa’s beautiful Instagram here

Our pictures were printed on the night with this printer

Viking also supply fab quality photo paper and ink cartridges


bash badge


Keep up to date

You can also find me on Twitter @rachael_stray

Or follow my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/rachaelstrayblog/

You can see my random pictures on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rachys2011/

And see what I’m pinning on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/rachaelstray/

37 thoughts on “Top tips for photography thanks to Viking masterclass

  1. Ellen @ If It Brings You Joy says:

    Lucky you! Prosecco and gourmet-looking food on top of what sounds like a great blogging event. I aim to improve my photos this year so I’ll be reviewing your tips a few times. Look like a fun time, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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