A Christmas Photography Masterclass with Viking + Dirty Martini

by Maddie
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Long time no speak, pals! In case you didn’t know about my countless tweets and many an Instagram story bemoaning this issue, third year at the University of Birmingham is well and truly, slowly and painfully, killing me off. With a terrifying dissertation, more essays than ever before and cripplingly difficult modules that are taking every ounce of my brain’s energy (and whatever intellectual ability I have left) it’s safe to say that I have virtually no time at all left to hop on the blog. And this is actually upsetting me.

This blog is my passion! And as university is demanding 99.9% of my time, my passions are having to be popped to one side. Kinda resenting uni for this, not gon’ lie. However, I have another post to bring to ya today, and it’s all about an event I attended last week. This event was the perfect antidote to the absolute mega stress I’d found myself in on a Wednesday eve: the terrifying prospect that my first proper essay of third year was to be handed in in just a DAY. Along came around the evening before the deadline, and even though the essay was practically finished, I was a panicking mess, comfort eating my way to the freakin’ me out deadline. Not a-okay.

However, the Viking photography masterclass at one of my favourite Brum cocktail bars, Dirty Martini, had been in the diary for a solid couple months, and I was really looking forward to it minus looming deadline, so I forced myself out the house and to the event. Just to find the trains were all cancelled and an Uber would cost me £14. Why is it that on the days where ya just want everything to run smoothly, everything starts going a-tits up?

Anyway, struggle over- I finally make it to Dirty Martini, in a lil bit of a tizz. I’m met with some of my favourite Brum bloggers, a festive dinner set-up basically to rival afternoon tea at the Ritz, and I’m greeted by the most lovely team of people who were ready to let us bloggers know all about what Viking do.

So before I divulge all the photography tips we picked up at the event, lemme explain why exactly us bloggers were sat round faaancy festive tables, drinkin’ Dirty Martini Chrimbo cocktails and capturing some #edgy photos on a Wednesday eve in November.

If ya haven’t heard of ’em, Viking are an office supplies company, who can supply ya with all your techno, stationary and printing needs. If you’re on the lookout for a snazzy new laptop or printer to get those #shots for your own blog, Viking will sort it out for ya. If you’re looking for the classic office essentials such as staples, ringbinders or the quintessential plastic wallet, Viking’s got ya back. And if you’re looking for a good ol’ peruse of some beaut new stationary to wow your other English Lit pals with at uni, Viking has quite the selection.

Which brings us precisely to why we were sat, cameras poised, in the middle of Dirty Martini on a Wednesday night. Viking were looking for one blogger winner to take home a snazzy new photography printer, and they wanted the rest of us to *attempt* to become decent photographers for the night. Any guesses which of these I was? Yep, the attempted photographer- you got me.

So we were introduced to superstar photographer, Elouisa Georgiou, who walked us through the photography masterclass. For those of us with a camera (not me, because I am a skint student that steals her boyfriend’s Canon on the reg) Elouisa gave us some tricks of her trade when it comes to getting that perfect shot. And for those of us with a phone (aka me) we learnt how a phone camera can be *nearly* just as useful at getting some snazzy pics. Once we’d listened to the woman herself, Elouisa sent us off around the restaurant, using prisms, pieces of coloured acetate and even water bottles (yes, you heard right) to create some awesome images. Take a look at some of mine:

These images were created through the use of a prism (a la this one) or through holding up a piece of clear acetate to the lens

Let’s just break it all down for a second, though. Imma impart some of the wisdom I learnt, courtesy of Elouisa, to let any of you photography fans know her very best advice. Just so ya know, I am a complete and utter failure when it comes to the use of a professional camera: I’ve never studied photography and I am too poor to invest in a camera of my own. But, one day I shall get there. And Elouisa’s tips is the perfect place to start:


Shooting in manual means you have greater control of your images, allowing you to play around with the settings more to create the perfect shot.


This is pretty self-explanatory- but it still didn’t mean that lil ol’ me understood without some explainin’. To stop any motion, a higher shutter speed does the trick; for example, 1/250. To capture motion and to create a beaut lil blur, you will need to shoot at a lower shutter speed; for example, 1/8. The higher the shutter speed, the less light is being let into the camera, therefore your images may appear darker. Clever, that.


Ya know recently, how every blogger and their nan decided that the grainier the image on Instagram, the better? Well, ISO controls all that stuffs. The lower the ISO, the less sensitive the sensor is to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive. Simples. For clear and less ‘grainy’ images with as much detail as possible, you’d need to shoot at the lowest ISO. But if you’re feelin’ the Insta fad, grain that ISO up, gal.


See, this is one photography word I had heard banded around. My boyfriend studied the subject for A Level, and I’d heard him bang on about aperture before- just nodded my head and pretended I understood was my general response. However, now I really do understand!! Aperture is sometimes also known as the ‘f-stop’, and this controls the depth of field. In other words, this means the amount of the subject you will have in focus in the foreground/background of an image. A wide aperture (for example, f/2) puts the background in a softer focus, which lets more light in as well as creating a bokeh (blur) to the background. I used to use an editing app when I was a lil preteen that had a snazzy effect called bokeh. I now understand I could have created this effect myself had I bothered to pick up a camera. Nice one, Mads. And therefore, a narrow aperture (for example, f/22) means that more of the background is in focus and less light is let in.


To begin capturing the perfect image, block out any ambient light in the room. Next, you want something that can bounce the natural light, such as a shiny surface, or even a cheap foam board. We got to grips with this during the photography masterclass- foam boards are fun, I tell ya. If the lighting is too harsh, use a clear curtain of thin sheet if possible to diffuse the lighting. Alternatively, if you don’t have enough light available to you, use a tripod so you can shoot slower and avoid motion blur. These are some handy tips I tell ya- I’ll never have to use VSCO Cam again.


The best part about this #edgy tip is that you don’t even need a £600 camera to do the trick! Yay for being skint!! Use prisms, glasses, bottles, windows or even the reflection from a mobile phone screen to create creative images. There’s nowt like a reflection to create some trippy, yet #edgy photos. Also, it’s just so damn fun!! Solidly spent 45 minutes with a prism on that Wednesday night.


Now, this is practically an essential if you are a blogger. Bloggers practically created the flat lay. I am not one of those, however, because I cannot flat lay to save my life. However, with these tips from Elouisa I might just start jumping on that wonderful flat lay bandwagon now:

  • Use a tripod!! This will help with motion blur, keeping your shots consistent
  • Use the live view to help compose the different elements in your flat lay
  • Arrange the items in your flat lay together; let them overlap. Large gaps in-between subjects aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, peoples
  • Play with the composition- there are no rules here! I mean, playing with the composition is your only rule. But it’s a relatively relaxed, fun rule so, yay! Subjects can be half in the shot, half out- the possibilities are literally endless
  • If you’re using a camera, make sure to use a lens with less distortion to follow the ‘perfect’ aesthetic of ze flat lay

8) MOST IMPORTANTLY, HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH FOOD PROFESSIONALLY. (And then eat it afterwards, not so professionally…) 

It’s all about the angle when you’re shooting food. There are some ‘magic angles’ that Elousia identified: straight on; 45 degree; bird’s-eye/flat lay. Once you’ve got the angle down, it’s about choosing where you want your image to focus. Don’t be afraid to focus on the details of the dish, yet at the same time, it’s perfectly fine to not get all of the plate in shot. Food can look just awesome half in the pic. To get the lighting right, you can whip out your trusty foam board, or if you’re a lil pressed for time, just use a menu to create light and shadow where you want it. Use your old friend low aperture to create bokeh in the background, drawing emphasis to ya food. And finally, if you’re using a camera, use a lens with less distortion to give more realism and proportion to your images.

So after a lil photography masterclass, us bloggers had to choose one image to be entered into the competition. I chose this image of the ‘talk dirty to me’ sign in Dirty Martini, which was created through the reflection of a prism, and taken on my lil iPhone. We had to decide where our images would be used if they were advertising a product, and I said it would be promo for an Amsterdam sex shop. As you can see, I used comedy to hide the fact that I am absolutely shite at photography.

Us bloggers’ images laid out for the comp…

lol my image lol

And just in time to announce the winner, Dirty Martini supplied us bloggers with a festive menu to warm the Scroogiest of souls, and a few winter cocktails thrown in for good measure. As you’ll know from my previous posts with Dirty Martini, I am the biggest fan of everything they do: food and cocktail-related. The scrummiest food was washed down with the scrummiest cocktails, and I was a very happy bunny. Even if I didn’t win the competition- but sadly, I am no Rankine.

Us bloggers take this photog shit seriously (except me, because I’m God awful at it)

Ze outfit for the night (beret: actually picked up in Paris HOW cliche – dress: Zara)

I hope this post has inspired you perhaps with some lil photography tips and a chance to get snappin’ away yourself soon- let me know if a photography-type regular postin’ on the blog would be of use to ya, as I’d love to start getting more into the whole photography side of things, as it’s something I really want to learn more about! Ciao adios pals- I’ll be back with another post soon, degree-permitting. It might be a lil haphazard over here whilst third year is underway, but I’ll try my best to get back to regular posting soon!

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