A beginner’s guide to photography

By guest writer and photographer, Zaid Joseph.

Which entry-level camera is a good investment for taking lifestyle/blog style images?
I would suggest the camera on your phone. Don’t be bogged down by the tech. Today’s mobile phone cameras are amazing and with proper lighting (the #1 factor in good photography) you can take some great images.

When you move onto a dedicated camera for photography, and you’ve upped your lighting game, the next important thing you’ll need is a lens. A good lens on an okayish camera body is better than an okayish lens on a good camera body. This can get very complicated and costly. I recommend a camera that allows you to swop out lenses. A Canon entry-level camera like the Canon EOS 1300D DSLR with the kit lens, is a great option. The biggest camera game changer to this setup is the 50mm f1.8 lens or even better, the 50mm f2.5 Macro lens.

Can you suggest any camera settings for lifestyle images?
Camera settings are dependent on the look and feel you want to achieve. Lifestyle images can be anything, so work with a reference image close to the image you want to achieve.

Put the camera in manual mode. If you’re indoors, increase your ISO, dial in your aperture to the look and feel you want and then adjust your shutter speed to the subject matter you’re photographing.

Here’s a cheat sheet:
ISO: Controls light sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. The higher the ISO, the brighter the image. Too much ISO will create too much ‘noise’ on the image.

Aperture: Controls how much light enters the camera through the lens. The wider the aperture, the more light allowed in, but the shallower the depth of field (less of the image will be in focus from the focus point). The smaller the aperture the less light but the deeper the depth of field (more of the image will be in focus from the focus point). Apertures are lens dependent, not a feature on the camera body, so a different lens can give wider apertures than others.

Shutter speed: Controls how much light enters the camera AFTER the aperture. The faster the shutter speed, the less light, the slower the shutter speed, the more light enters. Too slow and the shutter speed will blur moving objects in the shot. Even slower shutter speeds will blur the entire image because of your own hands shaking ever so slightly. A tripod eliminates this problem. I highly recommend it.

What is the best editing app that is accessible to everyone?
Most editing apps these days, offer the same features. Photoshop is the exception and is an industry standard but it isn’t cheap. I would recommend ACDSee. It’s relatively cheap, you don’t need a super computer to run it and it’s not nearly as complicated as Photoshop to get into.

We’re all a fan of those ‘depth of field’ images with the blurred effect, how do we achieve this?
I touched on this earlier with aperture. This is also lens dependent and also sensor-size dependent, if you’re not using a camera such as a crop sensor-type camera like the Canon EOS 1300D DSLR or a Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) camera. The bigger the sensor, the easier it is to achieve a shallower depth of field. The f1.8 lens on a portrait lens of a phone camera will never give you the same look as a full frame Canon 5D can produce. This is just simple physics. iPhone’s have digital effects that look great and mimics this effect. Still has a bit of way to go though.

Which camera would you suggest is a good investment for product images?
Canon EOS 1300D DSLR with kit lens and 50mm f1.8 with close up lens filters or Macro tubes.

What advice can you offer for lighting product shoots if you don’t have a studio space?
Best lighting you can use is window lighting. The colour rendering is the best you can get. The brightness is really good and you can control the light angle by moving the objects.

Using a big sheet of thick white paper is the best way to create a seamless background for your product shots. Make sure you use another sheet of white paper on the opposite side of the window to brighten up the shadows in the image IF you feel the shadows are too dark.

If I want a more professional DIY setup, what would you recommend?
I would recommend continuous lighting. Led lighting is great but costly. CFL bulbs are cheaper and easier to use with umbrellas. I would then recommend a light stand, a bulb holder with an umbrella bracket and a white umbrella, and add a silver side/white side reflector as a setup. If you have the cash, go with two setups.

What is your advice on taking photographs outdoors?
This is dependent on the image you want to take. The sun is a small (because it’s far away) light source even though it is very bright. Small light sources give you hard shadows and this is referred to as hard lighting. For fashion, this is sometimes preferred. Generally, softer lighting is what most people go for. You can get this by putting your subject matter in the shade on a bright day or shooting in the open on an overcast day as the clouds will ‘soften’ the light from the sun.

Using a reflector (this can be a silver car sun visor) is a good way to control the brightness of shadows in the shot. Best to get a friend to help out and hold it.

What are the best phones for photography?
At the moment, the top of the line phones from almost all major manufacturers will give you a similar result. Some with built-in multiple lenses will allow more creative use such as the shallow depth of field effect. They do cost a lot and a Canon EOS 1300D DSLR with a 50mm f1.8 lens will beat it, every time, at half the cost, with better image quality.

Any tips for taking pics using your phone?
Taking photos with your phone these days can give amazing results. The best way to get the most out of your phone is to understand its limitations. The camera has a tiny tiny sensor. It’s not good in low light, or slow shutter speeds or shallow depth of field. Overhead shots work great with cellphones. So flat lays for products or food for example, with good lighting can look very professional.

If I want my images to have the same look and feel on my Instagram feed, how can filters help?
The best filters to use for the Instagram look is filters on Instagram. Nearly all modern cellphones will have a set of filters in the photo apps built in. Some of them are really great.

What are the top three benefits of using a professional photographer?
#1 – Results
A professional photographer will be able to give you the images you want, consistently. They’re able to understand your brief and the look you’re going for. They’re able to photo-edit, match colours to your brand colours and shoot the images with post-production and editing in mind.

#2 – Creativity
A professional photographer will be able to give you the images you want and images you didn’t know you wanted. They will have a good eye for the type of photography they do and will be able to add creative touches to the shoot in ways you might not have thought of.

#3 – Experience
When things aren’t perfect, a professional photographer must know how to fix the problem on the spot. This can only be achieved when they know their craft well and can pull solutions from past shoots. The more shoots, the more experience. An experienced photographer will be able to foresee possible problems for any shoot and then help you prepare for them. This allows them to help you plan and budget better for shoots.

Zaid is a professional photographer based in Cape Town. He has shot everything from personal portraits to fashion and beauty features, products, events and advertising campaigns. Follow him on Instagram @zaid_joseph_photography.

How to tackle your first photoshoot

Lights! Camera! Meltdown! As an introvert, being the center of attention has always been frightening. I’m a naturally awkward person, so when I experienced my very first photoshoot, I was overcome with nerves. The end product was not what I had anticipated at all, it was so much better! The photographer, Zaid and his assistant, Danyaal did an amazing job at making me feel comfortable. They joked and complimented me and told me exactly what I needed to do. It wasn’t long until I got the hang of it and decided to simply get over my insecurities and just own the stage. Sometimes it isn’t easy to just relax, so I’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you along.

Think happy thoughts
Your thoughts control your body and the way others perceive you, making your mental attitude very important. So, block out that negative voice that tells you you’re too awkward to be photographed, and focus on the positives. Maybe you have a lovely smile or amazing cheek bones – find ways to play up your best features.

Don’t overthink it
Insecure and anxious people tend to overthink things (believe me, I know). When being photographed it’s easy to see your anxiety coming through. Pose in a way that feels natural to you, there’s no need to be overly technical about things. Just go with the flow.

Have fun!
This is really important. A genuine smile or laugh looks great on camera. Think of something funny or play some upbeat music in the background. Focus on enjoying the moment and just letting go.

Have some visual references
When I’m nervous or overwhelmed my brain just doesn’t seem to function. When all eyes are on you it’s even worse, so have some visual references for poses you’d like to do at the shoot. This will give you more direction and a lot more confidence.

Motivational support
If you still feel uncomfortable about the shoot, bring a motivator along. By this I mean a friend who can talk you into being your best. We all have that one friend with such an infectious, positive energy that they can easily make you feel at ease. Get them to come to the shoot for some motivational support.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of practice in the privacy of your own home. I was surprised to learn that everyone does it. Practice a few positions and figure out your best angles. When you’re in front of the camera, imagine yourself practicing in your room, this will ease the pressure and make you move more naturally.

Not everyone is born to be a model and that’s absolutely fine. But there’s no reason why you should shy away from an opportunity to look and be your best. So get out there and shine how you were meant to, and don’t forget to smile.


Tips for styling a photoshoot

Let me begin by saying that styling is not your average 9-to-5-run-of-the-mill kind of job. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever done. When you’re not in the studio, you’re constantly on the go preparing for your next styling project. When the shoot date arrives, it can be very stressful and chaotic, especially if there is a lot to get through. But having the chance to make a client’s vision come to life while being able to express your creativity can be very rewarding. If you’re considering a career in styling or just wondering what goes into creating fashion magic, read on for what I’ve learnt thus far on my journey to becoming a stylist.

1. Be a quick-thinking, problem-solving genius
An ill-fitting garment, a shoe lace that is out of place, a missing button, impromptu coffee runs, clients dropping in on the set unexpectedly, even a nosebleed can send you reeling when the clock is ticking. A stylist is responsible for fixing these things on set so preparation is key as well as the ability to handle whatever comes your way. I’m an introvert so this attitude doesn’t come easy to me. But I’m learning to be prepared for anything and everything and I know I can achieve this in my own quiet way.

2. The devil is in the details
To say you need eagle-eyed attention to detail is an understatement. Everything is visual, and the client depends on you to actualise their vision. That means that from clothing options and model composition to hair and makeup, you need to have a clear, scripted plan for what you want to get out of the day. Perfection is the goal, so no pressure right?

You will need to work closely with the creative team to help conceptualise a shoot. This is one of the exciting and more creative aspects of the job. To do that you have to have an up-to-date knowledge of what’s hot and happening in the fashion world.

A stylist has a fair amount of preparation to do before the shoot day. Whether it is organising the rail run through, booking the photographer, models and studio and sourcing product and props, make sure to plan very well in advance. This process can take weeks to organise.

When you’re preparing the shoot, you’ll do lots of research for the styling, hair and makeup and even the lighting to get the right mood for the feature. Share your ideas with everyone on the set, so they know what you want to achieve. When you plan properly, the day will run smoothly (give or take a few spanners) leaving you enough time to get even more creative.

3. Know your stuff
In the beginning, I was involved in sourcing product from fashion houses and assisting on set. Fashion was a big part of my life so I was thrilled to be a part of that environment, learning as much as I could. Up until that point, it was really just a hobby that perhaps bordered on the obsessive. Part of my job is to stay updated on key fashion trends across the world and to translate that for a South African market. My ‘fashion-unconscious’ (as they refer to themselves…  sorry guys you said it first) teammates rely on my love of fashion to keep them in the know. That means reading magazines, following leading fashion personalities, experimenting with my own personal style and having a good working knowledge of what is happening in the world from current affairs to food, and décor to technology.

4. Get kitted out
Gradually I’ve developed a stylist’s kit that consists of my portable steamer, sewing kit and a hoarder’s collection of safety pins and clips. Recently I purchased my very own clothing rail. #Progress! Make sure that you can disassemble and assemble your clothing rail by yourself and safely too. On my first attempt, my rail fell over and hit someone on the head. We all start somewhere, right? Other things in my bag of tricks are hairspray, flat irons for hair (can also be used to iron shirt collars #lifehack), a blow-dryer (to dry out water marks), stain remover, masking tape for the underside of shoes, and extra hangers. As I grow in my career, I’m sure my kit bag will too.

5. Admin nightmares
Just when you think everything went well and you’re feeling pleased with yourself, you lose or misplace a slip. This has happened to me a few times, and it was very stressful. Thankfully, I haven’t had to replace or pay for anything expensive. But to avoid the stomach-curdling nausea that washes over you when you think you’ve lost a slip or ruined a shoe, take special care to keep all your slips in a separate pouch and return everything to the store or showroom in pristine condition. My face-saving backup trick is to take pics of all my slips and send them to my colleague.

6. The outdoor plan
If you’re shooting outdoors, scout a few locations way before your planned shoot date, so you can compare available light at a particular time of day and the textures, structures and colours of the area and how that works with your concept. Check the weather regularly too so you can include a weather day if you need to.

Photoshoots can be tricky to manage, but it can also be a thrilling experience to work with and learn from the experienced stylists, makeup artists, photographers and art directors that work on our many projects. And when you see the end product of all your hard work, with a thumbs up from the client, it’s an amazing feeling. I know I wouldn’t want to do anything else.


An introvert’s guide to networking

You’re about to attend your first fashion launch. You don’t know what to expect and being you, social events are mentally exhausting and of course daunting. But you have to go, your boss has ordered you to network and report on the fashion brand’s new AW fashion line. You don’t know anyone there. You love fashion, but the thought of having to make small talk with complete strangers is giving you heart palpitations.

This is every introvert’s worst nightmare. Many people experience social anxiety – even the most confident person can struggle with establishing meaningful business relationships. I’ve always been a shy person who prefers to apply the less is more approach when in social settings. So when the opportunity came to attend my first networking event I was daunted by the task. I love the fashion industry but, lets face it, to get where you want to be in life you have to put yourself out there. So I developed a few simple strategies to overcome my networking anxiety.

  1. If you’re an introvert, you’re probably very analytical with people. This is because you prefer to observe rather than include yourself in the social scene. Use this to your advantage and scout the crowd for ideal people to converse with. Search for friendly faces and open body language. Observe your own body language too, keep it friendly with a smile and always make eye contact. If you’re nervous, start off by approaching individuals who stand alone, chances are they are as introverted as you.
  2. Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be tricky. But with some practice, it can become second nature. All you have to remember are the following tips. 1 – compliment, 2 – question, 3 – comment and then 4 – collect. I personally start off with a compliment, in the fashion industry this is very easy, since most people there are quite stylish. So, complimenting their outfit will take you a long way. Next, question: “Where did you buy that stunning bag?” is guaranteed to get you a smile. Next thing you know you’re conversing with a perfect stranger. The last tip in this point is to remember to collect. By this I mean listen. In this way collect as many useful facts about the person as you can. An easy way to get someone to like you is to be a good listener and let them talk about themselves. Of course, it is still important to converse and talk about yourself too, but ideally you want to collect information that is relevant to you personally and in a professional capacity. So pay attention to what they have to say.
  3. Always conclude by exchanging contact details. Have your business card ready and make sure that your contact information is updated. These days exchanging social media handles is a must, so make sure you have those written down too. Follow them on social media and where promised, follow up with an email.

The truth about learning any new skill is that the more you practice, the easier it gets. It’s no different with networking. If you follow this easy formula and above all just be yourself, you’ll be rewarded with new contacts and a newfound confidence too!

Happy networking!



Unpacking soon!

Hello! We’re very excited to launch our very own blog so we can share our world with you! You can expect to read everything (well almost) about our daily doings, lots of design trends and tips, and a little bit of how we run our business (including the things that nobody tells you). We’re big on fashion and beauty, décor and daydreaming. You’ll get to meet the team and read a bit more about what we do and who we are with lots and lots of behind the scenes action.

We’d love to share what it’s like in our design studio and in our industry. We’re all about helping fellow creatives and start up businesses… and we have fun doing it.

Soooo, until we get our act together, we look forward to meeting up with you for a good laugh and a little work too.

Chat soon!