A Little Photography Session with Some Molasses Crinkle Cookies

Ginger Cookies

“I awoke this morning with devout Thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

My dear friends, I hope you’ll indulge me a bit this week as I stray from my regularly scheduled program of story, photos and recipe.

Over the course of the past year, I have received many kind emails in regards to my photography. Tips I might have? Equipment I use? Every time I receive one I’m a bit surprised because I feel like I’m so new to photography that I can’t imagine what I could possibly say that would help someone else. However, lately I have received quite an influx of these emails so I thought perhaps there might be others of you who might have similar questions…so why not put it all in a post for everyone.

Now, while I am “newish” to photography, I do have this, um, “tick” about me…whenever I take on something new I tend to go a little overboard in the “research” department and so, I have spent the past few years reading about photography, taking classes, and studying the work of other photographers. While I clearly have much more to learn, I have come to realize that there are a few quick adjustments that you can implement today which will dramatically improve your photographs no matter what kind of camera you have.

So, without further ado, I give you my top three tips….

Consider the Light
If there is one thing that photographers obsess about it is the light. Oh sure, they’ll talk about their fancy lenses, their dslr cameras, their megapixels, their editing software but really it all comes down to the light. If you do nothing else with your photography, consider the light surrounding the object/person you are hoping to photograph. Natural light, whether outside or streaming in from your windows, always results in a more beautiful photograph…at least for us amateurs. And to take it one step farther, you want soft light. Light in the early morning or late afternoon as opposed to the harsh overhead light at noon. My kids have finally grown accustom to my habit of running around and turning off all the lights whenever I want to take a photo and relying only on the light coming in from the windows.

Ginger Dough with FlashHere are my little balls of dough ready to go in the oven, photographed under my kitchen lights and with the flash that fired automatically.

Ginger DoughHere are those same balls of dough, with the lights turned off, moved closer to a window and without a flash.

Do Not Use a Flash
I find that the built-in flash on most instant cameras does nothing but age people and make them look possessed with red-eye. The light from a flash is harsh and brightens your entire photo so you lose those lovely soft shadows in the back or on the side that give your photos depth. So, turn that thing off.
You might say to me, “Well, Carrie, that’s all fine and dandy but I don’t exactly have your same fetish of photographing the food I’m about to eat and sharing it on the world wide web. I photograph people. And furthermore, what about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, New Year’s?? All at night. All needing a flash.”
Yes, yes, it’s true…sometimes you just have to use that darn old flash for posterity’s sake but if you can finagle it at all, get those people outside before the sun disappears.
Some of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever taken of my children were with a point and shoot camera at the Oregon Coast or on the lawn behind the Sunriver Lodge when the sun is going down.

Ginger Cookies with FlashHere are the finished cookies, photographed under the kitchen lights and with an automatic flash.

Ginger CookiesHere is the same little stack of cookies, moved outside and photographed without a flash.

Take a Lot of Photographs
There is a saying amongst the professionals that I have heard which says that you must take 100 photographs to yield a single, possible, good one.The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take hundreds of photographs without paying to develop them. Although, whatever you do, do not upload those hundreds of photographs. Delete. Delete. Delete using the little screen on your camera and only upload the best ones. Now, one of the best ways to take hundreds of photographs and be ready when the light is perfect is to always carry your camera. Just pop it in your purse (or for you guys…maybe your glove compartment, your computer case, your back pocket??) Usually, when I shoot food to put on this here website, I’ve taken at least 50 photographs, if not more, from different angles, from different areas of light for each photo. Sometimes I look at them and think, “Hey, that’s not bad.” and sometimes, “Yikes.” but I just move on to the next photo, trying to learn from each photo session and always striving to capture the perfect light.

A photo of my eldest and youngest, taken Halloween night. Flash fired casting harsh shadows and a yellow-y hue. Of course, they are my babies and I find them adorable with or without a flash, so this one will be going in the album for posterity’s sake.

But this one, I love for the light, the intensity in my little Padawan’s look and even the chronic chapped lips. This was taken near a window in the late afternoon. (Any tips for chronic chapped lips???)

And that about sums up my top three tips. I could go on…if you’d like me to, in anther post, on another day but I find that, in my humble opinion, simply adhering to the “Consider the Light, Don’t Use a Flash, Take Lots of Photos” mantra will dramatically improve your photographs.

Equipment
As for the equipment, let me say, ahem….that I have come to realize that photography can be a wee bit of an expensive hobby. As you move up the equipment ladder, you see what’s next which is always more…much more…expensive. But if you have the “be happy with what you have” attitude, then I think there is some great mid-level equipment that puts out beautiful photos.

This is what I use….

Camera:
Canon Digital Rebel XSi
This camera has served me well and was a great first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) to learn on. There are newer versions of this camera out since I purchased this one.

Lenses:
I take almost all of the photographs on this website with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4. It’s called a prime lens or a fixed lens which means it doesn’t move in or out to frame your subject. You have to move your body closer or farther away from your subject to frame it the way you want it. I can’t say enough about the gorgeous photos put out by this lens.

Other lenses:
Canon 70-200mm f/4L for sports photography….although I still don’t quite have the hang of it.
My new baby is a Canon 24-70mm zoom lens that I just got and can’t wait to start using.

On my wishlist:
Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR Camera

 

Do any of you have some good photo tips to share? Or are there any other questions I can try to answer?

 

A Thanksgiving Thank you….
With the big day approaching, I can’t let it pass without telling you, how much I truly appreciate the time you take to read my musings here, make my recipes, let me know how they turn out, email me about how what I wrote made you feel, leave a thoughtful comment, ask questions about my photography, catch my typos and recipe mistakes….all of it means so much and I am truly grateful to have you as a part of my life. Thank you. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

I also wanted to share this family photo I took last week while down in the “happiest place on earth” which is why there was no post last week. I am so grateful for my hubby and my three kiddos. I can’t imagine my life without them.

 

Molasses Crinkle Cookies
Print

Course: dessert
Author:
Serves: 3 dozen or so….
After all of those photos of cookies, I thought perhaps you might like the recipe. Most of the baking I did growing up came from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. A few years ago, my Mom surprised me with my own copy. I still treasure the recipes in that book especially this one for Molasses Crinkle Cookies. These cookies equally remind me of all of the after-school cookies my Mom used to bake for us as well as my childhood friend, Carrie Lynn, who lived in a Victorian house, at the top of the hill, overlooking the harbor, complete with turrets, an old-fashioned stove, horses in the back-yard and Molasses Crinkle Cookies to eat. PS: I realize that shortening has garnered a bad name for itself recently but there are brands out there, like Spectrum, which are non-hydrogenated.
Ingredients
  • ¾ c shortening
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • ¼ c molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • granulated or turbinado/raw sugar
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.
  2. In a larger bowl, mix together thoroughly your shortening, brown sugar, molasses and egg. Slowly add in your flour ingredients.
  3. Put the whole concoction in the refrigerator and chill for an hour or two…or if you’re impatient like me, 30 minutes, or if you are going for full effect, overnight.
  4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Grease your cookie sheets or line them with a silpat liner.
  6. Roll your dough into 1-inch balls. Dip the tops in the sugar. I use the raw sugar because I think it adds more of a “twinkle” to the finished cookie.
  7. Place your balls on your cookie sheet, sugared sides up, about 2 inches apart.
  8. Sprinkle each one with a couple drops of water.
  9. Bake 10-12 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake. You want the cookies to still be chewy inside. Let the finished cookies rest on the sheet for a minute or so before moving them to the cooling rack.
  10. Breathe in. Your house smells like the holidays. Enjoy….

 

 

Comments

  1. aww.. yumm! and look at your with your big bad voodoo daddy camera self! rock on sister.. preach it!!! you done good.

    huggles and happy thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks for the great tips and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! My best tip for chapped lips is Aquaphor healing ointment. There’s nothing better, and it’s great for any chafing on the face.

    • Thank you, thank you, Kim, for the tip (so nice to have my own personal pharmacist :) )….I have not tried Aquaphor but will do so as soon as I can get to a store. Poor little guy and his chapped lips….

  3. Elise Coury says:

    really titled ‘Betty Crocker Cooky Book’? :)

    as always, impressed and thankful.
    ~Elise

  4. Carrie, love the family pictures! Having the tip session previously with you, I can vouch for them! The lighting makes all the difference. Now, if the light is good, I run outside with whatever needs a picture – last week it was a Thanksgiving place setting! Also, thanks for sharing the equipment list. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • You are so welcome and I’m glad the tips are working for you, my friend. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
      PS: I really enjoyed your post on the Thanksgiving place settings. Your talent knows no end.

  5. Yum the cookies look gorgeous and delicious. I love natural light. One question, the pic of young padawan ; ) how did you get the background white like that..often I also notice it looks like people have black backgrounds for their food photography. Hope you had a wonderful day!

    • Hello dear Sheila, Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! As for the white background….I have a hallway with white molding…you know the kind, halfway up the wall…the name escapes me right now…anyhow, when I use a shallow depth of field (by using a low aperture setting) the wainscoting (I remembered the name) blurs making it look like a white background. Sometimes it works better than others. As for the black…I’m not sure. Cheers my friend!

  6. Hi Carrie,

    I really loved reading your photography tips – that is one thing that I have always wanted to learn more about – I keep saying “some day”. Also, completely agree with your tip about not using a flash – I often have the perfect shot lined up lightwise and then that darn flash pops up! Need to remember to turn it off right away! Enjoy our holidays…

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