tutorial

How to Make a Photography Background

Here is a DIY tutorial for a photography background that is easy to make and beautiful to use. I have spent a lot of time hunting down backgrounds and know all too well the feeling of staring at textured concrete walls in public— wishing I could bring a piece of wall home with me.

This tutorial is inspired by Bea Lubas (whose photography workshop I am excited to attend in London this September). Some of my favourite surfaces makers are Erickson Surfaces, I also use Capture by Lucy for food photography backgrounds.

And now, pull out your paint brushes from the closet,  head to your nearest hardware store and let’s create something beautiful.

You will need

  • A plywood board (found in the wood section of home depot, my board was 4×8, 1/2 inch thick). Find a board that is not bended or warped.
  • Several tester pots of matte paint (I used 3–5 colours each board) 
  • A cleaning sponge, old paintbrushes

Directions

Select your colours from tester pots. Gradient colours work very well.

Using a sponge, gently swirl the colours. Do not over mix as you want to the individual colours to stand out. Dip your sponge into the mixture and lightly apply brush stokes to cover the board.

Let dry in open air for up to an hour. I am planning on applying a layer of matte lacquer for wet foods, produce and drinks, of course.

And there you have it. Your very own photography background.

I used both sides of my board for different colours and found it helpful to have reference colours on hand. Will experiment with different brushes for textures as well.

Here is last night’s pasta. Photographed on grey.

Video clips can be found on my Instagram story highlights. Have fun, and share your backgrounds.

All images taken on my iPhone 6s.

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How to Make Totoro Rice Cakes — A Tutorial

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Before I go off into the fascinating world of Totoro Rice Cake’s, there are lyrics from The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home I must share.

It goes:

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top

I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Combining these lyrics along with my favourite Hayao Miyaziki film hero—Totoro—I can just about envision the furry beast standing beside his acorn seeds, climbing on tree tops, and roaring his head off in ferocious grace for all that have ears to hear.

It is incredible to think that someone thought of stringing these words together into a song that is a perfect soundtrack for making Totoro rice cakes.

I think these things lead to a certain kind of excitement in being a creative. Knowing that you possess a skill or ability to create something that resonates with the rest of the world. For this season, that being me, in my studio where I dream of ideas and set about creating them.

To know that I have at the tip of my fingertips the ability to command to life an army of Totoro’s is quite empowering. While this post is to share my love for rice cakes, I hope that we all find and pursue diligently that medium where we bring much joy to ourselves and to the world.

Without further ado, here are steps to making your own Totoro rice cake, for you and for me.

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You will need:
Ground sesame powder
Cooked sushi rice
Piece of sliced cheese
Sheets of nori
Clean boba straw
Toothpicks
Leaves to decorate

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-13.jpg1. Mix sesame powder into rice for desired shade of grey. Puncture cheese with boba straw for Totoro eyes.totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-14.jpg2. Use plastic wrap to mold grey and white rice into appropriate size for torso, abdomen and ears.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4.jpg3. Trim circles of nori for eyes, nose, and half moons for belly. Insert ears into Totoro torso and secure with toothpicks.Soot_Sprites_Totoro_Rice_Cake_Sophia_Hsin-12.jpg4. For Susuwatari (Soot Sprites) — roll rice ball onto nori sheet, soften edges of nori with water to shape. Decorate with eyes.
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5. There you have it, Totoro and soot sprite rice cakes. Better when they match your socks.
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Photograph them on black.yay-5.jpgGift them to a friend.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_amelia_hedgehog-5.jpgIntroduce them to your hedgehog.

Do enjoy.

The end.

Find tutorials to Alpaca Rice Cakes here & Panda Rice Cakes here.

Three tips on Photography and Styling

This post has been updated on my website here.

scanteak_canada_gastown-17.jpgI get many questions on photography and styling so I thought I will share some tips here along with photos from a recent shoot for Scanteak.

There is no greater joy than the moments on set where you get to be behind the camera, working with your hands and finishing a project with a feeling of great contentment.

Here they are: scanteak_purebread_gastown-5.jpg

1. Keep it simple, work on composition and utilize white space

 

I am guilty of over-preparing for every set even now but I am always surprised how a good space, ample planning and fresh beautiful props go a very long way. As Phil Hansen says ” “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.” You don’t need a lot to create magic but it does take some practice and honing to create a refined look. Remember that imperfection is beautiful too.

scanteak_canada-4.jpgscanteak_canada-7.jpg

2. Choose your light carefully

 

Lighting, lighting, lighting! Photography is all about lighting. You can shoot the most wonderful set in bad light and it will be 😦

I love working with natural light, by a large window and preferably during a time when there is no direct sunlight hitting the subject. If I am shooting indoors I always ask  to turn off  certain lights as multiple light sources can distract and change the tone of your photos.

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A few my favourite creatives: @verdenius, @cafe_no_ma, MUJI and Azuma Makoto

3. Put together a mood/vision board

 

If you are an indecisive person like me (I can never decide on pho or sushi, too hard!), a good trick is sketch your concepts, put together a mood or vision board, print it and take it to the shoot. It’s very helpful having a visual guide on set and you also save time communicating to people(example: bring me a chair that looks like this!).

Other than that, planning, creating a shot list, getting inspiration and getting hands on practice is always a good thing. And of course, rules are meant to be broken so take these tips with a grain of salt and trust your gut. As the wonderful Rumi says:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

scanteak_canada-6.jpgLeave any questions here and I’ll get back to you!

Photography, art direction and styling by me

How To Make Bear Toast- A Tutorial

There are times when life as a creative (or life in general) requires trying new things or breaking out of a tedious schedule. Times when you feel like you’re in a slum, and possibly can’t create work anymore.

The secret?
Bear Toast

Bear with me as I go through this list of reasons why:

1. They are irresistibly cute

2. Impress a friend, roommate, parent or neighbour. They are good for picnics too

3. A healthy snack (as long as you have self control and don’t eat spoonfuls of Nutella during the making)

4. Bound to get you out of any creative rut

Enough said.

You will need: how_to_make_bear_toast

slices of toast
banana
peanut butter, Nutella or frosting
blueberries (any type of berries)

how_to_make_bear_toast

Start by slicing the bananas and cover toast with Nutella for blacks bears, peanut butter for brown bears (my fav).

bear_toast
bear_toast_blueberries

Position sliced bananas and blueberries for the eyes and nose. I’ve found that slicing the berry in half helps to keep the nose from rolling off. The blueberries also remind me of beagles in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

bear_toast_photography

Viola! You can experiment with different colours of frosting and berries too. Try white frosting for polar bears.

bear_toast_selfie
bear_toast_good_morning

Snap a photo with your favourite bear and enjoy. Now go make some bear toast.

bear_toast_the_end

The end

How to Make Panda Rice Cakes – A Tutorial

panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-5

There are times in the life of a freelancer where you find yourself a little burnt out and needing motivation to get out of bed and kick @$$. Even when you are pursuing a career you love.

Those are good times to take time off and work on projects like panda rice cakes. Or stay in bed, eat junk food and watch Hayao Miyazaki like it’s the end of the world.

I hope you choose option one.

Without further ado, I dedicate this post to my creative friends and family of pandas in Taiwan and around the world.

You will need:

panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-1

3 cups cooked sushi rice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp veggie oil
1/8 cup white sugar + salt to taste
nori sheets

Instructions:

1. Combine rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. Cook over medium until sugar dissolves.
2. Cool, then stir into cooked rice.
3. Form rice into ovals cakes. Use saran wrap as the rice gets really sticky
4. Cut nori sheet into strips for arms and ovals for panda eyes and ears.
5. Create your panda (I used flower petals to make the red bow)

panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-6  panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-3 panda-rice-cake-tutorial-sophia-hsin-2

There you have it! An adorable panda rice cake for everyone.

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ps- no pandas were hurt in the making of this post