Sunday, 14 August 2016

Advice + Tips for Your First Photoshoot

I don’t know if you’ve ever done a photoshoot before?

I had my first experience a few weeks back. You might have seen my excitable posts all over Instagram and Twitter… I’d never done one and so when the tim Tim Marner team got in touch, I jumped at the chance. Tim Marner are 'the best' creative agency in Manchester, they’ve got a really cool studio that looks like a pretty normal office block but when you enter it, it’s like a treasure trove of Alice In Wonderland type rooms, stairways and floorspace.

When I’d confirmed and we’d got a date in place, I started to get nervous and excited - I really didn’t know what to expect. When I got my call sheet through, I was amazed. I’d given the team a quick overview on what my blog was about (I’d suggested shooting images that I could then use on here), and they’d nailed it. I wanted to get across my ethos and attitude with food, health and fitness, so the word balance was thrown about a bit! The shot list I got sent back was adventurous to say the least; think donuts on my head, balancing wine and green juice and having a watermelon for a face.

However, like I said, it was my first shoot so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As a beginner ‘model’ (although I would never call myself that..), I know I would have appreciated hearing these tips from someone who’d done it before, so I thought I’d impart my wisdom. If you’re thinking about doing a shoot / nervous about doing a shoot / interested to hear about a first timer’s shoot, grab a cup of tea and delve in…


I really cannot stress this piece of advice enough. This was without a doubt the thing I lacked the most. It’s also really hard to just ‘get’ confident if this is an alien environment to you (like it was for me). I’d say that in all honesty, two double g&t’s would have really helped here, but that won’t help you and is probably not socially acceptable. What I would say though, is (and without trying to sound controvertial), I found it a little bit comforting to try and put myself in the mindset of having had two g&t’s. I’m not talking slurring words or slut-dropping in the studio, but just that nice, comfortable feeling you have when you’re finishing drink number one after work on a Friday. You’re not self-conscious, you’re confident; you’re warm and know that you look good.

It’s so easy to take a ‘good’ photo of yourself, from the comfort of your bedroom or wherever. Like with a selfie, for example. You control the angle and lighting. You can do your make up a certain way, show the ‘best’ side of you, enhance things with a good bit of Valencia filter. All this narcissistic comfort is abruptedly taken away from you on a shoot - your make up is done a particular way, someone else is taking the photo, you’re moving around the floor at their direction. I’d urge you to discount ‘seflie-mode’ from the day and embrace having someone (a professional no less, don’t forget!) take your picture for you. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

So, from someone who sort-of regrets the outcome of their ‘natural’ shots because they just simply couldn’t relax (I don’t think they reflect the ‘me’ that I was too nervous / scared to be on the shoot - I wasn’t confident enough), please, take it from me - act confident. Act like you really absolutely love yourself and that you’re the best thing on this earth because it will only show up in the pictures as well earned confidence. Trust me.

NB: If you’re really struggling with the whole confidence thing when doing ‘natural’ shots, I found it so much easier / more comfortable doing shots where I had a prop (i.e watermelon, donuts), or a particular look - it helped me focus and I just instinctively revolved the shot around that, so I’d recommend adding in some props if you think you’ll struggle!


Forget about the people in the room; the photographer, the make up artist re-touching your lips, the team running about to make sure lighting is ok… I know this is hard. Believe me I do! But, leading on from point one above, try and do this as much as you can. Block the team out from being a group of people ‘looking at me oh my god’ and view them for what they are employed to do. The whole shoot will be so much better if you think transactionally, and not emotionally. The room is yours at that point, and the people in it are there to make it happen - they do this day in, day out, so don’t let them put you off :)


Photographs are a beautiful way of visually capturing who you are, in a particular moment. Is there a particular trait you want to show off? Perhaps there’s a certain way you want to be perceived from this photograph? It’s art, and thinking about it this way really helped me ease into the poses a lot more.


If you’re not being dressed for the shoot (that is, if the photographer isn’t bringing a costume for you), and you’re going to be wearing your own clothes, bring as many as possible. Bring more than you think is necessary. Kay had a real eye for pairing activewear that I wouldn’t usually go for, and having surplus clothing definitely helped when we had to move around looks and also provided a real platform for inspiration - the way certain clothes fit you can help mould and determine the poses and expressions in the shoot.


Not going to lie, I had a couple of good old spots on my chin on the morning of my shoot (thanks, gods of fate!). I was nervous (embarrassed?) about the girls doing my make up and also what they’d look like on film. I needn’t have worried. Your make up artist is there to hide unwanted blemishes and is working with camera lighting and the shoot theme in mind, so don’t worry if you think it looks a little full on. It also reassured me when I saw the raw pictures on camera that in fact you couldn’t see them and again when I was sent the final edits. It comforted me to know that ‘real models’ must face the spot / bad skin / bad hair day and we just don’t see that when we see glossy versions in magazines.


Unless you’re a model, how often are you going to have a team (I repeat, team) of people, fussing over you - doing your hair (I love it when people play with my hair), chatting to you, making you feel really special, doing your make up etc? Embrace it! It’s so much fun jumping around, being a kid and doing something you’d never normally do - welcome it with open arms.

I definitely found the shoot challenging and sometimes (at first) uncomfortable, but by the end of the shoot I’d really relaxed into it and regretted being so self-conscious at the start. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, extended my boundaries and I can whole heartedly say that I look at pictures of myself differently now. I don’t think I’m as critical.

Top and bottoms - MyProtein
I honestly can’t convey how comforting and friendly the team (Kay (Photographer and Art Director), Tim (Creative Director), Gaz (Art Director), Patsy (make up artist) and Jackie (hair stylist)) were.

After just one day (and a few texts), I felt like I’d known Kay for years, she’s so nice. If I called Tim “wacky” he’d probably laugh or look at me with jokey disdain that I’m not edgy enough to come up with an adjective to suit his demeaner. I realise this isn’t doing him justice! He’s insane in front of the camera, the phrase work the room could not be more apt, he’s a baller and I love what he’s about. Patsy and Jackie put me at ease and were so easy to chat to. It was like being in the dressing room with two friends catching up over a coffee. As far as teams go, they’re definitely up there with the most dynamic and friendly.

You can see their write up of working with me, and more pics from the shoot by reading their blog, here - I'd love to know what you think :)

If you are considering doing a shoot I’d absolutely recommend booking in with Tim Marner. They specialise in fitness photography (how cool are these shots here?), but also do branding, video production, advertising, graphic design and build websites - they really are a talented bunch. It’s amazing what they can do with their studio to transform the space; I challenge you to give them a brief they can’t execute! Give them a cheeky follow on all the usual channels on @timmarner too.

Thanks again to all the crew, I’ll wear my Tim Marner snapback with pride!

HUGE thanks to MyProtein too, who sent me some amazing clothes to wear for the shoot - pictured above :) They've got some lush new clothes at the moment, including a gorgeous b&w marbled effect sports bra, which I'll be posting on Social soon - so keep your eye out.

If you have any other tips for a beginner on a photoshoot, please send them my way!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Feasting @ Bakchich

You might have noticed from my Instagram that I've been to a couple of Lebanese restaurants recently. First, Aladdin's in Withington and most recently, Bakchich just off of Oxford Road. Both serve incredible food, but the vibe in Bakchich is as sleek as it is kitch; you definitely don't go to Aladdin's for the decor, but that's nothing against their culinary skills.

Today though, I'm talking you through Bakchich, as I was invited to come down and review the menu...

So, one Friday after work, James and I ambled down from the city centre to Chester Street. From being someone who practically lived on Oxford Road as a student, I hadn't ventured down 'that' way for absolutely ages - for some reason I'd got it into my head that it was 'miles' out from town, but it's not - a fifteen minute walk from Portland Street at most. So definitely do-able as a central place to grab something to eat.

The decor reminds me of Comptior Libanais; Middle Eastern mosaics, pop art style prints on the wall and colourful chairs. I loved it. We sat in our own booth and watched the place fill up with families, couples and friends out to enjoy food on a Friday night. It was nice to see a restaurant nestled in student town still busy even with the summer holidays in full swing.

We kicked off with a ginger, orange & carrot juice and James had the panache smoothie as a recommendation from our waiter. They were both lush; zingy and fresh and a perfect palette cleanser!

We ordered a selection of hot and cold mezze dishes as well as our mains - and oh my god, there was enough food for four of us!

We had:

  • Falafel
  • Babaganoush
  • Lebanese bread
  • Fatat Hummous 
  • Lebanese sausage
  • Halloumi Meshwi (this had pomegranate molasses on top - a really interesting sweet sauce to have on the cheese, it worked surprisingly well!)

The hummous was so nice - it had crispy pieces of Lebanese bread in a layer at the bottom which offered such a nice texture. I also loved how the falafel and halloumi came with salad - juicy tomatoes, pomegranate and cucumber, lemon and olive oil dressing. 

For the main affair (which is brought out at as and when it's ready; a concept I am fully on board with), I went for the Shish Taouk (chicken skewers cooked in Lebanese spices), which is served with fragrant rice and more of that delicious salad.

James went for the lahma meshawi (lamb skewers) with fries. The lamb was gorgeous, and I'm not going to lie, so were the fries!

Despite being stuffed, our waiter insisted on dessert.. so there was only one thing for it: BAKLAWA! One of the first times I had Baklava was from a middle eastern deli on Gloucester Rd in Bristol, and I fell in love with the sticky pastry, and gooey mix of crushed nuts and honey.

Our waiter also brought over coconut cheesecake (also insane: creamy and perfectly whipped, with a crunchy biscuit base) and mint tea, which was the perfect way to finish off the epic feast.

Everyone was so friendly, in particular the manager and our lovely waiter, so if you want to feel really looked after and valued as a customer, Bakchich is your place.

My only 'err' moment came when I found out they didn't serve alcohol, especially as I fancied a cheeky drink on a Friday. However, with the arrival of the juices it was surprisingly easy to forget about the drink, and focus on the food. So please don't let this put you off, it's an amazing place!

I'd definitely come back, it seems like the perfect place to swing by on a week day for a feast.

Bakchich kindly took care of the bill for this review but as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own...


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Double Chocolate Nicecream

I know, I know. I've raved about 'clean' banana icecream time and time again, but this one is UNREAL. So creamy, milky and genuinely 100% tastes like icecream.

The secret?! Unflavoured whey. Organic unflavoured whey, to be precise, from the Good Stuff Organic (more on them later).

This tastes so nice even James, who has been 'polite' about healthy desserts I've made in the past, has said that this is the best one yet.

For this masterpiece (if I do say so myself), you will need...

Serves 2

  • 200g frozen banana (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs (also from the Good Stuff Organic)
  • 2 scoops unflavoured whey 
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Truvia 
  • Pinch of salt
  • White chocolate sprinkles to throw on top

Chuck everything into your blender, and whiz until you're left with a smooth, thick, creamy, but slightly frozen, consistency. Spoon into bowls, top with white chocolate sprinkles and dig in.

If you make it, you'll know what I mean when I say it's really creamy. The whey gives it a proper 'icecream' taste; milky and thick. The cacao nibs add a rich crunch and the white chocolate is the icing on the cake, really.

Give it a go with unflavoured whey, and let me know what you think!

Also, I mentioned The Good Stuff Organic at the start of this post - they're a new start up company based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire and they kindly sent me a selection of products to try out. It's run by two people, Tom and Alex. I've only spoken to Alex, but she's lovely. It's so nice to work with people who are passionate about what they're doing day in and day out.

They pride themselves on no added nasty crap in their products, 100% natural, with no artificial flavourings. They bill themselves as "the supplement for the athlete that cares about their health as much as their muscles," and since having a snoop on their site and learning more about them, I love what they're about. I'd highly recommend giving them a follow on Insta or Twitter.

I'm looking forward to trying the baobab as I've never used this before, so holler with any recipes you think I should try.

Oh, and any more protein nicecream ideas, please send them my way!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


pic @spamellab
"Don't make friends on the internet," they said. "They're all weird and dangerous." Ahem...
Last weekend I packed my things and got on a rickety, hot and sweaty slow train to the Yorkshire countryside with four people I met on the internet.

No, this wasn't some sort of weird fetish mini-break, I was going away with Pamela, Vicki, Sophie and closest fellow foodie / fitness bloggers, who I'd 'met' about a year / eighteen months ago on Twitter and Instagram.

Over the past few months we've met up IRL loads, going from organised blogger events to nights out, brunch dates, dinner and now, a weekend away together.

We hired the most beautiful cottage from Air b'n'b; an 'upside down' glass-fronted place with bedrooms tucked away downstairs and a light, airy open plan living space on top. It was called Swallows Nest and the photos don't do it justice - it was adorable!

If you follow any of us on social you'll have probably seen a selection of these posts on Insta or Twitter, so sorry for the spam.

The influx of natural light beaming down from every angle was too much in the way of excitement for us food bloggers, and we set about trying to snap up as many food pics as poss.

Other than than, Friday night was spent catching up over antipasti, prosecco and a lush cake Pam made for Vicki's birthday.

pic @spamellab
We were up & at 'em early doors on Saturday, with a HIIT workout led by Vicki. It was a killer, and she finished us off with hill sprints that wiped us all out.

Cue brunch: smoked salmon, smashed avo, poached eggs & coffee for days.

Afterwards we donned our walking gear and headed off on a big ass country walk to explore the surroundings. We ended up ditching the map and found a reservoir that we walked around, before ending up in the village for coffee.

Slaithwaite during the day is quaint, cute and very kitch. Mink painted cafes selling artisan bread and lattes, art galleries and a lovely big Aldi (essential).

We ate at Vanilla Bean on Saturday night, and found out they'd just had a re-launch with a new menu. I'd really recommend the place! The food was so delicious and we definitely overdid it on the tapas...

My two favourite dishes were the spicy chorizo in red wine sauce, and the king prawns. Insane.

(I've also since learnt that Vanilla Bean filmed with the Hairy Bikers on their Meals on Wheels series, and if it gets the Hairy Bikers approval, I'm in...)

Slaithwaite at night (or "Slawit", as the locals call the town..) didn't quite do it for us and so we retreated back up the mahussive hill to chat and eat chocolate.

On Sunday, we thought it would be a great idea to run downhill for 2 miles, to then come back up, running (on what can only be described as the steepest hill that went on forever) for 30 secs, walking for 30 and lunging for 30 (annnnd repeat to the top), before our glutes had had enough.

We were then really kindly invited by one of the guys who works at the local fitness centre to try a class for free, and so Soph & I gladly drove to get involved with the Les Mills Body Balance class that was taking place. It was a blend of vinyasa yoga, pilates and tai cai, and it was epic. Really helped the hamstrings chill out after our tough hill runs, and everyone at the leisure centre was lush. I'd never done a Les Mills class before then, but I'd definitely give another one a go! I didn't realise the class is taught on the same week everywhere in the world, which I thought added a really strong sense of community to the workout.

This makes it sound like we were constantly sweating it out. Believe me, we spent so much time on Saturday and Sunday lying out in the garden, baking, eating, drinking and chilling, I went home feeling really refreshed (James was dying from a hangover and was not impressed, ha).

I would absolutely recommend the cottage (it sleeps 5) to anyone looking to escape to the countryside who lives around Manchester. It took about 45 mins on the train and not too much longer in the car either. The scenery is so beautiful and the pace of life is lovely and slow (unless of course, you were sprinting up the hill at 9am on Saturday morning...)

It was such a perfect weekend - a proper "good food, good wine, good people" vibe and so relaxing (even if my glutes were still on fire on Monday).

I guess the essence behind this post is that friends come in all shapes and sizes and are met through different means and mediums - but it doesn't mean that they mean any less. My "internet" pals are no different to my "non-internet" friends, in the sense that I respect them, value their opinions, look to them for motivation and inspiration, they make me laugh.. and are great fun to get pissed with!

Watch this space, the #BlogGalsOnTour have plans!!

PS. If you liked this post, you should check out my weekend away in Dartmouth, and escaping to France in the winter...
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