Sunday, November 29, 2015



I decided to continue writing about smart phone photography. In my last blog post I went through 6 tips about how you can make your smart phone photography even better. If you haven't read the previous blog post you will find it here. I decided to go through all the tips one by one. Explain it a bit more depth. Today I write about composition.

Last time I wrote shortly about it like this:
"This is very important. Rule of thirds, negative space, diagonals, leading the eye...there are plenty of things to consider but most important especially in Instagram is to simplify. You are looking either at someone's single pic or at someone's grid in small size on your phone. You will decide in matter of seconds, will you or will you not follow this feed. Not only one pic has to be good but all those pics have to be good as a grid. It is a good idea to keep things simple. Begin your composition with your main subject. Add or arrange things as long as you find the balance."

I guess with this you are very familiar. When building an interesting composition this works very well. Amount of fruits, plates, ingredients etc. 1, 3, 5 looks better than 2, 4, 6 like you see above. 

Make groups from things you are photographing like above. I have group of two (herbs) and group of three (herbs, seeds, mushrooms). All together they are also odd numbers like seed pods are too.

I think this one is the hardest for me to explain. Because I don't think about it at all. It is somewhere deep in my brain. But it means "the pic is divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections." (Wikipedia) In pic above my bowl of dried sage is in one intersection like mushrooms too. The linen napkin's edge is also in right upper intersection.

Nothing to look at? Very important area. It shapes forms around the subject. It's as important as the subject. Without it there isn't a rythm or direction in the pic. Above pic there are negative spaces between the two group, inside the frame, between subjects.

You can build your pic with help of thinking of shapes like triangle, circle, square, cylinder, rectangles, polygon etc. For us it is easier to follow familiar shapes. When we are talking about leading the eye the work is done by lines and shapes. In Instagram photography it is better to trust more simple way of buliding pics so they are often very flat and have quite simple composition. You can also lead the eye with technical camera things like depth of field. But when you are photographing with smart phone that is hard to do, that's why it is important to have a good composition to keep the pic interesting.

After you know all these - you can forget them. See the pic below. Which rules I broke?

I hope you find this useful and interesting. I'm sure there are plenty of things still untold but I'm sure you will take a nice step ahead with your smart phone photography. These pics are all taken with iPhone and during this time of the year - we don't have so much light so that too makes this kind of photography more challenging.

I hope you have a great week ahead of you!


ps. These tips are useful in general when talking about photography.

Saturday, November 14, 2015



iPhone pic by Kreetta Järvenpää
Instagram is more popular than ever before. Are you there already? If not - should you? If you are - what kind of feed you have? If you feel you should do better you might like to read following tips I'm blogging here today. How to get a better looking Instagram feed photographed on your smart phone. I think it is possible, you don't have to have a real camera. 

The bottom line in every media is storytelling. What kind of story you want to tell? This time I'm not telling you how you should tell your story, I'm telling you how should you use your smart phone to take beautiful pics to tell your story.

I have iPhone and I use VSCO app and lately I've tried a bit of Afterlight too. All these pics in this post I've photographed with iPhone.
iPhone pic by Kreetta Järvenpää
There are few ground rules to remember when working with smart phone.

1. Lighting

Avoid difficult lighting conditions. In other words too dark and too harsh light. I recommend shooting in natural light. Make sure you don't photograph in straight sun light. Smart phone isn't the best in difficult conditions so make them easy - you have a chance to succeed. So find a shadow, photograph on gray day or diffuse the light with white fabric, white paper or block the light with neutral color cardboard (white, grey, black)

Find the direction of light. Easy test is just to look at where the shadow falls from your hand on a surface. Usually I prefer that the shadow in the picture is somewhere else than above the subject but I have seen that done too. I think the rules are meant to be broken. (but before that it is good to know what you are breaking) Avoid the light that makes sharp shadow - we want soft light. We want soft shadow. The hand test tells you if it is a good place to photograph with your phone.

2. Location

Location is very important. If you don't have a good location where the light is good and surroundings are fine then you have to create it. You follow the light. I'm photographing mainly still life and food with my iPhone so the space I need isn't so big. I can build the place where I photograph on the table, on the floor, on the terrace, on the ground where ever I have a good light. Try to find a good place at your home, office, workspace, garden - wherever the light is good. Use that spot. You can make your pic there. I use same places at home and at workspace.

3. Time

Yup. You need time to make photos. You get faster the more you do it. But it also happens to professionals that nothing just happens...if you know what I mean. Well, it is important also to let go and try again later or next day. It might also help if you can work together with someone who is also interested about same subject as you are. Make something together and see what happens.
4. Style
Learning by doing is such a cliché but it is a very good way to get better. Also I recommend you to watch what other people are doing. You can learn a lot only by looking at other people's work. How do they do it? I trust odd numbers. Remember you have to be careful with colors. With styling you can build a certain feeling to your pics. Do you want to go with certain colors, composition, subject, cropping or angle of view.

5. Composition
This is very important. Rule of thirds, negative space, diagonals, leading the eye...there are plenty of things to consider but most important especially in Instagram is to simplify. You are looking either at someone's single pic or at someone's grid in small size on your phone. You will decide in matter of seconds, will you or will you not follow this feed. Not only one pic has to be good but all those pics have to be good as a grid. It is a good idea to keep things simple. Begin your composition with your main subject. Add or arrange things as long as you find the balance.

6. Edit
What do you do to your picture is very important. Cropping happens here. I recommend to try manual photo processing first and if you want to use filters, that should be the last thing to do, and I never use filter 100%. Just enough to make a difference. But as I said rules are meant to be broken - always.

iPhone pic by Kreetta Järvenpää
I hope you haven't got too overwhelmed by all these things I've been telling you. One thing at a time. Forcing is never the right answer. Give time to your creative process.   

Here are a few beautiful instafeeds you might like to check.

Our Food Stories
Local Milk 
Fröken Skicklig 
Cannelle et Vanille  
Mimi Brune (only iPhone)

Most of all - have fun!


ps....I notice that all these tips could be worth writing a blog post. Have to think about it.

Friday, October 16, 2015



pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:
How I adore these small pears! I've been telling everybody that now you can get Finnish pears - go and get them before they ran out or the season is over. 
pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:

I decided to bake a pear cake with same recipe I made a plum cake. I got the recipe from Nigel Slater's beautiful cooking book The Kitchen Diaries. It is my absolutely fave book as I told you in previous blog post where I told you about pork ribs we made with my husband from this very same book.

pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:

Gluten free and dairy free baking has been very challenging for me. It is always hard to get very good and moist result...until I found oat flour from grocery shop. It's only what it is called - oat. Nothing else added.

pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:

PEAR CAKE RECIPE BY KREETTA (changing/using recipe from Nigel Slater's plum cake/The Kitchen Diaries book)

6-7 small pears
butter 150g
indian sugar 150g
eggs 3
oat flour 75g (gluten free)
baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons
ground almond 100g
shelled walnuts 50g

You need a 20cm cake tin, about 6cm deep. Bake in 180 'C degrees about 35-45min.

Chop the walnuts and almonds. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Cut the pears at least in three but if you make them smaller they get more soft and that I recommend. Mine were too big so they could have been more softer...but in photograph they look very nice ;) Mix flour+baking powder and add them gently into the mixture. Fold almonds and walnuts into the mixture. 

Scrape the mixture into the cake tin. Place the pear pieces on the cake mixture. They will sink so it might not be so precise how you do it. Bake the cake. It's quite big so it's for 10-12 people.

pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:

When you are photographing food, it is good to know when it should be done. This time it was the right moment to photograph the cake before it went to oven. After that it changed color to brown - even though it's it ok and pretty - I think I like the green pears more.

pear cake  photo by Kreetta Järvenpää blog:

This cake is tasty and moist. You can serve it with vanilla ice cream or without. I think you can also serve it people without saying it's gluten and dairy free. One cake for all. Of course if there are people with peanut allergy or they are vegan - then you have to change the plan. My piece of cake is on my favorite plate by Arabia. Of course it's vintage and the design is called Maisema (Landscape).

Have a great and creative weekend!


Sunday, October 11, 2015



Ribs photo by Kreetta Järvenpää
My husband and I love to cook food but we seldom follow certain recipe literally. This time he did. I took photos and ate with big appetite of course (lucky me,haha)

Few years ago we found Nigel Slater's very nice coffee table cookin book called The Kitchen Diaries from one cosy coffee bar and restaurant in Copenhagen. The book is a year in Nigel's kitchen. He makes seasonal food and have to say he did it long before it came a hit. I remember when I saw the book I was amazed. Somehow it went straigt to my brains and I had to buy it. It's not the fancy one but there is beautiful and strong feeling through the book - thanks for the photographer Jonathan Lovekin. We found the book when we were coming back from our Interrail trip. We travelled by train from Finland to Croatia, Dubrovnik to final destination Kolocep Island. We stopped in Berlin, Zagreb, Split, Prag and Copenhagen if I remember right. It took three weeks. It was a wonderful journey - slow travelling with seasonal food.

Back to the ribs though...

Ribs photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

This is simple recipe and I prefere that. 


thickish honey 6 tablespoons
oyster sauce 3 heaped tablespoons
garlic 4 cloves
dried chilli flakes 1 teaspoon
whole star anise 4
salt flakes 1/4 teaspoon
black peppercorns 1/4 teaspoon
meaty pork ribs 1.5 kg

Make the marinade. Toss the ribs in the marinade. Let them rest for an hour or so. It won't hurt if they stay there overnight. 

Roast the ribs at 180 C for an hour and fifteen minutes. Turn them in the sauce from time to time. Ok, here comes important one: keep an eye on them that they don't burn. We burnt them a bit but the taste was still very good. They are ready when the meat is tender. 

Serve with rice. Enough for 2-3 people.

Ribs photo by Kreetta Järvenpää
Today I'm going to make a version of Nigel's plum cake I tried from this book about two weeks ago. Plums have already gone but yesterday I found Finnish pears in grocery shop so I will use them. I like to save some of them for winter. Have to find a good recipe for that.

Have a relaxing Sunday my friend!


Sunday, October 4, 2015



Autumn has arrived. When the weather turns a bit colder we stay more inside at our homes. We light up candels and spend cosy evenings in our living rooms. Then we look at our home with a bit different eye too. Maybe we want to change things, buy new things or change the order of furnitures. 

I use to have a very minimalistic decoration at my home but after I spent few months in Copenhagen my style changed. I fell in love with Danish style. Cosy and eclectic. You could see a person's history at his or her home and I think that was very interesting and I was very drawn to it. I'm sure if you are very minimalistic and you visit my home - you'd be overwhelmed, haha.

But this photo isn't from our home. It's from our friend's home. They moved to a new house and they have been decorating it very stylishly. As you can see they also like vintage style but modern too. I was very happy when I was asked to make a photo for them. This photo on the wall is taken few years ago during the very cold winter in Helsinki. It was a weird weather on that day. Actually the weather lasted few days. It was cold, crispy and thick frost on everywhere. Like a macig winterworld. How lucky I was because during that time I had a photoshoooting with meteorologist. Funny coincidence. We were photographing near the sea in one park. There I saw these beautiful trees. They were so perfect and simple. They bring to my mind a bit of Japanese wood drawing. I think after that winter we have had the same kind of weather only once or twice so this pic is quite special. Like my friends too.


Saturday, September 19, 2015



styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

This time I go with a very important matter in photography. Style. How can we create our own? How can we find our own voice?

I've been thinking this a lot after having a food photography workshop last weekend. It was a great fun but same time it was very obvious that we all see things very differently. Achieving the goal you need the creative process and that might not be easy to teach. Nowadays I think creative process is a very personal and you need to work it from your own perspective and experience. You also have to be ready to work - pure work - with the different kind of things like colors, textures, angles, techniques, compositions, shapes, materials, light - the list is quite long and for me it was quite hard because I did not like tabletop photographing at all. No, I did not.

styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

I liked to photograph people. But years went by and I started this gretchen gretchen blog 2012. This was a free space to make whatever I wanted. I could build my pics of things I liked. My vintage treasures. I think that was the key holder for me. Freedom to work when I wanted and style with things I liked. I started to enjoy playing with things in photos. But I have worked a lot and I still need a constant work to develop my skills. 

styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

When we are talking about style - we also talk about a matter of taste. How can you teach a good taste? What is the good taste? We also have to remember that our mind doesn't stop. Everything developes and by the time we recognize that something has happened we have taken many steps to different directions and finally we have chosen the one that really makes us happy and content. You could call that your style. 100% proud of your work even though it's not perfect. So I could say that you can't teach a style to anyone without help of the person's perspective and experience. You can teach how you do it but really finding a style and the voice of your own you need to process on your own - learning by doing, researching and finding your creativity and artistic voice.

styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

Style and your voice is very fundamental but there are plenty more to learn same time like composition, lightning, colors, shapes...but don't worry, if you just start working - you will get closer everytime. And yes, you are creative. You just have to wake up the process.

Here are my Top 5 how to begin.


Pinterest, books, magazines etc. Look totally different kind of things. If you are interested about photographing food, please go and see fine art from beginning of 1800's or else. Everything is connected.


There is not easy way. Trying, working, trying, working. Learning by doing. I know it sounds flat but can't help it.


Make your workspace very comfortable and bring there things you like and you get inspired by.


Let things happen. Don't force it. You won't get great work done everytime. It doesn't matter. More important thing is that you work.


For me music is very important when I'm creating things. Make different kind of creative music lists. Let it flow. 

Most of all - have fun!


ps. If you want to see what we did last weekend in food photography workshop, you will find them in Instagram #10ruoka #työhuoneovi10

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Local Milk Food Photography workshop / Styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää

Sometimes it's easy - usually not. Styling a pic, I mean. You really need to work with it and  that's not even enough. You really have to find a good light and think how to crop the frame. Will you go closer or stay a bit further. Can you take a pic straight from the above or can you have nice perspective by photographing it from side with chosen angle. What kind of props and colors you choose. The question list is a long one. 

Local Milk Food Photography workshop / Styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää
But it looks so easy when they do it. Beth Kirby from Local Milk and Ginny Branch. I guess there isn't easy way out - I mean if you want to be good at styling you have to work with it. Hours. 

Local Milk Food Photography workshop / Styling photo by Kreetta Järvenpää
This is my last post of Local Milk's food photography workshop in Venice. Venice is magical place and I love it. The place where we had the workshop was also unbelievable palazzo. Huge windows, antique furniture, walls with reliefs - felt almost I was dreaming. Winter in Venice is also quite adorable. But of course if acqua alta - high water - comes then it's not nice at all.
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