Meet The Compers: Karen Weedon
Welcome to an extra tasty edition of Meet The Compers! You might want to stay away if you’re calorie counting….
This time I’m super excited to glean some photography and recipe tips from Karen Weedon, who has the most mouth-watering Instagram feed you can imagine, and rustles up some truly incredible culinary creations for competitions (follow at @kazweedon).
Thanks so much for joining me for a SuperLucky Q&A Kaz!
When did you first discover comping?
I remember winning my first competition back in 1980 from a glossy magazine – they wanted to know who you would go camping with! I don’t remember my exact answer but I said it would be Basil Fawlty and something about his funny walk making the tent collapse – I won, and had a huge amount of camping gear arrive at my parents’ house!
I then took a slight break of, ooh, about 37 years! And then started comping again in 2017. I had met a couple of people who had won amazing prizes, so as I now had more spare time I decided to give it a go. For the first few years I was mainly doing online comps, using the MoneySavingExpert forums. I won a few prizes, including a holiday to Chile, but nowhere near the amount I win now!
What are your favourite websites, forums or resources?
Lucky Learners is now my ‘go to’ resource! I’m also a member of Compers News and I still visit MSE and Loquax if I have spare time. It’s all about social media now – following companies on Instagram means there’s endless competitions to enter. I also get plenty of ‘tags’ from friends and I use www.tweetdeck.com to find low entry comps.
Do you have a comping routine?
I tend to comp more in the week and less on the weekends. During the week I first check new notifications in Lucky Learners, on Instagram etc. and I also have lots of bookmarks for dailies, purchase necessary and creative comps. If there are radio comps on that week, I’ll be listening to the relevant stations in the mornings.
Your beautiful bakes look amazing on Instagram – what prizes have you won with your photos and recipes?
I’m still amazed at what I have won as I consider myself neither a baker nor a photographer… Some of my favourite wins from 2021 are:
- an ultimate £500 Dualit breakfast bundle (breakfast photo)
- a KitchenAid stand mixer and a baking hamper, which was top of my ‘wish list’ (a photo me with my chocolate cake)
- A 7 piece pan set worth over £400 (dinner make with a Cirio tomato product)
- Smeg cookware set with The Sunday Times Cookbook Club (I made a Candice Brown recipe, a Fig and Brazil Chocolate nut cake)
- £250 Lakeland voucher (Easter bunny bundt cake)
- 3 BBQs (BBQ recipe photos)
- £1,000 Ocado vouchers (a cake with the Ocado logo in the middle)
- £2,000 Canopy and Stars voucher with Yeo Valley (sustainable/recycling food photos – I shared a photo of easy ice cream made from overripe bananas and peanut butter)
I’ve had a few more successful entries so far in 2022, including another KitchenAid Mixer in a Linwoods Health Foods competition and £1000 cash from a photo of a meal cooked in a Salter frying pan.
What’s your favourite prize, and why was it so special?
Winning a KitchenAid mixer was special as I had wanted one for so long. Since then I’ve won another 3, including one in the Bake for Love purchase necessary promotion!
Another favourite prize was an amazing Mother’s Day win. I was nominated by a lovely comping friend but I shared the prize with my mum. It was the first Mother’s Day that we didn’t have my Dad so I was so pleased to be able to treat her to so many luxury prizes, including flowers, chocolate, perfume and a 5-star afternoon tea.
What are your favourite dishes to create for comps?
Definitely cake! It’s not so much that I like to eat cake, but I feel I can make it look good in photos. Brown is boring… I like colour and if possible to make things look ‘pretty’!
One of the things that frustrates me about creative Instagram comps is when promoters don’t tell you if it’s judged or chosen at random! Is there anything about Instagram comping that bugs you?
Yes lots! There’s often no T&Cs or it’s a link you can’t access unless you copy and paste on a laptop. Also, there’s often not a clear ‘end date’ or more recently I’ve seen a lot of comps ending early! Quite often I’ll message a company for clarification but often never get a response (even from ‘big’ companies). They put these comps on Insta but don’t have the staff to deal with the ‘admin’ side of it. Probably the most frustrating thing is when I’ve had to buy a product, spent time making my entry only to never know who, if anyone, ever won it.
Do you have any funny comping stories to share?
One of my radio wins last year was thanks to telling my story of a cooking disaster. I was boiling some eggs when the postman arrived. We spent ages spent ages chatting, then I heard an explosion inside the house and Alexa screaming at me. I rushed inside to find blackened eggs on my ceiling and Alexa telling me the timer was overdue!
What camera do you use for your food photography?
My Canon EOS 1300D was a ‘win from a win’ (I love those!). I won a 5-star London Hotel stay and while there took photos of the meals. I used one of the photos to enter a Carphone Warehouse comp – and won the camera! However, for convenience I do mostly use my iPhone 12 Pro Max to take photos.
I struggle to incorporate a product into my food photos – it always seems to look out of place! Do you have any tips?
Colour co-ordination is always good – for example get the food to match or go well with the product colour. Always make sure the brand and product name can be clearly seen. When I take photos, I take LOADS from all different angles – and of course, I take ones without the product too so I can use those for other comps.
What props do you recommend when styling a food photo for Instagram?
I have various ‘backdrops’, some of these I’ve bought and some are just pieces of wallpaper! It’s good to have nice plates and cutlery and then other props like linen tea towels, cake stands, books, plants, etc. I pick up some of my favourites from charity shops! I do struggle to get a decent amount of light in my house so I’m looking at getting some extra source of lighting.
Have you ever created a dish that looked spectacular but tasted awful?
A few times! Not usually with cakes and sweet bakes, but certainly with savoury foods especially if I’ve added things like lots of chillies to give it more colour! The worst part is the food gets cold if you are photographing it…
Which of your winning entries are you most proud of?
The Delicious magazine win (Eton Mess roulade) was one of my favourites as it was judged by cooking experts, who told me they get a huge amount of entries. It was also printed in a magazine so I could show it to friends and family. I won £500 of vodka!
Have you ever won a year’s supply of something?
I’ve won a year’s coffee, tea, milk, eggs, magazines – but my favourite was a year’s supply of shoes and boots! Like most compers, I’m always on the look out for possible ‘comping’ photos when we are out and about! My husband and I were at a fair and I made my son take a photo of us with our faces in one of those cutout boards! A couple of weeks later I spotted a comp on Shoeaholics Instagram to share a photo of you and your partner. They loved the photo and we won a year’s supply of shoes – 24 pairs worth £2,000, enough for all the family!
It sounds like your husband is supportive of your hobby – has he won any prizes himself?
Although my hubby benefits from all these wins he does occasionally come up trumps himself. Flybe were giving away holidays to Munich. You had to work out one of their secret locations that they would be hiding a Golden Ticket’. I realised it was in a park in Winchester and when we arrived, there were lots of people looking for the ticket in the bushes, bins, and trampling over all the flower beds! I joined them but my husband decided to just people-watch and look for ‘suspicious activity’… while everyone was busy looking on the ground he saw a man arrive with a bag who then took out a large envelope and put it down on a low wall… hubby dashed across, picked up the envelope and inside was the ‘Golden Ticket’!
What would be your dream competition prize?
My daughter and family live in New Zealand and I haven’t seen them since 2019, so my dream prize would be a holiday or flights to see them. My eldest granddaughter is 3 and already loves baking – we’ve had a couple of video cooking sessions together making cookies and jam tarts (as I did with my grandmothers) but it’s not the same as being with them. Oh, and I’d also like to ‘look 10 years younger’ – so please, if you see a comp like that then do tag me!!
Have you had any success with creative entries NOT including food?
Ha ha! Yes I’ve had success with a few entries – three prize holidays in 2020 come to mind…
- a luxury holiday to Oman with Net Flights on Facebook – with an ‘OMG I don’t believe it!’ selfie
- a 3 night city break with RyanAir (anywhere on their network) – with a selfie on a flight eating Pringles
- a holiday to Bali – a selfie where you had to feature the product (East Bali cashew nuts)
(Hang on a minute Kaz – surely Pringles and cashews are still food, LOL! – Di)
I added a ‘funny’ comment to the selfies as well which I think can help. Unfortunately due to the pandemic I’ve not yet managed to take these holidays!
You’ve had some success in purchase necessary competitions too – tell me about some of those!
Although it’s rewarding to win holidays from creative entries, it’s also nice to win them from not much effort!
- I bought a £7 Dr Paw Paw lip balm from Sainsburys and won a £1,000 LastMinute.com voucher. We had a lovely holiday to Majorca – it was on the flight back home that I took a Pringles selfie and won another holiday, another ‘win from a win’!
- I travelled to Verona, Italy thanks to Rana pasta (along with a few other Lucky Learners). This prize was unbelievably generous – every detail was thought about and we were treated like royalty.
- I won a European City break by purchasing some Amstel beer. Due to Covid, the promoter let me exchange this for UK break so I spent the £1,200 on a luxury stay in the Lake District (which was on my wish list).
- In May this year I’m due to go to Florida for a week, with flights, accommodation and Universal Studios passes – this was won from buying a Soltan product in my local Boots!
And finally! Do you have any comping tips to share?
- Persevere! There’s been lots of times I’ve NOT won a comp but kept my photos and reused them for another competition and won – sometimes the prize has even been better!
- Be organised. I save lots of bookmarks in my Chrome browser which I can access on my phone and laptop.
- Turn notifications on for important posts or companies that regularly provide giveaways.
- Follow local businesses on social media – they are much lower entry.
- Make lists! I’m still quite old fashioned, I have a notebook with a page for each day that I have written down deadlines for creative comps etc.
- Read the terms and conditions when you can – I always see compers enter incorrectly, whether it’s tagging 50 friends when terms say only one will be accepted, entering Irish only comps, not answering the questions asked or including the key hashtag
- Help others by sharing comps – karma will reward you in the end!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions Kaz, there are some brilliant tips here! If you enjoyed this interview please do check out the others here.