Salford Quays Workshop

Salford Quays Workshop

Media City is right on the canal network  –  so where better to teach night photography skills, a location where you get amazing architecture as well as stunning reflections in each shot.

The workshop started at sunset and went on well past the 10PM finish time… when you’re in the zone, may as well keep going!

The Technical Bit

The main skills we showed people were the basics of night shooting – which on my workshops, uses the camera’s histogram extensively. This feature baffles many – it is quite simple in reality, it’s just never been properly explained to them!

What you’re looking for is a histogram where the brightest bit (the right most end of the chart) is just touching the end. If you’re shooting RAW (and you should be!) then a little peaking is ok, this can be recovered.

With many brands, you can do this all in LIVE VIEW using a LIVE HISTOGRAM – on canon, you just press the “info” button over and over again till it appears. On Nikon, it varies a lot from model to model – we were entertained with this again on the night – yet again, it was in a new place in the menu. There were 2 Sony cameras – older ones – and we never did find a live histogram, so reviewed a shot after it was taken.

Exposure times were generally 30 seconds, especially when the water was rippling – long exposures flatten out the reflections.

The Photos

Well here are a small selection of the shots I created


Commercial Photography Should Be Fun

God, I hate having my photo taken….

That’s the most common thing photographs hear, pretty much everyone, on every job, says it – you’d think it was root canal treatment we were administering.

Photography should be fun – especially commercial work

That’s definitely the case with our friends over at ABL Business, we’ve updated their photo stock a few times and each time, it’s always a fun session with Alex, Andy and the team – getting them to pretend to work, whilst making them laugh. It’s also a great chance to catch up and share ideas.

Portraits can be daunting for people, so I see it as my job to put them at ease, from the second I meet them to the very last shot.

It’s the most important thing – the lighting, the location and the lens choices are all important, but if you wait silently expecting them to smile, the images will be – well, unflattering, dull, forced, un-natural…. the list could go on and on.

So in this blog I thought I’d share some of the final results – and some of the “behind the scenes” shots of the ABL team.

I hope it shows that it’s not a dry, corporate experience – its quickly dispelling nerves and coaxing laughs, smiles to create “genuine” images of people – people being themselves.

Here are some of the out takes…

Totally Unposed

You’ll also notice that they are not “posed” – I just set up some lights around a table, and a desk for the individual ones, and let them get comfortable in their own way. On this shoot, the rest of the team were watching and helping by making the subject laugh – it’s then just a case of shooting till you’re happy you’ve got a decent selection for them to chose from.

I found if I started to “pose” people, they’d feel really self conscious and you’d loose the vital rapport you’ve built, leaving you with a slightly concerned sitter and the natural, friendly expressions gone.

A Few Final Shots

Here are some of the final shots I picked out – all looking professional yet warm and friendly, which is exactly what ABL is all about.

It’s all about creating a fun experience, drinking lots of coffee and taking people’s mind off their “cameraphobia” (which is a real thing!).

Read More… 


See How Easily Focus Stacking You Gives Ultimate Sharpness In Your Landscape Photos

Focus Stacking in Landscape Photos

If you like to get everything pin sharp in your landscapes, Focus Stacking is for you.

If you shoot low with foregrounds which are very close to the lens, then it can be hard to get the background AND the foreground pin sharp. Focussing 1/3 of the way into a scene if often recommended, or using a “hyperfocal” calculator app on your phone can give you the best focus distance for a given aperture and focal length.

Taking The Guesswork Out – Use Focus Stacking

Rather than struggle to work out the best F-Stop and where to focus, we can create a “focus stack”. This is where you take identical photos, but move the focus through the photo.

In our example from Ribblesdale, we focussed on the tree in one photo, and the bottom right rocks on the second image.

The easiest way to do this on a CANON (and most other brands) is to use LIVE VIEW where you can move your focus box around on screen with cursor keys.

  • Put the focus box on the foreground, take a shot.
  • Put the focus box on the middle ground, take a shot.
  • Put the focus box on the background ground, take a shot.

You can take 2 or more – though with smaller apertures (F11 or F16) and wide angled lenses (10-28mm say), the depth of field rarely needs more than 2 shots.

The Photos

These are the 2 photos – they’ve both been processed identically in Lightroom and exported as large files – ready for merging in PHOTOSHOP.

How To Stack

It’s surprisingly easy using PHOTOSHOP – there is a feature where you create a “stack”, then you merge the stack – and it’s done.

Here is a little video to show how it all works:-


7 Top Tips for Low Light Photography

Low Light Photography for Beginners

2015’s summer looks to be ebbing away – certainly in the evenings as it’s dark by 8PM now!

So last night we started our summer-winter transition and showed a group how to shoot at night.

What we did…

Kicking off at Clarence Dock, or New Dock Leeds, as the re-brand calls it, we created:-

  • dusk shots of the old docks.
  • night shots of the docks – 30 second exposures, to smooth the water
  • a bit of light painting at Knightsway bridge
  • car light trails.

Here are some examples:-

The Low Light Photography Tips

  1. Using the tripod is essential
  2. Use the lowest ISO you can as this give less noise
  3. use LIVE VIEW and the LIVE HISTOGRAM to anticipate exposure. The histogram will have a “U” shape, lots to the left, lots to the right. Make sure not too much is off to the right.
  4. start at 30 seconds exposure and work out the F-Stop from that – viewing the live histogram to do it
  5. shoot, then review and understand the histogram – in a nutshell, everything off to the left is underexposure and will be noisy, everything off the right can’t be recovered and will always be white.
  6. composition in a built environment – getting verticals right, rule of thirds and use of lead lines. Set up an interesting shot then wait for cars to pass to leave light trails… light trails on their own are boring, they just add to an already good shot
  7. using road furniture (arrows etc.) and reflections as part of your composition. We tell stories in pictures, these are part of the story

We’re off to Salford Quays next – then onwards to teach you how to Light Paint and lots of other nocturnal goodies over the darker months