Can you photoshop me?

Anybody who photographs “normal people” will hear this question – every single shoot!

It’s our “question everyone asks”.

People want to look their best and they put their trust in you, also a great Icebreaker. 

The answer is “Yes of course”, we always do “something” to the photograph, just how far and how long we spend on the shot is a budget consideration – and that’s the purpose of this blog to show a few things we can do.

There are LOADS of tools and techniques available to us these days:-

  • some quick “make you look amazing” filters, which are fast and affordable – but can make you look a little plastic
  • some have clever filters to find and brighten your eyes and teeth
  • some use machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence – these can do do a cracking job, but cost a fortune! 
  • Some high-end Photoshop techniques (e.g “Frequency Separation” and “Dodge and Burn”) can take a skilled Photoshop retoucher hours, with results that look amazing – it’s how cover images for fashion magazines are created

Andy Taylor Boocock

Let us have a look at the progress of this photo of Andy.

Above, straight out of the camera it is quite a dark and Moody photo. The reason is that I want the background dark and mysterious for the photo. I had to lower the power of the flashes to stop them from lighting the background. It’s one of those challenges of “location shooting”. Stopping light going where you don’t want it!

Step 1 

I send the photo to dxo photolab – I really like its lens correction and sharpening, seems more refined than Adobe have managed so far. You will not see a huge change from the original at this resolution, but the “detail” is amazing from this step – especially for prints.

Step 2

I’ve changed the background to be cooler and slightly purple using Lightroom, I thought it would contrast with Andy’s outfit. I’ve also brightened Andy quite a bit to make him pop out of the background.

Step 3

This is where we look at the skin in Photoshop.

Andi doesn’t have many blemishes, so we didn’t need the healing tool in Photoshop.  I used a technique called dodge and burn which is designed to even out skin tones, giving a natural look.

We are not “blurring the pixels” so make things softer, as many techniques do,  but hanging how neighbouring pixels are so they look more even. It’s a more natural way to soften skin – though more time-consuming.

Step 4

I returned to Lightroom to add final tweaks – if you notice I have darkened the edges of the photo a little (called a vignette), slightly lightened the shadows from his glasses on the cheeks, and sharpened up the texture on his jacket.

And that’s as far as I’d go with this one.

Jana – Dental Nurse

Here’s a shot from a busy Dental Surgery in Huddersfield

It’s taken in Reception with the company logo in the background – I positioned a couple of lights to brighten the area and light Jana.

Step 1

Straight out of the camera, the RAW file. Just the baseline.

Step 2

Send the RAW to DXO to sort out sharpness and lens corrections, again you won’t see much difference at this resolution, but if it ever gets printed, it’ll add a bit of magic to the shot.

Step 3

Basic edits in LIGHTROOM – so basics like:-

  • get the white balance correct, easy with a white wall
  • Brighten the background in this case – it’s a white wall, so make it very bright
  • Adjust the brightness and colour intensity on Jana

This is often where “basic editing” would end – you’ve got the colour, contrast and brightness correction, and the shot looks good to go for many use cases.

Step 4

Next would be to look at the skin, as with Andy above, Jana has great skin so it may be hard to compare – but I’ve applied Dodge and Burn, and Blemish removal, to this next shot – it’s subtle but does look more refined. Look at the cheeks – it’s just a little more smooth and balanced after D&B.

Step 5

So now we can “tidy up” a little – in the background, we can see a cupboard handle and the pegs that hold the sign in place. There’s nothing “wrong” with them, but we can easily remove them to clean things up.

Also, just used a little bit of “frequency separation” to soften a few smile/laughter lines – very subtle again. See if you can spot them.

Step 6

And the final step in here was to brighten teeth and eyes, we use masked Curves Layers to do this so we can finely adjust how bright they are.

Sometimes you go too far with this and they look like vampires. When you come back the next day and realise you got carried away, you can adjust the curves down to something more human!

So…. Can you Photoshop me?

Yes – and hopefully these show one of the workflows photographers can do for you. There are many, some may just use Portrait Professional which instantly makes you look like a doll (flawless skin, bright eyes and teeth etc.) or go through these more intricate techniques.

It’s all down to the budget which route you choose – some more challenging photos could take a day if you used Frequency Separation and Dodge and Burn, or a couple of minutes in other tools!

Andy at Eggborough

If you set up a camera tripod and flashes outside an operational power station, it wouldn’t be long before security along asking you to move on, I know because it’s happened to me a few times. If you ask them whether terrorists often turn up with a model, 3 tripods and flashes, they are not amused – a sense of humour bypass is part of the job, maybe?

These massive cooling towers make a huge impact on any portrait shoot, so now that Eggborough near Selby has been decommissioned I decided to bite the bullet and take and the over there for a shoot.

Obviously got to go as dramatic as possible with such a skyline, and the clouds on the day really added to the Vibe.

Photography Bit…

If you are into kit here is what we used…

Camera…

The lights were all GODOX

  • Rim lights – Godox AD200 at around 45 degrees on either side of Andy, simple reflectors
  • Key light – Godox AD600 with 60cm beauty dish
  • Trigger – Godox X-Pro

It was a really bright day so you can imagine that the camera aperture needed to be small (around F11-f16) to kill the ambient, and flash power settings are pretty high – 1/2 or full power on most.

Another option was to do High-Speed Synch to kill the ambient and shot at 1/2000th – rather than shooting at 1/200th – I just seem to err towards high power and small aperture, the force of habit I guess 🙂

The Photos

Here are a few from the day…

Your old work should be embarrassing!

How do you know whether you are progressing at photography? 

Well, There are many ways to look at this, it could be 

  • how successful you are with competitions in your local camera club
  • or whether you get more likes and praise on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Flickr 
  • or more sales and new clients

But that’s all secondary really, and external factors like popularity and your own activity (marketing, “liking” others work) come into play. 

The Cringe Factor

Now the best way of telling whether you’ve progressed is whether when you look back a year or two, or even 10, and see the work you were producing then, you are slightly embarrassed by it – there’s a cringe factor! 

You know what you did wrong and how you would do it better now. 

I saw an interview with Pink Floyd’s guitarist, Dave Gilmour, where he said he wished he’d done a better job of the intro to “Wish You Were Here” – something millions of guitarists have laboured over to copy exactly. I guess he has very high standards 🙂

A cringe factor is a sure sign of progress. It shows growth in:- 

  • how you compose an image, 
  • how you light it, if you use lighting, 
  • or increased location knowledge, when you walked to the perfect position for the perfect light on a sunset landscape image. 
  • Or maybe it’s how you organize your food and light that for a restaurant shoot
  • how you process an image – did you use toning, or straight? High contrast or muted?
  • techniques you used and abandoned or maintained

All these factors come into play photography, it’s not about how you click the button, but all the little details you learn from experience and especially from working with other people. 

The Flaws are obvious to you

So when you take a look back 5 or 10 years, you should be able to point out lots of flaws in those photos, in 10 years you can go from a complete novice to professional. 

But what about a year ago when you look back at a year at some work you were doing? 

How do you feel when you go back just 12 months? 

With my work realised that I made the rear “rim” lights on my portraits a bit too bright, so they burnt out on the back and sides of people’s heads. There would be no detail left. So now I’m very conscious now of lowering the power and keep checking it’s not too bright. People move and a random step back can easily blow out that rim light. 

Oh, and I almost always use a grid on the backlight too – just to control flare and where the light falls. 

When you look on the camera during the shoot, you don’t really notice it – but when you get back to Lightroom Photoshop, all of a sudden you realize that there’s no detail in the rim-lit areas, and you can’t do much about it. 

So there are literally hundreds of little things which add up to your style today. Looking back is a great way of working out what you’ve changed, and why. 

It’s also a great reason to update your portfolio, keep it current with your best work – to get rid of all the old stuff as frequently as you can. It’s ok to keep some of the old classics of course – think of it like a gig, if you went to see, say, Paul McCartney in concert, it’s fine for him to play a few Beatles tunes after all 🙂

Lencarta Beauty Dish Test Shoot

I recently bought the “MOD048 | 60cm Folding Beauty Dish Silver Mk.2” as a small, portable light modifier. These are available (or will be when stock arrives) on their website (https://www.lencarta.com/all-products/light-shapers/studio-beauty-dishes) or if you’re in West Yorkshire, you can order on line and pick it up in Bradford, which is what I did.

Folding Beauty Dish | Silver | Lencarta / Bowens Fitting | 100cm

Couple of things to note about this particular mod.

  • Silver – so potentially a bit more sparkly than the white version
  • 60cm – so in the middle, you can get tiny or huge, this is hopefully going to work outside without catching too much wind
  • Comes with velcro softbox/grid adaptors – so you can make it pretty directional.

Andy Taylor Boocock

The man in the photos is Andy – a top muse at McFade, always great fun to shoot with, a great look of course and always patient and excited to see the photos when we’re testing new bits of kit!

Scene 1 – Grey Wall

First up, this was a grey painted wall next to Clarence Dock, the Beauty Dish had no modifiers added – so the GODOX AD200 flash was hitting the beauty dish bounce disc, then into the silver reflector and straight out on to Andy.

I’ve included this shot to show the edge of the light on the wall – in this mode, there actually is quite a sharp edge so you can control what is by changing the angle of the flash. In this case the flash is around 4 o’clock and just above head height. If we put one of the diffusers onto the front of the dish, that edge would be diffused and softer.

For the next one, I’d added the grid, a fabric set of squares which reduces spread of the light width-ways, this one’s to show you the reflection in shades – it’s not quite as appealing as a lovely round disc or square reflection, so be aware of this. If your model is wearing shades, maybe it’s time to put the white diffuser on.

Here we have a back light on Andy’s hat/shoulders, GODOX AD200 through a gridded reflector.

Scene 2 – Round Tower Background

50m away we used these round mill things as a background, attempting to frame Andy between the lamp post and the building.

Same lights as above – this time, andy’s looking in the general direction of the beauty dish. Gone for a fairly dark, dramatic background (for a change!) and fairly flat light on Andy – because he was looking at the light.

He’s looking away from the Beauty Dish on this one, so you get a lot of hard rim light on the side of his head.

Scene 3 – Shooting into the Sun

I love a dark, moody sky as a background, so for these we just stayed in the same spot and shot with the sun in the background – upped the power of the flashes A LOT and moved the lights in pretty close.

So with this gridded beauty dish, you can see the reflections in the shades – the dish was pretty close. But you can also see the way the light falls on the face a bit more, the angle was a bit more contrasty than the previous shot. Under chin, by the nose and the near-side cheek are all in shadow, with the rim light adding a little sparkle on the shoulder and hat.

So you can get a nice shadow look from these dishes.

A closer look – soft-edged shadows under the shades/chin. The silver reflector looks quite vibrant too.

Scene 4 – Against the Corrugated Steel Wall

We were not adventurous – I think this involved picking the kit up and walking 10 paces.

The first shots were straight on to the wall with a 70-200mm lens – the beauty dish is at around 4-5 o’clock and just above head height. The grid is on.

One thing you can see is the 2 distinct lines to the right of the shot – that’s where the light edge occurs – you get 2 lines because of the grid I assume. Again, I assume if you wanted to get rid of this, you’d put the diffuser panel over the front and that’d soften things.

Other than that, pretty unremarkable lighting on this one. The dish did it’s job 🙂

Leaving everything in the same place, I moved 90 degrees (to 3 o’clock) and shot along the metal wall instead. Created a more dynamic image – you can see the shadow on the right of andy’s face, not a huge amount but enough. There’s also the rim light on this, which causes a hard shadow in the bottom right of the shot.

Scene 5 – The Gate

Just past the brick walls in the shot above, there’s a gate, that’s where these shots are from.

Swapping over from the 70-200, I put the 85mm F1.8 on – and set it to f1.8 for that milky background. I focussed on Andy and exposed the camera for the background – think it was around 1/5000th sec – then used High Speed Synch on the flashes.

Aware of the reflections on the shades, I had Andy look to my right which worked, nice black shades. The light was pretty close – maybe 1m – so the shadow was quite soft as you can see on his cheek

A slight head movement and you can see the grid reflected.

This one has a rim light added, I’d also darkened it down a little with a faster shutter speed.

Scene 6 – Black Brick Wall

The final scene was a black wall with light cement between the bricks, they looked like a potential source of lead lines, and they proved to be pretty useful in this final set up.

Again we have the 85mm F1.8 fully open, I’ve added the front panel over the grid so we get the directional beauty dish light, with a bit of diffusion. The reflection in his shades is a bit less messy!

The light is at around 4 o’clock in this one, you can see the edge of is mid-left.

We’ve got split lighting on this shot – Andy’s turned to face me, the light is still around 3-4 o’clock. Really dramatic look when you get contrast like this – maybe 3-4 stops difference between sides of his face.

This shows the rim light – we’d been shooting at high power for ages and the main AD200 needed a battery refresh – but thought this one showed what was happening quite well.

The very next shot – we got both flashing.

Conclusion…

I do like the quality of light this produces, most of my kit has white reflectors so nice to have something silver, which just feels edgier.

The build quality seems superior to some pop up beauty dishes I’ve used in this price range – there are 16 springy rods rather than the usual 8, so it is rounder, rather than octagonal.

The reflections from the open or gridded beauty dish are not attractive – so be aware of that it you can see reflections and put the diffuser panel over it to get a nicer round disc.

I’ll be using this on commercial and fashion shoots to see how it performs, so watch this space!

More Photos

Nicola Paparazzo – Greek St. Shoot

You’ll never get an opportunity to photograph on Greek Street in Leeds like we did this January. The UK was in lockdown and this end of Leeds had virtually nobody there. We had the place to ourselves.

Greek Street is one of the busiest bar areas of the city centre, bustling with people eating and drinking, weekdays and weekends, with tables out on the street in the summer months.

Scroll to the end to see all the shots “large” – or read on for the story 🙂

1 Middle of the street

I wanted to try shooting using my 24mm tilt Shift lens to get the background looking all very architectural, whilst Nicola was conventionally lit with 2 to flashes in the foreground. This was the not most creative (or easiest) technique I’ve ever done, because you have a totally static camera on the tripod. No ability to focus automatically, or zoom, so you really are just watching Nicola do her thing, and clicking the button now and then!

I did try three or four different tripod positions getting lower and closer with each iteration.

2 – Manhatta Bar Windows

I put the tripod away and put the 70 to 200mm lens on, which is pretty much my Standard fashion and portrait lens, and we found a black marbled building with great windows, called Manhatta bar. Behind this we also had lots of black marble on the Dakota Deluxe hotel. Double Marble… if that’s a thing.

Setting up a small softbox as of the front light and a gridded reflector as the rear light, we created loads of photos in this space.

3 – Big City Background

Next we moved a little bit away from the wall so we can see more of the street and buildings.

4 – Dakota Deluxe Garden

Dakota deluxe has an outdoor bar area which we used as a backdrop, it looks like you are in a green leaved garden! The backlight is pointing at the greenery because it’s very dark in there and just look like a black background without illumination.

5 – The Alchemist Steps

The final space was the steps up to The Alchemist bar steps and entrance.

This was metallic, the wall looks bronze, and very dark compared to the other spaces found. The light setup is very simple for this, the same small softbox I’ve been using all along at the front and the gridded reflector at the back, creating a spotlight with very little spread, so the background remains pretty dark.

We got loads of great shots at this point…. here are a few

And that was a wrap.

We created over 80 keepers from the shoot – which I think it a record for a McFade-Paparrazo shoot 😉 Or is that McPaparazzo!

All the photos

GUEST POST – David Garthwaite – Fine Art Photography

I’m a fine art photographer from Yorkshire in the North of England, I started photography in January 2017 after being disappointed by the quality of images from my compact camera, from a once in a lifetime trip to Iceland (once in a lifetime because of the unpaid motor tickets I left behind). As soon as I returned, I purchased my first DSLR and I have not looked back since.

It took me a couple of years to really get on top of the editing technique, to understand the tools I was using not just technically but to achieve the results I wanted. It’s a constantly evolving process, at every point along the way I’m thinking I’m producing the best results I’ve ever done, but in 6-8 months I can look back and see things I was doing wrong. For me thats a big part of the enjoyment, the constant progress. It requires a lot of dedication and effort but the progress makes it worthwhile.

The process for producing images like these breaks down to 3 stages, each of which is key to getting the right result. Images can take a few hours to edit, so it’s best to tackle these on different days.

Preparing the image for editing

The is doing some tidying up on the image, removing distractions, levelling/straightening, fixing imperfections (such as dust spots), flattening out the dynamic range and cropping.

Making Selections

This process is based on making selections of different parts of the image, so they can be edited individually, accurate selections are very important to a good result so this process can take time (1-2 hours at least).#

Dodge & Burning

The contrasty look is achieved through dodging & burning, this is done using gradients & masks to achieve the very smooth transitions. It is by far the most satisfying part of the process as you start to see your vision for the image come together on screen.

When it comes to having the vision to create the images, that is something that (for me) has built up over time and with practice. In the past I’ve attempted to recreate images, to put myself in the thought process of the artists whose work I very much admire, a bit like someone wanting to be a guitarist would start by playing artists songs that they love.

Now I’m looking to other styles of artist to bring in inspiration, the inspiration can range from ideals to bring in to editing of an image or just a feeling that I get from their work that I want to somehow capture in my own images. Michael Kenna and Ansel Adams are the two obvious influences, but I also take inspiration from Goya, Casper David Friedrich, and Rembrandt. Also I’m drawn to the darker works of HR Giger and Beksinski. To name a few.

Lockdown has been a fantastic opportunity to reflect on my approach, revisit images I created nearer the beginning of my journey and reprocess with the greater knowledge and experience I have now and consider the direction I’m going in the future. 

Fine Art Image of Valencian City of Arts and Sciences

I have trips in mind and a new range of images I want to create, tutorials to write and lots of club presentations planned which I really enjoy, I’m really looking forward to where the next two years of creating these types of images will take me.

See more of David’s work

http://dgshot.uk

www.instagram.com/dgshot.uk

Leeds Pubs in Lockdown

Leeds always had a thriving hospitality sector packed with innovative bars, traditional boozers and amazing restaurants. I’ve been part of the scene by probably drinking a little bit too much in many of these places, and also photographing quite a lot of food and drinks for bars, restaurants and hotels over the years. I even made a brand called shoot the chef for the food photography side of my business.

So as well as as being gutted that we cannot go out socialising in my favourite pubs during lockdown, I’m also well aware of many amazing people I’ve worked with who are seeing their businesses going through hell at the moment. Several clients have already closed the doors permanently. But with a little luck, the funding from the government will save the vast majority and hospitality will bounce back stronger than ever before.

The New Saturday

Having nothing to do on a Saturday these days, other than go for a walk, I decided to to take the camera into the city centre and photograph pubs as I walk past, to record this strange moment where living through. These are taken in the late afternoon when when things are starting to warm up on a Saturday, so it’s really strange to see places like Greek Street and Call Lane totally empty.

So here you go. A lot of photographs of Leeds hospitality in hibernation.

Tilt shift lens for portraits of Andy Taylor Boocock

Who on earth uses a tilt shift lens for portraits?

A nurse by day, a fashion model by – well any time he’s not being a nurse really – on this winters day we had a go at using my tilt shift lens for a portrait/fashion shoot…

We met up for a walk this sunny winters day – I’d “really” come armed with the 24mm tilt shift lens as was going to do some architecture shooting, but decided to keep it on for the portrait session. Try something a bit different.

About Tilt Shift

If you want to know more about Tilt Shift, I’ve done this explainer blog – also this one shows some of the effects on depth of field using TILT – this one has lots of architecture using “SHIFT”.

If you want to see more about the lens, or by one, here it is on WEX.

Here’s what happened

Using TILT in portraits

The first 2 images in this blog use the “TILT” function, so you’ll see a different kind of blur to a normal lens. Shot 1 has a diagonal plane of sharpness, so the top left and bottom right are particularly blurry. The second and third ones are similar. It’s not an effect I’d use too often, but does give a pretty cool new look – and if you’ve got it…

Using SHIFT in portraits

Most of the other images use the “SHIFT” function. In a nutshell, this allows you to keep anything vertical in the shot, correctly vertical. You keep the camera perfectly level when framing a shot – with a normal lens, this would mean I’d probably be chopping off Andy’s feet. However with the shift function, you can move the whole lens up or down – shifting what’s in the frame up or down… so everything’s still perfectly level AND you get the stuff in the shot which you want!

Anyway, it’s harder to explain than use 🙂

The Light…

You may notice that these are NOT lit by flash… Very unusual for me, but we were on a walk (our lockdown walk) and kept kit to a minimum. Many of these shots are made of 2 bracketed photos – each 2 stops apart. The darker looked after the sky – an amazing blue with clouds – and the bright shot, which was 2 stops brighter, was an insurance as it got Andy exposed about right in most shots.

So to frame the vast majority, we had Andy in the shade with a really bright background.

We did get some sunlight on Andy too – for these I carefully angled him so the sun was a powerful rim light. You’ll see the last 4 shots are examples of this. I’d swapped to the 70-200 for this too.

Remember – use the direct sun as you would a flash – it’s like a small light source you can’t move… so you need to move your model and yourself instead.

Anyway – something totally different for me, hopefully a few useful tips in there for your next natural light shoot, with a tilt shift lens 🙂

Here are the photos

Fast photo editing software – Luminar AI

Imagine a world where you could click one thing and your photo would be edited to your personal taste – fast photo editing software is the ultimate productivity booster, is Luminar AI the tool for this?

Obviously 1-click editing isn’t really possible because every photograph is different and every situation as different lighting and composition, but what about using an artificial intelligence program like Luminar AI to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you?

Having used luminar AI for a few weeks since it’s release, I’ve notice many of it inbuilt presets are very stylized and will probably date badly, so I decided to to create a generic template of my own which uses the Artificial Intelligence controls to create a landscape edit.

In this video I talk you through how how I created The Preset, show you lots of examples of it in use and also how to save and create your own presets in Luminar AI.

Using the Godox AD600 on My First Post-Lockdown Model Photoshoot!

First Outing In Ages

After what seems like a year, I finally met up with my old friend and model, Andy Taylor Boocock, for a photo shoot.  As usual, we debated where to go. Having photographed at most locations in Leeds so it’s never an easy one trying to work out what to do – all I did was pack my trusty Canon camera kit and GODOX AD600‘s (and an AD200) and went with an open mind. 

The last we visited this bridge over the a58m road, there were many tents and homeless people living there. so we couldn’t really do a shoot, without invading their privacy.  I had parked here a couple of weeks before, and due to the coronavirus, I think many of these homeless people had been given temporary accommodation so we had the place to ourselves. 

 

The photos of this blog are in chronological order.

We started with a  fairly simple Set up, with a softbox attached to a GODOX AD600 flash head lighting and the front right. Behind there was a GODOX ad200 with a blue GEL on it.  You can just about see it lighting the concrete and a bit on his shoulders.  To add a bit of interest, I walked behind a lot of weeds and shot through the growth with the 70-200 lens. As you can see, Andy was nice and sharp and the foliage blurred, this creates texture, quite a cool thing and adds interest to anything.

This next shot is in the same position but instead, I’d moved in closer with the 70-200 lens, and got crouched very low. The angle works really well because of the lines of the building and Bridge giving us different textures and brightness, also you get a decent view of the tattoos on Andy’s neck and chest from this angle.

These next two photos are in essentially the same position. The first was pointing towards the sun so I had to dial down the exposure to stop the background overexposing. I increased the power of the three flashes to keep andy bright.  I had two GODOX AD600 heads, and an ad200

Leaving Andy in the same position I move the flashes clockwise to get this area of blue sky behind his head,  using the  16 to 35 mm lens I could get a lot of background and most of Andy into the image.

 Next we moved below the bridge. The following photos just used one GODOX AD600 with hard light reflector, lighting Andy in the foreground,  and ad200 behind him. We ditched the 3rd light –  mainly to reduce the amount of Kit we needed to move between photos, and also no not to obstruct people passing by.

 So these first two, which I have toned blue in Lightroom, the front light was over my right shoulder as I photographed and the backlight was pointing directly at Andy. This gave the underside of the footpath a little splash of light which separates Andy from the background.

The next few photographs are at ground level inside the bridge, and very cinematic in style. I wanted to create some interesting light patterns by casting the Flash light through railings.  

As you can see, there is a pattern on the wall and across Andy’s body.  This was done by massively underexposing the ambient light and then upping the power on the GODOX AD600 to create shadow and bright lines

It was very hard to predict where the bright and the dark patches were going to occur because the light was at a strange angle, it was at around  2 o’clock, if you picture the scene as a clock face with Andy at the middle, and me at 6 p.m.

 On the last one, which I’ve turned slightly magenta, I zoomed out quite a bit to get some of the road in the background,  it was actually quite bright and sunny so you can see how low the ambient exposure was from this shot.

The next set has Andy at the first level of the bridge. He either sat or stood on the railings.  It’s always a bit scary as if anyone gets injured, you want a nurse with vast experience on hand to mend them if they fool,  not for the nurse with vast experience to be the one who falls!

With this setup I left the GODOX AD600 down below creating the same kind of ribbed light pattern. Then placed the 200 flash on the Walk way  to the left of Andy, just out of sight, so that was illuminating his head and body. 

From here we could quite easily get a lot of variety, just by me moving around. All the images in this section were taken with the 70-200 lens, you can see the variety you can achieve in this zoom range.

 The composition is all about Lines. That is why I enjoy photographing at this bizarre concrete monstrosity.  It is an over-engineered brutalist concrete structure, which is full of texture, lines, light and Shadow. 

You just need to put someone somewhere in the scene and light them, the structure takes care of everything else. A little bit brave of him to stand on top of the handrail but they did make for a good shot!

These 2 are on the Bridge over the motorway, I led flat on the bridge path, right in the middle,  so I could get the most interesting lead lines possible. We can use the railings, deck  and buildings for this. Also, getting low makes Andy’s head high in the frame, so it is in the clear Sky – free from obstruction.

With these next two,  we put the GODOX AD600 high up to camera left and the 200 behind Andy to the right. There is lots of room for me to move around with this setup, as I’m on a long foot path. That was great, but the sky just wasn’t the most exciting behind him from this position. Sure we got this dark brooding look, but there was better sky…

 So to make use of the sky, where the sun was creating patterns in the Cloud, I moved Andy about 5 paces, got the two flashes setup up positioned myself in a less-roomy spot, but one where I could get the amazing Sky.  

As you can probably tell, the first shot was with the 70 to 200,  but in this position, I had no real room to manoeuvre with such a long zoom so swapped over to the 16 to 35 for the final four shots. The first 3 had both lights on, the final photo had the backlight switched OFF, as it would have shown in the photo. 

So that was my first model photoshoot since lockdown. Working with a familiar model in a familiar place may seem a bit predictable. However, we created something totally different to when we’ve been there before. 

It’s often amazing too to revisit locations, because the light is never the same twice, you will have learnt something new since the last visit and the model will usually have some new outfits which work differently in that environment. 

So yes, find new locations, but do revisit old ones too… you never know!

Storm Brewing in Leeds

Having I watched the most amazing spring from my garden during lockdown it seems a little bit unfair that the weather in June is dreadful for photography…. 

But one day last week the sky look like it was about to erupt at any second so I took the gamble of going into Leeds to see if I could get any decent moody sky shots. 

Luckily for about an hour, the sky did looks like something from a 1950s Dracula movie, with ridges of Darkness and light patches making wonderful textures. 

All of these photos are taken using the 24mm tilt Shift lens from Canon attached to the 5D Mark IV body, they are all handheld rather than using a tripod for Speed and I didn’t really want a tripod to act as a lightning rod if we did get a storm! 

To make sure I get enough light and dark eye bracketed two photos, One at around 0 or 1-EV and the other at plus 2 – helping me get enough information to have a good sky and a foreground you can work with. 

Locked Down Leeds

9 weeks into lockdown and I finally decided to take my daily allocated exercise by walking around the city centre of Leeds. I had been putting it off because I didn’t really want to upset and overstretched police force or get a fine!

I expected in the early lock-down weeks, it’d be desolate, 9 weeks in getting back to normal…

Far from it

There were a few people on the streets, but not many, the crowds of shoppers and workers starting their weekend we’re not there – these photos were taken between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a Friday, the busiest weekday.

What I found were:-

  • random people sat on benches,
  • occasional couples walking past
  • very few people in bus-stops
  • construction workers everywhere
  • and an incredible amount of Red and White construction barriers.

The council have clearly seen the opportunity to do all the repair and improvement work they’ve had planned for years whilst Leeds is locked down.

Every shop and every bar I’ve ever been to was closed with my apology notice in the window.

Whilst I’m a bit sad that I missed the opportunity to photograph the city centre completely desolate in the early weeks, I’m glad I managed to get out to record, for my memories and yours, just how big an impact coronavirus had on one of the major cities of England

Briggate Empty

Victoria Gate – Desolate

The Markets Abandoned

The Full Gallery

Here is a slideshow of around 100 images from the city – quite amazing how quiet it is compared to normal

Get the most from your photos during LOCKDOWN

Like many businesses, we deal directly with clients in person, so have taken quite a hit with this lockdown. We can’t really leave the house to do any new work – and if we could, we can’t get close to people so it’d be awkward.

Here are a few things you can do remotely, and we can help you with, to keep your marketing images relevant

1 Use archives for your marketing

So the first one is that I have got literally hundreds of thousands of images from all over Europe, India, the UK and the People’s Republic of Yorkshire on my hard drives which could be used to help with your:-

  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • Social media
  • Flyers
  • Articles in the press
  • Etc. 

 If you need some eye-catching images to make your marketing stand out whilst we are all working from home and checking social media constantly,  ping me a message if you need an image and I will create a Dropbox folder with a selection of images for you to choose from. 

 I will base prices on HALF of what the ALAMY stock photography website’s usage calculator says.

2 Additional photos from old shoots

If we have done a photoshoot in the past you will have chosen a small selection from a larger library of images to use

The good news is that these will almost certainly still exist on my hard drive, and your preview files will still be in Dropbox (unless you’ve deleted them yourself).

We can reopen your project and edit as many of the photos you didn’t choose as you like, so you will have something, maybe not brand new, but different to use online.

3 A new look to existing photos

 A little bit like number 3,  if your existing portraits are the ones you really love and you don’t need anything new,  then maybe a little refresh in the processing could help get you noticed. We can reopen the project and have a look at a different vibe to the images. 

It may be as simple as doing a black and white version,  or making a previously soft and warm photo look cool and edgy, or adding in some creative light flare and textures…. 

Essentially we can have a think about what you are using them for and come up with some ideas on how we can differently process them for you.

4 Shoot new photos without people in them

If you have a property,  product, food or a drink,  car or anything which I can drive to and photograph without breaking the 2 m rule of social distancing,  then I will be able to help. 

  •  for small things, I can take delivery and photograph them at my humble abode
  •  for property exteriors, I think I should be ok legally to photograph them from the street
  •  for property interiors we could meet  at a safe distance, then let me go in and shoot the interior hello must you have a coffee
  •  cars may be doable at a showroom or on somebody’s drive but I don’t think we can take them anywhere pretty with the current lockdown rules

5 Help with WordPress websites

I have a background in software engineering (which I try my best to hide) and it comes in handy when I need to deal with websites. 

Whilst I don’t get embroiled in massively detailed websites with dozens of mission-critical pages,  I have lots of experience of using WordPress to craft image-driven websites. I use a popular, beautiful visual theme to create my own websites and a few others.

So if you do need an online presence which needs to look good,  I can help by 

  • setting you up with a web hosting account and email – I use Krystal, they seem a great UK company
  • showing you how to get your domain name (e.g www.mywebsite.com
  • Installing WordPress for you
  • adding the theme I use which has a lovely page Builder – I use Oshine as it’s great for images
  • creating 3 to 5 pages and adding your content
  • advice on sizing images for your web pages
  • importing video to your site etc.
  • help you learn how to manage it yourself over ZOOM

It could be any of those steps, or the whole thing. Many just need the site installation doing, then they can do the rest.

6 Teaching photo editing over ZOOM

The last one in today’s list is probably the most obvious,  with ZOOM we can share each other’s computer screens so I can walk you through the process of taking a photograph from it’s raw form to something far more eye-catching. 

The beauty of doing it this way is :-

  • it’s totally remote and safe from the dreaded virus – you stay at home
  • it will be 1 to 1 so you can ask any questions you like
  • we can pace the session to you
  • we can record the session so you can play it back as many times as you like

I have helped people learn an effective workflow from taking the card out of a camera through to producing images you could give to clients. Or you may just want to learn how to spice up your landscape photographs…

Maybe you’ve never used Lightroom before and quite fancy a go, or have you always wondered what layers and masks were in Photoshop?

Now is probably the best time I’m to get some help with these things,  because during lockdown you are limited in what you can actually do. So you may as well get active learning something ready for when you can get back out with the camera.

Just drop us a note…

If any of those could be useful, or you want a catch-up, or anything else during this lockdown – I’m here at ade@mcfade.co.uk or use my new capture form below

Wh0

DJ and production duo “Wh0” are a mysterious pair currently rocking the House dance floors around the UK – They’ve both been around in their regular DJ slots for years and have remixed some of the biggest acts around.

So after a gig in Leeds a few weeks back, we met up at this amazing graffiti rich location to get some shots for their promo, marketing and social media.

Must admit, i didn’t know about the hoods till they put them on – was a bit of a surprise!

Some great locations in this old brickworks – I’ve always liked this long corridor – it’s got so much depth to it.

Copright of McFade Photography

We also got some great closeups using the dark backgrounds and lighting to create some proper drama like this

Copright of McFade Photography

This location is avalable still near Halifax, it’s about 1/2 mile from the road and easily accessible – so if you’re a band, a brand or just someone who wants a gritty background to some photos – lets talk and get something arranged

The Madness of Share the Shoot…

What’s it all about?

About a year ago I came up with an idea,  it was based on years of photographing companies and what had worked best. It offered individuals who may be just starting out (or ready for a new set of images) 5 photos of them for a bargain price… and other people to act in their shots.

I called it ​”​profile shoots​”​ to begin with​, this soon evolved into the catchier “share the shoot

The idea was that everybody needs a decent headshot, but there are many other Powerful images a small business owner could use, if only they had other people available to be in the photos.  Quite often in the past when shooting 121, I would get people to bring a friend along to act as a client so they could use them in a photo.

So in February 2019 I pulled together 6 friends from my network and got a room at Croft Myl Halifax and gave it a go. 

The first session

I produced some worksheets with questions ranging from “​what do you do​”​ to ​”are you in favour of Brexit​” – all designed to stimulate reactions and conversation, then essentially played musical chairs with the six people, giving them different seats and a turn at the head of the table. 
This turned out to be ​a​ natural networking environment, where everybody just chatted and we ended up​ not ​needing the worksheet​. They were all animated and relaxing without any input from me​ – I could just concentrate on the lights and photographing each person. ​
We let everybody stand in front of a flip chart to get some nice presentation photos, which I see popping up daily in LinkedIn, so they proved to be really useful photos. 

After that we found a space upstairs where people could do a one-to-one chat with one of the other delegates, these prove really useful because a photograph of you listening to a client conveys a very positive message. 

Finally, we arrived at the headshot section and everybody is laughing and joking with each other and totally relaxed, so the headshots are massively easier to do than usual. Most people when you first meet them for a headshot are nervous and it takes a while to get a decent photo. All that work has been done in the first half of the session.

The fantastic thing about doing this at Croft Myl is the variety of backgrounds Vicky and the team have created around the building, we have a yellow, purple, grey, blue, brick and even a roof garden to use as your background.

By the end of it, I have usually taken between 500 and 1000 photos, totally knackered and rather red in the face. I have set up about 8 different lighting scenarios and entertained 6 people for 2-hours – I love it it’s a real buzz, a performance almost, and it’s great to see people making connections, exchanging contact details and hopefully doing a little bit of business in the future. 

Why do I only charge a fraction of normal headshot for this?

I keep seeing competitors in the local area doing headshot days where they charge £100 or £150 for just 1 headshot and wonder if I’ve gone mad doing this…  

Well, the main reason is that this is really a “taster session” or a “lead magnet”, where I’m giving true value to a wide range of people. Over a year this will hopefully raise awareness of McFade and introduce me to lots of people I’d possibly not meet

If each month 6 people update their LinkedIn profile and mention me, it’s 6 new LINKED IN networks who may click on my page and who knows where that will lead. 

I also like meeting and helping new businesses, many of whom could not afford a one-to-one session, so this is a way to to get them looking “the business” without breaking the bank. 

If I do get a full 6 people, the combined fee does add up to my usual rate anyway – so whilst everyone is getting great value, I’m still remunerated fairly. Sure, if all 6 did a 1-2-1 shoot it’d be better financially, but that’s not really the point.

It’s more about planting seeds for the future and awareness than out and out money making.

The pitfalls…

I guess one risk that people who were prepared to spend £££ on a bespoke photoshoot may opt for this and I miss out on that. The only other thing is people sometimes don’t understand what is included and what is extra, despite there being a big list of it on the website and a video. 

I have been asked to do all kinds of editing above and beyond what is included so have to have that awkward chat about it. 

Pro retouching of a photo can cost more than the shoot if they need a lot of work – this is definitely not included!

There’s more on this in the “Who it’s not for” section below.

What’s in it for people who come…

Why they booked…

I did a survey at the start of 2020,  and obviously the biggest reason for coming was the price –  I live in Yorkshire they are careful with money here! But with most headshots costing at least £100 each, and you get 5 for under £100, it should be a no brainer to book

A close second was having other scenarios than headshots in the photographs –  this means that people working on their own can have pretend clients or even pretend board meetings in their marketing images at no extra cost.

​Many thought it looked like fun from the marketing ​I had put out on the website and LinkedIn too.

Most Useful photos

The most useful photos are the headshots and many have found the “one-to-one chat” and a mix of other photos really useful too. We’ll keep going with the board room as that’s where people relax and get to know each other – plus we do get some great shots in there.

We are constantly evolving and trying to to get different photos for people, which weirdly means asking people not to talk when they are facing the camera… you are talking your face can look a little unusual in a photo. The more animated you are, the stranger it can look – so we’ve changed how that section works now after feedback.

Who is it “not” for?

​With 6 people and limited time available, and being in one building for the whole session, there are obviously limitations which we cannot avoid​. This is an entry-level taster product, not the fully-fledged McFade photoshoot you get in a 1-2-1 session.

You can only shoot a limited amount of scenarios and cannot spend too long creating specific shots for one person, at the expense of other people’s time. So if you do have a detailed and specific list of images you need, but they don’t really fit into the boardroom, one-to-one meeting or a headshot scene, then when we would recommend doing a one-to-one shoot. We can then dedicate the time you need and get the right location for you. 

If you accept that the photos you get are going to look pretty similar to the ones on the website and the videos we have created, then when you should be fine. If you need a different background or something unique – then a 1-2-1 is for you.

We aim to make the best possible photos for 6 people in 2 hours, which means that we can’t deviate too much from The Script. If you are in any doubt just drop us a note before booking and we will help go to you towards the correct shoot for you

The Future of Share the Shoot

Copright of McFade Photography

So profile shoots evolved into share the shoot, it was essentially a lead magnet, but it now seems to have become a popular product in its own right. Initially, there was a challenge each month to get enough people through the door to make it work, but hopefully, with enough word-of-mouth and a few Facebook Ads, we can keep this going throughout 2020 and help lots more people.

All but 1 in the survey thought the shoot was hugely underpriced for what you get, so I’d book soon as I’ll be acting on this feedback 😉

How to choose a photographer from the 1000's recommended on LINKED IN

Recommendations are King

The best way to source most products and services these days is to ask for recommendations based on people’s experience.

It can certainly filter out solutions, products and providers who have given a good experience. I’m pretty sure everybody who is buying a new pair of headphones will read the Amazon reviews or checkout What Hi-Fi reviews before buying them. 

Photography Recommendations

When hiring a photographer it can be a little bit different – what is a good result for one person may be entirely wrong for another person. This could be in terms of style of image, or the photoshoot experience. When you put a call out for photography recommendations everybody will recommend the photographer in their BNI/4N/Networking group, or someone they know, which is what you would expect. 

Do some digging…

The great thing about photography is that being an entirely visual medium, you can pretty quickly go to their websites to check out the style and standard of their work. You can do this with designers and musicians as well of course – so it’s a step you should always take

When you put your next call out for a photographer on LinkedIn and get the 1000 recommendations, you already know that they are “probably” decent people because they have been recommended. But do take that second step of checking their work. 

Why?

Photography can have three effects

  • firstly it can damage your brand if it is of a poor standard or gives the wrong impression
  • secondly it can be a good filler for a website, like magnolia paint in a house you are trying to sell – its safe but doesn’t really “wow” anyone. This is probably most common.
  • Thirdly it can look outstanding, imaginative, delicious, dramatic, beautiful, majestic – whatever your brand needs and creates a massive impact on your marketing and website. 

You can pretty quickly find this out when you go to their website and see previous projects. Are you looking at the images you’d want on your own website? Are you settling for something safe and predictable when you could get something disruptive and exciting?

Photography is all about getting noticed amongst the noise of modern life – it has to have an instant impact or your’ll be swiped past in under a second. People don’t have time or the attention span to look at bland things when a cool thing may be one scroll down in the browser

You may as well invest your money in something that is outstanding rather than just a magnolia filler for your website.

Don't Forget About Photography!

Everything is video these days, we are all told to do Facebook lives or record things from the seats of our cars, in car parks, before meetings to engage with our audience.

I’ve spent the last year creating video content, be that behind the scenes footage of a photoshoot, close-ups of food or even photoshop editing videos. It’s been great fun and amazing learning curve. I really enjoy going through YouTube’s free music library to find the right tune for my videos and synching the cuts in the video to fit music…

Behind the scenes video of a food shoot in Leeds

I’m sure you’re the same, but having done all that are we forgetting the power of the humble photograph.

I like to think in terms of metaphors, so if marketing is going fishing, then the photograph is a lovely eye-catching fly you craft to attract the fish in the first place. 

I’m sure that the vast majority of videos that pop up on social media go unplayed, yet every single photograph that appears on social media is “seen” every time. The photo has done its job in under 1 second – hopefully, the right photo entices people to look further into your offering. (Bad photos lose you business by the way – give us a call if your images aren’t great!)

I found this with promoting my share the shoot events. I sometimes spend an afternoon editing behind-the-scenes video footage captured on my spare camera, making some cool movies. I’ll then plaster it over LinkedIn and Facebook and wait for all the bookings to roll in…

It doesn’t always work, why?

I often I have looked at my video metrics and many people will only watch the first two or 3 seconds of the video. Gutted!

A typical short video about SHARE THE SHOOT

But worse, all the messages I want them to see are totally missed. The call to action, the key benefits…

Video relies on people actually taking the time to watch it – and you can’t guarantee the right people WILL actually click play.

Conversely, when I have uploaded a still image from the shoots, usually with a little bit of text on top of it (a meme) I know that everybody, on whose wall the photos arrives, sees both the image and text – AND it works instantly. The above image was a success, with 12 previous clients smiling and a simple message – people “see” this and get what the deal is. They click on the link to find a web page full of videos, examples FAQ and booking links…

Still images work instantly and don’t rely on people taking the time to view them.

So whilst there are colossal benefits to doing videos, especially getting a lot of information out in the short period, let’s not forget that the humble photograph. Is the shiny bling which attracts people in the first place.

Think of the photograph as a way of getting your message headline out there like a fly attracts a fish – then when you’ve hooked a someone, you can use your video and copy to do the sale.

BusinesS Headshots – it ain't what you do…

It’s the way that you do it…

Franco Demori

“It ain’t WHAT you do, it’s the WAY that you do it” – As the Bananarama song goes.

That’s probably true in most businesses but it’s certainly the case with photography. It’s not just the end product which counts, but how you get to it.

I’ve been shooting business folks for almost a decade now and with the odd exception, no one really likes the idea of it. We are second only to dental root canal work to many!

It’s totally different from shooting models like Andy Taylor Boocock here.

Models are trained, they know what looks good, they can turn it on instantly and look like a Vogue front cover, then turn it off and start talking about their pet bulldog. They don’t have the usual hang-ups about a lazy eye or double chin like we mortals.

So what have I learned in all these years?

  • Talk a lot
  • Set lights up and keep chatting
  • Be friendly and patient
  • Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly
  • Have fun
  • Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination
  • Don’t get hung up on perfect poses
  • Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options

Talk a lot

I’ve always treated my shoots almost like a 1-2-1 chat with a new business connection. Grab a coffee, chat about their business, find out more about what they do and where they’re going. You’ll be amazed at who they know, where they’ve been and all sorts – just like any 1-2-1, so it’s a great way to start.

Set lights up and keep chatting

This helps take their mind off the camera and lights and you avoid all those long silences whilst you’re setting up. You should be able to set lights up on auto-pilot really.

Be friendly and patient

This is really important, keep things light and enjoyable. If things take a bit of getting going, let them take as much time as needed – it’s not their expert area, so lots of encouragement and positive messages helps build confidence. If something’s really not working, then move elsewhere, a change is far better than persevering with a bad idea.

Show them the photos on the camera back (or laptop) regularly

I do this all the time. It works brilliantly – your client can take a look and instantly see whether

  • the outfit is working,
  • they like the background,
  • they like their hair, makeup and anything else they want to check
  • they need to smile more, or look a bit more serious!

It also means that you’re getting feedback on whether the look, lighting and locations are right, so you can change things. The end result is that you should have got shots that the client likes and avoid any issues down the line with them hating all the shots!

Have fun

This is the #1 key to my shoots really.

I’ve been photographed and know what it’s like if you’re faced with a quiet photographer who just doesn’t say anything. It’s painful and you really want the ground to open up and eat you.

So on my shoots, it’s more about creating an air of levity and really interacting with people – especially if you’ve got groups of people.

If they’re all having fun, you’ll get far better photographs.

Give people stuff to do – or get them to use their imagination

This follows on from the “fun” comment – if you expect a business person to just pose amazingly first time in front of your camera, you’re probably going to have a hard time!

They need something to do, think about or look at to get them going. For me it could be anything from asking “what does a fairy do?” or “can you pull a face like Pob?”, to “how high can you jump?” or “look at that door…. imagine #appropriate celebrity# is winking at you”.

Sure they’re strange things to ask someone who runs an SME, but they’ll certainly stop thinking about the photo shoot and give you a new expression to capture!

If you’ve got a few people in the photo, then just think of things you can get them all doing – could be all looking at one of the group, looking at their watches and yawning, opening their eyes as wide as they can (a personal favourite that) or all jumping at the same time.

Giving people weird stuff to do lightens the atmosphere, makes them all forget about the camera and hopefully gets a lot of laughter!

From that, warm, friendly photos follow…

Don’t get hung up on perfect poses

I bought books on portraits when I set out.

They were usually American and had “senior” photos – people leaving their high school – and they all followed a really strict formula. Hand positions and head positions were discussed, sitting and standing debated… and they all looked very “cheesy”. Many of them make great twitter memes.

There is definitely a need for a little helpful guidance. The body angle is often worth sorting straight off, get their feet to point at 45 degrees to you and them looking slightly over a shoulder.

But if you venture into too many instructions, you lose the client. They get concerned about the hand and chin positions you’ve given them and start looking really confused. That smile goes and they start feeling self-conscious.

Think in terms of “micro prompts” – little easy things they can do, I often look around me for something they can look at – “look at the clock as if it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen” – they look the right direction and you may just get a “Wow” expression.

But a little “try lifting your chin a little” is easy for them to do – whereas the 50 things you need think about in my old posing books would really flummox them!

Take LOTS of photos to give LOTS of options

And finally…

I now take LOTS of photos when shooting clients, this is so you can let the best moments happen naturally. You have the lens to your eye and are talking away to them, expressions come and go fast – get them, get as many as you can and keep going.

I used to take a few shots and then move – take a few more – which was fine, but I found there was more energy and flow if you just kept going and encouraging them all the time.

It costs the virtually same to take 100 shots as it does 1000 – there’s more hard drive space needed and more time to filter the good ones out, but you don’t need to develop/edit all of them.

Zap the duff shots quickly, then you’ve got a raft of proofs for the client to choose from.

So that’s kinda how I do it

The best thing I can hear on my shoots is someone who started out saying “I hate having my photo taking” tell me they “really enjoyed it” at the end of it.

Fancy a Try….?

If you’re reading this thinking I’m mad, then you’re probably right!

But if you run a business and fancy this experience for a change, then get in touch with me at ade@mcfade.co.uk

If you’re brand new, a solopreneur and need photos of you with other people or just like networkfing and need some shots of yourself… I’ve got a new event called SHARE THE SHOOT which embodies everything in this blog at an amazing price… follow this link for more details

How to organise your photos like a pro

Finding old photos can be a pain – if someone asks if you’ve got photos of Liverpool (or something like that) in future, how quickly could you locate them in your file system?

Or if you’re looking to create a print of Ingleborough, could you find all your photos of the hill and quickly make a decision on which to use?

Well if you’re ever in this situation, this video may help.

If not, it’s useful anyway to see how others work – and this is my workflow from getting photos off the memory card through to importing and giving the files meaningful, findable names.

NEVER use direct flash

I know – sometimes it’s too dark to shoot and you don’t have any off-camera kit, so you have to use your flash “on camera”

But the light you get off a direct flash is horrible – there’s an example in the video below. It serves a purpose, but it creates a passport photo look rather than that creative look we’re all after as photographers

So what can you do?

Well with most Speedlites, you can point the head in almost any direction, so the light doesn’t go straight to the model – that way it looks a lot better, but you do need a reflective surface for the light to bounce off.

Most indoor locations have white ceilings, so you just point the flash straight up and it’s job done.

Some have white walls, so you can point them straight at the walls instead (we demonstrate this in the video too);

But when you’re out in the open, you’ve nothing to bounce off – hence we take reflector with us, get someone to hold it next to the model and then point the flash at it.

This short video shows photos from our workshop to illustrate exactly this point – we hope it’s helpful

It’s Grim Up North

Give me grey and day

There’s nothing more boring than a blue sky to us photographers! 

So when we got this dramatic sky all day on my last trip to the northeast, it really was a gift. 

Pinnacle Bridge, Sunderland

First off we went south to see the new bridge in Sunderland. It’s the tallest thing in town and really is pretty huge – you can easily see it from the A19 as you pass the city. 

These are all taken with the 5DIV and the 24mTS-e mark 2 with a polariser. 

Penshaw Monument

Just upstream a few miles on the Wear, the Parthenon inspired monument stands on a hill looking over the A1 and A19. 

It was a windy day, but when you walked up to the monument, it was blowing a gale! 

The best shots were these with the 24mm TS lens, vertical panoramic shots to keep everything nice and square. 

This shot is close up with a 16mm lens and 10-stop filter to get the smooth clouds. 

South Shields

As we headed north, we went to the mouth of the Tyne to get a few shots of the harbour – the south side is called South Shields. 

There is a big red lighthouse type thing on the harbourside which is pretty cool, and the view over to the North Shields Fish Quay was pretty cool with a 10-Stop filter on.

Sunset at Blyth

Not the most famous Northumberland town by a long stretch, but it’s got a couple of great beach hut terraces which always photograph well. There are also views down the coast to St Mary’s Lighthouse.

Light Painting the Huts

And to finish the day off we did a very quick bit of light painting whilst there was still texture in the sky… 

 

As you can see, it really is grim up north – but pretty cool to photograph!

Jaeda Sharman – Future Superstar Model!

Leafy November Shoot

This November I did a shoot with young Jaeda, a star of the future who’s not only a great model but a competition diver too! 

A portfolio shoot around our mutual hometown, Morley, hair and styling by her mum, makeup artist and skincare consultant, Michelle Sharman – who also did the art direction, helping Jeada with her poses. Dad 

We started at Dartmouth Park, where we tried to blow some leaves into the photos with a leaf blower, but they were all too wet and sticky to move off the ground! 

A couple more locations then off to a more industrial setting for the final change of clothes

Here are a few of the shots:-

Nightscapes 1 – The Art of Light Painting

NIGHTSCAPES 2018/2019 Begins!

It all started last night in Roundhay Park – our winter of light painting around Roundhay Park saw us using torches and gels to colour the world!

New for 2018 is a “Manker MK 35” torch – this claims to have a 1.4Km beam – it does shine a hell of a long way, and with its very narrow beam, its great for detail work. Think of it as a fine brush, whereas other torches are more like thicker airbrushes. 

This photo was just the MK35 torch pointing at the ground as I walked to the bandstand – you can see how narrow the line it makes is. 

I’ve been looking for a torch like this for years – hopefully, the high price tag will pay off when we go to Gordale Scar, where I hope to paint cliffs hundreds of yards away. 

Technique

NIGHTSCAPES is a course for experienced photographers, so we assume you know all the “techy” stuff – you can set ISO/SHUTTER/APERTURE, read your histogram and make changes etc. You do know how bulb mode works to get a 2-minute exposure etc. etc. 

So the technique really was all creative and torch-based. Here’s the process in a nutshell

  1. get a focus sorted
  2. compose the shot
  3. discuss the scene and what we could light
  4. work out colours – essentially we have yellow, orange, light red, dark red, purple, dark blue, lighter blue and green in the bag
  5. work out a route
  6. start the cameras and walk into the scene and do the lighting
  7. review the results – did it work? too bright? too dark? 
  8. learn from the first shot and adjust!

It’s really as simple as that – but all creative things can be boiled down to a few steps like that, a painting could be described as “1 dip brush in paint, 3move brush over canvas, 3 goto step 1” 😉

Some results

We started at the top pond in the park. 

It’s got a fountain which you can colour with your torch if the “throw” is long enough – throw is the term for how far the beam goes. On this photo, the XM35, a “long thrower” was green, and the foreground (using my 3-LED Sky Ray wider thrower) was orange. This was the first shot with 2 torches in action. 

Next to test the XM35 with a very thick red gel, one which reduces the brightness of the torch massively, I shone it at the fountains for a full 30 seconds. Considering it’s one of the most powerful throwers you can buy, it’s not massively bright, so beware when using red gels – they do need a lot of lumens! (Lumens is a measure of torch power).

Next the band stand. 

This first one had us walking around with torches pointed at the floor to create a pattern of coloured lines. Then Lee went into the bandstand with the Sky Ray at the end to light the inside, I used the purple gel and XM35 to add a bit of colour to the outside. 

A pure shot, the outside was lit at the top with the XM35 from a distance, the lower parts with the SKy Ray and yellow gel at close quarters. A little light spill in the foreground created texture in the leaves and grass. 

On the way to the water tower, we stopped for a shot of the avenue – here we split up, green sky ray to the right, red XM35 to the left – this gives a nice mix of colour as you go into the distance. 

 

At the water tower, we started with lots of colours to create this early shot – it’s a bit like a Pride flag!

The idea was a red interior and blue top with the XM35, then green steps and yellow ring on the “patio” at the top of the steps. It came out very jolly!

 

Later on I tried just the purple gel, shooting inside the water tower. This was a 4-minute exposure allowing the stars to leave little light trails if you look carefully

Simplicity is often worth trying!

Another simple shot but with the green gel instead – this time you can actually see green in the oculus at the top of the tower

And finally an RGB shot – red was from behind the camera with the XM35, green with the sky ray from 9 oclock, blue with the XM35 at 3 oclock

And finally on the way back to the cars, we found this stunning leafless tree – so I demonstrated my shadow technique. 

Do you want to join us?

All in all a fantastic night – not too cold either – lots of torch work and virtually no need to teach any camera skills, which is the purpose of this workshop series. 

We are aiming it at experienced photographers who enjoy a new challenge – and don’t mind standing in fields, in the dark, in winter!

It’s amazing fun and well worth the effort.

 

Summer Night Photography Workshops – 2018 Review

Another series of Photography Workshops drew to an end in Manchester on the 26th September. It seems like ages since we started on our beginners evening in Leeds, which turned out to be the only evening where it rained! 2018 was amazingly dry and hot – it made the whole 10 workshops a joy. 

So here’s a quick review of what we covered in our Photography Workshops – I’d designed them for absolute beginners to gradually learn technical and creative skills over the months. 

Photography Workshop 1 – Leeds

“Creative camera control”

Leeds was a wet night – we met around the corn exchange and used the arches as cover. The night was all about how F-stops and focal lengths can be used creatively – blurry backgrounds and crazy close up photos were the theme! We even went into a pub for shelter – Aire Bar. 

Here are a few shots from the evening. 

Photography Workshop 2 – Bradford

“Seeing like a photographer”

Session 2 was about looking – we walk around in our daily lives and pass by literally millions of potential photos each day. So in Little Germany, we took our time – we found things like bollards and thought about how they could be used in an image. Would you use a long lens and stand back, or a wide lens and get very close? 

Seeing images is something which comes with practice, time and patience – it’s not an easy one to teach, other than to find things myself, then show them the photo I’d just taken!

Low shots from the floor, wide shots with lots of stuff in, zoomed in shots with just 1 focal point… a real eye-opener of a workshop.

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Photography Workshop 3 – Burley and Ilkley

“Landscape photography – Filters”

Landscape is popular and if you’re in a decent location, you can get some fantastic shots with basic skills. So on this workshop, we built on the first 2 workshops by showing the group how Filters work. 

I demonstrated the polariser effect on water – making the reflected sky appear and disappear as you rotate it. Also ND grad filters and how they darken the sky, leaving the land alone. I even got the 10-stop filter out and showed them a 30 second shot in daylight.

The wier at burley is great – you’ve got the curved steps for starters, plus the stepping stones to use. 

Half way through we went to the Cow and Calf on Ilkley moor – the sun was going down fast so we made silhouette photos of the famous rocks, with bold red skies behind. The ball of the sun became a great focal point.

To end we went on to the rocks to find carvings – they make great foregrounds for a landscape

Photography Workshop 4 – Almscliffe Crag

“More water and boulders”

The second landscape evening started near Harewood House in at a wier on the river wharf. Here we created long exposure photos of the bubbles as they spiralled around – these leave trails and spirals, so quite surreal. 

We concentrated more and more on metering and how to use manual exposure on this workshop – quite a baffling process at first, so best to introduce it slowly over the weeks! 

After the river we went to another famous Yorkshire Crag at Almscliffe – we were treated to the best sunset of the summer to that point, it was amazing how red the sky went – right past 10PM! 

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Photography Workshop 5 – Location Portraits

“How to photograph people outside – and use the location creatively”

We’d not done any portrait workshops for a few years, so invited along 5 friends to model for us around the Royal Armouries area of Leeds. We had the best turnout of the summer for this one – so split the group in to 5 pairs, each with a model. 

The main thing I wanted to share was that the easiest way to get a decent portrait is to use a long lens, zoom right in and then walk back to get the framing right – this cuts out all the background distractions you don’t want and blurs things beautifully. 

Another beautiful summers evening meant we could shoot till 10PM – so we got hundreds of great shots between us

 

Photography Workshop 6 – Location Portraits 2

“2 very different locations…” 

For the second portrait session, we had Nicola and Chloe doing their thing – and a little later, Andy Blue Maclaren joined in. Location 1 was park square, a sea of flowers and green – so very soft and pastoral look. In here we used trees and benches to start with – then moved on to the old police station building which was a couple of minutes away. 

The building has lots of graffiti over it, so great for a grungey background to the portraits. We did narrow depth of field portraits, looking along a wall to Chloe peeking around a corner. 

We finished off with a flash photo demonstration at the old swimming pool car park – a little taster of what you can do with speedlites

 

 

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Photography Workshop 7 – Cars

“Wide shots, detail shots and flash shots… “

After 6 workshops, everyone was getting to grips with camera settings so it’s the perfect time to do the car workshop so they can try their new skills out on something totally different. 

Our friends at WY TVR Club had their meeting at the Manor Golf Club, so we met there at 7 and shot through till about 9:15 – then i got a pair of flashes out to show what you can do with 2 lights.

 

Photography Workshop 8 – Saltaire

“World Heritage Site – Landscape and Architecture in the same night!”

Saltaire is a real mix for the photographer. You have the river and canal for the landscape guys, the mill and chapel for the architecture people and the model village for the urban photographer. 

This workshop was a little wet at the start so we took shelter on the tow path under a bridge for a while. Here we had great refelctions of the mill in the water, so all wasn’t lost! 

After that we crossed the foot bridge over to the wier, this leads the eye to one of the mills, so its a great setup. Lots of trees have grown there recently, so the space to shoot is getting smaller each year. 

To finish off we went to the cobbled streets and captured reflections in the watery lanes. 

 

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Photography Workshop 9 – York

“Old walls and a shambles”

By this stage, 8 workshops done, things are starting to click – exposure makes sense, composition seems easier and it’s an evening of putting it all toghether. We met near the train station this year and went to the walls for the classic view of the Minster. This gave us options to use the wall in our composition, and gradually as the sun went down, we could do longer and longer exposures to add in car light trails. 

The Minster area was closed, unfortunately, so we spent more time on the Shambles and just trying different techniques. When we got to the Shambles, we had Nicola Papperazzo on hand to do some great poses for us – we tried this both with ambient light, which was VERY low, and with a couple of bare SPEEDLITE flashes which we sat on door frames and steps! A lesson in improvisation and being flexible. 

 

Photography Workshop 10 – Media City

“Sunset, blue hour and night photography in the north’s canary wharf”

And the final one… the sunset and night shoot at Salford Quays. 

This was about coping with the changing light – we showed the delegates how to use LIVE VIEW and the live histogram to constantly check the exposure. 

It was also about composition. It’s an area full of features, lights and structures. So to make the most of it, you need to remember right back to lesson 2  in Bradford and use the Rule of Thirds and Lead Lines to piece together your images. 

Once it was dark, the sky became too dark for most images, so we included less and less of it as it really was wasted space. And as usual, we stayed an fair bit after 10PM – it really is that absorbing down there!

 

All Done

So that’s the summer in a nutshell – we’ve taken beginners and shown them the basics first, then introduced new subjects to try them on, week after week, until they leave with a firm platform from which to take their photography forward. 

We’ll be doing a similar series over the winter, maybe one per month, where we start in the cities and then take groups in to parks and maybe even moors and landscape locations to shoot at night with torches!

Watch this space

2018 Portrait Workshop 2

Our second portrait workshop the summer was with Nicola Papperazzo, Chloe Mason and Andy Blue McLaren.

We split it into a couple of locations on the west end of Leeds city centre. Starting in the flowery Park Square, where I showed people how to use flowers in the foreground to add blurry texture – like this one of Nicola

The sun light was low and warm, so we also made use of that with shots like this one of Chloe, where she’s looking straight towards the sun

The sun soon left the square, so we moved on to a spot with some fantastic graffiti – a building which used to be the police station many moons ago!

Here’s one of Chloe, I’ve used a technique of shooting along the building, focussing on the model, so the foreground blurs as does the background. There’s a little texture added to this in post processing too, just to add to that urban feel. 

Here’s one of the front of the building with Nicola – showing how you can use the environment as the main feature and the model only forming a small part of the image.

Next we moved to the footbridige over the A58M, Leeds inner ring road. Its not the prettiest of things so not immediately obvious a location for a shoot, but I’ve always liked its long lines, hard concrete and hand rails. It lends itself to portraits – here’s one of Andy, framed in the concrete and steel of the structure

Here’s Chloe on the bridge itself

At the end of the evening, once the light had dwindled, I captured a few shots of Chloe using just street light – you need street lights to focus for starters, plus once it’s dark, it lifts the model out of the background

Then to finish the evening off, I did a flash demonstration – this used 4 speedlite flashes – compact and cheap to buy, but really effective. 

These next two of Nicola used just 1 softbox, quite high up to the right of her, so you get the shadow on the right of her face. Nearly Rembrandt Lighting. 

We then stopped Andy from leaving by putting him in the spotlight, which he loves! Here we have the same softbox, and 2 rear lights giving them a glowing “rim” light. 

And then we got all 3 together for a final few – this is my favourite of the 3 of them

Though to get this shot, we had a laugh first…. 


My Favourites from the night

The Nightmare Of Holiday Photography

Can mixing a holiday and photography ever work?

So you’re off somewhere amazing for your holiday, with friends or family who probably are not photographers – or at least not as serious as you are. Can you really make this work?

 

The dream holiday photography… 

For the die-hard-photographer who wants photography perfection, you really need to be up before dawn to capture the sunrise, in the best possible location which you have carefully researched!

Then again in the evening, you need a couple of hours to get into position for the sunset.

During the day it’ll be too hot and the light too intense to capture anything worthwhile, so you go and shoot interiors – cathedrals, museums and the like.

 

The reality

Your group will want to experience the culture, including drinks and food in the evening. Your family/friends will want to be sitting down to eat and drink well before the sun sets, maybe hitting the bar at 6PM and eating by 8PM. 

Also, you are on holiday so want a nice lie-in to sleep off the food and drink the night before. You will be in bed for sunrise and well after, and you definitely watch the 9PM sunset from a chair in a restaurant.

When you DO get chance to do photography, you’ll be in crowds of tourists so have no chance of using a tripod, the light will be intense so you’ll have black shadows and burned out highlights. The heat will be 30 degrees and you will be sweating carting your kit around, it’ll wear you out and you’ll get knackered!

 

The 2 Solutions…

1 – Do a dedicated photography holiday.

This may seem obvious, but rather than try to do the traditional trip, and squeeze in photography, plan something specifically for photography.

Go with photographers who will get up with you for sunrise, and hang around till sunset.

You can go at a snail’s pace, plan locations and routes meticulously over a pint and google maps months in advance! 

2 – Go off season – i.e. Winter

If you’re doing something warm like Seville or Rome, these places will still be warm in December.

The crowds will be smaller, so you’re not falling over people!

The sun will rise closer to 8 AM than 4 AM so you can nip out at a fairly sensible time for a sunrise if you like.

The sun starts to go down around 4 PM, so you can capture that perfect sunset then be back in the hotel getting ready for food by 6 PM. 

Also, during the day the sun is lower in winter, so you get longer shadows and “better light” – it’ll mean your shots just look more interesting than the same time in summer.

 

So can you successfully mix photography and a holiday? 

Well yes, of course, take the camera with you – you’ll definitely see hundreds of things to shoot and record memories. You can also “nip off” from a restaurant for 10 minutes when the sun is setting if you like – there’s always a way. 

But if you really do want to capture images to exhibit or sell, piggybacking your photography on to a normal trip abroad will always be a struggle. I’d do it in winter when it’s miserable in the UK – get a cheap flight to the Med and enjoy those short days in the sun and long evenings. That way you can move faster without overheating, visit more sites, get better light and be in the pub for 6PM every night to get the best of both worlds!

Hiring a Photographer : 7 things you’re REALLY buying

Most businesses need images for websites, brochures, press, adverts…. the list goes on.

So when you hire a photographer, what are you actually getting? Good ones will be expensive, they may quote £1000-£1500 per day even in West Yorkshire – how on earth can this be justified.

If you read most marketing copy, we would cover the benefits to your business, which include extra sales, great first impression and more website traffic – but in this mini blog series, lets look at what the photographer brings to the table and how they spend the time with you AND behind the scenes!

1 – Years of Experience (hopefully)

How many CV’s or LINKED IN profiles start with “Over 25 years experience of…. “, or something like that!

When you hire a professional, the first thing you’re buying into is MANY years of learning, courses, processing skills and people skills. They’ll have experienced all kinds of situations, subjects and personalities. They tend to have learned in their spare time and on the job, it’s usually a passion. They will also be expert and efficient at processing the photos to polish them – usually in Photoshop or something equivalent.

You can see their experience from a portfolio or website and can also tell whether their work is a fit for your brand. Maybe someone who does pin-up and emo-goth models brilliantly, isn’t the right person for your food photography? 

We wrote about 6 steps for getting the right photographer for the job here… 

6 Essential Steps to Hiring the Right Photographer

 

 

 

Blackpool – the beach, prom and Cleveleys

Blackpool – the beach, prom and Cleveleys

Its got a bad press, Blackpool. 

It’s glory years are long gone, there is a drug problem which I’ve never seen, for myself, but you hear about it… 

But despite all that, you can get a great set of photos on the right day. We went over on a sunny winters day, so very few people around other than dog walkers and the occasional drunk. 

Our main foci were the piers and a spiral thing at Cleveleys which we shot at sunset. There’s always the tower to put in the background, gives the place context and identity 

Here’s what we got on the day – many are taken with the Canon 17mm TSe and stitched into squares. 

 

Yorkshire Coast Photo Workshop

A foggy day on the coast

Driving up to the workshop I feared the worst – a day of rain and misery, with a group of photographers huddled together keeping dry

It was grim… 

But as Americans would say, when life gives you lemons, make a G&T…. or something like that!

And that is just what we did – the fog gave us a completely different look to the previous workshops we’ve run on the coast. We got landscapes which faded to nothing in the distance. Perfect for the cliffs on the Yorkshire Coast. 

Also, we had people on the beach at Whitby which faded with distance too. It was actually magical. 

The sea was out by the time we reached Sandsend, so we had to shoot the groynes without waves splashing over them – rather using them as reflections and framing people walking by.

That’s what I love about outdoor workshops – you’re never quite sure what you’ll get, but you can ALWAYS find something to shoot – and that is the most important lesson in photography. 

Night Photography at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

Night Photography at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

Ok, we’re really lucky to have a ruined abbey right on the edge of our city – and it’s got lots of free parking!

So each year I take a new group of photographers down there to light it up with powerful torches and sparks.

Here’s what we got up to this year – this is Feb 2018.

The group really enjoyed Light Graffiti – that’s drawing things with torches if you keep moving your body doesn’t appear in the photo, just the trace of where the torch went!

 

Ovenden Moor and Wind Farm

Ovenden Moor and Wind Farm

Photographers have flocked to this wind farm over the years – the bright stone on the road really stand out from the darker heather moorland, the large turbines create fantastic subjects and if you can get some rotation on them, preferably 1/3 of a turn, they look magical. 

I’d not been up since the old turbines were replaced, so popped up in Feb 2018 with my trusty 17mm TS lens and got a few images. 

I also popped down to a viewpoint I really like – looking down the valley into Luddenden.

Here are the photos 

They say Portrait Professional 17 is Terrible… but is it?

Facebook Hates Portrait Professional 17! 

The bottom of the internet, where people comment on things with impunity, is full of bile and anger whenever Portrait Professional is mentioned. 

Portrait Professional kept popping up on my feed, so decided to try the Demo version – it seemed to be pretty quick and effective IF you didn’t go mad with the sliders. A bit like HDR programs… 

So I bought the £49 version – what the hell!

Here’s a video of me using Portrait Professional 17… 

Here’s a shot of the lovely Emily, taken last year. I chose one where she’s looking off-centre at the camera to really test the software. 

This is a bit long (10 minutes) but does show you everything I do in Lightroom and PP17 – plus the conclusion at the end of course! 

 

https://youtu.be/2t1Zxq9Bcr8 

Before and After

portrait professional - before we used it

portrait professional - after we used it 

Instant Vintage Effects in Lightroom

Age your photos in seconds!

I’ve tried using “bought” LIGHTROOM presets many times and they all seem to have one thing in common…

The secret behind most lightroom presets....
They use Tone Curves to add colours to your photos! 

This makes perfect sense to any seasoned Photoshopper or Lightroom expert – but I guessed that most photographers don’t know about this. So here’s a video explaining how you do it – a quick “how to” guide so you can start making your own toned presets for free!

 

3 Leading-edge options for your new 2018 business head-shot

Your headshot is important – it represents your brand, your business and you.

Headshots work for you every day on Linked IN and the other social media channels, your website, in print and at every touch point the world has with you.

So it’s worth a little thought about what you want!

To help, we’ve found that there are 3 main styles which work for a business:-

  • location shots
  • plain background
  • action shots

You see each every day and we can help create each for you – here are a few examples to help guide you.

 

Location Shots

Ideal for people wanting a unique, fresh and modern look to their images.

These will be taken in places like:-

  • office atriums with big open spaces
  • near to iconic structures like a city hall
  • in the office car park!
  • next to an interesting textured wall

The main goal is to use the background to create something new – the same location will look different at different times of day and weather conditions, so you really do get something unique.

We are experts at location shoots and can shoot literally anywhere legal to get the shots you’d like.

 

Plain background shots

Clean and versatile for all uses – the classic

White is most popular for these as they blend into most websites and social media sites quickly, cleanly and effectively. They are less popular than a few years ago and we don’t tend to do as many of these as clients prefer the Location look.

We would typically just need a meeting room in your office to set this up – we need room for 3 or 4 light stands and for the colleague to stand. We then just photograph each person, one by one, throughout the day – some take just a couple of minutes, others need time to chat and relax – which we’re always happy to do.

 

Action Shots

Show people doing what they do, where and how they do it

These images are more informal and fun, yet give a feel for your company’s ethos and values. It shows not only the person but the environment they work in – great for a busy office and tight teams as well as people working in factories and crafts.

They are the least disruptive for your team as they just carry on doing what they are doing – rather than standing in a room feeling nervous.

To create these we go around the room photographing each colleague, in turn, placing 2 lights around them to give that professional studio feel.

 

Whatever you like

We like to shoot location most – it’s more fun and creative from a photography point of view – and people usually relax more as it feels informal. But whatever your need for your brand, we can create your team a great new set of consistent, stunning new images.

Is ON1 RAW 2018 the Best Solution For Cost-Conscious Photographers?

Fed up with paying £10/month for Lightroom?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Lightroom – but I’m not a huge fan of paying a tenner each month to use it… I used to like buying something and then being able to use it as long as I liked.

The new subscription model Adobe use is fine for businesses, but for many enthusiasts, it’s prohibitive to expect them to pay year on year for something they may use infrequently.

What’s the alternative?

There are probably many out there – I used to use Capture One, but after release 7 I found it shaky and unreliable. The results are great, but if you need a fast and efficient workflow, then it was no good.

So having used On1’s Effects for a while now, I was interested to see their answer to Lightroom – it’s called RAW 2018 and is a decent bit of kit.

The software was $99 – with an Xmas discount, I ended up paying £63 for the software, tutorials, presets and an e-book. Great value and I won’t need to pay over and over again.

I’ve recorded my first impressions on this video – take a look and see what it can do.

My conclusions

  • I do really like it – it’s powerful and intuitive
  • I will keep using Lightroom because of the “way I work” professionally – bulk files, processes and presets are all entrenched in LIGHTROOM…. for now
  • I will use Effects from LIGHTROOM a lot – that’s fantastic
  • For “fun” and “personal” projects, I’ll probably be using ON1!
  • If you’re brand new to photography – get this NOW and play with the free demo
  • File handling can be a bit slow 
  • Masking and the filters are amazing – worth the money alone

 

How to make a soft, dreamy, black and white waterfall photograph in LIGHTROOM

Using LIGHTROOM to make a dreamy waterfall

Here’s a shot from a recent workshop at Swaldale – it’s Crackpot Force, yes, that’s really a thing!

The shot was underexposed, but I liked the shape – so gave it a go in Lightroom anyway.

Things we explain:-

  • black and white conversion
  • basic controls like Highlights, Whites, Shadows 
  • Clarity for a soft look
  • vignetting
  • cropping
  • sharpening

Kit Used

 

Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 70-200 F2.8 L

The video above shows what steps we did – and this is the before and after…

Same Photo Cooked Many Ways

Sunset at Gross Glockner – Tirol – Austria

Do you ever take a shot and never manage to settle on a final edited look?

Well this happened with this shot – it’s one of 3 brackets taken at sunset with a 17mm TSe lens… so nice and sharp, oodles of data to play with…. but what to do?

Flat HDR

First off I did a HDR blend and flattened the image out a bit…

Way too much detail in this and it looks a bit bland. But a start point to throw it into NIK plugins

NIK Efex

So I ran them in this order:-

  1. DFine – noise reduction
  2. Pre Sharpener
  3. Viveza – contrast and colour

Managed to keep the shot from burning out or going black, but still not quite there yet.

Colour EFEX

I took the above and tried a mix of filters in Colour EFEX – I think there was

  1. Detail Extractor
  2. Pro Contrast
  3. Graduated Filter
  4. something else I can’t remember

So you can see we got to a darker place and reduced the colours a lot. The process introduced a fair bit of noise in the sky, so ran it through DFine again!

Analog EFex

Had a go at taking the Viveza output through Analog EFEX this time…

Not sure it worked as well as the colour efex version. Analog is better for quirky portraits and city shots than landscapes.

Rewind – HDR EFEX

So for this one, I flattened the original RAW files, selected all 2 and exported them to HDR EFEX.

I’m not a massive fan of this plugin, it tends towards the unbelievable end of the HDR spectrum, which is no good commercially.

But for landscape… well here’s where I got to, after a while meddling. It’s definitely a powerful tool.

MINIMAL with the dark HDR RAW

So after all the detail, how about making something dark and menacing.

The dark shot had the most potential – with fleeting light, deep reds and the snow just about poking out of the gloom.

So this is the darkest of the 3 HDR shots – the shadows lowered and colours upped a little. The highlights and white clip were meddled around with in LIGHTROOM ever so slightly to get texture – and we’re done!

Silver EFEX

No photo is complete till you’ve tried shoving it through Silver EFEX. This one looked pretty good with it’s bold textures in the foreground.

Well there you go – you can throw your files through any number of filters for many effects.

It’s down to taste which is best – I like the black and white, was a bit disappointed with what Viveza gave out for a rare change.

The power of Lightroom is that you can get lost, then just “create a virtual copy” and start afresh and see where it takes you

 

WHICH DO YOU LIKE BEST?

Tell us in the comments

Media City and Salford Quays

Salford Quays Architecture

If anyone wants to learn about shooting architecture “up north”, I can think of not better place than Media City at Salford Quays.

This trip was a 1-2-1 with a fellow professional photographer who shoots gigs for a living – he wanted to spend an evening learning about architecture and tilt-shift lenses. So we met around 4:30 and worked through till well after sunset, taking in all kinds of views and angles.

Kit Used on this trip

Click on any of these pictures to learn more or purchase

Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS

 

Canon 17mm TSe

Canon 90mm TS

Manfrotto 055 Tripod

 

 

Waiting for the sunset

So to start we captured these flats – I’ve shot them many times before, but never with the Canon 17mm TSe lens. To get them in I had to take 2 portrait photos – one shifted low, the other high – and stitch them together to get this final shot.

It’s a far more architectural look than the stretched versions I did with the 17-40 back in 2006!

Not quite a sunset

 

As it got darker, we didn’t really get the dreamy orange sky, but a nice pattern in the clouds formed over the BBC buildings.

 

 

Looking the other way, east towards Old Trafford, was a bit more ominous. Here we used the railings to give a dramatic lead into the shot.

 

 

As the sun was going down, the red light in the imperial war museum came on, so grabbed this shot with the 70-200.

 

The Lift Bridge

Back in the 2000’s this was the main feature and still a great thing to shoot. It’s a lift bridge, the deck’s pretty long, 100 yards maybe, and lit beautifully all the way across.

We got a few shots of it – this one is a pano of 2 shifted shots, taken later on when the sky had darkened.

 

 

This is a HDR pano – so 6 photos in total, blended to 2 HDR photos – then the 2 HDR photos blended to a panoramic. It meant the bright sky could be retained along with detail in the deck and structure.

 

 

This is right at the side of the bridge, a shift panoramic of 3 vertical photos. It’s REALLY wide!

 

Imperial War Museum

This is a really boiring building in dull light, but after dark, it takes on a totally different feel. The lighting is cool, almost blue, with the red “eye” peering out at you.

This is 2 shots blended to a panoramic – taking in the little lights on the steps. A nice touch.

 

 

You get a great reflected view of it from across the water, outside the Blue Peter studio.

 

 

This is a 90mm Tilt Shift lens photo – with this I was using tilt to increase depth of field, so tilted towards the building. It is a bit fiddly to do, but the lot does seem quite sharp!

 

 

This is the opposite effect – with the tilt away from the building to make the near parts more blurry than you’d get from most lenses.

 

Classic Reflections

The main draw of this location has to be the reflections after dark – colours and shapes in the architecture double up when you have water, and there are acres of the stuff here.

This first shot is from the BBC looking over to the Lowry

 

This is from below the new cafe looking down media city to the swing bridge

 

 

This is from the water’s edge near to the tram stop, the golden thing is the restaurant, the blue the Lowry

 

 

 

Media City from near the Lowry Tower – this is HDR of 3 photos s0 I could keep all the light detail AND get some sky glow

 

 

6 shot HDR of a little sculpture by the water’s edge

 

Experiments…

This is a photo using the Lensbaby – a cool little lens from a few years back which you can bend and squeeze to make really strange shots… works well with lights

This is a replication of a shot Dave described of Canary Wharf – the 90mm was tilted on a vertical plane, so the BBC tower was sharp, and things left and right of it were blurry. Hard to get right, you had to use focus, tilt and aperture to control the width of the sharp area!

The Lowry to finish

And finally… the original reason I went to Salford Quays back in the early 2000’s – the lowry itself.

This is a 6 shot HDR pano using the black line of brick on the pavement as a lead into the photo

A Stunning Yorkshire Dales Day – Ribblesdale and Malham

A 1-2-1 Workshop on a Perfect Yorkshire Dales Day

You always book workshops in the Yorkshire Dales with a sense of trepidation, and prepare yourself to explain what each location looks like “when it’s not grey, raining and grim”. No such worries for this 1-2-1 session with Jonathan – perfect weather for afternoon landscapes.

Perfect for me is a breezy day where sparse clouds pass in front of the sun making patches of light and dark. We got that in spades, so instead of starting at Gordale Scar, I decided to go to Winskill instead.

This is high above the Ribble Valley, a bit of a mecca for landscape photographers these days and has:-

  • fantastic views over the valley bottom
  • limestone pavements (small ones)
  • lots of interestingly shaped walls
  • a cattle grid
  • sheep pens
  • trees and bushes

So lots of elements to play with.

Winskill Photos

These show the changing light, shot with the 70-200mm, 90mm TSe and 16-35mm lenses.

From Winskill, we headed on towards Yorkshire Dales gem Malham Tarn, a lovely drive of a couple of miles – we stopped to capture a long straight on the road. It just reminded us of the shots of American desert roads, long straights. The clouds helped too of course

 

To the left, was a long wall which led to a farm and tree, so we got a shot of that.

Then changing lenses to the 16-35, I used the wall to lead the eye to a shadowy Pen Y Gent in the distance

Malham Tarn

Yorkshire’s second largest lake – of 3 apparently – is Malham Tarn, it’s a barren place with a cold, windy feel to it, and can be really dramatic with the right sky.

We got a decent sky alright, and really strong sun. This is where I showed Jonathan how to use the 10 stop filter. I use a Haida 10 stop – it’s a really thin screw in filter which allows me to add on top of it my Cokin Z-pro ND Grad system, without too much vignetting even at 16mm.

Anyway – here are a couple of shots with the 10-stop

This one is with the tripod almost in the water

This is further up the bank, so you don’t get too muddy!

Also around the Tarn we got some shots of rocks which were being lit by the low sun, and a couple passing by…

This as shot at F2.8 with the 70-200, just to do something a little different to most landscapes, where you’re getting everything sharp. You can still see the second rock and wall in the distance, but the main thing is the sharp foreground.

These 2 were just walking along to the lakeside – there was a decent sky – so got this at 70mm, then converted to black and white in Lightroom

Malham Rakes

It’s definitely the most photographed tree in the dales, maybe the UK or even the world!

But it is a great place to teach people who’ve never been – so I keep going back.

The sun was perfect as we walked across the field – low, bright, orange, it was going paint one side of the rocks a lovely warm tone…. We missed it by about 30 seconds. A bank of clouds engulfed the sun leaving the scene totally in the shade. Absolutely gutted and regretting eating that sandwich earlier, we kept going anyway.

Here’s proof that the light was amazing as we approached – this is looking down the valley from the tree we were going to shoot – but you can see the light.

The classic view, where the sun is to the right and should have been lighting the right sides of the rocks… alas it’d had gone.

This was my first tilt shift shot from here – so this is 2 landscape shots stithced together. The lower one got the rocks, the upper the tree and sky.

This is from the other side – with the sun on the left of the photo. I’ve used a bit of a coloured effect on the sky for a hint of warmth…

This is the shot above without any colouring – and a tripod leg

This photo is taken facing into the sky where the sun should be – you did get a bit of warmth in the sky. I’d got bored editing it though, so put it rhough Nik Ananlog EFEX and added a warm light flare to get the misty look!

This is the natural look from the usual side – again, tilt-shift lens creating a square shot with 2 landscape shots.

End of a perfect day

We ended at the rocks as the light had abandoned us, it really was a great day and the shots in this blog are just a few of the great variations the light gave us

Do you want a day out with McFade

If you want a similar day of learning in the Yorkshire Dales, we’re always delighted to take you out for a drive around our favourite locations.

During the day we can show you everything we do, give tips on everything from using your tripod to bracketing images for HDR. It’s definitely the best way to learn if you want to get to the next level with your photography.

Just drop us a line at training@mcfade.co.uk and we’ll organise a great 1/2 or full day out for you. 

How to fake an ND Grad filter with LIGHTROOM

Flash of inspiration

This technique came to me one night – just watching sunset on a road bridge and thought about it. It applies to Tilt Shif lenses mainly – but I’m sure you can do it with a normal lens, or telephoto. Maybe not an ultrawide 16mm though.

The Problem

So you invest £2000 on a 17mm TS lens and realise you can NEVER use an ND grad on it… the end of the lens is like a tennis ball, you just can’t fit the darn things on.

So you have to use HDR to get balanced shots, which can mean using 6 or 9 shots once you’ve done your shifting. The problems are, when shooting with a 5D4…

  • Masses of hard drive space – 6 or 9 40Meg RAW files, ouch
  • Need to use HDR – can introduce problems if you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Time… wow, even on a powerful computer you’re waiting around

But yeah – I’d been doing this ever since I got the 17mm TSe

The Idea….

It’s far from genius really.

But I found this whilst shooting light trails over the M62 – the camera levelled on a tripod.

  • I could get the whole scene in 2 shots – a low shot and a high shot
  • The low shot was dark mainly – had the road in it
  • The high shot was bright mainly – had the sky in it.
  • I WAS taking HDR brackets at the time then thought…

Would LIGHTROOM stitch 2 shifted shots at different exposures… and would there be a tide mark?

The source files

The first shot is the lower one – this is 30 seconds, so you get long light trails – and lots of them

LIGHTROOM Grad - how to fake it using 2 photos in lightroom

Next, I shifted the camera up to get mainly the sky – but leaving a bit of road for Lightroom to blend with. This was just 6 seconds long so we got a nice dramatic sky.

So here goes – highlighted them both and did a Panoramic Blend.

I’ve obviously done a few tweaks with lightroom to get it a bit brighter.

So here is the unedited blend

As you can see – lightroom just did its thing and got it right!

A video on how it’s done

Moody Bradford City Centre

You can’t always get the weather you want on a test shoot – but somehow, bradford suits this kind of sky.

It’s got this old yortkshire stone architedtue going on – yellow stones stacked up to make mills and shops. Pair that with blubous grey clouds and you have an appropriate look… maybe not the one the tourist industry were after!

This was all done with a brand new Canon 17mm Tilt Shift lens, you can read more about it and buy one if you click on its picture

 

Bradford done with the canon 17 mm

Canon 17 mm TSe lens

So I started out on Sunbridge Road, where you can park for free if you’re lucky. Cobbles and Yorkshire stone everywhere.

A spot of renovation going on here – a building of 2 halves

The famous TJ Hughes store on the hill here – maybe the shift effect is a bit severe on this – it needed another frame to make more room at the top and bottom. You shoot and learn

Same buildings but a little lower on the street

The world famous Alhambra Theatre

Again – but from the other side

A place I always visit, the media museum. Often got some great exhibitions on in here.

The best investment they made to the city centre, this pond is a fantastic focal point for everyone in the summer… just not this day

Here we have a stitched HDR shot – 6 photos – 3 shots low down, 3 high up – then all blended together using LIGHTOOM and Photomatix

A bit of olde worlde effect here with Split Toning in lightroom 

The City Vaults – a traditional boozer with bands and decent beer.

I actually started up here – Lister Mills. The sun was out for a good 10 minutes. 

See – sun out on this one too

Sunbridge Road again for these 3

Here’s where you can park for nowt – Yorkshire people like that

Done a good job of cleaning this one up

And finally, a HDR stitch of the city hall – 6 frames all mushed up together to make this one.

Wonderful Yellow Fields – Tilt Shift Lens

Yellow fields of Discovery

Discovering just what Tilt Shift can do is great fun – and you have to be hands on.

Sure, I’d seen 10 Youtube videos so had a good idea what I needed to do – but here are a few examples from my first landscape trip in summer 2017.

Tilt Shift Increasing that depth of Field

For landscapes, this is the main reason you’d use them. You want to get as much sharp as possible – that foreground flower to the distant mountain.

To do this I did this:-

  1. Got the camera perfectly level – tilt back to 0 and no shift at all.
  2. Worked out the exposure NOW – apparently, it goes pear shaped if you do it tilted/shifted!
  3. Switch live view on and focus on something 1/3 into the shot – in these, it was some flowers a little way in
  4. Zoom in on live view to something in the background – that tree in this case
  5. Now TILT – just tilt anyway – till the tree gets sharp.
  6. Move the live zoom view back to the foreground flowers
  7. Re-focus a little till these are sharp
  8. Go to step 5 and repeat – maybe a few times – till everything looks sharp.
  9. SHOOT!

Wow – it’s a lot of work!

But from these shots, you can see it’s pretty much sharp all the way through

Darn sun went in!

Sharp pylon, most of the oil seed is too – the foreground one was a bit of a pain though!

Great for blades of wheat

Another one looking down a wheel track – the tree was the background thing to do the tilt-focussing on