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!

How to Get Started as a Model – The Test Shoot

How do you get started in this industry?

I’m sure you’ve seen some of the amazing photos gracing magazine covers and advertisements. You might even have a few friends who’ve modelled for various modelling sites and agencies. But what do you really need to know about getting started?

The first step to getting started is to create a portfolio

This means taking those first steps, getting some great photos with great photographers. Have a look locally for creatives, use Instagram and social media to see who’s working near you. Politely approach them.

Once you have your portfolio, you need to be selective about who you shoot for

Think about the style of images you’d like – match that to the photographer’s portfolio. Mix it up, some photographers do great natural light shots – others, like me, prefer dramatic lighting. Shooting for a completely new photographer is great fun and usually free, but you may end up with shots you can’t use, so just be wary of wasting time.

You can’t just shoot anywhere. In fact, you should only shoot at the best photographic locations

Be aware of this – a studio is usually a safe bet, and using a great location like the tunnel we did Ngary’s test shot in was pretty epic. If you use your back garden, it may not work so well…

Relax

The most important part of this is to relax, have fun, and be natural. You can’t force creativity! Happy shooting!

Ngary

Here’s a test shoot and rekke I did with Ngary in a tunnel beneath the M1 – such an exciting location, with the corrugated, curved walls creating all kinds of patterns.

Photoshopping Sunrays with Curves

Sometimes you only get a fleeting second of light and you’ll have to grab what you can with the camera you having your hands.

The story behind this photo is that we were walking to a limestone pavement to capture photos of trees growing out of rocks when one of the clouds opened and let the sun shine through for what was only a few fleeting seconds. This is the image I grabbed.

Luckily I did have a 2 stop neutral density grand filter on the camera so could protect the highlights to some extent but as you will see in this video the foreground is pretty much black and the sky is almost burnt out.

In this full length tutorial I take you through the steps to rescue something from this grab shot, starting from the raw file in Adobe Lightroom and working 2-in Photoshop with luminosity masks and curves layers to lighten the darks and enhance contrast.

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

Social media content creation in Lockdown

How can you create new images and social media content, safely, whilst we are still operating under bizarre lockdown circumstances?

The good news…

Luckily, the government guidance states that people should work from home unless they “absolutely cannot do so” – which most photographers can’t.

So this means we can still travel to create images for businesses. That was a huge relief for content creators around the UK!

Business As Usual for photography? Well no, it isn’t quite…

Whilst we can work, our clients are experiencing huge disruption. Many teams are working from home, businesses are closed and people are on furlough, so are not allowed to do “work”, even if that is a photoshoot.

So what can we/you do to generate new social media content? Especially in these weeks before Lockdown starts to be lifted and we need to ramp up our output.

Here are a few ideas – and things we’ve been helping with.

All the photos were taken between November 2020 and February 2021

Shoot at Home

Sarah De Wit at home
Mark Westaby – Chef who delivers to your door!

So consider asking your photographer to come to your home if that’s appropriate,  maybe home office, or if you are a chef,  your home kitchen could work perfectly. We’ve done a few of these and they worked brilliantly – meeting the families and pets is a bonus and it’s really easy for you to get changed and relax in your own home.

Shoot Outdoors

Phil Storey from Glow

How about using the great outdoors, as this is the lowest risk and possibly the most creative way of doing a shoot. Outside we have so many options available. It’s a chance to put you in front of iconic buildings and associate your brand and to your city. Or we could find a variety of walls to vary the background,  big glass buildings give you that city look or red brick walls and more rustic feel. Maybe green fields and countryside fit your brand better, we can go there too.

Sarah De Wit – Founder of the Virtual Cheese Awards

All our lights and cameras are battery powered these days, so we can get that studio-lit look in the local park just as easily as anywhere else – so long as it’s not blowing a gale or poring down!

Gemma and Chris, from Loaded PR

Meet up with colleagues

Nick and Catherine from Rockwood met for the first time in months for this shoot in Pudsey

We have met in parks around Leeds and created team photos for businesses who haven’t met colleagues in person for months,  it becomes  quite an exciting event. It’s a great excuse to spend an hour or 2 catching up, safely in the open, whilst creating some new shots.

Shoot those products

Pro Balm- the active skin restorer that athletes love

 If you are moving your business online, then photograph your products ready for websites and print. This can be done by going online and buying “light-cube” and putting a few lamps around it –  that way you’ll get a lovely clean, white background to your products, shooting on your kitchen table. If you don’t have time, then we can help of course – we have a table for small products or can come to you for anything bigger.

https://stretchburn.com/

Get your bar/restaurant ready for relaunch

If you are a bar it’s been a REALLY tough year. But we’ll be back eating and drinking in them before too long, so it’s really important to drip feed content on social to keep front of mind.

Now is the time so update your drink and food menu marketing photos – and you whilst the location is empty, we are not in the way of your customers. Fingers crossed, by the summer, things will be open and those who’ve kept their customers updated with great content will be top of everyone’s list.

Learn how to make your own images

Model Rachel Peru on location at Baildon Moor

If you do have time on your hands, it’s a great opportunity to practice photography with your phone or a camera. 

Social media thrives on photography and still images and they don’t be highly polished professional marketing photographs. Create more personalised “memes” and visuals using your own photographs as background, with some large text on top. 

Why share other people’s memes when you can make your own?

Do it quickly and easily with free software on your phone. Snapseed is a great free photo editor that allows you to add text which we recommend for both iPhone and Android.

We can help…

Firstly – if you want to learn more about photo editing with the SNAPSEED Phone App – we’ve created a powerful series of videos taking you through the process, explaining both HOW and WHY you do things – it’s available right now :-

GO TO PHONE EDITING COURSE

We’ve also made our Personal Brand photoshoots simpler to book than ever, using a new shop on the website which you can find here

Go to Personal Branding Photoshoots

Some more Lockdown photos

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.

How to get Maximum Sharpness with Focus Stacking

Sometimes you just cannot get everything in Focus in one shot…

This happens a lot when you are photographing landscapes with a very close foreground, the background becomes blurry if you focus on the foreground, and vice versa.

In this tutorial I show you two photos I took of the exact same scene, all the settings were absolutely identical except in one photo I focussed On The Rock in the foreground, and the second photo was focused on the end of the rock a little bit further away.

This tutorial takes you through the process of blending the two to images, using Lightroom as your start Point and Photoshop to do all the clever blending.

All the editing before the tutorial starts was standard Lightroom tweaks, and and the tutorial leaves you in a position to do whatever you like with the image in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Transforming Websites The Easy Way

Here’s a quick “video blog” on solving the problem of poor looking websites the easy way…

The text is below if you prefer to read or can’t have the sound on right now

Our Video Blog

I read a Pearl of Wisdom on LinkedIn yesterday which was

“Business is  all about finding a problem then providing a solution to it”

Thinking about the problems I solve as a photographer, one BIG one is making websites far more attractive, with very little effort.

A problem with websites is they go out of date pretty quickly,  or or your first website was done on a tight budget just doesn’t look that great. 

 We all know the nightmare of getting a new website –  both in terms of time, having to think about content, and the financial Investment.

The quickest way to improve and update a website, is to create stunning new images to replace the old ones. 

If you are tech-savvy, you could also change the web page layouts to make the images look bigger. Big images have a wow factor, show visitors who you are and what you do, and create a fantastic first impression when people land on your site. 

Not only that when you get new photos for your website you can of course use them in 1001 other places,  so they really are the gift that keeps giving. 

Now we are fast entering the final quarter of 2020,  how about getting some updated images  created to  bring your business to life.

Try these 3 Things RIGHT NOW to improve your phone photos

You can definitely take great phone photos these days. The technology has moved on massively since the early days, and the app software is truly amazing. 

 There are probably dozens of phone photos tips you could give, but realistically these three things will make the biggest difference.

 1 – Where is the light

photo – Setting sunlight

This may seem a bit of an odd question but have a look around you right now.

What is the main source of light where you are right now?

Where is it coming from?

photo – Sunlight!

I would guess that you’ve either got 

  1. the cloudy sky above you if it’s overcast,  
  2. at the sun if it’s a bright day,  
  3. a window if you are inside 
  4. or a ceiling-light if it’s dark outside
photo – window lighting

Here is a secret,  switch off the flash on your camera phone because it is always rubbish and unflattering….  Use the ambient light instead, point 2 tells you how. 

2 – Move whatever you are shooting to the light… 

photo – Light falling on Arthur – dark background

 I’m guessing you are probably photographing either 

  • something you can put on a table or 
  • a person. 

So get them to move so that the light (from the sky, sun, window or light)  is now falling upon  their face,  or maybe so they are at a slight angle so you get a small shadow across their face. 

If you want to photograph a plate of food,  then choose a table by a window to put the plate on

If you want to shoot pretty much anything with which to create a meme, just move it towards a window and you will get lovely soft light falling over it, creating a beautiful photo

What you are doing is what Rembrandt used to do, and use the natural light available, wherever he was, to light his subjects. 

But we are not quite there yet…. 

3 – What is in the background

This is usually how you can differentiate snapshots and crafted photographs. 

Snapshots may have busy distracting backgrounds, whereas, proper photographs will have backgrounds which have little influence or enhance the subject. 

photo – Clear background

For the phone photographer the easiest thing is to look for a plane background. Now this does not mean we take our subject away from the light source we found because we can’t find a plain background.  keep the subject there but move the camera around. Try these

  • move the camera lower –  if you are shooting upwards the background tends to be the ceiling or Sky which is almost always pretty featureless and a good background
  • move the camera higher –  if you point down,  this is often very flattering for portraits and why the Instagram generation always hold the camera up high for selfies.  But also floors tend to be dark and fairly featureless so could be an option
  • Move around the subject from left to right –  leave your person or plate where it is and you do the lead work,   hold your camera phone in position to take a photograph and then just walk around them looking at the back of the phone all the time to find the best background. 

 

photo – Low angle – puts Andy’s head in a plain background – the sky
photo – High angle – just gets a concrete background, not the railings at the beach

For the vast majority of photos the best background is one which you don’t notice.  So as soon as you find the blandest background take a shot,  stay in that position and get them to pose or do whatever you like. 

Try it RIGHT NOW

There you go, 3 things you can try right now, grab a person, walk them to the window and give it a go!

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!

10 “Must SEE” Leeds Areas for Photographers

If you are planning a trip to photograph Leeds, where should you go?

Like most cities, Leeds Centre and shopping areas are largely bland (with a few exceptions…) and many shopping centres actually ban you from taking photographs inside. If you have a tripod they will definitely ask you to move along.

Having photographs Leeds since 2003 here are some of the highlights I would recommend to every photographer visiting.

All of these photos are from my own archives built up over fast approaching 20 years! The time of day and the weather when you arrive will dictate whether any of the buildings look like any of the following, these are my favourites from probably several hundred trips into town!

Also, please note that these are all copyright to McFade and available to licence if you get in touch via the contact form at the bottom of the page.

1 The Canal and River Aire

Like every city in the UK, the river and is always a great place to start and in Leeds we have, have the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool canal meeting right in the centre next to the train station – then flowing out east where where it becomes another canal which heads out towards Hull.

The first of these photos is the canal in the west of the city centre, the second is is a Footbridge at Brewery Wharf which is very picturesque and the final on is is on the east of the city just passed the Royal Armouries.

2 Park Square

This is quite an unexpected thing to find in amongst all the streets near the city centre, but you have a wonderfully kept grassy Square surrounded by lovely buildings, the most striking being St Paul’s building which has a Moorish architecture Style.

3 -Leeds City Markets

One of the finest buildings in the city has to be the front Facade of the markets on Vicar Lane. Incredibly decorative Victorian architecture with domes on each corner, little cherubs above the doors and a real feast for the eyes.

4 The Corn Exchange

London has the Albert Hall, Manchester has its majestic library and Leeds has its Corn Exchange.

There’s something about these round buildings which just looks cool, this one was designed by architect Cuthbert Broderick in the Victorian era and now contains lots of shops and food options.

Definitely go all the way around the building on the outside because each angle has a different feel and the light will vary throughout the day so you want to pick an angle where you have have some light and Shadow.

At the time of writing the security staff are more welcoming than anywhere else in the city allowing you to freely wander around with your camera and in most cases you can use your tripod, though it is very bright in there so you probably don’t need to

5 Leeds Museum

Following on from one Cuthbert Broderick masterpiece two another one which started out life as Leeds Mechanics Institute, then in recent years has become the Museum. They do allow you to go indoors with your camera and if you get caught short there is a toilet you can use for free.

The most interesting thing to photograph are the Majestic outdoor reviews of the building, it’s pretty imposing and you can get some really great angles if you move around.

6 – The Royal Armouries & New Dock

Just off to the city centre down the canal, you will find a little city called new dock – it was once called Clarence Dock but they have rebranded recently.

This is home to the Royal Armouries collection in a majestic building called the Royal Armouries, but it’s also a lovely watery dock area with interesting architecture down both sides. It’s probably the best place in Leeds for modern architecture and on a windless day you get perfect reflections in the water.

The security staff will probably approach you if you have a tripod and look professional, but so long as you are sure of them that you are doing it just For Fun, which I’m sure you will be, they leave you to get on with enjoying the area.

7 – Granary Wharf and the Dark Arches

Literally beneath the train station is a rabbit Warren of tunnels which are called the dark Arches, though they are not very dark these days because they have lit them up into a spectacular light show of colour.

When you walk down the tunnel you pass the brand new South entrance to the train station which is a gold bronze colour and a real space age thing to look at, then you finally arrived at the wash where there is a wooden looking building a hotel and a massive cylinder called candle Tower.

You also have two locks and a view of the train lines, so it is a bit of a feast for the photographer.

8 – Victoria Quarter and Shopping Area

The shopping areas are not the best to photograph mainly because overzealous security guards and hordes of people getting in your way.

But the Victoria Quarter is well worth a look if you are prepared to hand hold your camera and move reasonably quickly so as not to become a problem for the security guards.

It is a beautiful arcade on one side cold County Arcade, then there is a second one Cold Cross arcade which runs perpendicular through a covered Street. This used to be a normal Road but they put a massive window across the top which some say is the biggest stained glass window in the world.

The area is full of shops selling fine shoes watches clothing and food.

9 – University Area

The University area is on Otley Road and and is pretty expensive, with a mix of architectural styles from the ultra-modern broadcasting house which uses the same metal colour and Preservation style as the Angel of the North, a Car Park which resembles a cheese grater, traditional neoclassical old building, some concrete brutalist structures and lots more.

You’ve also got ponds in which to reflect things and staircases where you can put models, so it’s a great location away from the masses of shoppers and tourists.

10 – Leeds Town Hall

The Jewel In The Crown of Cuthbert trio of amazing buildings has to be the Stirling Town Hall with it’s neoclassical Pillars at the front and massive clock tower which dominates the skyline in this part of the city.

I’ve convinced the best view of this is from the Mr Foley’s Ale House, if you shoot from here sunset the light comes in from the left-hand side illuminating the front of the building leaving the right hand side In Darkness, giving the whole photograph of 3D appeal.

If it is dark you can set your tripod up there and wait for cars to rush by leaving the light trails in the foreground of your photo.

I hope that’s giving you some ideas and inspiration for your next visit in to Leeds city centre.

We do run workshops around the area so if you do fancy a guided to a please check on our workshops website whether there is anything happening around your visit – or even plan your visit to coincide with the workshop.

Our workshops are all at

www.photographycourses.eu

And if you want to make any enquiries at all just fill in the form at the bottom of the page and we’ll get back to you straight away

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

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.

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

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

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

Correct Skin Tone in 1 Second

When you’ve done a shoot and have hundreds of shots to trawl through, you need a quick way to get the skin tone the right brighness on your subject.

It’s not straightforward enough to use Auto Settings – that will take account of the background as well as the foreground and skin – so you can end up with all kinds of problems!

Here’s an unedited shot of Brad – the lighting’s pretty cool, but I’m, not sure whether his skin’s right or not. 

Image from camera – not sure whether it’s the right exposure… 

In general, Caucasian skin will be at +1EV (other skin tones vary so this may not work with african or asian skin tones – you’d need to use 0 or -1EV instead). 

After a super-fast curves change, we have the correct skin brightness

After this tweak, we now know that Brad’s face is at the correct brightness, and can continue to do whatever edits we like – but this is a great start point!

Here’s how it’s done….

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!

AMAZING Panoramic Photos Made Easy with LIGHTROOM

Gone are the old days… 

Stitching panoramic photos used to be a pain. you’d have to do all kinds of prep on each photo in LIGHTROOM first, then export them as high res files, then create a stack in PHOTOSHOP and merge them…. and it’d probably go wrong at some stage!

The panoramic world has moved on

Happily, this has all moved on and you can stitch photos in seconds using LIGHTROOM and no other program. 

If you start off with 2 photos like these:-

TOP PART OF PANORAMIC

BOTTOM PART OF PANORAMIC

Merge panoramic in seconds

Then open up Photo Merge (as shown in the video below) – Lightroom will do the rest for you. 

You end up with a large shot, pretty square in this example, which you can then use in many ways – how about a tall portrait crop, or a square, or a traditional landscape orientation… 

With the file never leaving LIGHTROOM, you can create dozens of versions if you like!

Examples of the finished shots

See how it’s done

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 

LIGHTROOM Bright Sky Rescue!

The bright sky problem…

We’ve all done it – had a great scene to shoot but not got the right filters to balance the bright sky and land!

We end up with a boring bright sky and really dark foreground – it’s not ideal, but with most camera RAW files you can now fix this quickly in Lightroom.

The bright sky solution

In a nutshell, you can only do this with files where the sky isn’t totally blown out – there has to be some detail in there or nothing can be rescued.

The process is:-

  1. Use a grad filter in Lightroom to darken the sky
  2. Use the luminosity mask to keep the hilltops looking normal
  3. Close the GRAD
  4. Edit using your normal techniques

See it done…

Here it is done on a photo from the Yorkshire Dales – aimed at the user with some experience with LIGHTROOM.

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!

 

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…

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

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

How to buy your first camera when you’ve not got a clue

So you want to buy a camera?

I get asked a lot about buying cameras. The main questions I ask are:-

  • what do you want to do
  • what is your budget

The first one is almost impossible to answer for most people – they have an idea what they’d like to do, but until you have a camera in your hands and you’re pointing at stuff, you can’t really know what you enjoy.

  • Maybe you want to be a wildlife photographer – but do you have the patience to sit in a hide for hours on end waiting for animals?
  • Maybe you want to be a street photographer – but do you have the confidence to photograph people who maybe don’t want photographing?
  • Maybe you want to be a landscape photographer – but have you got the patience to wait for great light, get up early for sunrises and stay up late for sunsets?

Until you’ve done these things for yourself, you can’t know. Sorry about that.

So what camera should I buy?

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I usually recommend getting a SECOND-HAND DSLR and a couple of “affordable” lenses – maybe from around 18mm to 200mm in total, so you have wide angles (small numbers – e.g. 20) for landscape and buildings, and can zoom in (bigger numbers – e.g. 200) for sport, nature and portraits.

There are “super zoom” lenses which range from 18-200mm these days – so that could be a good option.

This enables you to try many things without buying expensive, specialist equipment. Once you’ve spent time trying things, you can then invest in equipment to help improve the areas you enjoy.

Next steps… once you know what you enjoy

  • if you LOVE landscape, you can get a wider lens and some filters.
  • If you love shooting portraits, you could get a nice 85mm F1.8 lens.
  • If wildlife is your thing – maybe go for a super zoom, 200-400 (nikon) or 100-400 (canon).

I’ve not answered the question of which camera body yet…. that comes down to budget.

Budget…. ££££££££££

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So to budgets – money dictates:-

  • how modern your second hand camera body will be, and
  • the quality of the lenses will be.

Camera Generations

Every year or 2, each camera does a “Doctor Who” and regenerates – a new version comes out, with new features and more megapixels.

For example – the canon 10 series started with the 6 Megapixel 10D in the early 2000’s, followed by the 20D, then the 30D…. it’s now at the 24 Megapixel 80D at time of writing. You will pay around £100 for a 10D and £1000 for an 80D – each model between will go up in steps. So a 20D may be around £150, a 60D would be around £400-£500.

Your budget dictates which generation you can buy. Older cameras tended to be simple, a bit like film cameras with a digital sensor instead of film. Modern cameras have more “stuff” and can work like your phone – where what the camera sees comes up on the back screen – this is called Live View.

Examples

  • Canon 5D – Canon 5D Mark 2 – Canon 5D Mark 3 – Canon 5D Mark 4 – Canon 5Ds
  • Canon 10D – Canon 20D – Canon 30D – Canon 40D – Canon 50D – Canon 60D – Canon 70D – Canon 80D
  • Canon 1D – Canon 1D mark 2 – Canon 1D mark 3 – Canon 1D mark 4 – Canon 1Dx  – Canon 1Dx Mark 2

Camera Ranges

Canon EOS range

It will be the same with each brand – you will have to do a bit of googling to understand what the model numbers mean – but in canon’s world you have:-

  • 1000’s – entry level, cheap and cheerful, plastic, limited functions for advanced photographers
  • 100’s – enthusiast level, small, plastic, but fully featured cameras – things like auto exposure bracketing are included
  • 10’s – semi-pro level – metal bodies, better controls like a wheel on the back for changing settings, full feature set
  • 5/6/7 – pro level – serious cameras with a serious price tag – they are fully featured, the 5/6 have a bigger sensor, the 7D is for action
  • 1D – top level – now the 1DX has united the 1D and 1Ds series into one mega camera which is weatherproof, shoots 10 shots a second, has oodles of buttons and is built to take knocks and still work.

So there are a lot of cameras out there – it IS going to be confusing if you start to compare Canon with Nikon or Olympus. I’d just choose a brand and then look at their ranges. Be mindful of your budget and then hit EBAY and get specific with your searches.

I usually recommend a canon 10-series, as these will have been bought by serious enthusiasts when new as they’re not cheap. They’ll probably have been cared for, they have professional controls so are easy to use and with them being metal, will be robust. Plus with a range which is 14 years old – you have everything from £100-£1000 to fit your budget. 

Camera Sizes

Image result for canon camera sizes

The idea of a camera is that you have it with you as much as possible so you actually use it. If it’s MASSIVE and HEAVY will you leave it at home all the time?

DSLR’s are pretty big – even the small Canon 700D is massive compared to your phone or most compact cameras.

If you are in doubt, go to a Currys or a Jessops and hold the cameras – find which fits your hand and one you can imagine carrying around. If the 80D is too big and heavy, then the 50D will be too. Maybe, in that case, look at other options:-

  • Lighter ranges like the 100D’s
  • A Mirrorless camera system – these are like DSLRs because you can change lenses, but smaller because they don’t have a mirror. Examples are the Olympus PEN, Canon EOS M, Olympus OMD, Sony A 5000, Sony A 6000
  • An advanced compact – like the Canon G series – they have all the right settings, in a small box. Usually can’t change lenses though.

I’d always recommend a DSLR first, but if you really can’t see yourself using it, it’s pointless getting one.

What people sell on EBAY

Image result for ebay canon camera kit

You will find people selling either:-

  • just the camera body
  • a whole kit – with 3 or 4 lenses, tripod, 10 batteries and memory cards.

If you get just a body, remember you will also need to buy a lens separately – could be good because you get the lens you want.

A kit does get you going faster and if it fits your budget, I’d just have a quick Google to check reviews of each lens (there are some amazing and some rubbish lenses out there) before making my decision.

Essential extras to buy

Image result for camera bags

When you get your camera and lenses, make sure you have:-

  • a bag – camera bags are padded and full of pockets – they range from dinky little things up to 2-meter tall mega trolly bags!
  • extra batteries – I’d recommend everyone has 2, better to have 4 or 5 – especially if your camera has “live view” where it works a bit like a phone, showing what it’s looking at on the back screen. That eats your batteries!
  • memory cards – again, make sure you have 2 in case one breaks or fails on a shoot. They’re getting bigger and bigger – 128GIG is now affordable. I’d get 16GIG as a minimum – they don’t have to be expensive and fast unless you’re shooting sport

Nice to have items

Image result for camera tripods

  • Tripods become essential if you’re shooting in low light, buildings or landscape – but hold back till you know what you’re going to shoot. A good tripod will be over £100 – maybe £200 – avoid cheap ones, they will hold you back.
  • ND filters, to increase shutter speed – so you can blur water and moving things.
    ND Grad Filters – to darken skies so you get nice clouds
    Polariser – these control reflections and make skies look amazing
    UV Filters – clear glass really, but protect the lens – if a pebble hits the front of your lens, the filter dies, but saves your expensive lens glass.

After you’ve been going a while and settling into a few niches, you can then invest in other bits of equipment to help – but I’d hold off in the early days.

Conclusion

My advice here assumes you have a budget – if you are wealthy and want the best new kit, then I’d recommend:-

  • Canon 5D mark 4
  • Canon 16-35 F4L
  • Canon 24-27 F2.8L Mark 2
  • Canon 70-200 F2.8L Mark 2

That should get you going nicely – and cost you many thousands of pounds.

In the real world, if you’re new and want work out whether Photography is for you then the above thought process is one which works.

I can’t tell you which make and model to get – you need to work that out based on your budget. If you’ve got £300, that’ll make the decision for you.

I can’t tell you which lens to get – you need to understand what you want to photograph most first, so get a general lens for starters – shoot everything you can, then decide. Then I can help.

I can’t tell you which other bits of kit you need – that comes when you know what you’ll be photographing.

But if you come on a workshop I can show you all my kit, you can see it in action and decide whether you need one 🙂

 

 

Super-Fast Spot Colouring in LIGHTROOM

Learn Spot Colour in Seconds

Using Adobe Lightroom

Spot Colouring is where you make a black and white photo but leave a part of it coloured. You may see it in wedding photography, and most famously in the film, Schindler’s List – a girl in a red coat dominates one scene.

The technique used to involve masks and photoshop – and a certain level of understanding for it to work.

However, with a few seconds tweaking, you can create the same effect without opening Photoshop or learning about layers and masks

Here’s the example of spot colouring

In this street scene the red coat really stands out, but the shot it pretty ordinary – so to try to make it more interesting, we made a spot colour with just the red coat

Here’s how we did it – in 3 minutes!

The spot colouring technique is very easy for this shot where the coat is bright red. It may be a bit more involved for different colours…. but hopefully, this 3 minutes will show you the basics of spot colouring so you can try it yourself.

LIGHTROOM tutorial – Landscape – Swaledale Waterfall

Is Swaledale the best Dale? 

There are so many dales, all with different character, all with different features. 

Swaledale is known for its steep sides, lead mines, waterfalls and 1000 barns – so lots to go at for the photographer

We went up there yesterday – Richard Spurdens with his new Canon 5D mark 4 and me with the huge 500mm lens. Boys and their toys. 

Here are a few from a quick play in LIGHTROOM – you can see the autumn colours were strong, and we found some really dramatic view points. That’s at the cost of being knackered after a long walk of course. 

 

The tutorial bit

Here’s the before and after of the photo we edit for you

At the end of the shoot the light died pretty fast and there was no sunset – so we found this waterfall. 

The sky and water were really bright compared to the surrounding leaves and rocks – I purposely shot the shot to keep detail in these bright areas, at the cost of underexposed “everything else”.

In this tutorial we explain

  • how to recover hightlights and dark areas
  • how to quickly and easily enhance areas with the RADIAL tool 
  • why it’s worth underexposing in these situations
  • why you should think VERY CAREFULLY before handing out your RAW files. 

The Video

 

Editing a Landscape in LIGHTROOM – Zell am See, Austria

Lightroom Edit of Zell Am See – Austria

Real-time Lightroom editing tutorial

Here’s a 10 stop shot – taken with a very dark ND filter which makes the exposure 1000 times longer. This one has a 30-second exposure.

The filter has a blue cast, so we show how to correct this – and work through each step describing “why” we make each change.

Before and After

The Video

Here’s the video with all the steps and discussion for you to learn from

 

What else would you like to learn about?

We hope that was useful – we’ll be doing more videos to help boost your processing, so let us know it the comments below what you’ve been struggling with.

 

The Pixelstick – The Verdict

Was the Pixel Stick Worth it?

Having watched this cool light painting tool evolve for a while it was only a matter of time before I got one. That came on Black Friday 2015 when the offer price was right.

It arrived from the states a few days later, and I was raring to go – were it not for the rain!

How does it work… ?

Watch this!

Why did I get it?

I shoot cars professionally – I thought it’d be a cool addition to the toolkit for that.

TVR sagaris ribble valley pendle-126

Also, I thought I could use it for client logos – adding those to scenes for some quirky viral click bait!

I also run night workshops, so it was an obvious addition to the “wire wool” and “gelled LED torches” I drag around Yorkshire each winter.

Ghostly Goings On-1

I like gadgets, and wondered what I could do with it – what works, what doesn’t work, could I do anything others were not doing ?

How is the Pixelstick to use?

Uploading new files etc. to the Pixelstick

The file format and interface on the device is old school:-

  • you need “bitmap” BMP files which are 200 pixels high,
  • then rotate them 90 degrees to the right,
  • the file names can only be 8 characters long.

SO that’s novel

Photos with black edges work best – anything on a white background look a bit pants, to be honest – you get white tide mark.

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That’s why I ended up with lots of demonic heads to start with – they have black edges! I’m not a satanist or demon worshipper!

The interface itself is pretty good to use at night – just a simple controller and a fire button. A bit like an old Game Boy control really. Once you get used to the menus, you can change things very quickly

Some Photos

So you can see lots of examples there – I’ve certainly given it a good workout!

Using it in the field

Needs to be really dark!

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I find it best if you’re somewhere dark enough to get a 30-second exposure at around F5.6 – so we’re talking dark places! Any brighter, you have to work faster or lower the aperture to F8 or F11… then the brightness starts to fade. i.e. you can’t see the effect very well… or at all .

Timing is interesting

I’ve always shot with someone at the cameras – so I have to shout when to start the camera, no use of remote shutters.

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How do you get wings in the right place behind someone? It’s tricky – try it.

Also, you’re walking to trace out an image – often to fill a specific space – so how do you time that? It could end early so you have got a big black space, or you end up at the end of the scene with the stick still flashing!

Its fun

Yeah – it is good fun to use to be honest. You just run around looking like an idiot, or some star wars fan as it can look like a light sabre!

Has it any Commercial Value?

Limited – I think most clients think it’s badly photoshopped artwork, rather than something unique and creative. One, in a bout of truth-telling, explained in great depth how he thought posting it on Social Media had cheapened my work and damaged my brand!

I don’t think many would go that far, but it’s seen more as a novelty toy, than a real commercial tool help raise a company profile.

I’d definitely try an another car shoot – but as an addition at the end of the shoot, if we had time. I’d not be promoting it and don’t have any examples on the website.

Was it worth it?

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It’s definitely got some interest in workshops so has paid for itself in extra attendees, so yes, it’s a cool tool which has actually covered its cost.

I think its best when used to create abstract things – rather than trying to create actual photos or things which are recognisable such as logos.

If you get too close to the camera, it looks like 200 lines, rather than a nice smooth image – that was a bit limiting, you do need to be far away to get the most from it.

What Next?

It’s getting light late in the UK now, so it’ll probably be packed away till the Autumn – but I think the thing I’ve not done is city work. Adding strange images to “already interesting” night scenes in a city, with models or cars, will be the next thing.

I think I’ve only really scratched the surface with it – mainly down to a horrendously wet and windy 4 months since I bought it. No one wants to be running around outside with a camera in the rain…

The Amazing Milky Way at Brimham Rocks

Shooting the Milky Way – If at first you don’t succeed…

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Pack up your bags and go back another night!

That’s what happened with our legendary Brimham Rocks workshop this year – the first run was a wash-out no sign of a star, never mind the milky way. Horizontal rain, cold, and no shelter anywhere saw us calling a halt on proceedings before cameras broke and people got hypothermia!

A few weeks later we returned, and wow – the results were magical!

Perfectly dark – no moon!

CT2A4430To see the milky way you need to be somewhere with little light… which Brimham is – but also if there is no moon , you’re on to a winner as the sky will be lots darker.

It was a new moon which had disappeared by 7:30.

Techy Bit

With it being so dark, and there was a chance to get the milky way, we decided to expose to capture stars – so this meant:-

  • long exposures – 30 seconds
  • wider apertures, most at F4 or F5.6
  • High ISO – 800 to 1600

This meant that the skies had enough light in them to reveal the stars in post processing.

The Light Painting Bit

CT2A4435 With the cameras set to capture LOTS of light, the light painting was very different to usual – rather than painting for 30 seconds to light boulders, 2-10 was ample, depending on the torch power and gel thickness.

So most of these shots were a quick wash of light, then we stood in darkness for the rest of the 30 seconds!

The Pixel Stick

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We took it, but only did a couple of shots with it – still learning what to do with it to get effective shots – and in this location, it wasn’t really adding much to an already-amazing scene!

Sparks

Again, we wanted to let the sky do the talking and help the boulders with a coloruful glow, so we only did a few wire wool wheels!

We did however do a few LED orbs – they were fun.

The Photos

9 Ways Photography Can Transform Your 2016

Why does every marketing team love stunning, unique images?

It makes their job easy – photos are powerful – they make your business:-

  • stand out from the crowd

  • easy to understand

  • have INSTANT impact

  • communicate who you are

  • show how you do it

Well here are just 9 of the many ways photos help boost your business

1 More clicks on Facebook Ads

We used this to advertise a Yorkshire Coast photography workshop which wasn’t selling – once “live” it got 65 clicks to our website in the first day and sold out!

Facebook ads are a great source of leads if you get it right – and the “hook” which grabs attention is a great image.

In fact, Facebook limit the amount of text you can show on the “image” part of the ad, so it’s never been more important to have a compelling photograph.

Some of the most effective ads are “carousels”, where you can have multiple photos in one ad – this is a fantastic opportunity to show your offering, up that click rate and drive traffic to your site.

2 Great looking website

Setting the scene for the Chicago Blues Brothers tribute band

Setting the scene for the Chicago Blues Brothers tribute band

Every website needs great images to tell your story, it gives visitors reassurance, confidence and a good idea of who you are. Where should you use photos? Here are a few examples:-

  • team page – pictures of you and the team – so people know who they are talking to BEFORE they pick up the phone
  • what we do page – you “in action” doing your job – reassurance that you are THE expert and shows HOW you working
  • about us page – your building and environment – shows people where to go when visiting and also the “vibe” of the place
  • our products/services page – your products – if you have them, you need to show them off!
  • your blog page – you winning awards – huge credibility builder, and reassurance

And there are many more – great images help clients understand what you do and how you do it INSTANTLY.

3 Great first impression on LINKED IN

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Guess what kind of experience you get when you call Alex at ABL Business… The photo says it all

Your LINKED IN photo is the first impression you give many clients – they’ll either get a referral or do a google search, then check you out on LINKED IN.

This photo has 3 main purposes

  1. To show “who” you are, a bit like a passport photo
  2. To instantly convey the right first impression and show some personality and professionalism
  3. To encourage people to call YOU rather than the other business owners in their search

If you’re showing your logo, your children, your pets, your holiday, your wedding photo…. it’s not really working for you.

Also, it you’ve changed your hair, grown a beard or started wearing glasses more often, then it’s probably time to refresh it too.

4 Everyone looks at photos

Everyone loves photos these days!

Everyone loves photos these days!

Your marketing includes great copy and design, you’ll also have videos and testimonials, all of which are hugely important.

However, people have to “read” copy and “open” videos – neither of which you can guarantee.

Everybody sees the photography – as soon as they open your collateral, the images pop up. The purpose of them is to then encourage people to read that copy and open that video – it’s a team effort.

You can check (in Google analytics) how long page visits are before and after installing your new photography and see the impact.

5 More engaging newsletters

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How’s your email marketing going?
Are people opening them or junking them before opening?

The email subject line is probably has the biggest influence on opening rates, photography is used in the email body to both engage and “guide” the reader…

“Decide what you want to draw to the user’s attention. If you have one stand-out offer, put it side-by-side with an image of someone looking right at it, or their body gesturing towards it. If you have multiple offers, utilise an individual looking down or around the area these offers are located.

Test this by monitoring your marketing click-rates before and after your new photography

6 “Instantly” Show what you do

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Would you guess that she’s boot-camp fitness trainer who uses ropes outside in her training?

The speed of communication via photography is amazing – a quick glance of an image can leave a lasting impression.

We’re told attention spans are dwindling so this fast communication method is essential.

7 Introduce & value your team

120 austin hayes team shoot 3 small 013

Julie and her fellow directors at Austin Hayes – one of many sub-team shots we created for their website

So many teams miss out on this – many don’t even have a team page!

Contact with your business will be more personal and also shows clients your value your colleagues. Your colleagues will feel more valued too!

As well as a team page with photos, how about a friendly photo of your receptionist on your website’s Contact Us page?

8 Something new to post on Twitter

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A bit cheeky really, but this got dozens of facebook likes and re-tweeted 15 times.

Tweets with images, stand out from those without – its as simple as that!

Memes are also all over twitter, you can use your photos as backgrounds for these. The Morley one above is very tongue in cheek, but it got a surprisingly amusing reaction – and I traced 8 new follows back to this post!

Basically, you need a LOT of content to fuel a twitter campaign, and if you re-hash the same things over and over, people will notice and get bored!

A regularly refreshed supply of great new images supercharges your output for months

9 Get noticed in Print

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I’d love to know what’s on that piece of paper

Everything above has been about digital media – but don’t forget print!

  • The press are more likely to print your story with a great image
  • People are more likely to pick up a flyer with great design and images on
  • Brochures are more engaging with a great cover shot – and images to support the content
  • Images create the “feel” and evoke “emotion” – which sell products in magazines and catalogues

 

Many more uses….

We’re sure there are many more – and we’d love to hear what marketing needs your photos fulfil – comment below!

3 Easy Steps to Photography Mastery

3 Easy Steps to Photography Mastery

You want to make friends say “wow” when they see your photography?
You want to know how to do it…. well read on!

Unfortunately there is no guaranteed path to mastering photography, but there are 3 steps you can take to help get you from boring “point and shoot” shots, to “wow” shots.

1 – Find something interesting to shoot

267 ribblesdale yorkshire landscape

Mastering photography is easier in interesting places!

This is so blatantly obvious that I’m surprised I’ve mentioned it, but so many images are dull, dull, dull.

You definitely CAN get great images from dull things, once you’ve mastered composition (see item 2) and camera control (see item 3). But to hedge your bets, find things which are actually interesting.

What is interesting?

It is subjective – but generally, unusual stuff, things out of the norm, are more interesting. Shadows are fleeting, they can be interesting. Spirals in stair cases can be interesting. Getting down low (on your belly) can make things look interesting.

Anything taken at normal head height is likely to be less interesting than taken from high up, or low down.

Also, timing is important – that’s why landscape photographers do sunsets and sun rises, the light changes with the time of day. Red skies and soft sunset light is more interesting than bright, harsh mid day sun, if you’re shooting hills and fields.

Salford Quays Workshop

Salford Quays Workshop

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

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

The Technical Bit

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

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

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

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

The Photos

Well here are a small selection of the shots I created

 

7 Top Tips for Low Light Photography

Low Light Photography for Beginners

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

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

What we did…

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

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

Here are some examples:-

The Low Light Photography Tips

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

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

 

Retouching in Photoshop

Retouching in Photoshop – Skin and Eyes

Lightroom has so many great tools that Photoshop is fast becoming redundant for most tasks.

Retouching is one area where Lightroom still needs development. There are tools for skin softening and bumping eyes, but they don’t really have the same accuracy or fine results.

For most commercial work I do, Lightroom is fine – the shots are usually small and on websites, a little negative clarity does the trick.

But if you’re competing in club competitions, or doing fashion and beauty images, then there’s a couple of things worth looking up

1 – Frequency Separation Skin Softening

The choice of the pros and serious competition photographer. I’ll not explain how it works, just type it into GOOGLE and watch a video – you can even get Photoshop Actions to help too.

On this before/after of Alina Jansone, we’ve got a shot from LIGHTROOM, and a version where Frequency Separation was applied.

You can see how much difference it makes – you could argue that such smooth skin is a little unreal, but its the way we see people on every magazine and advert.


 


 

2 – Eyes

Again, these are always enhanced to some extent.

The method I’ve used is here:-

 

It’s really effective – you can add extra colour and all sorts. In the Alina shots, I added in reds from her flowers, greens a blues. Then did the “dodge and burn” to give a more 3D effect on the pupil. Seems so simple when you watch the video, just never really thought of doing it that way.


 


 

On both of these examples, the eyes and skin completely change the feel of the shot. So why don’t we do it to all our portraits?

Time….

It takes a long time to do both of these things properly – it took about :-

  • 20-30 minutes to do the Frequency Separation
  • 15 minutes to do the eyes

You can probably speed this up with experience – automating common steps will help.

But if I did this on every job, editing 50 photos would take 25 hours – or 3 long days. Not everyone has the budget for that – so “-20 clarity” is the usual solution. Either that or outsource the processing to one of the hundreds of Indian companies who offer their retouching services!

Sunday Best

So yes, these results look great, and yes, I’d recommend investing a few hours getting used to them because the results can be pretty amazing.

But I’d probably not recommend doing it every shot from a wedding, just save it for the very best shots – the ones your your portfolio.

If you do offer this, add it as an “extra cost” to cover the increased time it takes.

How to take better travel photos on your smartphone

Sunrise and sunset provide the best light for photography: Lauren Bath AS THE saying goes, the best camera to have is the camera you have with you. And for must of us, that’s a smartphone. Mobiles with built-in high-resolution cameras have changed the way we shoot holiday snaps. For […]

Here are the tips in summary…..

1. Light it up

2. Pick and choose

3. The professional touch

4. The phone has limits

5. Up close and personal

Travel Photography – Literally!

Ever travel long distances as a passenger?

I do – as a member of a touring band, we sometimes cover hundreds of miles – and a few weeks ago, that involved going from Leeds to Inverness… and back!

Naturally I took the camera – for photos of the lovely Scottish city, but also to capture the band in action…

Then it occurred to me that the highlands were beautiful from the main roads, no need to actually go on country roads to see amazing vistas. But we had a schedule, so stopping was not an option.

So what about shooting whilst you’re moving?

What To Use

On the way up I used the canon 5D with the 70-200 lens – which gets you into the action, avoiding the road edges, hedges and fences. Try these settings:-

  • ISO 800 – 3200 – depending on the brightness of the day you may get away with 400
  • Aperture priority
  • F4-F11 – any smaller gave blurry shots due to long shutter speed and motion blur
  • Auto white balance
  • RAW mode

Take a few shots and check the sharpness – if you are getting motion blur, then up the ISO and open the aperture a little

OR try using Shutter Priority – Tv in canon speak

Set the shutter to at least 1/500th if you’re using a longer lens.

On the return journey I swapped to the 24-70mm, and a 2 stop ND grad filter. Mainly to get broody skies and a wider landscape view. The settings were the same.

200mm Shots

24-70mm Shots

Why I Bought the Canon 16-35 F4L

[message type=”info”]….this thing isn’t just a “settle for lens” for those who can’t afford the 2.8, but a real contender.[/message]

Just invested in the new canon 16-35 F4 – part of the new range of canon F4 L lenses, as opposed to the F2.8 L range, with new generation Image Stabilisation.

These are smaller, lighter and cheaper than their f2.8 cousins – so why did I end up with this over the f2.8?

Here’s the through process behind it…

1 – I needed to service my current ultra wide lens anyway

My trusty 17-40 F4L, which has taken pretty much every architecture and landscape shot in my portfolio, got a chip on the front element (don’t ask….) and is full of dust after 10 years of hard work.

A service and new lens element was going to be a few hundred quid.

Was it time to breathe life into the old trusty lens – or get a new, faster focussing, IS lens?

The status quo was not an option – service or new lens? The next 5 points explain what happened.

2 – Unconvinced by the F2.8 Version

There are 2 versions of the 16-35 F2.8, mark 1 and 2. I’ve heard “mixed” opinions on them from owners – people I know.

They’re not cheap, about £1200-£1500 so you’d want to hear wonderful things, rather than doubts. Also, annoyingly, the filter ring is 82mm whereas every lens I have was 77mm, which means a new polariser and filter adaptor ring for my grad filters.

3 – Superb reviews

Pretty much everything I’ve read about this lens is positive – not that I read much, but a quick look over Amazon and a few magazine articles told me that this thing was a special lens.

4 – Price

So you can get them for roughly 1/2 the price of the F2.8 – under £700 if you shop around. Bit of a bargain – if all of the plaudits are true.

5 – Recommendation from a Pro Landscape Photographer

The thing which triggered my interest was a chat with Richard Spurdens on a shoot in Wales. His friend is a professional landscape photographer and runs workshops all over the world. These guys are sticklers for quality – his prints are huge and lens quality issues will hugely stand out.

Well he’d told Richard that this new Canon F4 lens was the best ultra-wide-zoom canon have ever done. There’s nothing like a personal recommendation off someone you respect – so that really got me thinking… this thing isn’t just a “settle for lens” for those who can’t afford the 2.8, but a real contender.

6 – How often do I use ultra wide lenses “wide open”?

In other words, do I really use the 17-40 at F4 very much, and would having that extra stop (f2.8) be an advantage?

Well “not very often” and “probably not” are the answers respectively.

For landscapes and architecture, I’d usually be at F8-16 shooting on a tripod. I do occasionally use it hand-held in the dark – where an extra stop would be handy – but this has an image stabiliser, which helps keep hand held images sharp at slow shutter speeds. So the f2.8 thing is down to depth of field.

How often do I crave for blurry backgrounds on my 17mm shots ?

Again, not very often at all – I’ve got a 20mm and 28mm F1.8 prime for that, so in the end, I decided that F2.8 wasn’t needed in this lens. (though I’d never be without a 70-200 F2.8, that’s a very different beast).

 

So there you go – I guess the point of this is to explain how I came to the decision, starting with a definite “need” for a wide lens solution.

Example Canon 16 35 F4L Photos

HDR Photography is DEAD!

Is HDR Photography Dead?

In many situations, new cameras do indeed render HDR Photography redundant.

We use HDR to increase the “dymanic range” of our work – capturing extra detail in the highlights and shadows. Older cameras had a limited range, was was proved by lightening an under exposed shot. The “noise” would be intolerable, making a mosaic like pattern in the dark areas.

However, newer cameras allow you to brighten darks areas, and to an extent, recover burned highlights sufficiently to get away with just 1 exposure of most scenes.

In this tutorial we shoot a traditional HDR subject, a cathedral interior in Manchester. The shadows and bright windows usually have a huge dynamic range which HDR was perfect for.

It only applies to RAW Images by the way – if you’re still shooting JPG, you are in the wrong place;-)

The photo was taken, hand held, with a Canon 5D Mark 3 – watch and see how much detail we can rescue using just LIGHTROOM and no other tools

Full Video Tutorial – HDR without HDR….

Creating Vintage Photos Made Easy in LIGHTROOM

How to Create That Vintage Look in LIGHTROOM

In this short tutorial video, we look at editing a beach shot at Alnwick, Northumberland. It was a bright day with strong clouds, so lots of mid tones and some crisp shadows to play with. There are many ways to process such a shot, in this session we’ll take you through the whole process of using Split Toning to add that lovely vintage feel, a process that is surprisingly easy in Lightroom.

The Vintage look can be added to any kind of photo, not just landscapes. Many fashion images will have cool or even green tones added to create a light, pastel feel.

Here we add yellows to the highlights and blues into the shadows – this makes a beautiful effect which you can add to any image.

Vintage Effects in LIGHTROOM…

How to get from this RAW file:-

before the vintage lightroom effect

To this classic “vintage” look in under 5 minutes

vintage lightroom effect

 

Here is how to apply a Vintage look in LIGHTROOM

9 Affordable Gadgets To Transform Your Photography

Photography Kit Which Doesn’t Cost The Earth

1 – Angle Finder – £20 – £200

If you shoot low down, maybe for landscapes or createive atchitecture shots, so see through your camera, you’ll either have to lie fly on the floor or guess your compoisition. This is where your “angle finder” comes into play. It allows you to look “down” through your camera – so you don’t have to get quite so low. It saves your back, knees and I find it makes me more creative.

2 – Cable Release – £10 – £170

Really useful for people doing exposures on tripods – the act of pressing the shutter will cause a little wobble on your camera, blurry shots result. So using a cable is one solution – allowing you to press a button on a lead rather than touching the camera. Ideal for landscape and architecture in the day, and pretty much anything at night. There are affordable “intervalometers” now available which let you do many timed “things”, e.g. wait 1 minute then take 5 photos, each one second apart, each being 5 seconds…. that’s is now do-able for about £20!

3 – Polarising Filter – £20- £200

One of the only filters you can’t “fake” in photoshop, the polariser changes the light before it hits the camera – the physics of how it changes isn’t really that important, but it affects reflections. Cars become a richer and less reflective, you can see straight through water to the river bed, reflections on food can be changed and blue skies go REALLY dark!

Get a “circular” polariser if you are shooting digital – they work with the Auto Focus systems better apparently.

4 – ND Grad Filters

Do you like photos with dramatic skies?

Pretty much every landscape photographer uses ND Grad Filters – the ND stands for “neutral density”. That just means they don’t change the colours in your photo – it doesn’t make it warmer, cooler or purple!

The “Grad” bit means that they change from “clear” to “dark” gradually – so the top bit is dark, you put that over the sky. The bottom bit is clear, you put that over the land.

To use these you will need to buy:-

  • Filter Holder – Cokin P/ZPRO/XPRO or Lee are popular
  • Adaptor rings – screw this into your lens, then the filter slips on to it. One for each lens size you have, so a 77mm one would do for most canon L lenses, maybe a 58mm for the USM range etc.

5 – Tripod – £50 – £1000

Tripods are used to reduce motion blur on your photos – soft, blurry shots happen when the shutter speeds get longer – typically in lower light or indoors.

SO we use tripods to keep the camera perfectly still whilst taking the shot.

But not only that – tripods also force you to take time, to compose the shot more carefully, think more about the photo, take shots lower down, use smaller apertures…. it’s far more than “just reducing blur”.

6 – Ball Head – £70 – £1000

There are a few different head types for your tripod – the “tripod” are the “legs”, the head is the thing you put your camera on and move around.

Many use 3-way heads, which have 3 distinct levers to tweak and move around to compose your work.

I’ve always found these time consuming and restrictive – especially when the sun is setting and you have seconds to shoot before the sun goes down.

Ball heads have one “lock” knob/switch which you slacken off – the camera then becomes loose and you can move it to any angle you like. Portrait, landscape, pointing up or down, tilted…. you name it, you can do it. All this time you look through your camera and compose the shot.

Once you’re happy you just need to tighten that one switch and you’re done. It’s very very quick and easy compared to the alternative.

7 – Yongnuo Flashes and Triggers – £10 – £100

If you are curious about adding flash to photos but are on a budget, these are idea.

There are 2 choices of flash:-

  • Manual – ideal for those using them “off camera” as they are really cheap, powerful and really simple to use
  • ETTL – Lots of clever technology inside which works with your camera to calculate how much power the flash fires. More for “on camera flash”

If you are using manual off camera flashes, then got just £10 get a 603 trigger – these “talk” to the flash and tell it to “flash” when you take a photo. The flash can be 100m away and it still flashes!

8 – Flash Bender – £12 – £30

Pointing your flash straight at a person is a sin – it makes them look terrible! So there are hundreds of “modifiers” available, from humble “stofen diffusers”, gary fong light spheres and little “snoots”.

Flash Benders are a square of vinyl with wire inside – and velcro to strap it to your flash head.

These can be used in so many ways – on camera you can use them as spot lights, diffusers, flags etc. Really handy. Off camera, get one on each flash to stop unwanted light entering the camera, creating spots of light on backgrounds etc. etc.

9 – Flash Gels – £5-£20

Imagine a scene where the background would look amazing in red….

Well that’s where flash gels come in – these are transparent plastic oblongs which you fit over the end of your flash to colour the light which comes out.

They come in many many colours, the simplest are fixed with velcro. You stick little “spots” of velcro on to the gel, and put a little belt of velcro over the flash head. They stick together and that’s it.

There are also colour correction gels – where you can make the flash the same colour as street lights (orange) or maybe fluorescent tubes.

 

5 Essential Questions for Aspiring Pro Photographers

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Pro

I’m sure many pro photographers get asked “How do I become a professional photographer?“.

I have and it’s never a straight forward answer – in fact, the answer would be unique for each person. Every photographer is different (personality, experience, confidence, business savvy,  camera skills etc.),  so there’s no “on size fits all” formula for success, or even getting out of the starting blocks.

But I do often ask a few questions, so thought I’d share them in this blog…

 

1- Have I enough cash to live?

If you have a steady income from photography already, congratulations – you are in the minority! Keep going and building your business.

If, like most, you are leaving employment to start a business, you need money – not just to run the business, but to LIVE. Your bills don’t stop, you still need to eat and once in a while, you may even want to socialise! The only thing that stops is your salary payment.

Enough Money
Money buys you “time” – work out how long you can live on the money you have stowed away. I’d suggest at least 1 year, maybe 2.

2 – What do  I enjoy photographing?

There’s no point in starting a business doing something you don’t enjoy.

Make sure you start to offer services photographing things you actually like doing – it may be a niche like car photography, commercial “widget” photography, or you could join the army of wedding photographers out there.

Enjoy it!

Ask your self whether you truly enjoy shooting your chosen subject, because when things kick off you’ll be doing a LOT of it!

 

3 – Have I got a portfolio to “sell” my services?

So you really enjoy shooting fashion, but are you any good at it?

It’s one important thing to enjoy what you do, but also you absolutely have to be able to “do” the job, and prove it with a strong portfolio of images, ready to show clients.

This is usually your website, facebook, instagram , twitter etc. – not some glossy book which costs thousands to make. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that if you’re uploading thousands of shots and there is even 1% which are “not great”, these will be noticed straight away – so be careful, only show your best stuff.

Assume everything you upload is going to be seen by the next couple/family/client and you’ll not go far wrong.

Impress customers
Do whatever it takes to get a great portfolio and try to avoid showing poor images – it’s not a volume game, better to show 1 or 2 fantastic shots, than a set of 20 with duff shots 

 

 

4 – Who is going to hire me?

Weddings…

It may be as simple as “couples getting married” – but which couples?

  • Are you after the ones with £5000 budgets or £500?
  • Are you offering classically posed group shots, reportage or fun filled shoots – and how are you going to find people who want these?
  • Are you working locally or internationally?

Things like this have a huge impact on how you present things – from the language you use, to the style of the website. Many couples just want simple, cheap photos – would you be interested in that, or are you into the more creative, epic  bridal shoots in stunning locations?

Commercial…

Commercial photography is harder still as it’s a far broader genre. There is everything from food to oil rigs, architecture to director-filled board rooms… then there’s editorial work for magazines and papers… oh and events and conferences…

So much to choose from – and you need to work out who it is that will want the shots you’ve chosen to take.

It needs to be broad enough to actually exist (i.e. not Unicorn Portraits) and narrow enough that people can actually “say” what you photograph (e.g. “Johnny does headshots for Linked IN and PR” or “Jane shoots products, specialising in shiny things like jewelry” )

Who are your customers
This is definitely a hard one… get thinking. Work out who will use your photos – and why they need them. If you can’t think of anyone, have you found the right niche?

 

 

5 – How am I going to find them?

And finally – you’re not doing this for fun any more, so you need paying clients NOW!

Most companies use trusted photographers already, they don’t need anyone new, right?

True to some extent, so you need to be different to them – offer something they’ve not given.

It may be :-

  • the way you light things,
  • your cool HDR look,
  • your cheeky chappy way of coaxing smiles out of people,
  • a blinding portfolio
  • a new angle on things they are already doing
  • and lots more…

So many angles to choose from, it’s incredible fun choosing them.

Also, you need to work out who you should be meeting – the decision makers. This is the tricky part as you need to get “known” somehow. Only then will people see you.

It’s a chicken and egg situation, so you can’t get known till you’ve worked – but you can’t work till you’re known!

It’s very hard to find work from people who’ve no connection with you, but if someone recommends you the process becomes easier – for both sides.

Where are your customers
There’s a whole industry on business mentoring, marketing and PR to help you – so seriously think about getting help on this – and get out there an NETWORK! 

 

 

Conclusion…

Apologies if you were hoping for top tips like:-

  • “start shooting beef burgers as they’re booming” or
  • “approach this newspaper with photos of cows”

The chances are you’ll start down one track, realise that doesn’t quite work as plan and have to adapt.

The steps are to:-

  1. get enough money,
  2. get good at your “craft”,
  3. find your niche AND show it relentlessly,
  4. work out who will buy your niche and
  5. then do whatever you can to meet those people.

Which is exactly the same as ANY OTHER BUSINESS!

Why you should “Shoot to the Right”

Shoot to the right… what’s that then?

It’s a technique to get better image quality… simple as that really.

Why does the “shoot to the right” technique give you better image quality?

Well the science is pretty complicated and all to do with how a sensor captures light. Digital cameras sensors are more efficient at capturing the light in the “highlights”, and less efficient at capturing “shadows”, so by getting the exposure more to the highlight end, we are getting the best out of the sensor.

Obviously you need to shoot RAW files for this to work, as you will need to correct (usually lower) the exposure later in a RAW convertor. Shooting jpeg means you thrown the baby out with the bathwater and lost all that great exposure info.

How do you do it?

The main thing is to get the exposure “to the right” not “totally blown out.

You need to get good with histograms – which are really simple, honest. It’s just a graph which shows you how your photo is made up – in terms the brightness of your photos. The left end is the shadows and black, middle is mid tones, right is highlights and white.

Here is one way to do it:-

  1. First, as normal you need to compose your image and meter the exposure.
  2. Take the shot at the metered exposure and check the histogram – what you are aiming for is to most of the exposure on the right side of the histogram, but none of it clipping off the right side – blowing the highlights.
  3. If most of your histogram is to the middle or left of the graph, then you just increase the exposure – doubling your shutter speed will move the graph along to the right a fair way.
  4. If the histogram is already off the right side, clipping the highlights and need to reduce the exposure to bring it back. You are aiming to have the highlights just inside the right side of the histogram.

Just keep taking photos and tweaking till you get it right – on a day with pretty consistent light, you probably only have to change the exposure when the sun goes behind a cloud.

A modern way…

If you have a camera with “live view” there is a good chance that it has a “live histogram” too. On a canon 5D mark 2, this is accessed by switching live view on – then pressing the “INFO” button over and over to cycle through the display settings. Eventually, you get to the little live graph.

All you need to do now is :-

  1. set your shot up as usual –
  2. maybe ISO100, F16 for a landscape –
  3. get the filters in place –
  4. Now just look at the graph and adjust the shutter speed till the right side of the graph touches the right end of the histogram.

It really is that simple

Why Bother?

Here’s a little video of 2 shots of the Humber Bridge – one is “over exposed”, the other “under exposed”

Both are not “correctly exposed” – but when you recover them  – the results are quite different… as you will see!