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Details Matter

March 01, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Details Matter Button holes are key details on a wedding dayButton holesDetails matter because they are so important on the day

Considering the amount of planning, effort and expense that goes into the typical wedding, it is all over far too quickly.  This is especially true when you are the centre of attention.  When you think about it by the day after, most if not all the food has gone.  The flowers are looking tatty and destined for the compost heap, and the guests have all gone home having had a thoroughly great time.  The tables centres and all the decorations have been cleared away and those beautifully designed invitations are finally tossed in the bin or at best tucked away in a draw to be forgotten.

So what is left?  Your memories and hopefully some beautiful photographs to keep those memories alive for the rest of your lives.  If your photographer is doing his job you should at least have some formal photos of the guests but what about those details?  A good photo of some of the details can bring those memories flooding back.  If it’s an artistic shot then so much the better because you will want to look at it more.

You could consider framing an image and have it as a permanent reminder, as well as the great pictures of yourselves of course!  If you intend to do that, talk to your photographer about post processing options such as black and white or even split toning.  Cropping in tight and blurring the background or even darkening the surroundings so it has a spot lit feel all could add to the atmosphere.

Remember, details matter and if a lot of work went into them, tell your photographer so she/he can ensure they are not forgotten.


Confetti on a wedding dressConfettiDetails such as confetti on the dress   Wedding Cake Mr & Mrs topper photoMr & MrsCake topper detail of Mr & Mrs

Saving Memories

June 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Saving Precious Memories

Photographs are precious things, especially ones of our friends and family.   They help to keep our memories fresh and allow us to remember things we might otherwise have forgotten, such as those ridiculous fashions we wore or that stupid moustache I had when we got married.  At the time of writing its is the start of a new year and we have all shared some great photographs but will we take care of them and will they survive for years to come?  I was reminded of this the other day when I scanned a photo of Jill's grandfather taken in 1915 when he served on a royal navy hospital ship.  His photo has survived 100 years, will any of ours do the same?

Jill Grandfather in 1915Jill Grandfather in 1915 That ridiculous moustache!That ridiculous moustache!

    Jill's Grandfather taken in 1915                                      That ridiculous moustache!

There have been a lot of great photos posted by proud parents on Facebook and social media this year.  When I look back at the photos of our children at that age, they were taken on film.  I still have the negatives or slides somewhere, but few of us now have the means to scan them and get back to the original images.  In the space of a few decades photo technology has changed out of all recognition and the pace of technology is not slowing down.

My precious memories

    Our precious memories are on film

Modern photos mainly live in the cyber world and exist as just files on a computer or mobile phone.  What if disaster strikes and you lose your phone or your computer hard disk failed?  Would your pictures be safe?  You might think that because you backed up your photos to a disc that all is well but CDs can be unreliable and can deteriorate with age.  Indeed a lot of new laptops these days do not even have a CD drive.  Remember floppy discs, VHS tapes, cassettes and even 8 tracks?  Most people would not now have the means to read such media, assuming it had even survived the ravages of time.

So what is the answer?  There is no best solution but many photographers apply the mantra "On-line, Off-line and Off-site"


If possible keep all of your pictures on-line on your computer.  Keep them organised, I save mine by year and then in folders for Events, Travel, People, Locations and General.  This way you can access them whenever you want plus they are easy to save and backup by year.  You may find that you don't have enough hard disc space on your computer in which case an external disk or even a wireless/network enabled drive could be added for the whole family to use. 


The idea of off-line backups is that they are not affected if your computer gets a virus that wipes the hard disc and are not lost if your computer is stolen or broken.  This would typically mean copying your files to a CD rom a memory stick or using an internet backup service such as Dropbox, iCloud, Backblaze, Amazon and others.  Note: a service that synchronises the backup with your hard disc will also be wiped if your computer is wiped by a virus.  Another idea is to use such services to synchronise several computers but if possible make sure photos can only be copied but not deleted.

Whatever method you use, make sure the media is still viable every year or so.  I would recommend re-burning CDs or DVDs every 3 years, just to be sure and keep the old ones just in case!  From time to time, check you can still download files from the cloud.


Off-site offers the best protection of all in that it is both off-line and unlikely to be lost at the same time as the other sources.  You need to save your files to a removable media such as CD, memory stick or external hard disk.  You then give it to a friend or relative to store at their house.  You do need to remember to update it periodically.  Every few months would be typical.

Transferring Photos From Your Phone

Mobile phone memory is always in short supply and photos have to compete for space alongside music, apps and other files.  Don't just delete those old photos, copy them to a PC and back them up.  In years to come you will appreciate you made the effort.

It used to be quite difficult to transfer images and other files from your phone back to your computer.  The Apple solutions tend to drive you to use their applications, which are fine if you like them.  The latest version of IOS 8.1 allows the use of iCloud to sync photos but personally I have found that Dropbox offers the best solution for me as it is platform independent, that is, it works just as well with Android as it does with Apple, PCs and Macs.  It also has a generous free allowance of 2Gb and dedicated phone apps.

I set the app on my phone and tablet to sync photos with Dropbox and then from time to time you can download them using the Dropbox website straight to your PC.   Once backed up safely, you can then start deleting some old photos from your phone and free up valuable space.  You need to delete the files from Dropbox too otherwise it will restore them back to your phone.

So what is best for me?

Everyone has different requirements, different numbers of photos and different ways of using photos.  If you can, try to make sure you have at least three separate copies of your favourite images.  Facebook and other social media do count as one source but bear in mind the images you can retrieve are often low resolution, compressed and may not be available forever.  Cloud based backup services could also become unavailable without notice, the company could fold or your subscription could lapse without your notice.

You Can't Beat Prints

One form of backup that is durable and will not become outdated is prints.  Remember the picture of Jill's grandfather?  Commercially produced prints will typically cost 10p to 20p for a 6x4 or 7x5 size and they should last for many years, especially if not exposed to bright light.  There are numerous on-line print services such as Tesco, Photobox and Snapfish.  If you print photos yourself check what type of ink your printer uses.  Dye based inks will fade in light much faster than pigment based inks which can last for 100 years if stored well.

My brothers and I (on the left). The only original is a tiny print but sadly for us, it survived.

    My brothers and I, the only original of this is a tiny polaroid print

In case you want to know what I do, I have a large external drive attached to my computer for on-line storage, I have a backup program that copies (but does not delete files) to a network drive elsewhere in the house.  I then periodically copy files to an external hard disc that I keep off-site.  I may be paranoid but I don't want to lose any of our photos.  

Note: the same principles apply to all other computer files you create.

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Cameras need sunglasses too!

April 03, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It may seem odd but coupling your camera to a pair of sunglasses could improve your photographs.

In this modern, digital camera era, most camera lens filters are redundant.  With film one used filters to correct for the colour of the light, for example a pale blue filter would compensate for warm tungsten lighting.  In black and white photography a red filter would darkened grass, a yellow would darken sky etc.  Now colour casts are easily corrected in software and B&W effects are achieved by selecting differing amounts of the red, green and blue channels from the sensor before merging them into a B&W image.

One type of filter that cannot be simulated in software is a polarising filter.  When used on a camera it reduces reflections and this makes objects appear more saturated in colour.  (If you ever want a photo for Autotrader, photograph your car through a polarising filter.)  The blue in the sky is also reflected light from the sun.  The reason it's blue is because the shorter wavelengths of light are more easily reflected by dust and water droplets in the atmosphere.  In other words because there is less red reflected light it appears blue.

Polarising filters are exactly what you find in some types of sunglasses, the ones that claim to reduce glare, and while you could hold a pair of sunglasses in front of your camera lens polarising filters are generally cheaper and work even better.  Check out the SRB or the Premier Ink websites, last time I looked, most sizes were less than £20. 

These two pictures of Lantic Bay in Cornwall were taken within seconds of each other.  It is easy to see the difference and how more saturated the filtered one looks.

Lantic Bay with a polarising filter

Lantic Bay without a filter

You might think why not have a polariser on the camera all the time.  The reason you don't is because they also reduce the amount of light entering the lens.  In photographic terms 2 stops or put more simply, your shutter speed will need to be be 4 times longer for the same exposure.  Not a problem on a bright sunny day but at other times it could mean a lost image.

So what about smart phones?  You can can get filter holders that clip on but I have not had chance to try them yet.  I have tried a pair of sunglasses but it wasn't very successful.  I'm not certain but I think the small dimensions of the sensor on a phone mean that the polariser is less effective.

One final thought, with spring upon us, it's a good time to photograph bluebells and other woodland flowers.  The reflected light from the flowers and leaves tends to be very polarised and using a filter can give much more saturated colours.

Ashridge woods in the Chilterns


Sources of filters:  http://srb-photographic.co.uk  ;  http://www.premier-ink.co.uk



A Christening

February 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

A Christening

A few months ago a good friend and colleague asked me if I would photograph her twin daughters Christening.  An excuse to take photographs? Of course I jumped at the chance. Her brief was that she wanted a record of the day, a few formal shots but mainly reportage.  This gave me a lot of latitude to experiment with styles, shoot some candids and try out a new camera and lens combination.  I had intended write this blog nearer the time but an unfortunate encounter with a white van had me focused on other matters for a while, so better late than never.

The date was late August and the weather was fine and sunny.  The church was next door to the pub where the party was to take place, a perfect setup.  On arrival I found one of the twins was still asleep in the back of the car and took this first photo through the open hatchback.  It was an ideal picture for conversion to black and white as it removed any distracting colours. 

W&B_Christening-1W&B_Christening-1Willow finishes her nap

Willow finishing off her nap before the excitement starts

This second B&W image shows Beau already in the pub and getting into the mood ready for the service helped along by her mum and numerous other guests.  What I like about this shot is that you can see both faces and the great connection that's between them.


Beau and Mum discussing the forthcoming events


Somewhat refreshingly the vicar was happy for us to snap away as long as we didn't get in the way.  It's always respectful to hold fire during the solemn bits but so nice that it be at my discretion this time.  This next picture shows said vicar at work. 



The vicar about his work and happy to let photographers go about theirs. Bravo!

Churches are rarely well lit and when the sun shines through stained glass windows the contrast between shadows and highlights can be extreme.  If possible, don't use flash, use a wide aperture and high ISO speed and then meter on the subject if you can.  If you are feeling confident, use manual settings.  Once you get the exposure right you can then recompose your shots without the camera being fooled by the lighting.  In this next photo the subjects are standing in front and below a bright window, a good example of the above.  It was not intentional but the backlighting has added a lot of atmosphere to the image which I like.


Newly Christened the twins stop for a photo

Outside awaited the event photographer's nightmare, the bar!  In retrospect outside the church would have been the best chance for a group shot of everyone but I was too slow to realise and once I did, half of the guests were already in the pub.  Sorry Gemma, I'll should have known!  I was photographing a friends wedding once where the guests had to pass through a bar to get to a balcony for the photos. You can guess how many didn't make it.  On the up side they did eventually get there and with a drink in hand they seemed happier to be snapped.

Back outside the church we managed to get some great family shots including one B&W that I printed A3 for their nursery wall.  When photographing people outside on a sunny day, I like to add a bit of flash. I set the flash exposure compensation to be minus 1.5 stops.  At this level the flash is hardly noticeable over the natural light but any deep shadows under chins etc. get filled in and the eyes gain a twinkle or catchlight. In this case the dappled light under the trees will have been softened a bit by the fill in flash. This is mainly why wedding photographers use flash outside.


Mum and the twins



A happy family shot


Back inside the pub I tried to get as many group shots of the guests as I could without becoming too annoying.  No doubt I did irritate a few people who insisted on not being photographed but I did have a mission to full fill, so in retrospect, sorry to them.  The bright window light and the darker interior of the pub did create some great opportunities for moody candids.  The gent in this next picture was playing with his children and took a brief moment to relax in this arm chair.  Another B&W but actually I like it in colour too.  In many ways it captures the mood of the afternoon, a happy time spent with friends and family.


A brief rest from playing balloons with the kids


Children are great subjects for candids.  They are far more interested in other more important things than having your photo taken.  I particularly like the far away look on this young girls face.  Again, I like the softness of the light that adds to the dreamy atmosphere of the moment.  This was taken with a short telephoto lens on my newer compact camera and certainly shows it is as good as the big DSLR camera for this type of work, (indeed I have since taken a number of images from this lens and camera in situations that would challenge my other cameras, including candle light).  Using the widest aperture available (f1.8) means that the background is nicely out of focus.

Miles away for a brief moment

Another child photo but this time he knew I was there.  It didn't matter because he was determined to pot the yellow regardless.  I love the lolly stick projecting from his mouth, a bit like a character in a spaghetti western.  Again a wide aperture helps to throw the background out of focus.  If you own a DSLR or a camera with interchangeable lenses and only have zoom lenses, you might want invest in a fast prime, or fixed focal length, lens.  Zoom lenses are great for most situations but they tend to have relatively small apertures.  This means that they don't let through so much light and their depth of field is greater.  In low light a prime lens, wide open, will allow you to isolate your subject from the background by putting it nicely out of focus and avoid the need for flash.  Prime lenses can also be a lot cheaper than their zoom cousins especially if you are looking at the pro end of the scale.  This particular prime is a 45mm f1.8 (90mm equivalent on a 35mm camera) and was under £200.  By comparison an f1.8 lens allows about 6 times more light through than a typical f4 zoom.

W&B_Christening-167W&B_Christening-167OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whirlwind Willy lines up for the yellow


Talking of prime lenses, another prime that I used on the day was a simple, fixed aperture (f8) 8mm body cap lens, so called because it's about the same size.  It costs less than £70 an yet it produces some great images.  At 8mm it is a very wide angle lens (equivalent to a 16mm on a 35mm full frame camera) and allows you to get shots like the whole church and congregation. One feature of wide angle lenses is that straight lines tend to curve around the centre of the image, this can also make the image more dramatic.

W&B_Christening-95W&B_Christening-95OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very wide angle lens allows you get the entire scene


Back to the twins now and there lots of opportunities to capture them looking over shoulders as they got passed around. These next few shots were Photoshopped or altered on the computer to fade the backgrounds and create a softer more abstracted picture.  When softening a picture like this it is important not to affect the eyes.

W&B_Christening-159W&B_Christening-159OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA W&B_Christening-157W&B_Christening-157OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willow                                                                  Beau


For the group shots most people were happy to be interrupted a pose spontaneously for the camera.  Although slightly staged, these shots will be all the more important in time to come. The twins will be able to look back and see who was there to share the day and how different they look now compared to then.  This next picture of a lovely, energetic girl and her mum, makes me smile when I see it.  Moments after it was taken the little girl zoomed off and promptly disappeared in to the gents loo.  Fortunately a guiding hand was there to show her the right door.

W&B_Christening-203W&B_Christening-203OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smiles all round

Every event like this requires preparation.  Hours spent in the kitchen, shopping for decorations, designing details that make the day special.  All too often they go unrecorded and fade from memory.  It is important then to capture these things too.  This Christening was no exception so I quickly grabbed some shots of the cakes before they were scoffed and all trace of the hard work was gone for ever.  With close ups like this it is best to use bounced or diffused flash.  Close up, camera shake becomes more of a problem so the very short burst from a flash gun, typically 1/1000th of a second, is fast enough to stop most wobbly hands.  Close up though the shadows from a flash become more defined and obvious.  This is because the flash emanates from such a small source.  If you can point the flash at the ceiling or a wall and assuming it is a white ceiling, you should get a nice soft light.  Another approach is to use a diffuser in front of the flash gun.  There are many forms but on this occasion I used a Sunpak DFU-01 soft box.  Very simply it is a sheet of white, semi translucent plastic about 6 x 8 inches held a few inches in front of the flash and It is held in place with Velcro.  The softer light it gives is also good for quick portraits as it is kinder to ageing skin and helps to avoid nasty shadows around the nose.

W&B_Christening-78W&B_Christening-78 W&B_Christening-95W&B_Christening-95

Someone's been busy baking

Another group shot but somewhat more posed this time. I converted it to B&W partly because I thought it would look good but also because some of these ladies were wearing very colourful dresses which tends to draw the eye away from the more important faces.  Now the dresses are reduced patterns the faces seem to stand out more.  B&W pictures generally look better if the contrast is higher than for colour, so when converting them try adjusting the brightness and contrast so that you get the full range of black to white.  If you have a photo editor on your computer you can also try adjusting the colour balance before converting.  This will allow you to differentiate between parts of the image that would otherwise end up being the same grey.  For example, in the days of B&W film you would use a yellow filter to darken the blue in the sky to make the clouds stand out.  Some editors, such as Lightroom, allow you to adjust the colour channels while viewing the B&W image.  I have also found that the 'edit' feature in the iPad Photos app has a similar function. When you select the B&W button you can also slide it up and down. As you do so, different colours in the image become darker and lighter greys.  It's not clear what it is actually doing but you should find a point that gives the effect you want.


More smiles - Strong patterns look good in B&W

So to sum it up, it was a great afternoon spent with lovely people while taking photos, couldn't be better.  I was very pleased at how the new small Olympus camera (OMD-EM10) and prime lenses performed under some challenging lighting conditions.  I hope Gemma liked the pictures and that I fulfilled the brief to record the day with a mixture of formal and reportage style in both colour and B&W.  The big lesson for me was that I should have had someone outside getting everyone organised for a group shot before they made it to the pub.

I hope you found this blog interesting and maybe a little informative.  Please leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.





Give your iPhone pictures a boost before posting on Facebook

December 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

We all take pictures on our phones or compact cameras and post them on Facebook to share with friends but how often do we give them a tweak before posting them?  Some very simple adjustments to a photo can make a huge difference to the impact and the quality of the image.  I was lucky enough to visit Vienna recently and I decided to travel light for once (photographically speaking), so I just took an iPad and a compact camera capable of syncing wirelessly.  I was also keen to post some images while travelling which meant, no PC  or Photoshop for processing images, just the iPad or an iPhone.  I was so inmpressed with the versatility and ease of use of the built in iPad 'Photos' editor that I thought I'd share my experiences. (IOS 8.1).  Many of you will have already discovered it so apologies if this is old news.

Before posting a picture to Facebook, have a look at it in the Photos app.  You will see an 'edit' button which when pressed reveals some tools, crop, colour and effects. These tools have multiple layers of complexity so when you get confident you can delve down into controls like highlight and shadow detail, black and white grain size etc.  These are great but the top level tools are the most useful and will have the greatest effect on your pictures.

Editing tools... Editing tool keys

Cropping - try changing the shape of your picture so that unwanted backgrounds, people, signs etc are removed. Facebook will often crop your images anyway so better to do it the way you want it.  Square images seem to work well but 2:3 ratios are also liked.  The cropping tool allows you to adjust the rotation of the image too.  No matter how good we are at taking photos, we will always get a sloping sea or a leaning lamp post or other twist.  Bearing in mind that wide angle lenses can distort things, vertical and horizontal lines that pass through the centre of the image should be straight.  You may not think this is important but now I have pointed it out, you will probably notice that sloping sea in the next holiday snaps you view.

Here is my first example of cropping.  The view was a grab shot across the Danube so I couldn't get closer and there was no time to change lenses.  Facebook images will often end up as 400 x 600 pixels, or 1 megapixel.  A modern camera phone produces images of 8 megapixels or more so you can easily discard a lot of the original image, assuming the quality is good enough, a subject for another day.

The original image and the cropped image without the distracting background.  Hopefully you think it is better.


In this second example there are (at least) two problems with the original, it is crooked and the colours are washed out because the camera has over exposed the small points of light in order to get an even brightness across the image.  For the second image I used the cropping tool to straighten the spire and remove the distracting turret on the far left.  I also reduced the brightness using the 'sun' button and then the light slider.  I then used the color slider to increase the saturation of the colours to make the lanterns look the same as the original scene.

This last image show the effect of using the presets tool (the three blobs button).  This tool allows you to simulate the style of classic photograph formats, such as film, black and white, polaroid etc.  This preset is called 'Chrome' which seems to simulate the old 'Kodachrome' slide film.  They were characterised by having high contrast and saturated colours.  You can achieve the same affect using the other tools if you can be bothered to fiddle with them.  This makes it much easier.


Lastly, you will see that underneath some of the sliders tools you will see a symbol that looks like three small lines of text.  This is where you will find the more advanced settings.

All of these adjustments only took a few seconds to make and yet I hope you agree they are better.  I do hope you find this useful and will give your pictures a quick tweak before posting them and make a great pictures even better.

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