Sunday, 31 May 2009

The effects of flash

If you didn't read yesterday's blog then just compare this photo with yesterday's. Ambient light was supposed to show off lights in a curtain whereas in fact it showed a lot of light from the window. If you don't use flash then you have to have a long exposure and this means that you have to use a tripod. For the sake of two seconds it is much better to put the camera on timer so you get no shake from pressing the shutter. Alternatively you can use a remote for the shutter.

I used flash on this photo. I didn't need a tripod because the shutter speed is fast. This means that the light you get is from the flash which only acts locally to the camera. In the background you have the same curtain but this time it looks like the room is dark and you can see a better effect from the curtain lights. I'll show you a computer effect or two in the next blog.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Ambient Light

I went to a hotel today to take photographs for a balloon company who are adding to their products with these curtains that are backing for the top table at weddings.

You can see from this photo that there is light from windows coming from the left. there weren't enough curtains for all the windows and even with a sheet held up against the window you can see how much light was coming through as opposed to the light from the curtain. I wanted to use ambient light to show off the curtain but this result was not the atmosphere that I wished to create. I will show you how I changed photos on the computer in future blogs but one of the biggest changes was by using flash. It may surprise you that using flash can accentuate the lights in the curtain but I'll explain it tomorrow.

Happy snapping

Friday, 29 May 2009

Art can help choose your photo setting

I hope people don't actually look like Dora Maar from yesterday's blog, but you can find inspiration from art, not least how to pose your model. All you need is a cat to put on their shoulder and a chair that Vincent Van Gogh would be proud of.

I am showing the same canvas in the same position as yesterday but today you can also see another painting that I did in acrylic. Again it is a copy. I don't know the artist but if anyone can help then please let me know. Even if you knew Dora Maar I don't think you would recognise her from the painting. You may recognise the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Again you can find inspiration from art by considering the perspective. Would you have taken a photo of the Arc de Triomphe from this position?

If you are on holiday it is worth looking at postcards. They are the most commercial views of the area, so start your photographic journey from these points.

Happy snapping

Happy snapping

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Inspiration in art

This photo shows my artistic side. I painted it, and I call it white on brick. I did paint the canvas as well and it looks very much like the original painting by Pablo Picasso. His work is called 'Dora Maar with cat'.

It is one of the most expensive paintings in the world (the one by Picasso) and I think that most of the cost is because of Picasso's name. The actual painting is fairly basic and easy to copy. In 2006 it sold for nearly £52 million. I am willing to let my painting go for just one million.

Seriously, there is a connection between art and photography. Both are concerned with perspective, proportion, colour, subject. There are many links and if you are looking for photographic inspiration then you may find it in art.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Get the best camera you can afford.

I have been taking photos since I was a teenager. My first SLR was a Zenith EM, a Russian camera known for its robust quality and its excellent lens (and its low price). I went on to buy a Canon SLR a few years later and I was always happy with the results from both cameras.

When I bought my first digital camera it was a 6MP compact. I still use it and technology remains fantastic. It has a ten-times optical zoom! I know that you can now buy cameras with a greater optical zoom but it was a few years ago. The computer can magnify images further, but what this means is that if you zoom into a subject then the quality is better than a higher resolution camera that can't zoom in.

Then I bought my digital SLRs. The great improvement with SLRs is what you see is what you get. This improvement is no longer a wonderful thing because compact digitals often show the exact picture that you will take. The quality of the lens tends to remain better with SLRs but I have taken really good quality photos with my compact that make enlargements up to 20"x 16".

Once you have bought one particular manufacturers camera then you tend to stay with them. I bought an Olympus digital SLR, and i am quite happy with the results. Then I bought a spare battery, then another lens and then a flash unit, another camera, another battery, another flash unit. The list goes on, but all these accessories are only compatible with Olympus cameras, and even then different cameras by the same manufacturer may have different accessories. The point is that once you start with a brand you tend to be hooked.

There is more control with an SLR. They take better photos, but the person behind the camera is more important than compact or SLR. However it is worth getting the best camera that you can afford.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Eric's back

This is an unusual view of Eric but there are a few things to say about it. Firstly there has been some debate about which way Eric should face. Well if he were turned around then all the tourists would have pictures of shops scaffolding and people walking past. There should be no debate. Let Eric continue to watch people walking past and let the photos show the greatest view in Europe. Morecambe Bay.

Take a look at the concentric circles on the floor. If you have not been to Morecambe then it is not just a matter of seeing the statue but also the inscriptions on the floor. You need ten or fifteen minutes to read through them. It is well worth it.

Finally, you can't see the steps but that is the reason why photos from the front always look up to Eric. Now you know.

Happy snapping

Monday, 25 May 2009

Time to come to Morecambe

I was taking photos in Morecambe a few weeks ago. I was looking for something tall to show converging verticals, but the building has to be taller than the clock tower in Morecambe.

Yesterday (22nd May) I saw a picture of Westminster Cathedral. It has a tall tower and I suspect that you can't stand too far back because of all the building so this was a much better example of converging verticals. Put simply, it is like the perspective of a path going into the distance, but in a vertical sense it looks like the sides of a building are pointing towards each other. the eye accommodates for this but the camera doesn't. The answer is to step further back, work on it with photo manipulation, or intend to get converging verticals.

For this photo I left some blue sky for two reasons. One was that a lot of seagulls were flying near the clock tower. Three managed to get into this photo. The other reason is that I can fit other photos or words into the picture. I thought 'time to come to Morecambe' was quite catchy. I'm not sure about the sunset but if the tourist information office want to use it my rates are very - I nearly said cheap but let's settle for value for money.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Dreamlike photos

I used my compact for this photo. I wanted it for my website at as I have a links page. Whenever I put a link on the site I don't expect anything in return but I do get some reciprocal links.

I knew that high resolution was not needed so the compact was fine. The reason why I am putting it on the blog is to show a vignette. I know you have seen them before but this one fits so well with the name of the shop. The vignette creates a dreamlike picture. It also takes away the road markings and the repairs done to the road. There is a crop to take away the first and second floors of the building but the vignette also concentrates attention to the main shop windows.

The lady in this shop was very kind and did give me a link (as many others do) but she gets into the blog because of the name of her shop. It also tells you that you don't need a fancy SLR with an expensive lens You may be restricted as to how much you can enlarge a print with a cheaper camera with less megapixels but on a blog or on a website the photos are fine.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Name that roofline

The last blog showed an area of Lancaster that is famous because of its connections with the slave trade. It is quite picturesque and is full of history in the sense that a lot happened there and also in the sense that you can see the Maritime Museum. This photo shows another area of Lancaster which is seen by thousands each day. In the words of Rolf Harris, can you guess what it is yet? It has obviously been built when money was not as tight as it is now. Could it be part of Lancaster Castle?

The crenellations indicate that defenders can hide once they have shot their arrows. So if it is not Lancaster Castle where is it? I'll give you the answer. It is the railway station. I can't imagine many arrows being fired at travellers but it does show that sometimes you need to look up at rooflines, not just to see non-horizontal rooflines but you may see something more ornate. There can be a lot to hold your interest up there.

Happy snapping

Friday, 22 May 2009

St Georges Quay Lancaster

This photo was taken last year. You can't go wrong with a picture of St Georges Quay in Lancaster. It makes a good photo and there is the bonus of the reflection of the buildings in the river Lune. I was thinking of updating this photo tomorrow but the weather forecast is not good. I want to highlight the line of the roofs. They are fascinating and you can see something of the change in angles even from this view.

In the centre of the picture is the Maritime Museum which is well worth a visit and you can also see one of the two pubs on the quay. I think that the pubs are well worth a visit as well. In the background you can see how modern buidlings have been built around the old, and even in the foreground some buidings are more modern than others but they do fit in well.

When the weather improves I will take another photo or two and include the roofline.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Take more photos

I wrote yesterday about taking photos in a room with a black cloth background rather than a studio. It is an ordinary room. Now studios are better if you have more room and if you have more control over lighting, but a lot of the work can be done on computer.

We went through a few poses a few times with different clothes. Some clothes look better in print, and some expressions may be better the second or third time of asking. When I take photos of brides and grooms I tend to take the same poses with different backgrounds. It may be the second or third background gives the best photo. It really doesn't take long to take a set of photos but I remember some advice I was given a long time ago. All the top photographers take a lot of photos. They are bound to get one good one. Nowadays anyone can take a lot of photos. You too can take great photos.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Black cloth background

My daughter asked me to take her photo this evening (17th May), and then she told me that she had a few changes of clothing. I didn't mind and it didn't take long to go through a few poses a few times.

The backdrop is a black piece of cloth. I like black because it doesn't show shadows and I like cloth because it is cheap. I am a miser when it comes to printing photos and I do like digital because there is no waste.

With these photos I did take them but my daughter worked on them. If you have a digital camera and a black cloth then you are half way there. You do need software for the photo manipulation, for the cropping and for the sepia effect but it is something that is relatively easy to do if you have the motivation. It also helps to have someone to help if you are stuck, and this is the only technology that I can help her with. Anything else and she has to help me.

Happy snapping

Monday, 18 May 2009

Border colours are important

I am printing less and less of my photos. I tend to put examples of my wedding photography on the website at and I will often put photos on DVDs. I like the idea of the digital picture frames but I haven’t bought one yet. Costs seem to be getting less and less in photography. When I do get a print, it seems that the frames are by far the more expensive item.

I am sure that prints still have a place. They make our walls more colourful and they allow us to see family and friends of places that we have known. More of us are using photography as a means to create our own works of art and if we want to show off our artistic skills then a print on paper or on canvas or any number of other items may be just the way to do it.

Whichever way you look at your photos, you may choose a border, and borders can be any colour. I tend to stick with a cream border when I print. It is a fairly safe, neutral type of colour which does not significantly change the feeling in the photo. Some colours of borders appreciably change photos. Why not try an experiment? Take one of your photos and play about with different border colours on the computer. It costs nothing but it can be a preview for you if you want to print that photo and put it in a frame.

Happy snapping.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Photo in a cemetery

What do you think of this photo? It is just a headstone. OK it is quite a big headstone but it is still just a grave. Look closer and you can read whose remains are there. It is George Formby. It is just an ordinary photo but the reason I have included it is because we can learn from photos, and we can learn from blogs.

This is Warrington cemetery. You don't have to look too far before you find his grave. You can imagine the crowds when he was buried and you can be part of history. There must be famous people in every cemetery, well if not famous people, at least some interesting stories. It is just a case of knowing the story behind the grave. On my photography website you can read George's biography on my website at and you will find it on the local history page.

Happy snapping

Friday, 15 May 2009

Photographic Privilege

I was taking photographs at a political meeting on Friday 8th May. It was at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe and the main speaker was Chris Davies who is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West. He was speaking about openness in politics which was very apt given the topic of MPs' expenses which has been prominent in the last couple of weeks.

I have previously said that being a photographer is a privilege in relation to weddings. It is not bad taking photographs at meetings. I was again able to take a photo from the viewing gallery at the Midland, which is not open to the public, and I was able to have a conversation with one of our MEPs. Now how many people can say that?

Happy snapping

Thursday, 14 May 2009

When photo manipulation helps

I usually take this photo to show the detail of the back of the dress, the groom's ring, and the bond that is there between the bride and groom. A couple of year's ago one bride asked me to do the same thing with her hand on his waiscoat. It works just as well. I do take photos of details such as flowers but the additon of the bride's hand also show their link.

I have received so many kind comments about these photos recently that I thought that I would share the photos with you. There are some of this type of photo on my website at and in the galleries you can see that I sometimes leave the ring in colour. The gold really stands out against the black and white. If you only had this photo you would not be able to identify the bride and groom but they know who they are and it will be in their photo collection. It may mean that the photo has been manipulated but for me if it shows the link between the bride and groom and if it highlights the ring then it is a manipulation that I like to make.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Natural Smiles

This is the third photo from last Saturday's wedding. I have chosen it because the couple chose it to go with the wedding report for the newspaper. Of course, when it is in the local newspapers it will be in black and white, but it does say 'Ashton Memorial', and it does show natural smiles. I do prefer natural smiles. You get it with confetti and on perhaps half a dozen more occasions throughout the day. Brides and grooms do smile all day, and I usually hear that their facial muscles are getting tired but a piggy back can give an extra lift (pardon the pun) to these smiles.

The rain had meant that the walk around the park had to be cut short. I was just pleased that we managed to get to walk at all. Even though we only had a few minutes it meant that we could get my favourite photo

Newspaper photos usually show the bride and groom standing side by side. I am pleased that they chose this photo because for me it will stand out. For them it shows their natural smiles. It is more than a smile and it shows the fun they had during the day. Their friends and family will recognise them and will recognise this fun.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Saturday's Wedding 2

When the wedding cars arrived in Lancaster it had started to rain. Photos were either in the car, or with the cars in the background with bridesmaids and bride under shelter. The cars helped to set the scene for me even though they were at a distance. It is obviously better if the weather is dry and the photos can be taken next to the car, but even in showers the cars were helpful.

It also helps if the drivers are aware of how photographs are taken. On Saturday the drivers (who happened to be the same drivers as the previous week) were really helpful. They moved the cars together to help the background when it was raining. They moved the cars apart when it stopped raining and group photos were possible at the Ashton memorial, and the Bentley was parked twice at The Midland to give different settings for the photos. See yesterday's blog for the first parking spot and here is the second. Thanks to them for their flexibility.

Happy snapping

Monday, 11 May 2009

Don't forget to ask for help

I didn't manage to write a blog yesterday. In my defence I have been quite busy with a wedding and then working on the photos. I have shown you some of the pictures when I went with the bride and groom to the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster and The Midland Hotel in Morecambe to prepare for the wedding day. We went to see where they wanted their photos, and we looked for wet weather options which we nearly needed. We had a heavy shower during the ceremony in Lancaster but look how the sky had improved when we arrived in Morecambe.

We had help to prepare for this photo. We were walking through the Midland and then we walked around it, but I am sure that James will not mind me naming him. He works at the reception and he was so helpful. He went out of his way to find a postcard that he had seen that had a pose similar to this one. The wedding car helped to set the scene and it also masked some of the other cars.

The main point of today's blog is to ask for help. A simple question may lead to a great photo. I had not taken photos at The Midland before but others had seen photos, so save time by asking.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Unusual angles show unusual things

This is the Lancaster Priory and Parish Church from an unusual angle. Well it is not unusual for me as it is a cycle track and I used to cycle along it twice per day to get to and from work.

From this angle you can see the way the land lies, and how the Romans would have seen the natural defence of their camp. I went on a walking tour with an historian who was talking about the Romans in Lancaster. We were on the path that goes from in front of the Priory down to the quay. This path is roughly on the horizon of this photo. I was told that just before the land level falls, there was a lot of evidence that the Romans used this area as their hospital. Archeological digs had found surgical tools.

If you walked to the path in the left corner of this photo and then walked in roughly the same direction for roughly the same distance you would come across Roman baths or at least the footings. Sometimes unusual angles are good because they show unusual things.

Friday, 8 May 2009


The 'golden hour' is the hour before sunset or the hour after sunrise and they can be the best times of the day for photographers. As the light falls more horizontally you find more depth, more texture to your subjects. In the mid-afternoon sun an object can be bleached by the sun. You lose detail.

If you watch a sunset try to stay a little longer and see how the sky changes. Gradually subjects become silhouettes as the only light is in the sky. You can try to reproduce this style of photography in a studio. Larger studios are better. You'll also need backgrounds to show off your silhouette and then you need to bring in your subjects to form the silhouettes. Alternatively you could go into the street at night and you have instant silhouettes.

There is another way. If you have a good digital photo and the software, you can click a button that turns it to black and white. It might take more than one step but just by playing around with the brightness and contrast, silhouettes are formed.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Chester or Ambleside?

Here are two photos of running water. I took the one on the left at Chester Zoo. I thought the light falling on the water was quite nice and it is often the lighting which makes the picture. if you see a nice sunrise or sunset or if you are in the 'golden hour' next to either of these times then get your camera out.

The photo on the right is Stock Ghyll Waterfall which is very close to Ambleside. The natural waterfall is much bigger than the cascade of water at Chester, but they are both good examples of light falling on moving water. You can experiment with different apertures and shutter speeds when you have running water. Do you want the water appear frozen in time or flowing? There is a little movement in the Ambleside picture because it was shadier. The water at Chester is still and droplets can be seen, but you can vary how the picture is taken by changing shutter speeds.

My preference is for the Lake District but you do have to walk a little to get this photo.

Happy snapping

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Individual Wedding Photos

I have returned to Morecambe Bay for this last blog on last Saturday's wedding. Once they are married then the vast majority of photos are centred around the bride and groom. I also take photos of the bride and groom individually, and the opportunities for the individual photos tend to arise at set points during the day. Before the wedding there is usually the chance to get photos of the groom, the groom with the best man and with the groomsmen. There may be time for other photos as well but there are often a few moments to show off the rings (see right).

I really like the photo on the left, not just for the background but because of the relaxed pose. This is often the case when I come back for the first dance. The ceremonies of the day are over and there is a sense of relaxation after all the activity of the day. It is well worth going back for more photos in the evening.

In the photo on the right I tell the groom that he will be out of focus but a smile will be seen. This gives him a break from the smiling that is done throughout the day, and it often means that there is a more relaxed smile which is picked up by my assistant. Look for techniques to help you take your photos and see how they work.

Happy snapping

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Posed and informal photos

Since I took photos at a wedding on Saturday, I will write about it for a couple more blogs. I have previously mentioned that I tend to know when I have taken my favourite photo of the day at the time when I take it. This is the photo on the left, but there are a lot of other contenders.

I am pleased with many of the photos from Saturday. My favourites are not necessarily the favourites of the bride and groom. For example, group photos mean so much more to them, and the informal shots taken by my assistant are often the photos that they prefer.

Sometimest the first photos of the day show signs of a few nerves. This was not the case on Saturday when the pose (yes it is posed) on the right was taken. If the photographer can use a technique to make nerves less obvious then they should be used. Sometimes this means just getting the bride and groom to walk together, but pretending to be dragged away from a pint is an alternative.

Happy snapping

Monday, 4 May 2009

Use Morecambe Bay if you have it.

I took the photos at a wedding on Saturday 2nd May and we were so lucky with the weather. The forecast was good but the forecast was also for rain the day before and rain the day after. It hasn't been too bad today (the day after) but the main point is that you have to be lucky with the weather. There are many indoor scenes that make wonderful backgrounds but at least you have outdoor options if it is not raining.

You can see that both of these photos have Morecambe Bay in the background. Well according to Bill Bryson it is the finest view in Europe so it makes sense to use it if there is the opportunity. The photo on the left was taken in the afternoon. The photo on the right was taken when I went back in the evening for the first dance. I think both photos are great but my preference is the evening shot. I have used flash in both photos. On the right I needed to. The sun is setting in the background. On the left flash has helped a little because of the shadows cast in mid-afternoon. So for these photos I have been lucky with the weather and lucky having Morecambe Bay.

Happy snapping

Sunday, 3 May 2009

It is easier with a tripod

Back to Chester Zoo. You can see from this picture how sometimes you have to wait for the animals. Indoors I could have used flash but I didn't particularly want to. How do animals react when cameras are flashing at them. This picture struck because of the lighting. It isn't quite right because there is a shadow on the back of its head.

The point of this photo is to tell you that you can take photos indoors without flash and sometimes the subject will pose in the available light for you. I said that this was a family trip to the zoo so I wasn't going to wait for the tortoise to move backwards. I'm not even sure if they can move backwards.

I suppose the advice is always carry a tripod. This photo would look so much better if I had used a tripod and the timer but if you are reading this blog then it means that the quality of this photo was acceptable. I can't actually remember how I supported the camera. There could have been a wall to lean against but you should always try to keep as still as you can.

Happy snapping

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Look Out For Different Views

Here are two more photos from the pre-wedding meeting. It gives the bride and groom a chance to get used to poses that they may not be used to. It is still the Ashton Memorial on the left but this time you get a view away from the building. It is a fine foreground and the background isn't bad either. Whichever way you look from the memorial you get a great view. In the space of a few yards you get more than a dozen excellent backgrounds.

The photo on the right is the Midland Hotel in Morecambe. Recently I wrote that wedding photography was a privilege. Well it certainly is a privilege when you get to places like the rooftop of the Midland. Do look out for different views, which cold be from the tops of buildings.

Happy snapping

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Ashton Memorial Lancaster

I usually meet up with the bride and groom about a month before the wedding. It is an opportunity for them to give me details of the timing for the day. We look at the possibilities for the photo backgrounds and where the group photos can be taken.

These two photos leave you in no doubt where the wedding is taking place. Even if you don't know Lancaster you will know the Ashton Memorial if you have driven on the M6. It is certainly a landmark and it great for the background in wedding photographs.

The photograph on the left is only a couple of minutes from the building. The big difference in the second photo is that you have to go down a lot of steps. The beauty of taking these photos, apart from the obvious reason of getting the building in the background, is that the bride and groom have taken a walk to get there. It might take ten or fifteen minutes to walk there but it gives a lot more opportunities for great photos.

Happy snapping