Friday, 15 June 2012

Engagement Portraits - tips for great photographs

At the moment I have an engagement portrait as a free promotion with every wedding booking I take. These were taken at the North Wirral Coastal Park.

A number of clients have, with my encouragement, chosen to get this special picture taken on location. People have often chosen a familiar place of significance to them which has meant they have relaxed and enjoyed the shoot even more. O this day the weather was 'interesting' to say the least, but all three of us had great fun trying out different poses and sometimes getting a bit silly!

Getting your subject to relax is very important and it is worth finding ways of doing this even if it leaves a little less time for the photos.

People want quality not quantity, although that does not stop me taking many hundreds of pictures!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Photographing children - tips for great photography

With children your observation skills have to be spot on, you have to be patient and you have to be prepared to enter their world.

Children generally will not be posed so the best thing is to play with them and make the lens part of the fun. If they can forget the camera then you may also get those rare shots to lens too.

Also the best candid are often of children caught unawares and often as a result of the photographer being prepared to spend time on the basis of a hunch that an above average image is just around the corner because the situation is making one likely, weddings are a classic example where children are dressed up and looking for play opportunities in an environment which is not always child friendly.

Of course, there is always the time when it does not come off, but good professionals and amateurs are tenacious and just look harder for the shot next time!

One important point to make is that I also have an enhanced criminal record certificate (UK) to be able to work with children professionally. Always check with parents and children that taking their picture is OK before you start snapping. It has become a much more guarded world which has made it harder for those who would harm children, but it has also made it harder for the sincere photographer trying to capture a perceptions of the world without filters or anxiety. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Colour and tone? Can you believe your screen? - tips for great photography

Does it matter where you get your pictures printed? Yes it does if you want the same colours and tones as you seen on your computer screen, but here there is a catch. Computer screens, depending on the manufacturer, how they interact with the graphics software on your computer and the ambient light under which you view them do not all generate identical colours and tones. At least in a black and white image it is only the tones that may be off, but this might be vital if mood is important.

Next time you are passing a shop selling desk top, laptop and tablet computers make a point of comparing their screen colours and tones to see how they vary. It is also true of digital TV screens, and for the discerning the variety of colours and tones is quite wide, so often it is a matter of seeking a screen with the colours and tones that you like, which is OK until you want to print the images you might be viewing on your monitor or TV.

This is why as a portrait and wedding photographer I always prefer people to come to the studio and see their images on my screens after the wedding. I have a device called a 'Spyder' which calibrates my screen so that I can match it to printers so that the colours people see on the screen are the colours that they get in their prints, that is part of the professional package that I offer. Of course such a part of the service costs, but it is a quality service and value for money if you are not disappointed when you compare your prints to the screen versions.

So next time you have a professional taking your pictures, try to view the results on a calibrated screen. An after-the-event sit down with your photographer, probably at their studio, should be part of the service at no extra cost because it should be inclusive in any package booked.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Looking up! - tips for good photography

It is always a little more flattering to take people pictures with them looking slightly up at you. It always helps with the chin-line and accentuates the eyes, especially with a shallow depth of field using a wide aperture.

It also helps if people have shorter noses, extending the the bridge of the nose and avoiding the darkess of nostrils.

I have already posted on the importance of a step ladder and the need to search for a higher perspective to add  an edge to your pictures. Experiment!

This young lady is a actor needing some images for her portfolio.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

You do not have to be the pro - tips for good photography

When I do a wedding I have absolutely no objection to other people following me around to take pictures. The wedding photographer has the privileged position of being able to stand at the best place and angle most of the time, registrars and priests permitting. Obviously if people get in the way I have to be assertive, but this very rarely happens and a pause, an excuse me, a smile and raised eye brow generally is enough!

However, much can be learned by watching the official photographer not necessarily in terms of equipment, but how they set the subject and themselves. Also you have an advantage of getting that slightly relaxed moment just after the official picture was taken.

So don't be afraid of shadowing the professional, they too were once gifted amateurs and had to learn from someone else. Know of course when your presence is intrusive as sometimes the moments a couple spend with the photographer can be quite private and intimate, adding to the sometimes too brief amount of time the newlyweds have to be more alone on their busy wedding day.

These three images were taken at Tamworth Castle where Oona was playing and I was helping her. The couple were pleased to get the extra pictures I took. I kept a 'professional' distance from the actual hired photographer just to avoid all possible issues!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Vital equipment - a step ladder! - tips for good photography

What would I miss most between my new £1200 lens and my step ladder?

Well, I have other lenses in my bag and could work around not having the 24-70 zoom, not that I would want to as this lens gives me a wide aperture of f2.8 throughout the zoom creating lovely blurred backgrounds. However, for those group shots, and that slightly different angle, I would feel the loss of the step ladder was reducing my options! The ladder allows me to get people to look slightly upwards which not only gives a pleasant pose but stretches that neck a little improving the chin line for many people. I am also rather a short fellow at 5' 7" and for taller people just going up one step on the ladder can improve people posture and face position.

So if you have never thought of a step ladder as an important piece of photographic equipment try it out. You do not have to go to the top of the ladder, sometimes one step up is all you need.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Critical focus - tips for good photography

On a DSLR when you look through the viewfinder you are actually looking through the main lens. This means you can focus using the resolution of the human eye. I always use the viewfinder and almost never the live view on the LCD screen. In a point and shoot camera you only have the live view on the LCD screen and this is not totally reliable if you are manually focusing. This is partly because the resolution of the LCD screen is not really good enough to ensure sharp focus and getting that focus quickly. Of course, most of the time point and shoot cameras are focusing automatically so even if the screen does not seem sharp the picture probably is.

I also use my DSLR camera in auto-focus mode because, especially when photographing a wedding, it is easier to trust the camera as there is often quite a bit of people movement and I am more interested in controlling the depth of field and the background blur, isolating the main subject. When doing portraits I sometimes use manual focus because it is critical to get those eyes sharp, particularly difficult in low light conditions when auto-focus can struggle to lock on.

So give me a real optical view finder over an LCD screen to ensure critical focus especially when you are in manual focus.