the quality of the camera does not determine the beauty of the image.
The camera can be a weapon, it is also a valuable tool. . Get to know it, experiment with it but remember;
the quality of the camera does not determine the beauty of the image.
“A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. ” Richard Avedon
We're at the beginning or middle of Flower Show season depending on how you look at things.
Last weekend I was at RHS Malvern, this weekend I'll be up at RHS Chelsea. It's always an exciting time. Designers, nursery owners, suppliers, builders, sculptors etc etc all decsend on a smallish patch of land just north of the River Thames in London to build gardens and exhibit their wears.
RHS Chelsea is gardening's London Fashion Week.
This year I have been commissioned to photograph one of the gardens on Main Avenue, The Beauty of Islam. I'm really looking forward to it. It involves photographing the garden for the clients but also photographing the glamour and glitz associated with RHS Chelsea and to photograph the designer Kamelia bin Zaal with the various famous visitors to the show.
Photographing people is great fun, but can be challenging especially if they are not used to the camera. Most visitors on Monday's press day at RHS Chelsea are veterans at looking good for the camera but most of us aren't.
So here are my top tips on photographing people to make them look natural and relaxed.
1 Always talk to them, about them; what they do, things that interest them, this will put them at ease.
2 Smile. A smile will always break the tension.
3 Explain what you want them to do. Try to work this out before hand.
4 Ask them to stand side on to the camera and look into the lens this often works better than facing the camera.
5 Give them direction; suggest what they should do with their hands, hold something relevant, slip them into their pockets, rest them on the seat they are sitting on etc.
6 If their hair or clothing isn't looking right let them know so that they can fix it.
7 Don't tell them to relax. If they are very tense ask them to shake out, shake their heads and arms to relax their body. Or get them to blow a raspberry-anything crazy like this will usually end up in a giggle and be ready to take that shot.
8 If they don't look comfortable looking into the lens ask them to look away and back, the second they look at the lens snap the shot. You may have to do this several times.
9 Politely ask them not to talk too much. Nervous people always talk, you will not get a good shot if their mouth is always moving.
10 If they are struggling, stop and take a break.
11 Photograph them in a situation that they are familiar with.
12 Shoot them with the sun directly behind them to throw them into silhouette.
13 Photograph them in shade, not direct sunlight it is very unflattering.
14 Use props. Chairs can be sat on or leaned on, walls are good to lean against, steps, tools, flowers the list goes on.
15 Ask them to walk away from you and on your command get them to look back at you.
16 Don't just photograph faces, how about hands, feet, close-ups of eyes.
17 Stand on a chair and shoot them from a higher angle.
19 Ask them to lie on the ground and get down to their level or stand over them.
20 Look for interesting backdrops such as long straight roads.
21 Photograph them going about their daily business.
I hope that gives you the confidence to go out and shoot more portraits. Oh, one more thing, always ask permission to take someone's photo-it's polite and it keeps things friendly!
I asked Michael Caine if I could photograph him one Chelsea, he wasn't courting attention but I smiled and he just smiled back - he was charming. It doesn't work every time. There was a moment with Mary Berry, but that would be telling!
And here are a few from over the years...
I photographed the photo above of a farmhouse with a wide=angle lens, holding the camera portrait style.
It's important to find an interesting foreground that leads the viewers eye to the main subject, in this case a sprinkling of daisies.
Let the camera work out the shutter speed by setting your camera to aperture priority.
Use a wide depth of field, a high f number.
Several elements have to come together to make a photograph; the subject, the light and of course the composition. Here I'll show you how using perspective in your composition can improve your photography.
I used a similar technique with the photograph of the path and gate above, but this time I used a narrow depth of field, focusing on the gate to throw the background out of focus. This give the photograph a dreamy feel.
Andrew is a woodsman, so I used some branches to lead your eye towards him and his son in the wood he manages. Again a wide angle lens makes the shot.
When I photograph flowers I like to get down to their level.
In the shot below-a group of alliums made the perfect backdrop to the main flower.
This time I used a long lens, a Canon 70-200mm and set the aperture so that the main flower is sharp and the rest are slightly blurred.
I positioned the camera so that all you can see are the colours purple and green.
Uncluttered and simple.
At Chelsea flower show a few years ago this vertical garden by Diarmuid Gavin was displayed with lots of Chelsea Pensioners.
Complimentary colours red and green look great together.
I wanted to show the height of the garden and also highlight the pensioners - I crouched down low to get this shot.
I photographed Jake (below) who is an expert at cloud pruning.
He carried interesting tools and was thoroughly absorbed in showing some gardeners the skills involved.
Everyone was concentrating on what he was doing and no-one paid any attention to me.
This time I used the wide-angle close-up to my main subject.
And finally, have some fun.
Using perspective in composition is a great tool.
Play with your lenses, move around focus on different parts of the shot.
Once you understand how powerful they are you can start to plan what story you want to tell.
As with everything the more you practice the better photos you will take.
93% of people buy a product based on the image.
Not rocket science.
65% of people learn better from an image rather than reading about it.
Colours influence our moods and buying decisions where words fall short.
In the world of social media companies from Twitter to Facebook, Pinterest to Instagram are working on creating a selling platform.
Every marketeer is working out ways to reach new customers on social media.
Can you afford not to optimize the images you post?
Here's a handy infographic to help you out. Feel free to share or pin this.
Here's a link to some free software to help you resize your images in an instant!
Getting your image in focus is a bit of a given. But I see lots of shots that are out-of-focus. Millions of images are created every second and shared all round the world; you want to take the best photos. Here's how.
The basic focus settings
It does just that. Focuses for you. Most cameras and some smart phones have focusing points that you can set.
You have more creative control when you use the following settings.
Single shot mode
Point at the part of the subject you want in focus and half press the shutter to focus. Recompose the shot while keeping your original focus point by continuing to hold down the shutter. When you have composed the shot press the shutter fully. This it is a good all rounder.
Canon One Shot
Continuous focus modes
When you photograph objects that are constantly moving.
Set to shutter priority, 500s or more.
Check your aperture (the camera will set this according to light conditions, shutter speed and ISO setting.
By increasing the ISO you will allow a smaller aperture (higher f-number) and therefore a wider depth-of-field which will render more of your shot in focus.
It's always worth experimenting with different settings.
Canon AI Servo
The camera does all the work, slightly different from Auto. According to the situation it will choose which of the 2 modes to use. Perfect? I never use this, I prefer to have more control over the outcome.
Canon AI Focus
Finally, and not to be missed.
You do need good eyesight or glasses to use this successfully. It is really useful for close-ups particularly where a narrow-depth-of-field is necessary. You can choose exactly where you want to focus. I usually combine this with several different apertures and choose the most satisfying image when I can see it at 100% on a computer screen. Using a very narrow depth of field can render your shot too 'soft'. A tripod is pretty much essential for this.
OK, I've done all that by my shot is still blurred.
Here are some possible reasons:
Your shutter speed is not fast enough
Increase the shutter speed or ISO, or
Use a tripod
Use mirror lock-up and a tripod (if your camera has this function)
With SLR's a mirror flips up when you press the shutter. Light hits the sensor and the image is made. This action can cause camera shake even if you are using a tripod and the shutter speed is slow.
When I shoot close-ups I like to use a low ISO setting to get the best quality images, which means fixing the camera to a tripod and using mirror-lock-up (which is not available on all cameras.)
A way round this is to set your camera to timer, focus manually, press the shutter, the mirror goes up a few seconds later the image is captured by which time the camera should be perfectly still.
It isn't rocket science but it is vital.
Poorly focused photos are just not saleable or good to look at and you want to be the best!
Cherry Blossom is one of my favourite images. It heralds the real beginning of Spring.
So grab your photography gear and get out to photograph some blossom.
I took these photographs at Batsford Arboretum this time last year for Gardens Illustrated. It took a couple of visits to capture the blooms as they flower over a few weeks.
I photographed most of these using a long lens as many blooms on mature trees are fairly high up. My camera was fitted onto a study tripod because you need a lot of patience to get the shots, because the wind catches the dainty flowers and the smallest movement can spoil your composition or blur your image.
Camera Canon mark III DSLR
Lens Canon Zoom - EF 70-200mm
or for lower down a macro, Canon 100mm
Tripod with remote shutter release
Patience (which doesn't come cheap)
Some tips for success:
Here are a small selection of my favourites.
This is the final feature in Gardens Illustrated April 2015
Next week: Focusing know-how.
You are a published photographer
We all are.
We are published on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a blog.......
If you want your posts to be seen and shared then you have to take photos that stop people in their tracks.
Follow these tips to grow your following:
1 Tell a great story:
2 Shoot in beautiful light
3 Compose interestingly
Now read this post on how to get paid for your photography!
If you are a pro, you will understand the power (and the downsides) of capturing your images in the RAW format. If this is all new to you then here is a simple explanation of what they do and which one you should use.
In DSLR's some compacts and bridge cameras you have the facility to shoot in RAW.
And the downsides:
Smart phones, tablets and cameras take jpegs, these have some in-camera processing happening which you have some control over.
And the downsides:
Which do you choose?
Shoot in RAW to create jpegs or Tiff files (very large, lossless files ie files that retain all their pixels every time you save them unlike jpegs) to make:
Shoot straight to Jpeg if:
Simple RAW processing
This requires good photo editing software such as Photoshop/Lightroom or open source (free) software such as The Gimp, but there are lots available, see this review. But here is my simple workflow for working with RAW files:
You can use a jpeg straight from the camera. But I find that a little tweeking will improve your image further. . Photoshopexpress is free and a good introduction to Photoshop and you can use it on a laptop/tablet or your smart phone.
Brick Lane in the East End of London is like Portobello Road or Camden Lock Market back in the 80's.
Clinging on to the edge of edgy but fast becoming fashionable with a heavy dose of vintage and good coffee and where artisan and traditional food vendors trade side-by-side. Buy a meaty salt beef baigel for breakfast and wash it down with an iced guava and passion fruit smoothie, why don't you?
Filled with the colours of street art and heaving with atmosphere it makes a great day out and not just for the food, it's a popular venue for likely photographers.
Here is my take on Brick Lane on a Sunday morning in February.
Shot with my Samsung S5 would you believe?
Correct exposure is a balance between aperture, shutter speed and the ISO setting on your camera. Of course, you can always set your camera to automatic, but what you gain in ease of use you lose on creativity. So why not start experimenting, you'll take your photography to places that you will really want to go.
Click on each of the icons below to find out more. The infographic above is a quick cheat sheet to remind you what each does. Have fun.
Found photographing in rain or shine for magazines and the like.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.