I contributed to an interesting article in this month Photo Professional magazine. The article covers what photographers are doing to harness the internet, press and blogging to promote their businesses. My contribution concerns a blog post I have that showcases some of the worlds best food photographers, and attracts somewhere near 200 unique visitors every day. The article is well worth a read – a pdf is below.
PHOTO PROFESSIONAL ARTICLE
The new Canon EOS 650D DSLR
Every so often one of the major Digital SLR manufactures introduces a camera that makes a quantum leap in technology, making everything easier and also making all your collected kit old-hat. The recent release of the Canon’s full-frame sensor 5D Mark III didn’t do this, it was a much needed update to very outdated auto-focus system.
Canon’s new EOS 650D Digital SLR finally does see the kind of camera innovation, that narrows the gap between dSLR camera interfaces and technology and thinking of the leading edge consumer electronics companies, such as Apple and their touch screen iOS devices.
The 650D, at the top-end of Canon’s entry-level dSLR, finally intrudes that have been missing since the introduction of HD video on SLRs and the smartphone shift to touch screen.
Continuous focus video on Canon dSLR
The canon 5D Mark II opened up a new market for dSLR’s – professional level, broadcast quality video, direct from a stills-camera. The catch? The focus on the 5D series is still manual. This either means expensive and bulky focus tracking devices or simply keeping your subject still during video recording. Somewhat limiting.
The Canon 650D finally allows intelligent, continuous auto focus during video recording. Shame this wasn’t ready for the 5D Mark III, but hey, it’s here and no doubt sure to follow throughout the Canon dSLR range. The catch? This is designed to work with Canon’s new Stepping Motor lenses which are ultra quiet in auto-focus – important when you are recording sound with your video.
Touch screen on a dSLR
For a long while, I have been wondering why the camera’s high resolution, high contrast, full colour LCD display is still displaying a series of text based menus with fiddly little joysticks, scroll-wheels and tiny buttons, to operate the camera settings, not unlike operating a Dell laptop’s in-keyboard nipple-mouse 10 years ago.
The 650D introduces (thanks iPhone interface designers), the ability to focus on a subject by touching a preview of the image on the LCD screen. Ok, that’s not new to iPhone users, but for using liveview on a tripod for example, it’s a wonderful feature. What’s really exciting here, is not the 650D implementation of touch screen, but what’s possible in the future. Imagine shooting a video with a wide aperture lens, focused on a a flower fluttering in the wind in the foreground. Now touch the preview screen to blend the focus over a pre-set second to a tree in background. Easy, beautiful, in camera, and no expensive focus-shift professional video accessories needed. The touch screen even allows for iPhone style two finger touch gestures (zoom in/out). At last.
Don't overlook what's on the doorstep
I came across this great short film from the local Heather and Hillfort team. A great showcase of the Area of Outstanding Beauty that is the Clwydian Range. It looks mighty impressive from the helicopter view in this film – Makes me think I should hire a helicopter and run an aerial photography workshop from my home on the edge of the hills of the Clwydians – now that would be fun ;) You can see the beginnings of my Clwydian Hills gallery here.
the top 10 food photographers in the world
While doing some background research to for my own food photography portfolio, I put together this collection of, only in my opinion, the 10 best contemporary food photographers. Leave a comment below if you think I overlooked anyone.
Nicole Stich and Oliver Seidel
The food photography of Nicole Stich and Oliver Seidel on the Delicious Days website is arranged not by anything as mundane by country or by food types, but by colour. The website is a glowing testament to photographers that really care about food. All their photographs share an intimacy and a fine-art understanding of conveying emotion though the simple, close compositions, subtle lighting and strong colours.
Marcus Milsson takes a strikingly original angle on food photography – his pictures make no apologies for not portraying the food in an attractive or even edible manor. Marcus’s work all about impact. Edgy and gritty is all here – gone are the perfectly presented plated compositions, in come pictures of 1/2 eaten food and raw meat. A truly original voice.
David Munns food photography work shares a common theme of being shot in strong but diffuse light, giving a very light and carefree summer feel to his work. David often favours classic angled for plated food – the part cropped plate with a low viewing angle. Lovely images.
Food, Still life and lifestyle photographer Pornchai Mittongtare brings together vibrant colors and shapes in obviously very carefully planned shots. Rarely will you find Pornchni settling for a ‘straight’ plated food shot. Pornchai works from a natural light studio in California, giving almost year round constant sunlight to his shots. Indeed, you can see the light in his work.
Miki Duisterhof covers a range of commercial photography, but his food photography show in galleries Fresh + Local and Food for Thought is outstanding. His subtle lighting and often still-life composition approach to food offers style to complex dishes. Miki even manages to makes a place of chips look stylish!
David Lofus brings a unique twist to food photography – he specialises in catching the ‘lifestyle’ as well as the food itself. As an example thing the Jamie Oliver series of books – love them of hate them, they are rich in selling the dream of cool food through the photography, food effortlessly thrown together while enjoying life with lots of people around.
The food photography of Beatrice Peltre has a refreshing innocence and natural simplicity about it, both in terms of her choice of simple home cooked foods, but also in her documentary approach to food styling. Beatrice uses the bold colours and shapes of raw ingredients to her advantage, both in her dishes, and in her props. Coupled with a selection of natural backdrops, her work sings of the beauty of food.
Clare Borboza prefers not to be labeled as just a food photographer since her work often about more than just the food. She captures also the story behind the food; the people that grow it, the chefs that prepare it, the communities that celebrate it, the people that gather around the table to share it. In spite of this wider perspective, Clare seems to love producing her blend of artistic food still-life images.
Carl Warner is a photographer in the enviable position that most people will have seen a piece of his work, in one guise or another, even if they are unlikely to know his name. Carl make cartoon-like scenes, or foodscapes, creating forests of broccoli and seas of smoked salmon. His imaginative work has been widely used in food advertising both in the press and on television.
The self-taught photographer Keiko Oikawa learned to love food photography through producing her own food blog. Now, with a formidable client list, Keiko shows a very strong portfolio of documentary style food shots on her website. Her style is delicate and sensual, while remaining true to the foods she photographs.
Tim Hill is a London based commercial stock photographer, with a strong portfolio of food scenes. What stands Tim out is the fact he does not shy away from building complex scenes around food. Many food photographers tend towards simple compositions with little to distract from the food. Tim using a wealth of stylish backdrops with his food, showing the food in context.
Inspiration for nature photographers
A friend sent me a link to this wonderful animation by Joaquin Baldwin. I found both the Illustration style and the touching environmental message inspiring for my landscape photograhy work.
10 tips for great fireworks photos
How to take great photographs of firework displays
Taking great fireworks photos is easy, and can be done with most cameras with a few manual controls. You need to get a few things right before the fireworks start:
1. Be prepared
Before the event, fully charge your camera’s batteries and if possible carry a second battery in your pocket, near to your body heat. Cold batteries (in cold weather) lose their charge very quickly, so rotate the batteries to keep them warm if it’s very cold. Clear out your memory card and carry a spare. A torch or head torch is a great thing to pack in your bag. Take a drink with you so you don’t need to queue up for drinks and miss the fireworks!
2. Manage your photoshoot time
If you are with family or friends, it’s best to let them know in advance you will be ‘working’ – moving about and not free to chat/socialise. Free up your time and ensure people know not to expect anything from you.
3. Scout the event location
Straight away when you arrive, leave your camera in the bag and have a look around the site for the most dramatic vantage points. Including crowds, trees, buildings or reflections can add drama and context to your firework shots. Big fires can be too bright in the shots, but experiment. Be far enough away from the fireworks to get the sky rockets display in shot, and not cropped in half.
4. Use a tripod
This does not need to be a posh or heavy tripod for this type of work, but you will need one if you want to get great results with longer exposures. Set the tripod up with plenty of room around you, as soon as you can into the evening.
5. Use portrait format
For displays that feature sky-rocket fireworks, working in portrait format (the camera turned on its side on the tripod), means you to get the whole scene in the shot, from the ground to the burst point in the sky for rockets, again creating context.
6. Set the camera up in advance
You are looking for longer exposures here, this will allow the whole of a firework ‘burn-time’ to render on your sensor, creating dreamy colour trails on your images. You want to be in manual mode. If you don’t usually work in manual mode, check you know how to change the shutter speed and aperture before the event (i.e. when it’s warm, dry and you can see!). For manual shooting start with your settings at a 5 second exposure at F.5.6 aperture is a good place to start. ISO can stay low to help capture the best dynamic range – around ISO 100 to 200. The wide angle end of a lens is often best these shots.
7. Work quickly
Once the fireworks start you don’t have long before they are over, so work quickly and monitor your cameras settings as you start to see the results on your camera’s LCD screen. If required, adjust the shutter speed up or down to make the shots brighter or darker. Stay within the 1-10 second shutter speed range though. You are looking for good bright colours without too many ‘blown-out’ white areas (fireworks that show on your LCD as the larger areas of pure white contain no information and might be over-exposed).
8. Move around
Once you have some great shots from one location, change your angles – you can adjust the lenses focal length, the tripod height and of course your location. Imagine yourself documenting the event for a newspaper – this will force you to be creative, keep moving and keep shooting where others will have stayed still or gone for a drink!
9. Post-process the images for great results.
As soon after the event as possible, get the images onto your computer. Delete what hasn’t worked straight away. If you have the software, using RAW format is best for retaining the most file resolution and colour. Increase the saturation, contrast and sometimes the blacks for high-impact shots. Check the colour balance is realistic, if your software lets you.
10. Publish quickly and widely!
There is no point in taking amazing shots if you leave them on your computer. Send copies to your friends/family, publish them of Flickr or Facebook, but better, if you have local community newsletters, local papers, school website forums, council community updates, local web blogs, etc, get in touch with them. If you follow all the previous nine tips, your pictures should be better than most of the other photographers at the event and you could get published! It feels great to see your images being used, and gives a little back to the local community.
motion blur technique in fine-art photography
Abstract photography using in-camera motion blur
Using motion blur as a technique for creative photography can be a very satisfying pursuit, allowing abstract fine-art compositions to be created in-camera, needing little in the way of (boring!) time in front of the computer to achieve really striking results. The technique also benefits from being quite straightforward, achievable with most cameras, and also in most choices of location. Perfect if you are lacking creative inspiration in a location.
Why intentionally motion blur images?
Most of us are in pursuit of pin-sharp images, so why choose to spoil our images by intentionally blurring our images? Start by having a look at the gallery below. In removing the recognisable detail from scene, we force ourselves, the photographer, to look only at the colour, texture, contrast and tone in the scene. This translates to us looking much further through a potential image than composition and framing. A great skill to nurture for any photographer. From the viewers point of view the same applies – the images become about colour, texture and tone and not directly about subject.
Another really useful side affect using motion blurring to create abstract photography is the subject-matter really does not matter – you can get equally great results in nature or in the city centre providing you are looking out for colour, texture and tone.
How to creative effective motion blur in-camera
The principle is simple, to use an intentional panning movement of the camera combined with a slow enough shutter speed to sufficiently motion blur an image, so that obviously recognisable everyday detail is removed from a scene, therefore creating an abstract composition. This might mean a traditional landscape images becomes a series of horizontal bands of green and blue or a neon-signed shop front becomes bright streaks of light.
Setting up your camera for blur!
1. Set the camera to shutter priority,
2. ISO as low as possible (ISO 80 or 100).
3. Dial in a shutter speed around 1/30 to 1/125, depending on what your camera will let you do.
4. If your camera has a built in ND filter, as my Canon Powershot G11 does, this can help you get a slow enough shutter speed in brighter light conditions, otherwise just practice this technique in lower light conditions (dusk for example).
The fun bit – taking blurry shots
Taking the shots involves pre-focusing the camera (half-pressing the shutter) on the main subject of your image.
Now, with the shutter release still 1/2 down, carefully move the camera through a quick horizontal or vertical ‘pan’ motion, fully pressing the shutter as the camera passes the main subject area. It’s important to keep panning at a constant speed right through the exposure and after the shutter has closed. This allows the tones in the image to render as horizontal or vertical bands of colour on the end exposure. Sounds fiddly, but will a little trial and error (and a lot of deleting duff shots), you will quickly start to get great results.
Motion blur tips
A monopod or tripod can help you get the blur clearly in one direction only
Experiment with shutter speed from 1/125 sec down to 1/15th sec, depending on lighting conditions.
Use a slightly telephoto focal length – the greater the magnification the greater the blur. Wide angle lenses don’t work so well here.
Look for subjects with bright colours and good contrast.
Work with what you have – if you don’t have an ND filter to work in daylight conditions, work only in lower light conditions.
The beauty of this technique is that the results you get are unpredictable and down to the in-camera skills you build up with practice. There is little left to do on the computer, apart from perhaps a little creative cropping (i.e. the below images are cropped to 1:1 square format to give a fine-art medium format film feel. Apart from cropping, try these tips in post-processing to enhance your results:
If your camera allows, shoot in RAW format for best results.
Increase the contrast of images to get more punch.
If your software allows control of the image clarity (positive or negative sharpness), play around with this to soften/harden the image.
Try saturating the colours somewhat.
Finally, software noise-reduction can be useful, especially in low-light using a point-and-shoot camera.