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Hints and Tips

bank_holiday

A break from work is the perfect excuse to dust off your camera and have a go at some creative photography ideas

 

A bank holiday is great for taking a break – but it’s also a fantastic time to try your hand at some new photography ideas that you might not have thought about before. No matter what the weather, you can take part in some of these ideas for photography projects.

Water drop photography

 

A simple home set-up can yield some super interesting results. You don’t need too much kit to get you started, but you can add more if you find that you like the technique. The great thing about this idea is that you’re not reliant on the weather, as it’s 100% indoors.

 

Take a look at our blogpost on experimenting with water drop photography for more in-depth advice on this project.

 

Family portraits

 

There’s no better time than an enforced break to get the family together for some new portraits. That’s especially true if the ones on your mantelpiece are starting to look a little dated. Try different combinations of family groupings, or photograph just one family member (the one who complains the least) to really hone your skills. If the weather’s good, head outside, but portraits inside can be just as beautiful. Don’t forget to include the dog if you have one!

Still life and macro in the home

 

You may never have realised that there are thousands of photoshoot ideas in your very own home. Many different objects make for fantastic still life and macro shots, especially if you can get creative with lighting, or use different backgrounds. There are so many ways you could turn this idea into a project – you could focus on one room, pick one object from every room, look for hidden details that you never knew were there, and so on.

 

Food photography

 

Combine some bank holiday cooking with some fantastic food photography. If you’re new to food photography, pick something that you can take your time over – a cake that won’t go cold, for example. Fruit and vegetables also make for interesting still life subjects that you can manipulate in all sorts of ways. If you have a macro lens, make use of it to show off the interesting patterns and lines that natural subjects provide.

 

Find a new landscape

 

Are you guilty of visiting the same locations over and over again – perhaps sticking to somewhere local for your tried and tested photoshoot? There’s nothing wrong with that, but a new place can really invigorate your creativity. Spend some time researching some new locations that take you out of your comfort zone, and use the long weekend to make that trip you’ve been putting off for some time.

 

Experiment with monochrome

 

Some photography ideas never get old, and monochrome is one of those. No matter what you shoot this weekend, why not try shooting in monochrome. Most cameras offer at least one monochrome setting you can experiment with. If you shoot in raw format, you can always revert back to the colour version if you don’t like the results. Alternatively, why not convert some of your existing shots into monochrome using a program such as Photoshop for a new perspective.

 

One lens, one weekend

 

Too much choice can sometimes be overwhelming for creativity. This weekend, why not try picking one lens and shooting only with that. You might find that you have to rethink how you take some shots, leaving you with interesting results. If you’ve got an underused lens, now’s the time to let it shine and give it a new lease of life – you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

Create a photo book

 

How many of your photos are sitting languishing on a hard drive? Will they still be around in years to come for your family to enjoy? Why not use the bank holiday break to finally put together a photo book to showcase your best work. You could make something which highlights a special trip, or you could make it broader. There’s a range of photobook styles to suit just about every photographer, with prices starting from as little as £6.49.

 

Let us know how you plan to spend your bank holiday – and don’t forget to share the resulting shots via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages!

 

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Get out and about with your camera to do some bluebell photography: one of nature’s most stunning seasonal subjects

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Bluebell photography should be possible near you because they are so abundant in the UK that no matter where you live, you should be able to find some beautiful examples of these woodland flowers. Only appearing for a few weeks, this yearly favourite for photographers gives you the opportunity to experiment with lots of different photographic techniques. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started with this gorgeous floral subject.

Research your location

There are lots of great places to carry out bluebell photography – which means there’s bound to be one not too far away. Try visiting at different times of the month, as well as different times of day, to make sure you catch the bluebells when they’re looking their best. There’s a relatively short window of perfection. Have a look at a few different locations if you can – for example, bluebells growing underneath trees can produce interesting shadows and patterns.

Pick your lenses

You can use a wide variety of different lenses depending on the look you’re trying to achieve. A macro lens will help to pick up the fine details of the flowers, while a longer telephoto length (85mm or over) will create dramatic solo shots. You can use a wide-angle lens to capture the overall scene, which works well if your bluebells are located in a pretty wood. You could even try a fish-eye lens to create something really unusual.

Choose the right accessories

Some useful accessories for bluebell photography include a reflector for bouncing available light into the right places, a tripod for your camera, filters, and clamps for (respectfully) arranging the flowers for your preferred composition.

Don’t worry about the weather

You can photograph bluebells in all kinds of different weather. Overcast skies are perfect for diffused, flat light which really brings out the beauty of an individual flower. Meanwhile, sunny skies can create interesting flares, halos and shadow effects. You probably don’t want to photograph in the pouring rain, but after it has cleared, you’ll be left with water droplets which can create points of interest. Even if it’s windy, you can create arty, impressionistic blurred shots. Why not try giving them all a different go, and see what you end up with?

Get on their level

The best shots will generally be created if you can get your camera down to the same level as the flowers. With that in mind, be prepared with a ground sheet (a bin liner will do), or even a gardener’s kneeling pad to save you and your gear from getting wet or dirty. Of course, if your camera has wireless connectivity built in, then you may be able to use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder to save your trousers – but whatever approach you choose, always be mindful not to damage the bluebells.

Check your settings

The good thing about photography like this is that you can experiment with settings all day long – your subject isn’t going anywhere. If you’re using a telephoto lens, or a long macro lens, remember that depth of field is going to be restricted.

Therefore, shooting bluebells with a wide aperture will leave only small details in focus – if you want more then you’ll need a narrower aperture. If you’re using a tripod – and the wind is still – then you can use relatively slow shutter speeds to let lots of light in, which will allow you to keep your ISO down for maximum detail. Try different white balance settings for different effects: a cloudy setting, for example, can produce warmer tones than a daylight one.

Shoot in Raw format

Shooting in Raw format will give you the best flexibility when it comes to editing your shots at home. You can alter the white balance, add in some exposure compensation – even if it’s just as an experiment.

Create a collage

Shoot wide, shoot close, fill the frame, pick out details – by shooting a variety of completely different shots, you can bring them together in one fantastic collage which really shows off your skills, and the beauty of bluebells all in one go.

Will you be photographing bluebells this year? Let us know how you get on via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Street_photography

Street photography is one of the most compelling subjects you can get involved with, and the good news is that you don’t need much to get started with – just some bravery and a good eye. Subjects are always to be found, and you can even curate a long-term project once you get into it.

Here’s a few simple and quick tips to get you started.

Choose your spot

You don’t need to be in an unusual or exotic location for starting out with street photography – your local high street will do. When you’re first beginning, it pays to spend some time simply observing – even if you don’t take any shots for a while. Choose somewhere you can sit or stand without drawing too much attention and watch the world go by. You’ll soon see scenes which would make for excellent shots, and the more time you spend observing, the better you’ll get at noticing them.

Choose a discreet camera

In an ideal world, you want your subjects not to notice you’re photographing them. That way, they act naturally, and as they normally would. Nothing screams “photographer” in quite the same way as a large DSLR with a huge telephoto lens attached, which is why mirrorless cameras are perfect for this genre. The small size and form of something like the Sony A6000, for example, helps you to remain unnoticed, even though the sensor inside the canera is as large as many DSLRs.

Settings before shooting

You want to spend as little time as possible looking like you’re taking pictures, so get ready in advance. For street photography, it’s good to experiment, but try a reasonably narrow aperture of around f/8 to make sure everything in the scene is in focus. Use a mid-range ISO like 400-800 (maybe even higher if the weather is overcast, or you’re shooting at night). Shooting in aperture priority is perfect for this subject, so you don’t have to worry necessarily about shutter speed, but a quick speed of at least 1/200 is generally required if you want total control. Quick menus, like those found on the Sony A7 Mark II, make quickly changing settings on the fly even easier, so make full use of those, too.

Consider your focal length

While it can be tempting to stick a telephoto lens on your camera so you can shoot from afar, the best focal lengths for street photography tend to be “classic” lengths like 35mm and 50mm. That’s because these lengths give a realistic perspective, giving you a good overview of the scene and making the observer feel as if they are in the action themselves. Using a camera like the Sony A7 with a 28-70mm lens gives you the option to move between the different focal lengths to see what works best, but this is also a good project to get you started with working with prime lenses. Remember if you’re using an APS-C or Micro Four Thirds camera, you’ll need to consider the equivalent focal length compared with full-frame cameras.

Shoot from the hip

Many cameras these days have tilting or articulating screens, such as the one found on the Sony A6000. That makes it super easy to compose your images from the hip (or your lap if you’re sitting down). Not only does this make you more discreet, you get an interesting viewpoint, too.

Smile

Finally, if someone notices that you’re photographing them, a smile can go a long way. Looking nervous arouses suspicion, so if someone spots what you’re up to, flash them a smile and carry on – it will tend to diffuse the situation. Remember to be respectful, if somebody really appears to be uncomfortable with having their picture taken, put your camera away and move on.

Get out there today and start exploring your neighbourhood. When you’re done, we’d love to see the results. Share your shots with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

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blossom

The start of spring sees trees and hedgerows burst into life with beautiful blossom, and the longer days provide us with even more opportunity to get outside and enjoy capturing this seasonal spectacle on camera. But how do you make the most of these delicate blooms while they last? Whether it’s cherry, hawthorn or some kind of flowering bush, if you’re wondering how to take blossom photos then we’ve got advice for you – read on for our tips!

Chase those cherries

This is one of the times when urban-dwelling photographers are just as lucky as those living in the countryside – cherries and other blossoming trees are frequently chosen by town planners to brighten up inner-city areas, and their petals look fantastic against steel and glass of modern buildings.

Keep a record of cherry trees planted near you and then when the season arrives you’ll be able to rush over, camera in hand. A mirrorless camera’s an ideal choice for travelling light: the Fujifilm X-A3 comes with WiFi for speedy image sharing once you’ve grabbed your shots.

Whatever the weather

Blossom doesn’t last: a night of strong winds or heavy rain can turn those beautiful bloom-covered bushes into denuded sticks. (If your selected subject has been stripped of its petals, try a shot looking down: there might be an opportunity to capture the flowers on the floor…)

No wind and soft, clear morning light are your ideal conditions to get the best from your blossom tree but creative shots can be had in all scenarios: a weather-sealed camera like the Fujifilm X-T2 is a good idea, particularly if you’re heading outdoors during April!

Watch your exposure

Masses of pale blossom petals can make your camera underexpose and come out much darker than you’re expecting, so try different exposure compensation settings until you’re happy with the result. A slightly increased exposure can give you the bright, pure feeling of blossom in full bloom – but it depends on the effect you’re looking for.

Capture contrast

Those delicate petals will look best against vivid blue skies, dark green leaves, brick walls – anything where their natural beauty can shine. This is why the deeper skies of early morning and dusk can give you the intensity of colour you’re looking for, but if you’re stuck shooting in the middle of the day, try hunting out shadows or setting the petals against the sky and shooting into the light for a gorgeous glow.

Capture every angle

Once you’ve found a tree that’s in a suitable spot, spend time studying it. Take a range of images of the blossom both as individual blooms using a shallow depth of field (a wide aperture lens such as the Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2 is ideal for this) and as a mass. Shoot the tree close-up and fill the frame with colour, then step back and place it within its environment. Do you want to add people to the frame for human interest and scale (particularly effective if you’ve found a whole hillside covered in blossoming trees) or keep the tree solo? It’s up to you, and your creative vision.

Don’t just shoot stills

Short films of cherry blossoms moving in the breeze can be extremely beautiful to watch, so don’t limit yourself to still photos only – if your camera has a video function then put it to work! Use a tripod to keep your shots stable and try gently pulling your frame through the blossoms so each individual bloom comes in and out of focus – or try slowly panning across the tops of the trees to show how the blossom sits within its environment. The tiny details presented by the blooms means the resolution offered by 4K video will come into its own here – so a camera like the X-T20 would be an extremely sensible choice to make the most of these short-lived subjects.

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sunsets

If you’ve ever been awestruck by a stunning sunset, here’s our advice for how best to capture the evening sky on camera…

 

Plan ahead

If you’re holidaying in a beautiful spot that you’d like to record for posterity or just have a special place nearby, the first step to ensure you capture a gorgeous photo of the sun setting is by planning ahead. Get your equipment ready – camera, charged battery, wide-angle lens, tripod – and maybe do a recce to frame up your shots ahead of the crucial moments when the sky looks at its best.

 

Check your directions

To make sure you get the best possible picture of the sunset, it’s a good idea to assess the location and light direction before the sun actually hits the horizon – that way you can think about silhouettes, shadows and composition so you’re ready when the magic starts to happen.

 

There are all sorts of apps available to help you see where the sun’s going to set on a given day – we like the Photographer’s Ephemeris, which is available on your gadget’s app store of choice. This gives you sunrise and sunset times and allows you to see where exactly the sun will disappear on a specific day – very handy for planning ahead.

 

Grab your tripod

A good tripod is essential for taking great sunset photos. It won’t just save your arms from getting tired – it’ll also allow you to take exactly the same picture with exposure adjustments, or capture the same scene as the light changes during the process of the sun setting.

 

Using a remote shutter release or your phone (assuming your camera has WiFi control) can help you to capture scenes without nudging the camera itself. A slightly slower shutter speed will allow you to record a little movement in trees, grassland or water – once your camera’s safely on your tripod and you’re happy with the composition, play around with your settings to see what works best.

 

Watch the clouds

If you’re lucky enough to live near a spot with a spectacular sunset on offer, you can afford to be picky about the weather conditions and wait for the right clouds to come along. Keeping a diary of the cloud formations and weather that results in the best skies can make your project easier. When you get a magnificent sky, make a note of the weather that afternoon – and eventually you’ll build up the skills to predict when a truly stunning sunset is going to occur.

 

Consider composition

If you’re faced with superb skies, you’ll probably want to make them the main focus of your shot – but you’ll also need to set them against a little of the landscape in order to show scale and give them context.

 

We’d suggest that for starters, you try placing the horizon along the bottom line (you’ll be able to turn on a grid overlay based on the rule of thirds by hunting through your camera’s display options) so the sky fills the majority of the scene, but so that you’ve still got a little foreground interest in the shot. Experiment with your chosen view to see what works the best!

 

Look around you

Sometimes the most beautiful aspect of a sunset isn’t the sky itself, but the colours and shadows caused by the setting sun’s light. To take creative sunset pictures, turn your camera around and capture the shadows cast by trees, or try a picture inspired by the red-gold light being cast on faces or illuminating buildings. If the skies are clear, the western sky will often go a deep blue – which makes an orange subject stand out even more.

 

Check your exposure

Shooting into the sun can play havoc with your camera’s exposure settings, so keep an eye on the histogram to ensure you’re not over- or under-exposing any area of the scene in front of you. Peaks to the right-hand-side of the histogram mean you’re likely to have bright white areas in your photo without any detail – so you’ll need to bring the curve back to the left slightly to reclaim those finer details.

 

Using exposure compensation alongside your Live View display and a histogram can give you creative control over your pictures. Taking a couple of different exposures will give you options when you’re back at your computer – and shooting in Raw lets you have the most possible control over finder adjustments.

 

Change your metering mode

The best metering mode for sunset photography is centre-weighted metering: this’ll give you an average exposure with both the sky and the land taken into consideration. Using spot-metering and placing the dot over the sky will allow you to turn the horizon into a silhouette – useful when you’re trying to capture the colours of the sky and not the land around it.

 

 

Don’t leave too quickly

As all good landscapers know, the actual moment of sunset isn’t the main event. It’s not until about 15-20 minutes after the sun has set that the skies become ablaze, so don’t pack up your camera too promptly – keep your eyes on the skies throughout and wait until the show’s definitely over…

 

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Portrait

Spring means warmer weather – and more daylight means more chance to work on your people pictures. Grab a willing model and get out there!

 

Choose the right camera

Portraits will always look better on a camera with a little control over aperture and focus, allowing you to blur out the background and select which areas of your photo you want to be sharp. Always aim for the eyes to be your main point of focus: an aperture of f/5.6 or wider should enable you to keep the entirety of the person in focus, while softening the background and any foreground for a professional look to your photo. A mirrorless camera like the Fujifilm X-A3 is a good bet – plus its inbuilt wireless image transfer makes it simple to send your shots straight to your subject’s phone after taking them.

 

Head outdoors

This is a nice colourful street portrait from @findingneelT

A post shared by Jessops (@jessops) on Dec 27, 2016 at 1:26am PST

If you’re truly stuck for a location, look to your own front door – the shading and framing on offer means you’ll often find some of the best natural light conditions on your own doorstep. Place your person just inside the doorway and step out, then focus and expose on their face so the background’s blurred and often darker than the main subject area. This works especially well if the door frame is a bright colour, contrasting with the subject’s outfit.

 

Look for natural frames

How cute is this portrait by @jamesmagill?

A post shared by Jessops (@jessops) on Aug 4, 2016 at 12:40pm PDT

Think carefully about the background that’s going to be behind your subject: you don’t want it to be too distracting, but you don’t want it to be too plain and look like a studio, either. If you can’t blur the background out with a wide aperture lens then we suggest using it to your advantage: place strong vertical lines like doorframes on the lines that correspond to the “rules of thirds”, and frame your subject using them – chances are you’ll end up with a much more impactful photo.

 

Try a black and white approach

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPz9vxTl4fA/?taken-by=jessops

Desaturating your image – whether in camera using a filter, or on your phone/tablet/computer after transferring your shot – can be a great way to add drama and contrast to draw out the emotion of a photo. This is especially useful in situations where you can’t control the distracting colours in the background of a shot, or where the light is fairly flat and even due to cloud cover. Make sure the basic principles of portraiture are taken care of then experiment away to see if you enjoy this black & white effect.

 

Rain stopped play? Head indoors

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOH-uRwF6ky/?taken-by=jessops

The unpredictable weather experienced at this time of year makes natural light portraiture a challenge – if the elements do conspire against you, there’s still plenty of portrait fun to be had indoors. A set of fairy lights can make atmospheric lighting: head to a dark spot, then string the lights around your model (careful!) and position them to illuminate their face and skin.

 

Get creative

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHAatfdHG-K/?taken-by=jessops

Totally stuck for ideas? Why not go double layed and use an instant print of the same scene in your photo – these Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 are great value and a whole lot of fun for creative people pictures.

 

Show us your shots

Once your subject’s happy with the photos, be sure to share your best work with us on Facebook or Instagram – this is where wireless image transfer technology (like that found on the Fujifilm X-A3) comes in extremely handy. Don’t forget to tag us in with #JessopsMoment – we can’t wait to see your shots!

 

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dog

Ahead of Crufts, we’re sharing our top tips to help improve your pooch portraits and take better photos of your dog – so grab your camera and your four-legged friend and let’s get creative!

 

Puppy pack

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRFpFLXlxEN/?taken-by=jessops

If you’re capturing more than one dog in a single shot then you’ll need to move fast – a speedy shutter speed will help you freeze the action, and be sure to make use of your camera’s burst mode to capture as many shots as you can, as quickly as possible. This’ll leave you with a lot of images to review afterwards, but you’ll be able to pick out the one with precisely the right combination of expressions for an unforgettable photo.

 

The eyes have it

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNq99MLlduw/?taken-by=jessops

Whatever level you’re shooting at, make sure the eyes of your dog are in focus – position the focus point on their pupils, half-press your shutter button and recompose your picture until you’re happier with the composition. They say the eyes are the window to the soul for a reason, you know…

 

Try an environmental portrait

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHc63FOAA1B/?taken-by=jessops

If your dog loves a special place more than anywhere else, why not capture them in their most-loved location? Get down to their level for a dogs-eye-view of the scene, and try composing the picture so they’re looking into empty space. Place your dog on the “thirds” lines within the frame for extra impact.

 

Get creative

https://www.instagram.com/p/BF_I0B5nG2m/?taken-by=jessops

 

If the usual approach leaves you cold, try a new perspective or creative lens – like an upside-down-fisheye-view of your four-legged-friend, or placing your camera at the bottom of a hole!

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDdkPq6HG4-/?taken-by=jessops

 

That’s the great thing about digital photography: you can delete your experiments and try again until you’re happy with your work.

 

 

Mix it up with monochrome

https://www.instagram.com/p/BBWu-LynG7L/?taken-by=jessops

 

Sometimes a moodier look is what you’re after – especially if you’re trying to capture the soul of your dog. Placing them in the centre of the frame and using a monochrome filter (either during capture or applied afterwards) can help you make the most of a cloudy day or dramatic shadows

 

Introduce their favourite toy

https://www.instagram.com/p/9OkYZ3HGw5/?taken-by=jessops

If your hound has a toy they just can’t be without, capture it on camera for posterity (before they destroy it!) – using something they love can also be a way of attracting their attention towards the camera.

 

Set out early

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFCf8amHG6T/?taken-by=jessops

If you’re planning to capture a special portrait of your dog, why not make a day of it? Set your alarm clock and head to the hills with your hound and your camera for a trip planned around a few key photo opportunities. Look for framing opportunities

 

On your marks…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHDSJ_AAKPL/?taken-by=jessops

If your dog’s a speedy sort, you could try an action shot – head to a secure spot, then have a friend take them away from you (within sight!) and call them towards you. If their recall’s up to scratch they’ll come running towards you: giving you and your camera a chance to practise your continuous AF and reaction times! Again, burst mode comes in handy here – but the good thing about dogs is that they’re pretty much always excited to have another go, if you missed it the first time…

 

Share your work!

If you’ve captured a great shot of your dog, share it with us on Instagram or Facebook – or why not set up your dog’s own Instagram account where you can show off your new dog photography skills and get ideas from other dog accounts? We can’t wait to see what you’ve captured…

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spring

Armed with a compact camera, and want to capture the beauty of the new season? There’s nothing to stop you! Here are three tips to get you thinking creatively about your picture-taking and help you make the most of the warmer weather on the way…

 

 Seek out the special modes

Although you might just use your camera for point-and-shoot style photography (and there’s nothing wrong with that), chances are that your camera also has several special modes designed to help you take better pictures of specific subjects. They’ll be indicated by little icons which look like the subject in question: a tiny hilly scene for the landscape mode, a face for portrait mode, a flower for a close-up mode – and so on.

 

Switching to these modes when you’re trying to capture the relevant subject will instruct your camera to automatically use the best possible settings. For close-ups or Macro pictures – which comes in very handy in spring, when you’re faced with fields of beautiful flowers – this adjusts the camera’s focus settings so it’ll be able to focus on subjects that are much closer to the lens. The opposite occurs when you select landscape mode for distant scenes, and so on.

 

Choosing these special modes means you’re more likely to get pictures you’re proud of. Experiment between the modes your camera offers, and see if you can spot the difference – this’ll help you to learn about your camera’s settings and improve your picture taking.

 

If you’re already confident with your camera, perhaps you could try using them in the wrong situations to see what happens – such as portrait mode for a landscape scene, and so on – and use your knowledge to work out how the settings are changing the result. Let us know if you have any questions – we’re always around to help!

 

 Make the most of your camera

When you picked your camera, we’re guessing you chose it for a specific reason. Maybe it’s got a super long zoom lens, like the Sony HX350 and its 50x optical zoom lens or the Sony HX90V with built-in Wifi for speedy sharing – whatever it was that first drew you to your camera, why not set yourself the challenge of making the most of it during this new season?

 

Let’s say you do have that Sony HX350 with the long zoom – try using it to its fullest extent! Perhaps you could set up a bird feeder in your back garden to see what wildlife you attract, and lurk indoors – using your long lens – to capture any feathery visitors to your garden. Alternatively you could head to the city, and use the lens to pick out architectural abstracts atop high buildings while staying at ground level – or capture candid portraits from the other side of a street.

 

To make the most of the HX90V’s Wifi-based image sharing, perhaps you could set up a brand new Instagram account for a project on a certain subject, such as springtime sunrises – or signs of the new season in an urban environment?

 

Whichever camera you own, we bet there’s a stand-out feature which you could make the most of. Tell us what you’ve picked, and show us the photos you create using it!

 

 Give your home a new look

The arrival of the warmer weather is a great opportunity to throw open your home’s windows and take a good hard look at your living space – could your walls do with a little brightening up?

 

Set yourself the challenge of taking some art for your home’s bare walls, then turning the pictures into canvas prints or actual prints to be framed in your new home gallery.

 

Abstract close-ups of new plants and flowers work well, and springtime means there are plenty around to choose from: select a colour you like and hunt out some plants which match that scheme, then get close using Macro or close-up mode and enjoy framing your subject in a creative way. Try your hand at contre-jour lighting, where you place the flower or plant between your camera and the sun – this makes petals and leaves glow vibrantly and can look fantastic in bright prints or posters.

 

A camera with a large sensor (such as the Sony HX350’s, which has 20MP) will mean that you can crop into your images after you’ve taken them without losing quality, so you can still enjoy sharp images on your walls throughout your home.

 

If you’re not sure how to edit your pictures after you’ve taken them – or if you feel like you could do with a refresher on the basics of photography, then why not sign up for one of our Academy Courses or Workshops? They take place throughout the UK on a range of subjects and topics: check here to see what’s on offer.

 

Most importantly, be sure to enjoy your camera’s full potential – you could start planning trips to locations where you know there’s photography to be had! And if you’re not sure your camera’s right for you or that you might have outgrown your current model, head into your local Jessops store where our staff will whittle down the options to pick out the one best suited to your interests.

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Snowdrops-

Winters in the UK can be long, cold and harsh – particularly if you’re a fan of picture-taking. In the real depths of the chilly season you’d be forgiven for feeling as though spring was never going to turn up… and then, out of nowhere, vast swathes of snowdrops pop up out of leaf-strewn woodland and give us all a sign that the warmer weather is just around the corner!

Snowdrops can make beautiful subjects for photos, but they’re not around for long – so it’s important to make the most of them while you can. Here’s how to capture snowdrops on camera, along with some creative ideas to get you thinking about these most seasonal of flowers…

Plan ahead

You’ve not got long to enjoy snowdrops: they normally pop up towards the end of Jan and linger until March, depending on where you’re located in the UK and the weather you’re experiencing, of course!

Some locations – particularly National Trust properties – specialise in these delicate blooms, and true Galanthus (that’s Latin for snowdrop) aficionados will make pilgrimages across the country to visit these special places. In peak snowdrop season they’re bound to be busy, so think about dropping by mid-week to enjoy photographing the flowers undisturbed by other visitors.

Set your alarm clock

Once you know where you’re heading, getting there early will give you the best possible chance to enjoy the day. As well as avoiding large crowds, you also might get an opportunity to shoot the snowdrops in morning mist, and enjoy the sideways light found at the start and end of the day.

Pack the right kit

To get the most out of a trip to photograph snowdrops you’ll need some good kit by your side. Mirrorless and DSLR owners should pack a wide range of lenses, including wide-angles to capture the banks of flowers in woodland – as well as macro lenses for extreme close-ups. Take extra memory cards and a spare battery too, if you have one, so you can extend your day out as long as you like.

If you’ve got a compact camera, the above still applies – but check your camera’s automatic modes to see if you have one that suits flowers or macro subjects.

Get a better perspective

Snowdrops are deeply tempting subjects to photograph, but so many people simply stand above them and snap downwards. The best approach is to get down to their level – which might mean a little lie down in the mud! Pack a binbag or other plastic sheeting to protect yourself from the worst of the grub, and be careful not to damage any other flowers while you’re setting up your shot!

Shooting at the same level as their white hanging teardrop-style flowers will give you a chance to appreciate their delicate details – time to get out the macro lens and experiment with a shallow depth of field. If you’re looking at a lot of flowers all together, try blurring out the other flowers so they appear as white bokeh, blurred in the back of your shot: adjust your aperture to check results as you shoot. Do you want a single bloom in focus, or a clump? Try both, and see which you prefer.

Consider your lighting (and get creative!)

Natural light is best, especially at this time of year – but the direction in which it falls on the flower can make all the difference. Try capturing the snowdrop from all angles: backlit can be particularly dramatic, leaving the snowdrop with bright glowing leaves.

If you pack a small reflector in your camera bag, you could also experiment with bouncing light back into the shot to add extra illumination. A small water spray bottle will allow you to gently add moisture when you’re working extremely close-up to flowers: these fake dewdrops can add real interest to an image.

Don’t forget black and white

Most people approach snowdrops by working in colour, especially with the bright white blooms against leaf-strewn ground and bright green leaves – but there’s no reason why a monochromatic approach wouldn’t work either, especially in high-contrast areas with shadows galore. Experiment, and tag us in if you get a good one!

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Beautiful Bokeh

Posted - 30 January, 2017
bokeh

Brighten up your portraits this winter with colourful street light bokeh!

When we talk about portrait photography we often discuss how best to use natural light, for example using the sun as a backlight. Here, we’ve got an alternative technique that involves shooting in the evening and using street lights instead of the sun.

If you ever shoot with a wide aperture you’ll notice that the area around your subject appears soft and blurred; this is known as bokeh.

If you shoot a subject in front of lights you’ll see that they too become blurred. Adding bokeh to images is a popular technique in many types of photography – especially portraits – and is a great technique for this time of year when incorporating lights.

First you need to find an area that has a lot of different lights; this could be street lamps, lights from an office block or even shop lights. Select an ISO of around 800 when shooting in low light and in aperture priority mode choose the widest aperture that your lens has. Prime lenses such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8STM or Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A are ideal for this technique as they offer extremely wide apertures of f/1.8 and f/1.4

Make sure that you’ve got autofocus turned on. Position your model with the lights behind them, then focus on the model; you can of course use manual focus if preferred. You should start to notice the lights becoming small, soft spheres of colour. If they don’t look quite right ask your model to step forward; this will create more depth between the model and the lights. As you’ll want the light on your model’s face it’s a good idea to get them to stand under the street light or you could use an LED light such as the Manfrotto Lumimuse Series 3LED.

If you don’t fancy heading outdoors or to a busy area you can also do this technique with fairy lights or any other source of light at home; the more lights the better! Hang them somewhere in your house or even in your back garden and you can get some creative portraits of your friends and family.

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