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audio3

In Part 2 of our audio guide, we covered the settings and switches for getting our RODE VideoMic and camera working well together. In this final chapter we explore some acoustics principles that affect our ability to get good audio, how to go one step further for even better results, and what solutions are there when our VideoMics are beyond ideal distances for capturing audio.

So what are the limitations of a VideoMic?

Well the golden rule here is that the closer you have your microphone to the subject matter, the better it will sound.

When you’re up close to a sound source, be it speaking person or music performance, you’re predominantly hearing the dry direct sound straight from the source, unaffected by the room itself. This is exactly what we’re hoping to capture for the best possible results. But as you move further away from your subject, you begin to hear extra sound – reflections, very short echoes as the sound source reverberates off of surfaces in the room, creating an echo. This adds up to create the sound of a room itself – the ‘echoey’, ‘roomy’ sound you will have heard when you shout into a big empty space. Every room (except an anechoic chamber!) has an acoustic signature like this, and if you clap your hands right now, you’ll hear a little (or big) ‘tail’ of echo unique to the space you’re in. We have to be mindful of this, as some spaces are better than others. And if you can hear the echo, a sensitive mic will too.

You might say that surely a VideoMic is designed to combat this, and yes that’s true – and they do, they make an enormous difference as the built-in camera mic has no selectivity. But the trick is for the best audio with the least ‘influence of the room’, you do still need to get the mic as close as you can.

Think of every picture of a professional film set you have ever seen – where is the microphone? Is it on the camera? No, it’s on a boompole, hanging just above the actors heads – no more than five or six feet from of their mouths. And these are microphones that cost thousands of pounds, potentially! For ‘Run and gun’ style shooting, solo, we can still get great results with our VideoMic on top of our camera, but for the best results – don’t assume that where the camera is, is the best place to capture audio from.  Especially given crop-sensor cameras require us to get further from our subject matter to fit them in frame!

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The great thing is that all VideoMic models (mono or stereo) feature a ⅜” thread on the bottom so they can go straight onto RØDE boompoles, and the inbuilt shock-mount means you don’t need to buy an additional cradle to defeat handling noise.

So if you have any mono VideoMic, we recommend having both a Micro Boompole (a 2 metre telescoping boompole) and a VC-1 (3 metre 3.5mm jack) extension cable on hand as an essential, highly affordable solution for ‘upgrading’ your results enormously. This will let you ‘boom’ your mic – put the camera on a tripod if you’re shooting solo – and give you the fullest, most detailed sound, with the least influence of the environment you’re shooting in.

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There is an additional two-fold benefit as well. You can turn your camera input down further – so if you’re still experiencing hiss with VideoMics that don’t feature the +20dB boost, this will alleviate that, and you’re minimising ambient hubbub by making the subject relatively louder than the street noise, traffic, and so forth.  And you look like a pro doing it!

 

But what if we can’t use a boompole, what if we’re filming a lecture, or a wedding, and we can only put our cameras at the back of the room – forty feet away? In this instance, the VideoMic is still better than the in-built sound. But that is a long way away. No professional would exclusively use a shotgun mic in that situation – this is what Lavalier mics were invented for.

 

These are tie-clip mics as you will have seen news reporters wearing, and the beauty of them is they are fixed to the speaking subject – always nice and close, no matter how far away the camera is.

 

RØDE have a rather magic solution here in the SmartLav+, a tie clip mic you can plug directly into an iPhone and many Android phones. You record with a free app (Reporter on iOS is recommended) with the phone recording in the subjects pocket, and you export your audio file afterwards and line it up with the video.  To make it even more useful you can also grab a bunch of handy cables such as RØDE SC3, which lets you plug the SmartLav+ directly into a DSLR! Or the SC1 (6 metre extension cable) and SC6…so you can plug two SmartLav+’s into a phone, and a pair of headphones for monitoring!

 

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The step-up here would be the Filmmaker Kit, Rode’s digital wireless system which gives you a broadcast Lavalier mic, beamed wirelessly straight to your camera (no after-sync required!), and it includes the +20dB boost too.

 

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We hope that helps demystify the process for you! It’s completely possible to get professional audio into your camera. And while it’s important to have the right mic for the right job, it’s equally important to learn your tools, be mindful of the environment, and to experiment – so you get it right first time.

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200D

Getting into DSLR photography is made simple and easy with Canon’s latest release

 

Canon has announced its latest DSLR, the EOS 200D. Aimed squarely at the beginner market, this new camera is designed to help those new to this type of photography get great pictures.

 

Here are a few key features of this exciting new release to get your teeth into!

 

Canon EOS 200D Sensor

 

Canon’s new EOS 200D features a next-generation 24.2 megapixel sensor, an upgrade from the 100D’s 18 megapixel. The 200D has a large APS-C sized sensor, which gives you confidence that it will perform well in low-light, as well as creating great shallow depth of field effects.

 

Canon EOS 200D Body

 

The Canon EOS 200D is the world’s lightest DSLR to feature both an APS-C sized sensor as well as an articulating screen. The camera’s small size means it’s perfectly placed to slot into your life, without taking up too much room in your bag. It also features an optical viewfinder, which gives you 96% coverage. Being part of the EOS line-up means it is compatible with a huge range of accessories and lenses.

 

Canon EOS 200D Screen

 

An upgrade from the 100D is that the 200D now has an articulating and touch-sensitive screen. That comes in super handy when you’re composing images from awkward angles, when shooting in Live View. The 200D boasts the world’s fastest Live View AF, being as quick as 0.03 seconds. Use the screen to change the AF point, or pinch to zoom into your images in playback.

 

Canon EOS 200D Connectivity

 

Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are available, working together to make setting up a connection as quick and as seamless as possible. You can transfer images to your smartphone ready for sharing on social media, as well as take remote control of the camera – ideal for group shots and selfies.

Canon EOS 200D Video

 

Shoot Full HD videos at the touch of the button with the Canon EOS 200D. You can also make use of the great time-lapse feature, while dual-pixel CMOS AF helps to get your subject sharp in super quick time while recording.

 

Canon EOS 200D User Interface

 

Those who are new to DSLR photography are bound to appreciate the newly redesigned Canon user interface, which we have already seen in cameras such as the Canon EOS 800D. Its friendly, colourful and easy-to-understand graphics will walk you through how changing certain settings will have an impact on your photography. This instruction helps you on the way to mastering your new DSLR and getting to grips with advanced photography.

 

The Canon EOS 200D is now available to pre-order: reserve yours here! Available in different colours.

Let us know what you think via our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages

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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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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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Be a Stargazer!

Posted - 2 February, 2017
telescope

For out-of-this-world views there’s only one option: grab a telescope and discover the world beyond.

Winter is one of the best times for stargazing, not only does the sun set earlier meaning the night sky arrives quicker, but there’s also the opportunity to spot meteor showers. Of course you won’t want to miss these spectacles and we’ve got a wide range of telescopes to help you with your space quest.

If you’re just starting out, the Jessops 300×76 or Jessops 600×50 telescopes are ideal. The 300×76 telescope is mounted on a Dobsonian style stand so you can use it on a tabletop or similar surface. It’s a high quality 76mm reflector telescope and offers a maximum focal length of 300mm. The 600×50 telescope on the other hand is mounted on an aluminium tripod, making it perfect for using in your back garden. A focal length of 600mm allows you to see even further.

For more advanced stargazers there’s the Jessops 700×76 telescope, which has a wide 76mm objective diameter and 700mm focal length to provide you with stunning views of the moon, planets and deep space. The Jessops 900×70 telescope zooms to 900mm and features slow motion controls and an equatorial mount making it easy to find and track targets such as stars and galaxies.

Alternatively the Jessops 900×114 telescope with EQII mount has an objective diameter of 114mm and thanks to the high-quality optical components and transmission coatings, it offers enhanced image brightness and clarity.

For those who want to observe more than outer space the Jessops Telescope and Microscope Gift Set includes a compact and portable telescope that offers a focal length of 360mm as well as a microscope that features 300x 600x and 1200x magnifying power so you can see intricate details.

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Take_a_new_view

Get incredible reach this winter with a fantastic pair of binoculars. We’ve got a huge range of binoculars to suit all needs and budgets, so why not try a spot of birdwatching and see what you can discover.

You might think that winter will be a difficult time for spotting wildlife, but many animals will be on the search for food and large flocks of birds such as waxwings migrate to the UK during winter. This makes it the perfect opportunity to get out and spot birds you may not see at other times in the year.

The RSPB has nature reserves across the UK, which are perfect for viewing a wide variety of wildlife in winter as well as other times of the year. At costal locations birds are off searching for food during low tide, so the best time to view them is high tide. It’s a good idea to find a viewing position an hour or so before your chosen bird is expected to come back from feeding so you can get great views of them returning.

Head to the town at dusk and you may spot starlings “murmurating” as they share information, keep warm and stick together for safety. Woodlands are great for spotting birds as they search for food. They may be difficult to see at first but if you listen for their calls to each other you’re sure to spy them.

Wrap up warm, grab yourself some binoculars and head outdoors this winter to enjoy wildlife in its natural habitat.

Compact binoculars:

Jessops 8-20×25 Compact zoom binoculars £19.99 This ultra-portable set of pocket binoculars feature a strong construction and sturdy armouring for a firm grip. With a modern stylish design and 20x magnification they are perfect for everyday use.

Jessops 8×25 compact waterproof binoculars £29.97 With 8x magnification you can easily see distant subjects with these fog and waterproof compact binoculars, perfect for winter. That’s to multi-coated optics, enjoy high quality bright and clear views.

Jessops 10×25 Compact waterproof binoculars £49.99 Soft, non-slip rubber-armoured coatings means you’ll be able to hold these binoculars easily even in wet weather and with their waterproof construction you can keep viewing in the rain. Zoom in close with 10x magnification.

Full size binoculars:

Jessops 10×50 Full size binoculars £24.99 Boasting a strong build quality and great optics, the Jessops 10×50 binoculars offer 10x magnification so you can see further afield. With a splash proof build there’s no need to worry about a drop of rain.

Jessops 10-30×50 full size zoom binoculars £39.99 Switch between a large panormanic view and getting close up to intricate details with these versatile 10-30×50 binoculars. See clearly that’s to multi-coated optics offering increased light transmission

Jessops 10×42 full size waterproof £49.99 Thanks to Bak-4 optics and multi-green coated ocular lenses these binoculars offer incredible brightness. Keep viewing in the rain that’s to their water-resistance and benefit from 10x magnification

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new-photo-projects-new-year

The start of a new year is a great excuse to kick off a project or creative endeavour – so if you’re setting goals and intentions for the twelve months ahead, your photography should definitely be included in your resolutions.

 

Simply saying “I will take more photos” might work for some, but most of us need a project or direction to focus our minds and keep us picture-taking long beyond the second week of January. Here are our suggestions that’ll keep you shooting throughout the coming 52 weeks – and don’t forget to tell us which one you pick!

 Focus on a single subject

This is a classic way to keep your eyes on the prize: choosing a specific subject, person, object or place to document throughout the year means you’ll be able to see your photography improving as the year rolls around. But what to choose?

 

Perhaps your dog could be a willing subject – or maybe there’s a place which is important to you. If you’re going for a location, choose one that’s close to your house or workplace so you can get there speedily if the weather conditions give you great light. Take a look at Kevin Day’s legendary set of shots of a dead tree and you’ll get the idea.

 Try a 365 or 52

As the name suggests, these challenges see you take a photo every single day or week for a year. They’re extremely tricky to handle but if you make your daily or weekly photo part of your routine and stick to it, you’ll be hugely proud of yourself next Christmas as you near the end of your challenge – and your photo skills will definitely have improved. Again, giving your 365 a theme can help you on those grey days when photographic subjects feel few and far between.

 Turn back time

If you’re already a prolific photographer, what about taking a look through your existing archive for inspiration? One project could be to choose a shot you’re proud of from each month of the previous year, and then see if you can improve on it during the month ahead. You might need to buy extra kit, or get professional advice, or maybe attend a course or two – but you’re guaranteed to better your skills.

 100 Strangers

One for the brave, or those looking to improve their people pictures: this challenge sees you commit to taking 100 portraits of total strangers throughout the year ahead. These aren’t candids stolen from a distance, but proper portraits which involve you asking the subject for permission and posing them with a suitable background – scary stuff if you’ve not tried it before, but we guarantee you’ll be proud of yourself if you accomplish your goal. There are all sorts of sources of support to be found online – try this Flickr group for inspiration.

 Show people your work

Whichever project you choose, one simple way to ensure you stay on track is to upload your work to a site like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, and share your intention with others – that way they’ll be there to cheer you on when you succeed and provide inspiration if you get stuck. Make sure you’re following us to take creative advantage of the beautiful images in the Jessops community – and be sure to tag us in so we get to see your shots!

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xmas_photo_blog

Does the struggle to pick the perfect gift stress you out? Can frantic festive shopping make you break out in a sweat? If you’ve got seasonalitis caused by the onset of Christmas shopping and are desperate to give gifts which actually mean something to the recipient, don’t fret: we’ve got a selection of of photogift solutions to solve your winter woes. And you’ve still got plenty of time to get creative!

 

Get cosy with a custom cushion

This season’s all about hygge – and what better way to transform your cosy space than with some customised cushions featuring your own pictures. You could get arty and use abstract macro shots of leaves, foodstuffs or colourful scenes – or dig out your favourite holiday photos for reminders of warmer climes.

 

Better yet: use family portraits or pictures of your flatmates to assign them their very own cushion – no more arguments when it comes to sofa-based film time. You’ve got until the 12th December to order one of our Premium Cushions for home delivery or store pickup: plenty of time to select your favourite shots…

 

Pick a perfect puzzle

Got something special to say, or want to remind someone of a favourite event of the past 12 months? Delayed gratification is a glorious thing – so use a special photo to create a jigsaw puzzle and pack off the pieces for them to open on Christmas morning. Maybe choose a picture of a surprise holiday destination overseas, or if you’re more locally-minded, pick a shot of your favourite place in the UK and plan a weekend getaway for the new year? This is a particularly clever way of sharing news of a new baby: you could use a photo of your bump to send to a close relative or friend – or maybe even propose with a photo of you on one knee… If you do pop a question or break news via one of our jigsaws, you’ve simply GOT to let us know – tag us in on Twitter or Instagram so we can see your work! Our last order dates for jigsaws are either the 12th or 19th of December depending on the sort you order: either way, that’s more than enough time to work out what you want to say to that special someone.

 

Make every cup count

A customised photo mug is a lovely way to brighten up your kitchen cupboards, or equip someone with a unique office tea holder that’s guaranteed not to go walkabout. Use a favourite holiday photo or – for those very special friends – an embarrassing photo of the recipient to ensure it never leaves their desk. You’ve got until December 19 to pick out the perfect picture: spend those days wisely to dig out something extra special.

 

Keep track in style

A personalised calendar can make a really touching gift, especially for young families looking to find gifts for grandparents or other significant relatives – pick photos from events or special occasions, or show how young people have grown as the last year went by. Better yet: for a reminder of key birthdays, select a shot of the individual in question – now they’ll have no excuse!

 

Don’t forget to tag us in on pictures of your creations – we can’t wait to see how you use our photogifts this festive season…

 

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telescopes-blog

Keen to stargaze for yourself, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got advice for you: here’s our top questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge…

 

Where will I be using my new telescope?

If you’re expecting to watch from the safety of your bedroom or attic, then you won’t be so concerned about portability: but if you’re planning to head for the hills and take your telescope with you wherever you go, then a travel-friendly variety is what you’re looking for. Check the overall weight as well: you don’t want to be lugging a heavy one around with you!

 

What will I be looking at?

Hoping to watch the stars, or planning a look out to sea? Think carefully about your subject matter before you take the plunge. If you’re scheming some star-watching then it doesn’t matter if your view is the right way up (many tripods flip your view) or if your chosen tripod can focus at close distances. You’ll only need a small aperture to look at the moon and close-up objects like other planets – but if you’re hoping to peer into the depths of the galaxy, you’ll need a scope with a larger aperture as well as a high magnification.

 

Has my chosen telescope got a good mount?

A bad tripod or mount beneath a telescope can ruin your viewing experience: it needs to be stable enough to support your ‘scope and also keep it steady while you’re looking at the stars. Even the slightest nudge can disturb your star-gazing: particularly annoying if you’d just focused on something special.

 

How often am I going to be stargazing?

It’s often said that the best telescope is the one you actually use – so see how complicated your chosen scope is to set up and pack away – especially if you’re planning on taking it out and about. The Celestron AstroMaster 130EQ3 has a quick and easy four-piece set up that doesn’t require any tools: making it ideal for those looking for simpler stargazing.

 

Does my telescope need any extra pieces to work?

Some telescopes need additional accessories before they’ll function properly – check what’s been included in your box before you buy to make sure you’ve got everything you need to stargaze as soon as you get home. Now all you need to do is wait for nightfall…

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