Trey Ratcliff, Miss Aniela, Paris and the seduction of surrealism

Just over two weeks ago I visited Château de Champlâtreux, just outside Paris, an imposing example of French architecture built around 1750. An appropriately dramatic setting for the Midnight Workshop with Miss Aniela and Trey Ratcliff.

Much of the building is unoccupied and left to collect the dust and cobwebs that veil a chaotic heap of antique relics, chairs, taxidermy, sculptures and paintings. Silk curtains ripped, tattered and draped over tall windows, throwing soft light over the debris. A photographer’s paradise.

Down in the Dungeons

Two Models were organised by Miss Aniela and partner Matthew Lennard, styled in fashions of the period like Madam Pomodour. There were dungeons, damp and dark with glimpses of daylight through the bars. An impossible challenge for any sensor, lens or camera. Having tried HDR for the first time the previous evening on Trey’s Paris Photowalk, now was the chance to use it.


The challenge was to retain detail in the walls and the window

Some HDR processes can flatten an image, losing the drama of light against dark which often defines an image and strengthens composition. Here was a situation where I wanted detail in the dark, the damp moss, cobwebs, and texture, but I didn’t want to completely blow out the window. The window and the model are important, they need to balance each other, both are pushed to the corners of the frame. Confined to the corner, she looks small and the stone prison engulfs her.

Whilst I’m not particularly creating a totally natural look, sometimes light just needs to be light so I’ve brightened the window back up a little. The danger is that it becomes so bright it is too distracting from the model. The only black in the final image is the arched doorway behind the model which gives the image depth. I bracketed my exposure and used a tripod to get 5 different exposures. The model is then re-added choosing the best exposure and pose from the 5 frames. I have used a really high ISO which is good on the 5D because I needed a fast enough shutter speed to get the model reasonably in focus in one of the frames.

The second day was spent processing. I had Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS5 with me.

If you are shooting in RAW it is probably best to export these as jpgs first and use these for your HDR image as the RAW files can be a bit big to process. I selected all five exposures in Lightroom and chose:

Photo> Edit In> Merge to HDRpro in Photoshop

Wait for your Mac or PC to chug through them and then you can play with the sliders until you get the effect you are after. In My case I wanted to keep the dark walls dark and imposing in contrast to the window lit model.

Once happy with the background I then found the clearest exposure of the model from my original RAW files and pasted the image over my HDR version. Add a layer mask and mask out all of the background.

Where the model has moved slightly so that you can still see bits of the HRD version behind the RAW version but I can tidy up behind the model with the clone tool.

I took this image in a landscape orientation with the square crop in my head. I use a square crop a lot of the time now. Somehow you can be more adventurous with a square. We don’t expect things to be composed in a certain way when presented with a square.


Constructing reality


Victorian postcard

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about constructing and manipulating reality in my work, so seeing how Trey and Miss Aniela work was great timing.

One thing that intrigues me about Miss Aniela is her capacity to see the possibilities for an image as she works. She takes images on the tripod either side of the model horizontally and vertically in case she gets a idea later on that would need a different composition.

She may merge these images later after she has decided what space to let the model occupy in the frame. There may be other elements she can add to the image, for example stock images taken for the purpose of creating surreal manipulations at a later date.

She showed us how to warp scenes using the warp tool in Photoshop instead of vertical and horizontal perspective shifts. You keep more of the composition in the frame this way because you are not forced to crop the image. Top Tip.

Tom Anderson (yes THE Tom Anderson of MySpace was at the workshop), remarked at our farewell dinner that he was interested in the way Natalie created and stage managed a set using props. Whilst the images she creates are unique and original the concept of creating a stage for a person is not a new one. The Victorians used to paint backgrounds, use props and literally cut and paste!

I had to include this image, I love  everything about this image, this is Warsaw 1946, unknown photographer. More images like this on my Pinterest “about life” board.

Warsaw 1946

Warsaw 1946


A developing fascination with the surreal

If you are familiar with my images you are going to see a change. I want to go back to a place of total creative freedom, building up images from different sources, using my camera, props, taking new stock and using archived images, putting them together in a way that tells a story.

Back in 1992, on a Graphic Design BA, I created a photo montage photographed it, changed it a little and photographed it, again and again in the same place, letting small flowers die, taking things out of the image and adding objects in. I photographed it with an angle poise lamp so that I could replicate the movement of the sun over time. The raised parts of the montage cast shadows like sundials.

I found the negatives of these a few weeks ago although some are damaged. I took these with a Canon EOS, a film camera I still have, they called it a digital camera because it had electronic buttons to change your aperture and speed and an LED display, mega modern in those days, may publish them soon.

I want to get into changing the meaning of things by using more than one image in an interesting way. My current board for montage inspiration is here.

Sometimes in deliberate and transparent ways like John Stezaker. (Deutsche Börse photography prizewinner 2012). I can’t get enough of his images at the moment.

Mask XXXV by John Stezaker


I’m also looking at ways to create subtle combinations of images in ways that look surreal, constructed to look like reality or nearly real.

Not being prepared with suitable stock for the midnight workshop, I needed another idea to create something different. What I loved most about the Chateau was the dust and cobwebs, the dramatic contrast between a once glittering example of all that was lavish and the careless abandonment, the greyness and quiet. I considered how to enhance these qualities  While Natalie, the other model and delegates were busy in one room, I took the opportunity of setting up in an opposite room. I cleared a space for the model in the heaps of chairs as I wanted her to be central. She looks more imposing here and her direct gaze is unnerving. I took 5 exposures, when merged to HDR the furniture looked flat and grey, a look you’d often try and avoid, but in this instance, perfect. Again I took the best exposure of the model and put her back in the picture using a layer and mask.

great expectations

great expectations

I thought about how I might make dust and cobwebs, so did a search for brushes, many cobweb and dust brush downloads later and I had the tools I needed. I sampled colours from the image then made them lighter and greyer and painted dust and cobwebs in layer, referencing images of real dust and cobwebs to see how they picked up the light, and dusted the edges of things. I drew them on layers varying opacity, colour and brushes. I then masked out any area that I didn’t like. Her eyes looked dull so I added some light and clarity to the eyes. This looks great printed big, I’ve just prepared one for a performance photography exhibition at the Dome from December 6 in the Founders Room. You can order prints there or order online from Redbubble.

What’s next?

I think I’ve been shy of obvious manipulation in the past, too sensitive to the online hammering I sometimes get from street photography purists.

I will always do street though, there will just be more variety. When in the streets surrounded by noise and people, I see that angle and I move fast enough to catch it just as real life all falls into place for a split second, I actually get an adrenalin rush. It’s magic and nothing can beat it. Why would I ever want to give that up?

I don’t want to just break the rules though, I want total freedom to influence and create at every step of the way from conception, the creation of a set, the photography, all the way through to the processing. I may do more self portraits. I built this set from seed in March this year and spent several months growing it inside my Victorian conservatory. I made the dress out of the leaves, with the help of my niece Amber.

self portait

self portait

This is one of my favourite self portraits by Mary Britton Clouse – Self Portrait, 2005, surreal, constructed and natural – an amazing image.

Mary Britton Clouse – Self Portrait, 2005

Mary Britton Clouse – Self Portrait, 2005

I’m not sure quite how it’s going to go but expect my work to be more varied for a while.

The thing that intrigued me about Miss Aniela is her capacity to see the possibilities for an image as she works.

She takes images on the tripod either side of the model horizontally and vertically in case she gets a idea later on that would need a different composition.

She may merge these images later after she has decided what space to let the model occupy in the frame.

There may be other elements she can add to the image, for example stock images taken for the purpose of creating surreal manipulations at a later date.

She showed us how to warp scenes using the warp tool in Photoshop instead of vertical and horizontal perspective shifts. You keep more of the composition in the frame this way because you are not forced to crop the image.

Whilst I’m not going to go all HDR, I’m really interested in using as a technique to get images that no sensor, camera or lens is currently capable of.

I’ll aim to keep things fairly natural looking in terms of light and colour, anything else is game as long as it adds to the image in some way.

Taking pictures of Lewes Bonfire Night

I recently resurrected a post on Lewes bonfire night photography. One of my photo friends pointed out that the Lightroom info was out of date. When I reread the post I realised that my hit rate for nights such as these has improved since then! So I’m updating this post to include extra bits and pieces that you may find useful on the night. Of course using a tripod is the usual advice for night time low light conditions, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. On top of that your subjects are usually moving which makes it even harder to get a reasonable sharp shot. I think you need to accept a little softness and focus on capturing the light and drama of the night.

Lewes Bonfire Night Photograph

It is one of the most challenging of lighting conditions. There is very little light, except in small areas of the torches where it is burning bright, your camera simply cannot record detail in all of the areas of the image, it will burn out the fire and/or block in areas of dark. So what can you do?

First up the ISO

When you up the ISO (choose the biggest ISO numbers on your camera) there is a loss of quality, your image will become noisy. The extent of the noise at  a high ISO will depend on your camera. The latest high end SLRs do a great job of minimising noise, cheaper cameras will struggle. Either end of the scale you need to edit the noise out later using Photoshop or Lightroom.

The sliders in Lightroom are really easy to use (find them in the ‘Detail’ drop-down of the development menu) and you can experiment with colour and luminance sliders and the detail and contrast sliders until you think you have an acceptable amount of noise and an acceptable amount of detail. The clarity slider can help too, found in the ‘Basic’ drop-down to balance the softening effect that reducing noise can have.

When I am converting to Black and White, sometimes I reduce noise only a fraction and add grain. It can give the effect of a film grained silver print and the little grain disguises the noise.

Lewes Bonfire Night

What Aperture should I use?

In low light most photographers recommend a really fast lens. That means a lens that allows you to use the widest of apertures 1.8 for example. On bonfire night, when everything is moving I find it impossible to get the right bit in focus with an aperture this wide. If you manage to get someone standing still, waiting or preparing for something, and you have enough light to focus of the eyes of a person, you would probably get a great shot. On the whole though I find this aperture gives me such a small plane of focus in the image that most of my images end up not sharp in the right place. F4 is easier to handle, though you are loosing a lot of light and this will effect your shutter speed (making it slower and creating more motion blur). Another trick to help you here is to set your camera to underexpose, again the better the camera the more detail you will be able to recover in photoshop or lightroom later, and the less noise in your dark areas. It’s also worth noting that bonfire night images look better on the darker side, it’s dark and you are capturing the way the street and the people are catching the light so don’t be afraid to underexpose a little.

It’s a balancing act, you cant have the ideal ISO, aperture and shutter speed for the best quality image in these lighting conditions, there are going to have to be sacrifices.

Lewes Bonfire Night

What shutter speed should I use?

Your shutter is going to need to be open for longer to record the limited light here. With a super wide angle lens I can get away with 30th second sometimes, but I need to be close with a wide angle and this can be tricky as the crowds are quite thick and fierce. Try and find yourself on the outskirts of the action at times, sometimes, early on,  you can catch people preparing to march, an ideal opportunity to get in close and try shooting with a shutter speed of 60th or even 30th of a second.  With a longer lens you will probably need a faster speed of at least 60th of a sec and usually  more. If your camera or lens has image stabilisation, turn it on.

Lewes Bonfire Night

Bonfire night tips and tricks

  • Use RAW. Make sure you have your camera set to RAW before you go. With detail being lost because of the extremem lighting condition you need the best quality image your camera is capable of getting. It’s going to help when you are trying to recover detail later.
  • As mentioned before the outskirts of the action can provide better opportunities for people dressed up. It can be really difficult to get near enough for good people shots on the night.
  • Remember it’s light that we are short of here, so give yourself an advantage and choose a spot under a bright street lamp, or brightly lit shop window.
  • Try some shots from the ground if you can using the road or pavement to steady your camera, or find a street sign or bin or bollard to stabilise your camera.
  • When taking pictures of people on the move so try motor drive and shoot the movement. It is a bit hit and miss but you might come out with an ace.
  • You are unlikely to be able to retain the detail of the flames in every shot and get a reasonable enough exposure on the face, expose for the face and worry about the highlights later. You could fake a little fire detail later using a piece of fire from another frame, and place it on a layer above the burned out flame, reduce the opacity so that it’s barely there, nobody will notice!
  • Notice moments when a torch is lighting up a face, watch out for people lighting flares, chase the light and notice when a face is catching it, these will become the most effective portraits with the best detail and focus on the face.
  • Learn where all the buttons are on your camera that I’ve talked about above then practise adjusting them with your eyes closed. You’ll soo be able to play your camera in the dark. Alternatively take a little torch!

Brighton Zombie Walk – Beach of the Dead Photography

The Beach of the Dead is approaching. An event that creates infinite opportunities for fun, colourful and eye popping images.

I’m best known for my event photography and each time I write a post after the event I always think that it would be more useful to post advice BEFORE the event. I remembered this time. Here’s my “getting the best out of Brighton Zombie Walk” post for photographers. It’s on Saturday 20th October and the walk begins at the West Pier at 3pm.

The easiest times to get the shots you want are before and after the actual event.

Arrive an hour before kick off and you’ll have plenty of time to mill around an ask characters to move or pose for you.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people, they are usually excited and pleased to be of interest. I really enjoy this part of the day, chatting and laughing, finding creative angles and working with people to achieve them. It’s a good idea to show them the really good images afterwards, if you get an interesting shot they’ll be even more keen to help you get more.

This lady was happy to pose. I explained what I needed to do to get the image, I had to practically rest the camera on her ample bosom, she was happy to oblige. I could never get this kind of shot if I didn’t engage with my subjects.


Talk to your subjects, get their trust and make them laugh

Think about different angles, looking up, looking down, finding symmetry and strong diagonals. Choose your backgrounds carfully, consider turning the camera for a diagonal portait.

Beach of the Dead Brighton

Try tilting the camera for a different angle – taken with my fisheye

A lot of my images are shot from a low vantage point. This started as a way of getting clean blue sky backgrounds and became a style, I often take these without looking through the lens.

With a wide angle lens like mine, 16-35mm full frame, this means getting very close to your subject’s face. Another good reason to understand your lens. An ultra wide can include too much background if you are not close enough. Whilst you can use this to your advantage when the background is great, sometimes you want to cut it out of the frame.

Beach of the Dead Brighton-2

looking up adds an interesting perspective and keeps the background cleaner

With practise, you can learn how close you need to be and what angle to hold the camera so that you can keep talking to the subject. Holding the camera about chest height, get in close while distracting your subject with chat.

Read more

Simple On Camera Flash Guide

If you get confused every time someone tries to explain balancing flash with ambient light in manual flash mode, don’t worry there is an easy alternative.  You can get brilliant fill-flash results using automatic flash and still have control!

What is Fill Flash?

Fill flash is usually used to light your subject in situations where the background is too bright and your main subject will be too dark without flash.  It can eliminate hard dark shadows when the sun is very strong, it will often put a lovely sparkle in someone’s eye.

It is really easy to use fill flash pictures outdoors in daylight, even in bright sunlight using an external flash or your cameras built in flash. With most DSLR cameras using Program mode (P), shutter speed priority Tv, or aperture priority Av,  if you pop up your flash, or turn on your speedlight  your camera knows you are outdoors and will do a really good job of filling your subject with just enough light.   If you’ve set a shutter speed in TV mode or an aperture in AV mode that your camera cannot use to expose correctly, the problem value will blink on and off in your viewfinder.  You can then adjust your speed or aperture until the value stops blinking. Sometimes you can change the ISO (making your sensor more or less sensitive to light) if you really want to keep the shutter speed or aperture the same.

fully automatic on camera flash

This image was taken in P mode with fully automatic flash – click to buy this image

Your camera will estimate how much fill-flash you need so that the flash appears subtle and not too artificial.  Sometimes, if the sun is in front of your subject you will be asking your camera to estimate how much flash is needed to fill in harsh shadows. Sometimes, if your subject is backlit, you are asking your camera to estimate the amount of flash needed to be the primary source of light on your subject.

Using Flash Exposure Compensation for more control

What if leaving your camera to decide doesn’t give you the effect you want?  Using Flash Exposure Compensation is a really easy way to add or subtract a little flash while keeping the correct exposure for the ambient light in your background.

Using Exposure Compensation for more control

You can use Exposure Compensation to lighten or darken your background, the flash output will remain unchanged, so your subject will be exposed correctly.  A great technique for getting a really moody sky and making your subject appear to pop out of the image. It’s also really useful for balancing flash with low light, indoors or at night outside.

using exposure compensation with flash

This image was taken in program mode with exposure compensation of -2/3 (click to buy this image)

Flash limitations

If you are shooting against the sun, your flash may not have the power to balance such a powerful light source.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are more than 6 to 8 feet away from your subject your on camera flash will struggle.  Speedlites may struggle if the subject is more than 15 or 20 feet (4-6m) away.

Night-time and indoor flash

Usually if you use automatic flash settings indoors you get a really brightly lit subject and a dark background. To get a more balanced background exposure you will need to expose the background for longer, or increase the sensitivity of your sensor. To achieve this you can increase the ISO (making your sensor more sensitive to light), use a wider aperture (smaller f numbers) or choose a slower shutter speed.

In aperture or shutter speed modes the camera will automatically try and expose your background properly, if you choose a shutter speed or aperture that won’t allow this the opposite value will flash in your viewfinder.

Unlike using outdoor, daylight fill flash, P mode is not the best option indoors or in low light because your camera limits it’s shutter speed and won’t allow speeds slower than 1/60th of a second with flash. You may want the background to be exposed for longer than this.

Your flash will be limited by its sync speed, most flashes will flash for 1/250 sec, and the flash will keep your subject reasonably sharp even when the exposure is longer than the flash duration.

Sometimes simply choosing an ISO setting of 400 or 800 whilst in aperture or shutter speed mode is all you may need to do.

Choosing a slower shutter speed (allowing more background light to hit your sensor) is another option, but remember to hold your camera as still as possible, and ask your subject to keep as still as they can.

You can still experiment with flash and exposure compensation to get the effect you need. If the background is still too dark use exposure compensation and the flash output will remain the same but the background will be brighter (with a + setting). Alternatively if your subject is too bright use flash compensation with a minus value and your background will remain the same but your subject will be less brightly lit.


What Digital Camera – My Camera – Micro Four-Thirds

I was asked if I would like to have my images published in “What Digital Camera” magazine. I told them I have a 1DS, and two micro four thirds camera the Panasonic  GF1 and GH2. They responded by saying that the micro four thirds models were probably of more interest to their readers. Oh dear I thought, I only use my micro for days out, family, walking the dog and short breaks. All of my ‘serious photography’ is done on the 1DS. Then there is the fact that, try though they might, micro four thirds cameras still do not produce the same quality as a mid to high range SLR. It was a challenge at first but being able to view by camera type in Lightroom made the task relatively easy, selecting the best from the GF1 and GH2.

I use Photoshop and Lightroom for editing. If you need to learn more about Photoshop then take a look at the Photoshop Training courses at Silicon Beach Training.

They chose to publish four of the images, one of my mum and one of my dog! It made me think of how easy it is to make images worth keeping from everyday situations, the ones when I have my small camera with me.

Here is the short-list of the images they picked from those I sent them. Below you will find the full editorial.

Andy and Filby - Newhaven Beach

Andy and Filby – Newhaven Beach


I have had a Canon 1Ds for five years now. I love the clarity and sharpness I get from it and it is still my weapon of choice when I’m going out for a serious shoot. With one additional lens and a flash unit, however, it’s like carrying a backpack full of concrete. A year and a half ago I invested in a little micro four-thirds camera the Panasonic GF1.

Children of the Desert - India

Children of the Desert – India

I have used it a lot, I’ve taken it with me for days out, dog walks, anytime really when I don’t want to be lumbered and weighed down. I have an ultra wide lens; I’ve always liked to shoot wide. It’s a 7-14mm which acts as a 14-28mm and I use this most of the time.

Filby on Mount Caburn - Ringmer

Filby on Mount Caburn – Ringmer

I’ve since upgraded to the GH2 mainly because the back screen broke almost as soon as I started using the GF1 and got progressively worse. The GH2 has a flip back screen, so I can keep it safely tucked away when I’m not using it.

old railway land lewes

Lewes River Ouse

Sometimes I miss the extra detail I get from my pro camera, and I miss the ability to crop hard. With a smaller sensor than the larger pro cameras it can lack detail in the highlights and shadows. Also the distortion of using such a wide lens is more pronounced than when using the wide angle for my pro camera. Having been spoiled with a pro camera I find the noise levels can be quite noticeable in low light. On the other hand I’ve got loads of images that I would have missed, just because I’ve had a camera on me, and with a bit of tweaking in Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop some missed detail can be recovered or sorted with a little cheating!

My Mum

My Mum

I love street photography and I often look at the work of Eric Kim who uses an Olympus Pen. I see blown out highlights and blocked in shadows but they just don’t seem to matter, the images have impact because they are real, because they have impact,  not because they have registered the most detail. Sometime I think that pro cameras have become so sophisticated that we get bogged down with perfectionism, just because it’s possible.

old railway land lewes

old railway land Lewes

My husband and I run Silicon Beach Training in Brighton and I use both the GH2 and the GF1 creating video for work. I must say the video quality is brilliant and, because they use facial recognition, they are in fact much superior to the Canon 5D.

Swanky Bar - City of London

Swanky Bar – City of London

If you need a little help with processing your images in Photoshop we provide brilliant Photoshop Courses for beginners and advanced, as well as SEO Training and Social Media Courses.

What Digital Camera - Left

What Digital Camera – Left



What Digital Camera - Right

What Digital Camera – Right

Street Photography – Eric Kim Workshop

I attended an Eric Kim workshop last Saturday. I attend a lot of workshops even when I cover some of the same ground there is always something new to learn and great people to meet. I had intended to write some philosophical street photography musings based on the workshop, but when I looked at my notes, all just keywords and short sentences, I thought that’s it.

Street Photography workshop – 50 tips from Eric Kim

1. Smile

Happy Lady

SMILE – LOOK HAPPY – (click image to buy)

2. Look Happy

3. Capture the essence of people

4. Opportunities are all around

5. Jump in

6. Work fast

7. Have courage

8.  Take risks

9. Tell stories


tell stories


10. Pick the moment

11. Take candid photographs

12. Interact with Environment

13. Forget about Kit

14. Get Passionate

15. Capture the human condition

16. Open your Eyes

17. Look up

Look Up - Brighton Pride

Look Up – Brighton Pride – (click image to buy)

18. Look Down

brighton naked bike ride - looking down - (click image to buy)

brighton naked bike ride – looking down – (click image to buy)

19. Use your Lunchtime

20. Notice the unnoticed

21. Be bold

22. People love having their picture taken!

23. The doubts are in your Mind

24. Forget what others think

25. The more you do it, the less awkward it will be

26. Creepiness is proportionate to focal length…

27. Get close

Pug Brighton Pride Dog Show - GET CLOSE - (click image to buy)


28. Shoot wide

Crawford Market, vegetable market, Mumbai, India

SHOOT WIDE – Crawford Market- Mumbai – (click image to buy)

29. Be invisible

30. Try P mode

31. Use a small camera

32. See beauty in the mundane

shoreditch london street


33. Relax

34. See things form different angles

35. Small aperture – Fast Shutter

36. Faster or equal to 250th sec

37. Turn off Image Stabilization

38. Experiment

39. Always have a camera with you

40. Look for Juxtaposition…

41. Capture relationships between people or things

42. You only need a handful of good photos…

43. Be easy on yourself

44. Look for signs and objects that interact

45. Get your timing right

46. Practise

47. Wait for the moment…

48. Grab the shot

49. Look for texture and shadow

50. Have Fun

If you liked this you’ll love Eric’s 100 things I have learned about photography.

Silicon Beach Training offer workshops in Lightroom,  Photoshop, Advanced Photoshop and have recently added Premiere Elements Training for all of you budding video fanatics who want to edit video for your blog.

Lomo Kev and Using Flickr for Photographers

Great night at the camera club last night. Kevin Meredith AKA Lomo Kev talked us through his impressive photography achievements from the early days of flickr to the publication of his books.  52 Photographic Projects and Hot Shots: How to Refresh Your Photos and of his upcoming publication Toy Cameras which I’m looking forward to.

Lomo Kev at Brighton Camera Club

Lomo Kev at Brighton Camera Club

Using Flickr as a platform to publicise your work is a must in the array of Social Media options for Photographers. Kevin is a shining example of someone who used Flickr to show his images, and gain world wide recognition for his unique and quirky style. Over time, people started to hire him for commissions; He has worked for Dr Martins and The Times newspaper – all because of his evident passion for photography displayed in his account on Flickr. One thing he mentioned in in talk is that it is good to create themes and sets of subjects. His interesting collection of shoe images and of course the reputation that he had built up, were key to  his Dr Martins commission for which he was sent to LA – not a bad gig. His wellie collection lead to the Times Newspaper feature, and his portrait montages have lead to fashion commissions.

Flickr’s big strength is in its communities. There are Flickr groups consisting of photo libraries and discussion forums for nearly any topic imaginable. Whether it’s a type of camera, a technique, a theme, a location, or even a color, there’s a Flickr group of fellow enthusiasts devoted to that topic.

I myself have sold work through flickr, got commissions etc. I have had enquiries from magazines, newspapers, sportswear suppliers, families the list goes on. People have found me by searching for location or subject matter, for example when I cover an event I often get enquires as my images are well tagged and will come up prominently in searches for the event name. Flickr supports a wide range of metadata. Keywords are the most obvious (Flickr calls them tags). I have been asked to exhibit through Flickr and requests often come in to use my images on the web with credits or links to my site, that’s all great for SEO (search engine optimisation).

My flickr account: Heather Buckley on Flickr

Lomo Kev’s Flickr account: Kevin Meredith on Flickr

Here are a few reasons why, as a photographer you should be maintaining a Flickr account:

  1. It is the #2 rated photography website in the U.S., UK, it holds a near 40 percent market share in the U.S. Photobucket is still the leader, – Flickr’s global presence could still be greater.
  2. Yahoo! acquired Flickr in 2005 – so it has been optimized with the Yahoo! Image Search tool.
  3. Flickr’s photos are listed in the Google, Tag your images properly and it is not too difficult to appear in on the front page of Google’s image search.
  4. Technorati, personalised and start pages, as well as various other portals, websites and blogs will pull in and display Flickr pictures through RSS feeds.
  5. All of these direct sources can be funnelled back to your website, and at least make others aware of your brand and/or product.

It’s not just photographers that can use Flickr for SEO and Publicity gains, although you need to use it creatively as it’s not supposed to be used for commercial advertising.

So if you are not already using Flickr as a photographer time to get started and if you already have an account time to seriously start tagging your work.

Silicon Beach Training run a great set of Social Media Training, SEO Training, WordPress Training and Blogging training courses.

You can see Kevin talking about photography and Social Media at Google headquarters;

Using Fill Flash for Portraits and Events

There are many tutorials on this subject, I know, I have read most of them! Still I have always found it tricky fiddling with the camera and flash settings at events like the Brighton Zombie Walk, when all I’m interested in is capturing all of those split second moments or getting people to pose for a second and not wait while I fiddle!


Brighton Zombie Walk 2010

For all the expert  advice I have received I seem to have a virtually fool proof way of getting results like this:



and this:

 zombie walk Brighton 2010

Holy Smoke – zombie walk Brighton 2010 – click to buy this image

  1. I just keep the flash in automatic “E-TTL” setting. You see the beauty of fill-in flash with a modern SLR is that the camera adjusts background exposure and flash exposure automatically, with little input required from the user. That’s how I like it. I know we should be in control blah blah blah and well done anyone who can do all of this in a flash while running around like a maniac like I do at these events.
  2. I set my camera to capture RAW images – important for making sure your highlights don’t blow so much you can’t get them back
  3. I also put set my ISO to 400 when it’s not really bright and sunny, I know another rule break! that way I find the flash is less obvious. I also underexpose my images in camera by 1/2 stop and sometimes 2/3 of a stop as I find it really brings out the sky (I’m holding my breath here waiting for the onslaught of comments telling me why I shouldn’t do this but it really works for me!).
  4. …..And… wait for it…. I leave my camera on P mode.

That’s it, people ask me all the time how I get such great colours in the sky when using my flash and there you have it, breaking all the rules. If you know the real and proper “how to do it” then feel free to let everyone know what I’m doing wrong in my comments section. There is a minimal amount of Photoshoppery to learn more about Photoshop come down to Brighton for a Photoshop  Training Course. We also offer Business Training and Prince2 Training as well as SEO Training and Social Media

Using Back Lighting Creatively in Photography

Back lighting can be tricky to master, but when you think about it logically and decide what you want to use it for and what the possibilities are you can get some beautiful or moody effects using back lighting.


back-lit portrait – click to buy this image

Well when all the light is behind and therefore around the image (this is usually a very large area of the image) the camera will decide on the exposure taking all of this very bright light from the background into consideration. It will do its best to get everything exposed perfectly, but the chances are that this will be impossible for your camera. So what happens? We’ve all seen them – the background has some detail or is exposed reasonably well, but your subject in-front of the light is dark.

This can work really well for silhouettes.

However if you want detail in your subject you are going to have to:

Blow out the background (let it overexpose) some photographer love this effect.
try and overexpose your shot so that you get some detail in the face
try it with or without a lens hood as without will give you more flare (light fog) this is sometimes a lovely effect


Use flash – using flash set on ETTL (evaluative through the lens metering) will give you a good exposure on both background and subject – underexposing a touch can give you depth of colour in a background here.

So what can you achieve with back lighting?

Back lighting can enhance the finer details of an object (such as the tiny hairs on a stem or a bug) or a scenes more delicate features such as the dust particles or drops of rain.

As usual try out lots of thing and experiment, remember they don’t have to all turn out great just have a good time and enjoy the ones that do.