Festival and Event Photography Workshop

My interest in people photography began when I started taking images of the varied Brighton outdoor events and festivals.

After my first event, I uploaded all of my images to Flickr and noticed a marked surge in activity on my account. People were searching for the images and I discovered that if my images were different or unusual they would fly to the top of flickr search for images of the event. There are so many photographers at these events, you need to come up with something that stands out if you want your work to be noticed.

This process continued for years, and soon I acquired a distinct following of people, it was my first successful involvement in the world of social media. The idea that publishing work that people have an active interest in was good for marketing.

Since then I have added Facebook and Google Plus to my armoury, and still coverage of festivals and events do much to attract followers and engagement with people.

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

I do it because I love it of course, not just as a marketing tool, it’s probably shows that I love it in my work, which helps. I’ve also been doing it for so long now that I’m a lot better at it now than when I started, so I’ll share a few tips and a few images.

If you want to join me and learn in person I am holding two festival photography workshops during the Brighton Fringe Festival. The first one is fully booked but there are a few places left on 16th May, only six max per course.

You may think that festival photography is easy. After all it’s all happening in front of your eyes waiting to be captured. It’s hard, however to identify and isolate an image that will work when there is so much going on around you. Everything will be happening fast, so you’ll need to move around a lot, think and act fast to get the best shots. Also everyone has a camera, the trick is to come up with images that are unique. That are great because they are composed well, framed well, taken at the right moment.

Your first challenge will be the light. This will be constantly changing as you shoot from different angles, shooting into the sun, and then shooting away from the sun. Flash is my solution. I use flash constantly during events, unless there are reflections I am trying to capture as part of the image.

I use the ETTL setting on my speedlight, this ensures a perfect exposure of my subject even if I take a number of shots in quick succession facing in different directions. It fills in the shadows when someone has strong sunlight on their face, and fills the whole face while exposing the sky or environment well when shooting into the sun. (Note this is best for outdoor daylight photography). I use the camera in P mode, using the top dial on the camera to change the aperture or speed.  P Mode is like auto but you can still change anything you like using the buttons and dials. This mode will ensure that any flash pictures are taken at shutter speeds fast enough to avoid blurs with ordinary subjects. EOS cameras in P-mode will set shutter speeds with flash between the camera’s fastest x-sync speed, down to 1/60th of a second. So balanced fill-flash is possible even in sunlight.

It’s best to use matrix metering in this case. Spot metering will cause haphazard effects if your camera selects a particularly light or dark area of an image to calculate exposure.

The things I concentrate on are:

The background

Often I’ll isolate my subject by shooting upwards, if you are not surrounded by close tall buildings or trees, it can provide a great simple sky to highlight your subject.

Sometimes I’ll find the right background and move my subject to the background I like. Other times I’ll see a great background and someone approaching and I’ll frame the image and wait for my subject to be in the right position to take the image.

festival photography

Shooting up towards the sky allows you to get a clean background. Beware though, it can be a very unflattering angle 🙂

The frame

With so much paraphernalia around, it’s often possible to frame your subject with an interesting foreground.

british life awards - Brighton Fringe

Smokey Sausages – Brighton Fringe City

The spectators

It’s easy to get so caught up with the action that you forget to look around at the public. The best images tell a story. If you can see emotion in the audience it can often make a more interesting image that the performers themselves. Relationships can be created in your images by capturing performers and the public together in unusual situations.

Watch the audience

Watch the audience

The performers

It’s often impossible to get to the front of a crowd to get a clear view. Sometimes I’ll sit and wait at the front before an act begins (sitting will allow the kids at the front to see!). During the festival though, there are performers wandering around, getting ready or advertising their festival shows. This is my favourite time to capture them. It gives you the opportunity to position them if you wish, sometimes, if they are off guard and just being themselves it can lead to more interesting shots too. It’s often easier and more interesting to photograph around the performances rather than the performance itself. You will also give yourself a better chance of coming up with something original.

It's often better to capture performers when they are not performing

It’s often better to capture performers when they are not performing

Watch your focus

I usually use a wide angle lens. This means that most of my image will usually be in focus including my subject. If I have time I will prefocus by pressing the shutter button down halfway while you compose the shot focusing on the subject, then recompose and shoot without taking my finger off the half compressed button. Sometimes it’s impossible because I shoot blind. Sometimes, as I’m shooting in P mode because of the speed with which I need to react, I’ll use the dial on top of my camera to set a narrower aperture (bigger f number), the flash will fill in any extra light I need.

Watch your focus

Watch your focus



That’s it for now. If you want to join me on one of my festival event photography workshops you can book through Silicon Beach Training or call them on 01273 622272.


There is also more information about the event on their blog.



What Makes Me Click by a Brighton Photographer

I love making images.

Sometimes the process of photography starts with a concept or idea which I plan and create. Though the sweetest moments for me are those when real life presents a moment when everything falls into place.

nun and dog in rome

Sweet Moment in Rome – the best moments are when everything falls into place – click to purchase image

I LOVE wide angle photography and the way it distorts reality.

I get in really close necessitating the need to communicate with my subjects. A wide angle lens adds drama to an image, sometimes it creates caricatures of people, and sometimes it allows you to portray a piece of everyday life as if it were happening on a stage.

Crawford Market Mumbai

SHOOT WIDE – Crawford Market- Mumbai – click to purchase image

The equipment you use will have a huge bearing on the outcome. You’ve heard it said before that good photography is not about equipment, most people now have the technology to get a great image in their pockets – on their smart phone. It’s also true to say though, that some images (or looks/styles) are reliant on the type of equipment you are using.

I use my canon 16-35mm on a full frame camera most of the time. On a full frame camera that’s a really wide lens. Favourite situations are Brighton events, where everybody is dressed up, happy willing to chat, laugh and have their photograph taken. It’s like Christmas for a photographer like me.

Brighton Pride 2012

Brighton Pride 2012 – Don’t be afraid to ask people to pose for something you can visualise – click to purchase image

Often people show me their images, they say “I tried to take pictures like you, but it came out like this, what am I doing wrong?  The answer is often the same. Your lens is not wide enough, you were not close enough, you were not low enough (I have a penchant for images taken from a low viewpoint).

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Street Photography Workshop in Brighton

The next Street Photography course on Saturday 17th January 2015 has sold out, but I have another on 7th March 2015 (would make a great Christmas present). I’ve created a voucher that can be given as a gift.

I’ve been taking pictures on the streets of Brighton for years. People are my thing, whether candid or street portraits, although sometimes just colours, lines or strong compositions are enough to catch my eye. I have a reputation for coming back with something a bit different whatever the event and I’ll be talking about that.

I take inspiration from many photographers, some contemporary street photographers like Matt Stewart and David Gibson, some photographers who just take simply stunning black and white images like Alain Laboile. I also have my old favorites like Elliott ErwittSergio Larraín and Bruce Gilden. The list is too long to mention here, I’ll leave that for another post.

Bournemouth Oceanarium

Bournemouth Oceanarium – click to purchase image

The day will begin at Silicon Beach Training just minutes from Brighton railway station, where we’ll look at some images, and discuss what makes them great. I’ll talk about the kinds of things to look for. Great images are everywhere. We’ll start thinking about the relationships between people. things and the environment around them. Tricks for creating dynamic compositions and interesting viewpoints. I’ll keep it brief and to the point, I want to inspire you but having been in the training business for 15 years, and been on so many workshops I’ve lost count, I know that the best way to learn is by doing, so not too long, we have all day to chat, I want you to feel energised and to have fun.

We’ll have lunch together in Brighton, it’ll be somewhere nice but simple (you will need to pay for your own lunch but I’ll book the tables and see if I can negotiate a good rate).

If you need advice of where to stay we know all the best places.

Arles Photo Booth

Arles Photo Booth – click to buy image


More shooting after lunch and then back to Silicon Beach Training to review your work. We have enough computers here for everyone with Photoshop and Lightroom, although I almost exclusively use Lightroom for my images now. If you have a laptop and wish to download your images on that ready to take home that’s OK too. I will show you all some of my killer black and white conversion techniques to get really punchy images, as well as some colour tricks I’ve picked up. The rooms are secure so you can leave any kit you don’t want to carry around with you.

Exhibition at the Archbishop's Palace les rencontres des arles

Exhibition at the Archbishop’s Palace les rencontres des arles – click to purchase image

I‘m only going to take on a maximum of 8 people, because I want time to talk to you all during the day. I’ve only just mentioned this workshop on social media so far and have taken bookings in the first few hours, so if you are really interested get back to me quickly. I will, though, be running more of these in the future.

So fill out the contact form if you would like to book and I’ll send you more details, the day is £125.

The workshop is suitable for all abilities and ages. I won’t cover how to use the settings on your camera in the morning brief because many of you will already know. However I will be available to answer any question all day. Any camera will do, I get some of my best shots on my compact. I still go on workshops for fun and I’ve been taking images for decades!


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.

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Capture the Colour

This Competition caught my eye – Capture the Colour. At first it seemed like hard work to enter. You have to write a blog post with your 5 colour themed entries in. You need to  nominate and link to 5 photographers whom you think might like to participate, and there has to be a link to the competition on your post. Finally you have to tweet or FB message the sponsors – travelsupermarket to let them know you have entered.

I thought about the images that sprang to mind for each colour and decided to have a go, after all it’s good to keep you blog fresh.

The process made me think about what a good example of social marketing this competition is. You do not have to mention travelsupermarket to enter, just link to their competition – it’s subtle, it’s engaging at the same time as encouraging participants to share. In terms of SEO these are good gains – lots of links, engagement and lots of shares. Note to self: will have to start working on something similar!

For those who don’t know me, I’ve been using SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing for Silicon Beach Training for well over a decade, as well as being a photographer, and soon I’m going to put all of it together in a book on marketing for photographers so keep posted. I don’t keep my photography blog up to date nearly as often as I should, but I do check my Social Media accounts regularly.


Mick, Shoreditch, London. Yellow

When I put this up on Flickr and Facebook I was surprised at how many people mentioned that they knew him or had taken his picture. His name is Mick and apparently he is quite well known around the Brick Lane area, London.

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Marketing for photography in a social revolution

Everything changes. Technology advances at lightning speed changing the way we live and communicate. The art of photography has been irrevocably changed. There are the obvious changes in the way we capture and process images, and then there are the ways in which we view and share images.

When I was a darkroom photographer, I would dodge and burn and print. The only way that I could get my images seen was to hang them on the wall or get them published in magazines. It was really hard to get noticed, to get exposure. Now I have Flickr, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and my own photography blog and website. I can get my images viewed by thousands in a very short space of time. I also have some control over how my images are indexed by the search engines, driving traffic to each of these accounts.

marketing for photographers

It’s time to look at the Photography industry in a different way

Photographers who cling onto the past, expecting to be able to earn large sums of money for one negative or slide are sadly disengaged from today’s market. Documentary and press photographers have been hard hit. Papers today can get cheap, and even free images, from members of the public for most news worthy events. It is true that the quality of images often suffers as a consequence and that many talented photographers are finding it harder and harder to make a living.

Then there is the stock image industry. Millions of people are uploading billions of images down-loadable, sometimes, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee. Does this mean the death of the photographic industry, not at all; it means a transformation of the industry. People can speculate about whether it’s good or bad, but that is not going to help photographers get ahead. The first online digital image sharing services, introducing the concept of micro-pricing, were developed by entrepreneurs who recognised that the boundaries between creators and users have disappeared.

The stock image game is still there to be played but it is tougher than ever before. You need some dedication, persistence and hard work to make any money out of it and even then that is often not enough.

Successful photographers need to understand and use different tools and platforms for marketing, and either sell more images for less money, or be so good at photography, social marketing and search engine optimisation that both their images and their services as a photographer get noticed.

Whilst traditional photographers may get satisfaction playing the blame game, calling the stock image industry to task about their unscrupulous licensing model. They may heave and sigh that amateurs call themselves professionals because they have bought themselves a great piece of kit and can click a shutter, but all of this is a waste of time. To survive as a photographer now means refocusing on what works right now. To get noticed as a photographer you will still need to be great at what you do to make any money out of your art. However, being good is no longer enough; you will need to learn new marketing skills, social media marketing, SEO (search engine optimisation) and content marketing.

Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be writing a series of articles on the subject. Sharing what I have learned from over a decade of digital marketing for Silicon Beach Training in Brighton. So keep coming back and follow me on  Facebook,  TwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and LinkedIn for more instalments.

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