Tag Archives: how to

How to survive… December

12-2014That’s it! 31 more days and then there’s a full year in the bag 🙂

Sheffield City Hall // 17 12 13

Positives of December

  • The possibility of snow. And with that comes a snow day 😉
  • Christmas! Lights, presents, people – there is a lot to keep you occupied in the run up to Christmas
  • Sunrise and sunset. Again more achievable given the times they are at (although see negatives)
  • Frost and mist. mmmmm ❤ my favourites
  • It’s dark. Thus it is easier to do night time photography!

Negatives of December

  • Sunrise and sunset. Now they happen so late / early that the chances are you will be on your way to work when the sun comes up, and not leave until after it’s gone down! Bummer
  • It’s cold. Brrrrr, means you have to wrap up warm if you want to venture out
  • It’s a bit more wet. So probably pack a brolly too

Waiting for the end of the world // 29 12 13

How to Survive… December

  • Embrace the night. Car trails, star trails… All a lot easier when it’s dark by 430!
  • Don’t be afraid of adverse conditions. Prepare for the bad weather but get out in it. Remember that camera batters don’t last as long in the cold so pack a spare. It’s also a good idea to take a towel with you (just a small one!), just in case. Besides there is nothing like a drastic change in weather to spice up a landscape that you’ve shot 49304230 times this year 😉
  • Embrace the festivity. Even if you are Scruge, get out there and shoot the run up to Christmas. Christmas markets, decorations, embrace them! They will save your December if you’ve run out of ideas.
  • Bokeh. Bokeh is out of focus light, and given that there will be fairy lights pretty much every where, embrace the technique and come up with some interesting results.

December 2013

By candlelight // 10 12 13

December 2012

Korean Stone Hot Pot // 336

December 2011

Warnings // 31 12 11December 2010

After being mad at myself for giving up, I technically started taking a photo every day from the 18th December 2010…

Santa's Dirty Laundry (011 // 28 12 10)

How to survive… November


It’s been a long road but we are almost there now 🙂 Depending on how you want to think about it, November/December are either the worst months (Short days, dark a lot, poor weather, at the end of the year when you’re out of steam and ideas) or two of the best months (you’ve gotten better at photography, CHRISTMAS. Ahem.)

Trapped // 03 11 13

Positives of November

  • Muted colours. The colours have pretty much changed and dropped off, but for the ones still hanging on you can make a pretty good statement with them against a bleak backdrop.
  • Nice light. As the sun doesn’t rise as high in the sky you can get some decently lit shots at pretty much any time of the day.
  • Easier to do dark shots. Light trails, star trails are much easier to do when it goes darker earlier. And this ties nicely in with…

Negatives of November

  • Cold, damp and dark. Basically what the title says.
  • End of the year; lack of ideas and major loss of interest. My 2011 is just WOW BAD for November. I’d managed to forget just how bad but as I was going through looking for images to put at the end of the post I was perplexed how there were none which were even half good, or even a quarter good. But I got through to the end of the year, so hey ho.
  • Loss of interest from others. By this point most people have given up, or it’s become such a burden/so not interested that they can’t be bothered to interact with other people. Will power!

The beauty in winter days // 13 11 13

How to survive… November

  • Start to introduce Christmas. Yes. Seriously. I’m not saying all the time, but you can start to drip it in. Decorations in stores, lights going up in city centres…
  • Night time shots. As mentioned above get creative with light trails and fireworks etc
  • Revisit shots from the very start of the year. November and December are pretty similar to January and February. Have a look through some of the shots you did then and try to recreate them. The chances are you are a lot better at photography by now and it will be a nice comparison.
  • Work with lights. Invest in some studio lights or flash guns and experiment with them. This will open up a whole set of doors for you and give you more things to shoot.

November 2013
The delicate nature of life // 04 11 13
November 2012
Harewood House // 01 11 12
November 2011
Sunflowers (335 // 17 11 11)

Composition and other ‘Rules’

All good rules are made to be broken, but until we master the rule and know how and when we should be breaking them… We should probably stick with them 😉
There are loads of rules, but for this post I’ll stick with the basics that can have the biggest impact to your shots.

The Rule of Thirds
The image is split into three rows and three columns. Place an object of interest (in this case the does head) along one of the crossing sections as it is these sections that the human eye is drawn to first.

15112858518_8936042f56_m copy
Doe, a deer, a female deer // 20 09 14

Avoid horizons in the middle
Following on from the rule of thirds, you should also try to place horizons along one of the top or bottom lines instead of across the middle of the image. Decide which aspect of the shot has more importance or impact and make sure it fills most of the frame. The image below has the wall on the bottom line, and the sky on the top line.
The image of the doe also follows this rule, as the grass finishes on the bottom line, and after the top line is solid darker colour.
Early morning at Surprise View // 13 09 14

Keep it straight
Always, always, always make sure that your horizon lines, buildings etc are straight.
Clumber Park // 04 08 14

Try a different angle or position
Sometimes the difference between a good shot and a great shot is simply taking a couple of steps to one side, or crouching.
Always make sure you don’t have something like a lamp post sticking out of the top of someones head, and try to analyse the shot and where it would look best from as many different positions before pressing the shutter.
I snapped this shot from so many different angles, and found this one worked best.

Bee Friends ^-^ // 02 08 14

Leading lines
Having lines in an image, if they are placed correctly, can draw your eye into the shot and make you spend longer exploring the shot as a whole. In the shot below the lines of the bridge reinforce the fact that you should be looking at the girl’s legs, but also exploring the bridge in front of her.

Left Behind // 02 07 14

Keep it simple or fill the frame
Play with ideas of minimal shots, sometimes it helps to shift your position so that there is nothing distracting in the background or if that isn’t an option get in close and fill the frame.

Wonder // 25 05 14

Look out for…
When shooting make sure you look out for the following…

Colour can have a massive impact in your work. People tend to notice reddy colours first, so if you have a image which has something red in the background it might distract from the main object in the foreground.
Blue toned images come across as being cold, whereas orange toned images come across as being warm. How someone perceives the image due to the colours included on it can influence how they respond to it.

Make yourself at home // 13 10 14

Black and white
By converting an image to monochrome you add a whole new dynamic to it. Removing the colour forces people to focus on the details, contrast and textures in the shot.

Doe on the move


Light is basically the essence of photography; without it there is no photo!
Playing with shadows and light and the contrast between them can make for interesting and dynamic shots.

Sheffield in Autumn // 11 10 14


Sometimes an image can be made out of a simple texture, or a texture within another object can become an interesting focal point.

About to bloom // 01 09 14

Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO

Getting the settings right in camera is the first step to creating a great image. Some people think ‘oh I’ll fix it later in Photoshop’ but usually it is either more time consuming, or looks fake. It’s always a lot better to get it right in camera in the first place, then you can enhance the shot in post production.


This is where you set how much of the shot will be in focus.
It can be a little bit backwards at first to try and get your head around it, as a smaller f number means the aperture is opened wider…

If you are working with a kit lens then the chances are your lens goes from f4 to f22 (or similar).
f4 means that the lens will let in a lot more light, but less of the shot will be in perfect focus. More light in means that you are more likely to be able to hand hold your shot.
f22 means that the lens will let in less light, but more of the shot will be in perfect focus. Less light in means that you will probably need to use a tripod to shoot your shot.


Aperture: f1.8 – The leaf is mostly in focus but not all of it is. The foreground and background are not in focus at all.
Sheffield in Autumn // 11 10 14

Aperture: f14 – Most of the shot is in focus, from the rocks to in the foreground to the waterfall in the background
Lumsdale Waterfall

Shutter speed

This is how quickly your shutter will be open for. The longer is is open for the more light will be let in, however the longer you leave it open for the more likely you will need to put the camera on a tripod (Unless you have really steady hands!)

A shutter speed of 1/500 will freeze motion, where as a shutter speed of 2″ (2 seconds) will capture some motion, which in camera will look blurry.


Shutter: 1/250 – The water and clouds are frozen in place.
Sant'Agnello // 15 08 14

Shutter speed: 0.6″ – The unmoving aspects of the shot (the flower pot and Danbo) are frozen in place, but the flowers which were moving in the wind are blurry
Hold On! // 23 02 12


ISO is  a bit more abstract to talk about, and much harder to show how it looks in my images!
The lower your ISO number the cleaner your shot will be, the higher your ISO number the more grain will be in it. It is for a lot of people the hardest of the three to understand because it can be difficult to see how it works. Ideally you need to keep your ISO as low as possible, because having grain in your image is seen as being undesirable.

So why would you want to turn your ISO up?
The higher your ISO the quicker the camera records the image, so if you are somewhere dark and you are having to hand hold your shot a higher ISO would be beneficial as you are more likely to not get any camera shake and have an image which looks more in focus. In an ideal situation you would want to keep your ISO lower, and put your camera on a tripod however that is not always possible (at a gig or concert, some places such as caves don’t allow you to set up a tripod when you are on a tour).

You can reduce grain (or noise) in post processing (Lightroom and Photoshop both have options to do this), but it’s not a perfect way of doing it, and you compromise other aspects of the shot by doing so (it might look smoother all over, so you will have a loss of detail).

Combining the three to create your shot

All image makers must choose their aperture, shutter speed and ISO for every shot. Some people (like me) use full manual mode (where you select all three of the options yourself), but most people tend to use aperture priority or shutter prioirty modes.
These modes allow you to choose the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter and ISO (aperture priority), or it allows you to choose the shutter speed, and the camera sets the aperture and ISO (shutter priority).

What’s the best way to learn about these techniques?

Get out there and shoot. Spend a day where you have to shoot in aperture priority. Take the same shot with different aperture sizes and compare them when you get home. Do the same with shutter priority.

How to… Levitation photography

Sadly most people can’t actually float, but with the magic of Photoshop we can pretend that we can! Levitation photography has become more popular over the past few years and it is quite easy to do.

Of an investigatory nature // 08 03 14

Before you start.

  • Focus on your subject, then lock the focus. I shoot myself so I have to go back and fro a couple of times before I lock the focus, but as soon as you have shot the subject, turn you auto focus to manual.
  • Use a tripod. Make sure that the distance and height doesn’t change as you will be taking two shots, one with the subject in and one without.
  • Se your white balance. You don’t want the while balance to change between the two shots so take it out of auto.
  • Safety first. Make sure that your model is comfortable, and make sure that you don’t make them hold an uncomfortable pose for too long.
  • Collect sturdy objects. Chairs, ladders etc, something that your model can lay across. You will need to rub them out during post processing so the more discreet they are the easier that will be.

Onwards and upwards // 14 09 141. Set up the scene.
Put the objects where you want the model to be floating, and then set your camera up on the tripod. Before you introduce your model into the scene take some test shots to make sure your white balance and other settings are correct.

2. Position the model.
Make your model lay across the objects and focus on them. Try a few different positions.

IMGP5040_August 07, 20133. Remove all objects and shoot a blank background.
Before you hit the shutter make sure that the auto focus is set to manual. Remove all objects from the scene and shoot a background with nothing in the foreground.

4. Add both image in Photoshop in different layers.
Put the blank background underneath the one with your model on. Then quite simply rub out the objects the model is resting on; because the layer underneath is the same image without the model/objects it will all look like it is one shot. Either use the eraser or use a layer mask if that option is available to you. Zoom in to make sure that you get clean lines.

layer mask

The above shows a layer mask rubbing out the step ladders.
Using a layer mask is a must if you have the option as it is non destructive; if you’re not sure about layers or layer masks then have a look here at the Adobe help site! 🙂

Summoning // 07 08 13

How to survive… October

October is quite possibly my most favourite month of all. It’s where autumn comes into full swing and also there is Hallowe’en! Christmas is starting to come into swing too (which I know isn’t great for some people, but it creates more photo opportunities)
Disconnected // 30 10 13
Positives of October

  • Hallowe’en. Props are out, people want to have their photo taken when they are dressed up, there are events towards the back end of the month… Loads of opportunities
  • Oranges and reds and yellows oh my. Colours are popping and all over the place!
  • Misty mornings and dew. Autumn brings the cooler weather, especially in the early hours. It creates some stunning photo opportunities, especially just after sunrise.

Negatives of October

  • It’s getting dark again. Those nights are drawing in, the mornings are darker when you get up. It’s getting darker again!
  • Damp and rainy. With the changing weather, also comes a change for the worse. It’s darker and it might be wet more often.

Japanese Anemones // 07 10 13

How to Survive… October

  • Get creative with Hallowe’en props. Position them and have them as still life, rope someone into dressing up, go out to your city or towns Hallowe’en event and photograph the people there. Most people wont mind as they’ll be behind masks.
  • Great time to practice portraits and street photography. Following on from the above, it makes for a great time to practice photographing people when they’re hidden behind the masks!
  • Colours, colours, colours! Get out there and shoot nature whilst it is at it’s most glorious.

October 2013

The Wicked Witch // 16 10 13

October 2012

Chinese Lanterns // 23 10 12

October 2011

Chatsworth (311 // 24 10 11)

October 2010

I don’t think I ever made it to October this year 😦

How to Survive… September

September is the start of my favourite part of the year – autumn (or fall, if you’re American). Leaves start to turn and fall from trees, sunsets are at a fantastic time of the day, and the air is crisp.

Catching the wings of fallen angels // 04 09 13

Positives of September

  • Changing colours. There is a remarkable change which starts to happen over the next few months, starting in September. It was only last year that I noticed leaves start changing and dropping off trees in August, but it is a lot more noticeable in September
  • Different fruit and flora. Apples might drop down, mushrooms sprout up (Oh my god do I love mushrooms!); make sure you get out an explore what you can find!
  • Sunrise and sunset. Defiantly achievable, and usually quite nice at the time of year. Make sure that you don’t put it off, because there is less of an incentive to go out once winter hits.

Negatives of September

  • Changing weather. The weather wont be as warm, or possible as nice as it has been. Take an extra layer and make yourself get out there
  • Loss of interest. With the drop in temperature its easier to come up with a reason to not go out and shoot. Then with that you lose interest as you’re trying to come up with indoor shots, then you remember the start of the year, add in the fact there are 4 full months to go and you start to wonder ‘why bother’. Make the effort if September is even half nice, start to collect objects that you can use as still life later in the year – you’ll thank yourself for it once the days are short again.

Never alone // 21 09 13
How to Survive… September

  • Autumn colours. Revisit a scene you shot earlier in the year and document the changes as the seasons have changed.
  • Fallen items. Leaves, sycamore seeds, fruit.
  • New foliage. Autumn flowers, acorns – look out for them.

September 2013
Broken // 15 09 13

September 2012
Acorns // 06 09 12

September 2011
Changable Weather (271 // 14 09 11)

September 2010
I’d taken photos at least a week into September, but I’d lost them by accidentally deleting them – don’t give up like I did! I really regretted it in hindsight, especially this close to the end of the year!

How to Survive… August

The end seems slightly closer now (Which means Christmas is closer too! haha ;-)). August can be a good month for photography, you just need to make sure that you make the most of it when and where you can.

Of a captivating summers day drawing to a close // 18 08 13

Positives of August

  • Holidays. A lot of you will be jetting off on your travels so it makes for a great opportunity to snap different things. A holiday is also good for resting and recharging your batteries so make the most of it!
  • Sunset. It’s at a much more reasonable time (Thanks nature) so you should be able to make it out to shoot a few of these.
  • Good weather. Normally August sees some nice weather too, so when you’re out shooting those sunsets it should be warm still, and hopefully a lot of “red sky at night” 😉
  • Home town events. The kids are off school in August so normally there are a lot of events on in bigger cities.
  • Flowers. Still. Hurray!

Negatives of August

  • Busy! With holiday comes holiday preparation!
  • Sunrise. Still at an ungodly hour 😛

The Lighthouse // 24 08 13
How to Survive… August

  • Street Photography (1) – go out and document all those events going off; just make sure you know the rules around what and where you can photograph
  • Landscapes and sunset – those acceptable hour sunsets make it ideal to photograph landscapes. Make sure you have a point of interest in the shot
  • Flowers – try to visit places like Botanical Gardens to shoot more exotic types
  • Street Photography (2) – whilst on holiday try to capture the candid feel of the place you are visiting

August 2013

The pastel shades of summer // 19 08 13

August 2012

Sunset at Higger Tor // 29 08 12

August 2011

Sunlight and Music (227 // 01 08 11)

August 2010

01 08 10

How to Survive… July


Now you are half way through the year! Congratulations!
January seems like an age ago, and Christmas/the end of the year feels like a million miles away. This year I’m starting to feel a bit CBA with taking photos, so whilst writing this I’m thinking about what I can do to get myself motivated once more. Last year I decided to keep on going with the ‘surrealist’ photography. I was pretty pleased that I had managed a whole month of it, and learnt so much in the process!
Actually in the process of looking back over last years July shots I’ve got a lot of shots in there that I still like to this day! 🙂

Bleak // 22 07 13

Positives of July

  • It’s still light! We might have had the longest day, but it’s still light out.
  • Flowers. Always changing 🙂

Negatives of July

  • Same as June (and May). And August! Weather can be hit and miss (well here in the UK at least). The weather is similar, the light is similar. Same issues with going out and holidays.
  • Sunrise and sunset. Not exactly at the best hours…

When a book comes to life // 14 07 13

How to survive… July

  • Food photography – People will be having BBQs, eating ice creams, picnics – shoot it! Food by itself of make it more lifestyle. If you like baking/cooking cook up a storm and shoot it before you eat it
  • Lifestyle photography – Out and about? Document it. Go for candid shots instead of posed and try to capture the true feel of an event
  • Challenge yourself – Pick an object, or a word and shoot around it. Be as abstract or literal as you like. Try to keep the theme going for a week – that will force you to become more creative!
  • Shoot a stranger – with your camera, obviously 😉 This is so far out of my comfort zone it is unbelievable, but for some it wont be that bad.

July 2013
Many hands make light work // 29 07 13

July 2012
Sunset // 04 07 12

July 2011
Storm Clouds (222 // 27 07 11)

July 2010
03 07 10

How to survive… June


June (or the end of it) officially marks the half way part. Sadly though, the advice kind of stops the same through out summer as the same problems pretty much apply month to month. In order to try and mix it up a bit, last year I trialled ‘surrealist June’ wherein I took a surreal (ish) photo every day for the whole month. Some were total pants, but there are some photos in there which I still really like and it set me on a different path in terms of my photography.

Out of Reach // 01 06 13


Positives of June

  • Better weather, longer light. Get out there!
  • Flowers. Always changing!
  • Insects. They can be tricky to shoot, but there will be lots of them. Do some research online to find out which flowers will attract which insects and where you can find them and off you go. If you don’t have a macro lens, try buying some extension tubes, you can get them for around £5 on eBay!

Negatives of June

  • More of the same. May, June and July (and August!) are quite similar. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

Storm in a teacup // 14 06 13

How to survive …June 

  • ‘In the style of’ – pick an artist (doesn’t have to be a photographer) and try to do something in their style. Don’t just set out to make a copy of it, but instead try to come up with your own idea but make sure it is in their style.
  • Revisit old shots – this time try to take as close to possible as the same shot. Look for positioning of the camera and lighting to try and recreate it. Where possible though, try to show that you have progressed with your skills.
  • Convince the pet to sit still long enough for a portrait – practice a different technique with someone who wont sit still for long. Don’t have a pet? Borrow one from a neighbour, friend or family member. Even better exchange the photo you take for a visit to their house and a cup of tea with a slice of cake.
  • Document the mundane – try to make every day house hold chores, or the trip to work look at least vaguely interesting. Choose an unusual angle or a really shallow depth of field to help you emphasis details.

June 2013

Standing on the edge of the world // 29 06 13

June 2012

Lupin // 18 06 12

June 2011

Anemone (183 // 19 06 11)

June 2010

11 06 10