Thursday, 18 November 2010

Making a Film Pt. 2

So I really enjoyed making the last short film, and have decided to make a part 2 of it by request and also because I really liked everything about movie production.

Either subscribe or stay tuned to for part 2 and a couple of other projects I have one the go.

A trailer of part 2 should be on by tonight (18/11/10) giving you some idea of what's going to happen (its just a short 20 second outtake of part 2.

Like I said I do have a couple of other short film projects on the go which will be uploaded sometime before Christmas, if you can think of any ideas leave a comment or contact me via email and I'll strive to make your creation.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Making a Film

Okay, so I've made a quick short film take a look below:

I am aware there are some continuity errors but it was more to see what the camera could do, it was all shot in about 2 hours including editing, so not bad really?!

I've hopefully got a few more projects lined up, I'll post them on here and my NEW youtube channel:

Everything was filmed on the Canon 550D.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Canon 550D/Rebel T2i has arrived!!

So I received the parcel this morning, and its here and works! I'm so far very impressed with the results but need to wait for my high speed SDHC card to come in the mail to unlock the HD movie feature, can't wait!

I also ended up finding out why I got it for a bit of a steal, it turns out its an American import (says Rebel T2i on the box and camera), but does this bother me? Not really...

I'll keep you posted on how me and the camera get on!

Check out the link below for an unboxing.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Canon 550d/T2i Excitement

So its ordered, the camera I've lusted after for months has finally been placed on order. Bought from eBay for a steal (£490 all in including postage body only) saving me about £130ish when compared to Warehouse Express.

I have been told its been dispatched, and now its just a waiting game as to when I get the camera (hopefully in working order). I will admit I am a little skeptical because of buying it from eBay but I took the risk. The auctioner I'm buying from seems to be reputable and have kept in contact well.

I'll update on here when I get the camera through, but for now it's all just anticipation. Keep an eye on my Youtube Channel: (if any of my links don't work just leave a comment) for any updates on unboxings and reviews. I'll put some more posts on here as I know more.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

How to Take Great Portraits

In this topic, I talk about outdoor portraits, although you can apply the majority of these techniques to indoor portraits, you'll just have to have a bit of prior knowledge on lighting to decide how to light your subject, everything else applies the same though.

I am going to go through step by step and what you need to do, so first of all, lets start right at the beginning.

Finding a Subject
Although this sounds simple enough, it might not be as easy for everyone as first appears. I'd say the best place to start if you're not sure where to find a model is look at your friends, most of them (be it male or female) will probably be happy to help you out, especially with the incentive of perhaps, a free print, or a new Facebook profile picture, whatever it may be. If you're struggling to have a friend pose for you, one way to convince them is to show them your other work, even if this isn't in portrait photography, if they're impressed by your photos they're more likely to model for you.
If you're still having difficulty finding a subject, photo forums and websites, or modelling forums and websites are often crawling with prospective wannabe models looking to start their portfolio, and will usually be happy to work with you for free! However, many may want to see your work in portraiture to start with to get an idea to see whether you're worth their time, this is why getting a friend to begin your portfolio is always the ideal, but if you can't, this route is certainly worth a go.

Meeting the Subject
Okay, so before your big shoot, you want to actually meet the model. This allows you to get to know each other a little better, so the model will be more relaxed on the big day, and allows you to discuss ideas on what kind of photos you think will work best. If it is a friend you're photographing this process will obviously be a lot easier, but you'll still want to go through a few ideas of what could work, and locations on where you want to create your art.

Deciding What to Shoot
This is a key part of your photoshoot, and should not be taken lightly. Turning up on the day and not really having any clue what you want to do will more likely than show in your photographs. When you're deciding what to shoot, this is definitely a stage you should involve your subject in, preferably by meeting them, but a phone conversation will suffice.
So what to bring when you meet your model for a preliminary meeting? You can probably get away with just bringing  yourself and a bit of knowledge, but what I like to do is take what I call my "photobook". If you want to create your own, the way I do it is to find a nice thick hardback artists sketchpad. Then in one side, stick all your best photos in a portfolio type manner, to show the model what kind of photographs you can create. Then in the other side, to stick images of portraits that you like, be it from fashion magazines (Vogue, Metropolitan etc.) or be it from specific photo magazines (Practical Photography and Digital Photo are favorites), or perhaps websites. This will allow your model to choose what style of photo they like, and then you can attempt to recreate trying to put your own spin on it. I lay mine out in a similar manner to the photo below and never meet a potential client without it. (Please note that this is one of the pages from the magazines cutting section).

So let your potential client flick through and decide what he/she likes, make sure you don't put in photos that you're not confident you can recreate, because this will just lead to disappointment.
When you're deciding what to shoot, it's also important to decide what to shoot. Clearings in woods are often good spots, it isn't too dark to get nice lighting, but the foliage usually produces a nice soft light on the subject, which is what I'll come to next, execution of the shoot.

Doing the Shoot
Okay, so this is the most important part, but perhaps the one I will go into least detail on. There isn't really that much in the way of specific techniques that you won't have learnt from other areas of photography. Just a relatively small list of  tips that you should always try adhering to (although, bending these rules is usually what results in a quirky portrait, a plain, normal portrait will almost certainly follow these key rules).
-Make sure to focus on the eyes, this is where the human mind automatically draws us in a photo, so making sure the focus is here is absolutely paramount for a beautiful portrait.
-Make sure theres no distracting background. Watch out for twigs, leaves and branches poking out of your subject, whilst it may be funny, it doesn't look good. Also, you want all eyes on your subject, the best way to do this, and to distinguish photos taken on a compact camera, is to throw the background out of focus, meaning no attention is focused on the background. Use a nice wide aperture (f5.6 and below), and make sure the background isn't too close, this should result in nice bokeh (out of focus elements).
-Soft light, i.e. don't shoot in direct sunlight, this will result in nasty photos casting harsh shadows, and if your subjects facing the sun, it will result in a squinting model. The best time to shoot is when the sun's behind clouds, this will produce a nice soft light to light your subjects face evenly.
-Try not to use the wide-angle end of your lens, this will result in distortion which usually doesn't make for an attractive photo and can accentuate a models nose, never a good thing. 50mm on a APS-C sensor seems to be the sweet spot, look at 85mm or 100mm for full frame cameras.
-A higher perspective is often best, looking down on the subject will flatter them, particularly a larger subject.
-Talk to the model, make sure they are relaxed in order to get nice relaxed feel to the photos, a tense subject is always noticeable in photos.
-Have fun! You and your subject will get bored equally quickly if you don't have fun so this is essential.
-Last of all, break these rules now and again! If you're looking to break the mold from ordinary portraits, breaking one of these rules is a sure fire way to do it, just be careful, because there's a reason these rules are in place, so break them at your own risk, you can get some amazing shots by doing so though, if done in the right way.
I've included a couple of shots below of during the shoot.

Putting the camera on a tripod will allow you to use longer shutter speeds (1/30sec) at longer focal lengths (200mm) as most people can hold still for 1/30sec but you probably wont with 200mm of non-IS focal length, (320mm on a Canon APS-C). A nice leaved background makes for nice out of focus elements.

Shooting from above makes for a more flattering angle on any subject.

I tend not to heavy editing, try and get everything right in the camera for the perfect photo, also any editing automatically reduces the quality somewhat. I usually shoot JPEG because I prefer the ease of use, but shooting RAW is absolutely fine, as I keep my adjustments to a minimum shooting JPEG is fine for my uses.
Slight exposure changes, colour correction if you mucked up the white balance, vibrance, contrast and saturation adjustments is all I'd recommend doing. Also, the spot removal or clone tool (depending on what program you're using) can help to soften the skin and make your photographs more flattering. DSLRs with decent glass pick up a surprising amount of detail which your subject won't always appreciate. Using a soft focus filter is one way around this.
I've including a few of the shots I got from one of my first portrait shoots using nothing but natural light.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

How to Shoot Macro Photography In Your Back Garden

Okay, so I've explained how to take macro photos on the cheap, but what do you take photos of?! Well, I've compiled this as an accompaniment to a video I created (see the bottom of this post). This just says what the video does but in text for those of you that like it that way, plus a little more detail if there's anything I've left out of the video!

So why choose the back garden as my location of choice? Well, following the theme of doing things on the cheap, it seems sensible to make the assumption that the person wants to just dabble in macro photography, and "have a go", so to speak, and there's plenty of amazing photos in your back garden, especially when you've got a macro lens, so why not try it? It's easy to do and you can get some stunning results.

So now on how to do it, I'll first start with bag packing for your grand adventure into your garden, just bare in mind that all the techniques I talk about here can be applied outside the garden, the garden is just an ideal location for the reasons states above. Note that if you're going outside the garden I suggest you take spare cards, batteries and whatever you'd take with you on a normal photography trip.

So for all intents and purposes for the rest of this post I'll be gearing all my advice as if I were going into the back garden to shoot, so adapt if you're not! So first of all:

Take one of your bodies, preferably full frame if you have the choice (I understand most of you won't), and take either your dedicated macro lens or your extension tube/coupling ring/reversing ring/close up filter and the lens you want to use them with. Either put these in your bag or just carry them in your hands outside assuming you don't have too much stuff. Depending on the light conditions, I'd say taking a tripod is a definite bonus, and possibly a necessity in some cases depending on what your focal length will be and if you're losing light say, through extension tubes. You're probably going to be choosing a relatively small aperture for around f11 onwards to keep the depth of field workable, this also reduces the light intake. Because of this it'd be beneficial but by no means essential to have a mirror lock up function on your camera especially for really long exposures. But I'd say to avoid using the 10 second countdown feature (you can also knock the camera when pressing the shutter button) a remote shutter release is definitely a big plus here.

Finding a Subject
So you're going to want to find something interesting to photograph, to start with, I'd say start with still life as its going to much easier, for obvious reasons, primarily the fact that you wont have your subject running away from you. At this time of year, autumnal leaves make a great subject, their rich colours really pop out of the photo, especially with a bit of editing in Photoshop. If something else catches your eye then go for it! But just as a starting point, autumnal leaves are a good starting place. One vibrant leaf (perhaps a yellow or orange) against a plain leaf or background will normally work best.
Try and work on a cloudy day where the lighting is soft, harsh shadows never look good, especially very close up, and try and make sure you position your camera so it is not casting a shadow on the subject (this can be a little trick when your lens is almost on top of the subject). But in a worst case scenario, make sure the camera is casting a shadow completely over the subject, you'll lose some light, but the worst thing is half your photo in subject, and half in highlight, especially for this kind of photography.

Executing the Shot
Put your camera on your tripod and position the camera into an angle you think will work best for your subject. As a starting point I'd say look down on the subject if you're using a leaf (see the video for a diagram and how it all looks when actually set up).
I can't really give advice on focusing and exposure here, its entirely up to you and you're judgement on composition, and as far as exposure goes, that depends on your aperture, how many (if any) extension rings you're using, the available light, as well as if you've got the option to sit your camera on a tripod, so I'll leave you to judge your exposure. This isn't a tutorial on exposure.

Assessing and Editing the Shot
Decide if you're happy with the shot, if not, go shoot something else, or adapt your technique, composition or whatever may be lacking. If you are happy with the photo, it's time to get editing.
There's no real specific way to edit a macro shot, just do what you'd normally do, some shoot RAW, some shoot jpeg, its up to you! I shot jpeg just because I didn't want the hassle more than anything, and I was only making basic colour correction, exposure and contrast adjustments, so the ultimately tune-ability isn't paramount here, I'll put a couple of test shots below.


Post Edit

I think you'll agree the second Post-Edit image is superior, just showing that 5 minutes work can really improve your photos.

Last of all, check out the video that accompanies this post.

Extension Tubes For Macro Photography

So, you want to do macro photography but don't want to commit to spending hundreds of pounds on a nice macro lens like the: Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro Lens ( for around £400 or perhaps the Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS USM Macro Lens ( for around £700?

Well, if these aren't a viable option for you, but you still want to do macro photography at near as makes no difference 1:1 ratio (like the expensive macro lenses), I've got an option that certainly is viable for you.

But first, lets discuss the alternatives to what I chose for doing macro photography on the cheap.

The first option is coupling rings, this allows you to join one lens, mounted on the camera, to another lens, switched around. This allows for a very close focusing distance, but relies on you having two similarish diameter lenses (in filter thread) which not everybody has, and leaves one of the rear lenses exposed to the world, including all its dust! You also lose all control of automatic functions including aperture control (assuming there is no external aperture adjustment) and autofocus. Not ideal! That's why I discounted this option.

The second option would be a reversing ring, this basically lets you stick your lens on backwards so the front element is facing the sensor, widely available for most filter thread sizes, so your lens will probably fit. But I often find the front of my lens collects specks of dust, so this means when I face it toward the sensor, I am much more likely to get dust onto the sensor. Also, by reversing it I expose the rear element to the world, much like with coupling rings, and if I don't clean the rear element before reattaching the right way, we end up with the same sensor dust problem. Also, the rear element isn't designed to stand up to any kind of abuse like the front element, so a knock on it could spell disaster. It also doesn't allow really that close to 1:1 magnification, so is by no means a comparable alternative to a dedicated macro lens. You also lose all potential of an automatic focus system and aperture control. I also discredited this option.

It is important to note that up until now, the previous two options will both retain full image quality and sharpness of the said lenses you are using.

The third and final alternative option to extension tubes is diopter macro filters. A good set of these will set you back £100-200, so it seems to make sense just to buy the dedicated lens! Plus you could argue that even these high quality filters, by adding glass to lens automatically degrades quality to some extent. But if you're looking to alternatives for this, you're probably looking at the filters in the region of £10-30. These filters will almost soften the image that your lens is producing, and are generally only available in 52mm or 58mm filter threads. The fact that they degrade quality automatically put them out of the window for me, the fact they don't really get particularly close to 1:1 also helped me make the decision. But you do retain full autofocus and aperture control as the lens is still mounted directly to the body, so possibly a cheap way to go if this kind of thing is of concern to you.

The option that I chose for, and is in my opinion the best, is the extension tube. This essentially moves your lens further from the camera meaning that you can focus much closer, and on a nice long lens (200mmish) with a normally relatively close focusing distance you can get very close to and sometimes surpass the 1:1 magnification ratio. A big plus for me. I should mention now that just by the very nature of moving the lens further from the camera you are in fact reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor by a stop or two, so this can sometimes be a problem, a tripod is a definite must here, and a remote shutter release if you have one. These provide all the same benefits as a dedicated macro lens with the benefits of taking up much less room in your bag and they're much lighter, they also sometimes surpass the golden 1:1 ratio, the only downside being the loss in light. From here though, you can choose two ways to go with extension tubes, there's cheap, and there's expensive. Let's look at expensive first, (the route I chose not to go down). For around £120 you can pick up a set of Kenko extension tubes ( and these will allow to you retain full autofocus and aperture control, they have electrical connectors to communicate with the camera, this is the only thing that makes them more expensive, so this is why I couldn't justify the expense over the cheap option. So lets look at the cheap option. For around £10 delivered, yes that's £120 saving ( you can pick up these generic tubes, and can I just say, they're great!! I fail to understand the negative reviews, they're absolutely spot on for £10, full metal construction and they easily support my relatively heavy 28-200mm USM lens even when holding the body not supporting the lens, i.e, they're super tough. They have identical functionality to the £130 Kenkos, the only thing being different is that you will lose autofocus and aperture control, but most macro photographers use autofocus anyway for practical reasons, so for £10 instead of £130, will I miss these features?! Probably not, and if I do, I'll just casually take a look at the £120 wad of cash in my wallet. You'll probably lose out on an instruction manual, and nice box etc. (I'm guessing, but i've never had the Kenkos), but who cares for the price?!

So maybe I've convinced you that these are the way forward? Or maybe not, maybe autofocus and aperture control on the cheap are essential, then maybe go for the diopter filters. But I'd say the case for extension tubes is fairly strong. I've done a quick unboxing and commentary on these, feel free to take a look just below, it is also worth mentioning that you can add extension tubes to a macro lens making for super super super macro photography.

Part 1

Part 2