Thursday, 25 February 2010

Come on over to my new 'Home'

Real pleased to tell you that I've got a completely new and updated blog over at this

All the original content from here has been imported so you can always look through earlier posts but in a way I think you'll find alot easier...less clicking around, not having to click on pictures to make them larger and so on.

Check out the new website too at: ... same address as before but with a whole new look and you can access the new blog from there too.

So, come on over to my new 'home' on the're always welcome!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Using HDR for Interior Commercial Photography

There's been quite a bit of discussion online lately on blogs and forums about the use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography and I reckon it's fair to say that some people love it, and some people (clearly) hate it. Scott Kelby wrote on his blog recently asking for peoples thoughts on the subject and boy, did some people really let their thoughts be known.

I first became aware of HDR when a Photographer / Photoshop Guru by the name of Ben Willmore began posting HDR images he'd put together during his ongoing journey along Route 66. He'd edited them in such a way that gave them an almost surreal, futuristic look and to be honest it was this look that I associated with HDR and never considered it's other uses...until fairly recently.

Ultimately HDR enables the photographer to produce images (when not over processed) that capture much more detail in the shadows, midtones and highlight areas and so resulting in a closer interpretation of what can been seen by the human eye:

Over the past couple of months aside from my Portrait work, I've been finding myself getting commissioned to photograph interiors of Hotels and Restaurants and rather than adding in bursts of light during longer exposures I've opted for HDR for two reasons. One reason being the speed it enables me to work and secondly (& more importantly) it gives me exactly the kind of look I'm after...a definite win, win situation!

To create a HDR image, the process involves photographing a 'scene' but rather than taking a single photograph, a number are taken. Five is a generally a good number of photographs to take as the first photograph will be 'properly' exposed and then two photographs are taken either side of this exposure each 1 stop apart:

Setting the exposures for each shot can be done manually but by doing this there is always the risk of knocking the camera so that it becomes out of line. Most modern SLR's and some 'Point and Shoots' like the Canon G series, have this facility (known as Bracketing) built into them where you can select the number of exposures you want the camera to take.

Once you have your five photographs, it's then a case of combining them so that the full range of exposures can be put together to make one final image. I generally combine three of the images together: the 'properly exposed image plus the image that is 2 stops under exposed and the one that is 2 stops over exposed. Photoshop does have a built in 'HDR' creating function but to be honest it still needs a little work, so the software of choice is Photomatix, and I tend to find 99% of the time that the default settings work just fine. Once the images have been combined (tone mapped) I'll then do a little tweeking in Photoshop just to add some finishing touches.

Here's a couple of examples of 'overly' processed HDR images where I went for the surreal/drawing kind of look (just for fun you understand)

So, what's your opinion of HDR? ... like it or dislike it? HDR is no magic wont make a bad shot into a good shot. The old saying of 'Garbage in Garbage out' still counts for HDR because you still need to have good quality images to combine in the first place. Personally I think there is defintely a place in the 'tool kit' for it but I'd love to hear your thoughts / feelings on the subject so please leave a comment. If you've got any examples feel free to send them over and I'll post some up here in an 'update'.

Also, if you have any questions about this post or would like to see a video tutorial then just let me know in the comments section below or send me an email, message on Facebook etc... and I'll 'get on it'.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

InSight Workshop 'One2One' (Tester)

Having held a few 'tester' Workshops with small groups of photographers over the past few weeks I've been getting the occasional email coming through asking about 1-1 sessions to include both lighting & editing techniques.

1-1's are something I do intend to be offering so with a little spare time available this past weekend and being a big believer in the mantra of 'Practice makes Perfect' I got together with a good friend of mine (and keen Photographer) Neal Hibbert to run through a 'personalised' Workshop.

We started the afternoon off by going through basics of how to control the ambient light in a scene and then how to bring in some off camera lighting to light the subject. We then moved on to run through my Invisible Black Backdrop Technique firstly outdoors, and then indoors to go through the same technique but also how to deal with the challenge of light bouncing off the surrounding walls and creeping into the shot.

Keeping in the tradition of running workshops when it's either raining or freezing cold, we then headed out into what seemed like Arctic conditions (maybe a slight exaggeration) to work on a couple of 'location' shots:

Having been out for no longer than half an hour we then headed back indoors and once body temperatures had returned back to a respectable 36.8 ÂșC we then loaded in some of the shots from the afternoon and ran through some simple editing techniques.

BIG thank you to Neal's daughter Leah who helped us out by being our model for the afternoon, but I'm sure this wont be the last bit of modelling she'll be doing as I've already been notified of Neal's purchase of a light stand, reflective umbrella etc... (Just don't blame me Leah....please)


Image 1:

This shot was taken in Neal's kitchen during the middle of the afternoon and was created using the Invisible Black Backdrop technique. To minimise the spread of light coming out of the reflective umbrella I closed it down almost all the way and positioned it so that I was getting the light to give nice shadows on Leah's face.

*NB...'Closing down' the umbrella simply refers to releasing the catch so that the umbrella is no longer fixed open. This allows us to control the spread of light and give it more direction but still gives a nice soft light as it's still a decent sized light source and is in close to the subject.

Image 2:

This shot couldn't have been simpler. The ambient light was reduced by about 2 stops and then Leah was lit using a Nikon SB800 high on a light stand. Initially no light modifier was used however this meant that Leah's top half was lit but lower half and ground became very dark. The solution...use a 60" Shoot-Thru umbrella to create a larger light source and consequently a bigger spread of light. (Image 3 was made using the exact same lighting set up)

Bye for now.

* You can check out Neal's results from the afternoon by visiting his Flickr page.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Lighting Workshop: 1-1 Training

Hi All,
Thought I'd post up a few random images from yesterday's 1-1 Lighting Workshop 'tester'. I'll

Friday, 5 February 2010

InSight Photography Workshop 'Tester' by Moonlight

Hi All,
Just to let you know the date of the next Photography (tester) Workshop is planned for Sunday 28th February in the Windsor, Berkshire area. This one is going to be a little bit different in that we'll be going through 'Off Camera Lighting' but this time we'll be shooting at night.

We'll be in various locations from a Town Centre, Multi Storey Car Park and maybe a few places you wouldn't expect so if you'd like to come along and join in (numbers are limited to 6 photographers) drop me an email or get in touch through Facebook / Twitter and I'll get more details out to you.

As with the other 'testers' I've organised over the past few weeks this is free to attendees so long as you give me brutal, honest feedback and we'll be concentrating on the 'shooting' side only and not the full 'theory' side that will be included in the complete workshop that'll be launched later in the year.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lighting Walk-Through:Keep it simple with minimal kit

Sometimes I think one of the biggest challenges to us as Photographers is not what shot to take, but what kit to take with us. Clearly there are times when we need all manner of lighting equipment, stands, props and so on but it was Zack Arias' influence that turned me towards the 'minimalist approach to produce maximum results'.

Although I have a number of lights that I can bring to a shoot, as a rule I like to work as much as possible with one light and that'll generally be a Nikon SB800 or my Alien Bee 1600 (if I need that bit more..oommppff!!!). This approach over the last year has helped me to 'Keep It Simple' and as a result get much better results, and in a much shorter period of time. That being said, there are always going to be those times when one light just isn't enough as you'll see a little later in the following lighting walk-through:

'Vince the Hat': Lighting Walk-Through

First things first, set my camera to manual mode and expose for the sky. Then I set up a single SB800 without any modifiers, aimed directly at his 'upper half'. The only problem with this was that the lower part of his body and the ground around his feet became quite dark as the light 'fell off'. So, the the SB800 into a 60" Shoot Thru umbrella to create a larger light source; the result being that light then spread over a wider area ie his lower body and the ground around his feet.

The following two pictures show you the photograph as it was directly 'out of camera' and then the final image having had a few tweeks in Photoshop.

Now the second set-up which had us photographing 'Vince the Hat' in his shed was one of those times when one light just wasn't enough to get the job done. 

I've included these two images to show you first of all what kind of photograph the camera would give us in 'Aperture Priority' mode and in natural/ambient light...pretty lame huh? So, to get the kind of photograph I was after, it was back into 'Manual Mode' and set the exposure so that we get some detail in the sky. 

The result of doing this as you can see from the second photograph was a great looking sky but Vince going into complete darkness, so then it was a simple case of using the same Nikon SB800 and 60" Shoot Thru umbrella as before and aiming it in through the windows to create a large, natural looking light source.

This worked just fine but the only 'challenge' then was that the area under the shelf that Vince was leaning on was getting none of the light so the solution here was to bring in another Nikon SB800, hand held by my good friend Noel Hannan just outside of the doorway and aimed into the lower area of the shed.

These last two images show the photograph as it came out of the camera and then the resulting final image once I'd worked on it for a couple of minutes or so in Photoshop to remove some 'give away' shadows and tweeked the colour/tone.

Questions or comments about this post? Please let me know in the comments section below, but in the mean time,


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