Friday, 28 May 2010

North London Photographer: Tips from a Professional #2 – Improving your everyday shots.

So, you've read my last blog entry and are suitably inspired to go out and take some photos. You’ve purchased your beautiful shiny camera (or dusted down the old one that you’ve kept in a drawer). The next question is how can you get better pictures from it?

There’s a variety of advice and wisdom available on the net as to how to improve your photography, none of which are worth listening to until you have the basics down pat. Today’s post considers these basics:


Pretty much every compact digital these days has a big display on the back. It shows in very pretty colours what the camera can see but encourages you to hold the camera at arms length so that you can see through it.

Holding it like this means that you are much more likely to move the camera slightly when taking the shot.


The more traditional method of pressing a camera’s eye piece against your face makes for a much more steady hold. It’s like using a tripod with three legs against one with only two!

If your camera has an “old fashioned” viewfinder, then use it! It might not be so “sexy” but it will help you achieve slightly more sharpness, critical to turning your picture into one you’ll want to keep.


Cameras work by gathering enough light through the lens to make a bright picture. Whenever there is less light around (at night, on gloomy days etc) then the camera will keep the shutter open for longer. This means that you need to hold the camera even more steadily in these conditions. How can you do this?

Firstly – look at your stance. Stand straight, open your feet slightly more than shoulder wide (or kneel on one knee). Lock your body.

Now – make sure that you’re holding the camera correctly, breathe out slowly – hold your breath for a split second and whilst holding it, squeeze the shutter slowly (don’t jab it) and release it slowly (then don’t forget to breathe again!)

Step 1 complete then, your photograph is sharp.

Next – create more impact with your pictures by using one of the two zooms you are equipped with.

Pretty much every compact these days has a decent zoom. As I mentioned previously, ignore the digital zoom (which tries to invent detail that the camera doesn’t actually capture), but use one of the two others at your disposal. You can use the camera’s optical zoom or how about employing your own “foot zoom” (walk closer to the subject you are photographing!)

Getting closer to who you are photographing so that they fill the frame means that you’ll create a connection with the subject and makes for a photograph with much more oomph!


I’ve talked about low light and slow shutter speeds, but what should you do when the sun is out and the light is bright?

This is exactly the kind of situation where your flash can come to your aid. It seems counter-intuitive to use a flash in bright sunlight but consider this. The sun is an (at least occasionally here in the UK) extremely harsh source of light. It’s also very high in the sky. If you take a picture of someone in bright sunlight then you risk very harsh shadows. These often show up worse in someones eyes when the eyebrow’s shade the sun’s light from the eyes themselves – we call this “panda eyes”.

Switch your camera’s flash on (use the “fill flash” option if the camera has it) and the flash will fill in some of the missing light and give you a much more appealing result.


You can also improve your photography on sunny days by making sure that the sun is behind the people you photograph. So long as you are careful not to have the sun “in shot” (which will cause flare and sunspots) then it will provide an attractive halo around the subjects head and again, you can use fill-flash to brighten up peoples faces.


Above all, digital photography makes it exceptionally easy to practice – with the cameras display giving you instant feedback. Learn these principles, know your camera and I guarantee you will produce more compelling pictures far more often than you did before.

Check back soon for the next in my series of “Tips from a professional photographer” and watch your photography take off!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Dan's #FollowFriday Blog

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“Follow Friday” (#FF, #FollowFriday) is an established part of the twitter week whereby users of the micro-blogging service recommend people that their own followers might like to follow.

It started for me with just a #FF tag followed by a list of names, but since so many other ‘tweeps’ were doing the same, the chances of anyone clicking onto any of these names and investigating them further seemed slim. I know that I was certainly reluctant to click on many of the large seemingly random names that I was presented with without a compelling reason to do so.

Then, one of my photography (and indeed #FF) friends came up with/discovered the idea of linking to a blog post of his where he could explain in a little more detail who he was recommending and why. Thanks Glyn! This immediately seemed more sensible to me, and so I’m pilfering re-using his idea.

My Follow Friday recommendations will be broken down into categories and I’ll add to (or even remove!) them as time passes. One of the joys of Twitter is its fluidity & social nature and the fact that you naturally meet interesting people in the course of a day’s tweeting.

So – here we go:-


@GlynDewis – The UK’s equivalent of @Strobist (but with better shorts), The UK’s answer to @zarias (but with less hair). Glyn consistently gives more than he receives and his blog is rapidly becoming “the place to go” for off camera flash users this side of the pond. A consistent source of ideas, advice and encouragement. Oh and his photoshop retouching tips are worth a look too!

@Noel_Hannan – I met Noel on one of Glyn’s tester workshops. He’s got an eye for colour and composition and being Irish(!) his conversational style makes for a worthy friend to follow on Twitter and his blog.

@zarias - gets a mention for his epic workshops (often streamed live online) and no nonsense style of imparting advice

@MancTog - despite his Man Utd affiliations Neil is one of Manchester’s most interesting photographers and twitterers, his blog frequently giving detailed descriptions of how he gets his great landscapes. He also has the humility to admit to his mistakes – allowing all of us to learn from his experience.

@Richard_Hales – is another twitter friend and wedding photographer who’s blog contains enough to keep fellow ‘togs happy and isn’t just an additional selling vehicle for his business.

@MattSando – Matt has his fingers on the pulse of the “blogesphere” and his recommendations are always worth reading.

@tpphotography – Greg is a friendly & inspiring wedding photographer in beautiful Dorset.

@derekpye – occasional tweets only but undoubtedly “The world’s greatest living wedding photographer” (!)


@chelseayouth – Simply insanely dedicated follower of Chelsea FC, gives absolutely the best coverage of the club at Reserve and Youth Level and a thoroughly nice bloke too.

– the most complete independent Chelsea site in the universe.

@SouthernLatic – another Chelsea Nut with his own, frequently updated site.

@CFC12 – Yugam joins the list of Chelsea twitters with eyes on more than just the first team.

@rickglanvill – Chelsea mad journalist and author with the sense of humour that all Chelsea Fan’s need to have.

@TheChelsOrg – The new kid on the block but already a comprehensive CFC resource.

@CFCJourno -The man behind the ChelseaMad website.


@DeanoDV8Create - one of life's hard workers delivering exceptional design, copywriting and more.

@MyCoffeeStopUK - the best coffee in Enfield, bar none – a friendly welcome, fast service, fair-trade, f’ing awesome really! Find them on the London bound platform of Enfield Chase station.

@markhillary – Little could I imagine when sitting next to him in class twenty (or more) years ago that Mark would become one of the most interesting commentators on social media and users of blogging in the UK. An expert on outsourcing, IT, globalisation – it’s just a shame he’s got such a ropey portrait on his homepage!

@jwhairandspa - Stunning men’s & woman’s haircuts from James & Donna, great beauty treatments and happy times in the Enfield salon.

@keshmorjaria – inspiring and giving. Marketing for the modern age.

So that's it - hopefully you'll find one or two of interest in that list. Check back in future weeks and see how my recommendations have developed.


Thursday, 20 May 2010

North London Photographer: Tips from a Professional - buying a new Compact Camera

As a professional photographer, friends and relations frequently ask me which camera they should buy.   My first response to this is always "do you really need a new camera?"    Most cameras these days are so advanced that many people do not use 80% of their functionality.   Unless you really know how to get the best out of your current camera then buying a new one is likely to lead to dissapointing results.

If we ignore mobile phone cameras, generally there are two main types of camera on the market today:

    * Compact or "Point and Shoot" cameras - these are designed to be easy to operate and carry around and produce pretty good shots in most conditions through automatic procedures.
    * SLR cameras which are larger, have interchangeable lenses and lots of extra components like external flashes that can be connected to the camera.   These are much harder to operate but can, in knowledgeable hands, produce a higher quality image than is possible from a compact camera.

I'll talk in a later posting about the issues to consider before purchasing your first SLR - this post will concentrate on the more commonly used compact cameras.

If I was choosing a new compact camera today, then these are the points that I would be putting top of my list of considerations:

§         Lens quality: Cheap digital cameras have cheap, plastic lenses made by “no name” companies without a history in the business – a cheap lens will distort light and change colours leading to soft & lifeless pictures.   Generally if you pick a camera manufactured by one of the well known names (Canon, Sony, Nikon, Kodak, Fuji etc) you wont go far wrong.

§         Autofocus ability:  Because of the way cameras work, only a proportion of the area between the camera and the distance will be in focus (or sharp).  Good cameras have intelligent autofocus mechanisms which do their best to make sure that the most important part of the image is sharp.  For example when taking a portrait, the ability of a camera to lock onto someone’s face (particularly if it’s a little dark) and bring it into focus is vital.

§         Shutter Lag:  Cheap cameras often take a second or more from the time you press down on the shutter button to the time that they actually take the picture. That second is often long enough for the critical moment to have passed.  If you are trying to capture a picture of say a bird perched on the feeder in your garden, by the time the camera takes the picture, the bird may very well have taken flight and left you with a lovely picture of an empty bird feeder.

§         Zoom lenses will help you to have the subject fill the frame  – but don’t be fooled by “digital zoom”.  All this does is to take the central area of the picture and enlarge it – this loses quality.  The phrase “Optical Zoom” is the important one to look for.

§         How does the camera work for you?   Where possible, handing the camera that you’re about to buy before you purchase it is very useful.  With a myriad of different options, cameras can be complicated things and finding one where the controls are logical to you, which fits in your hands comfortably and can be carried for extended periods of time is a really important consideration.

Most cameras are sold with their "Megapixel count"  (the number of "digital dots" that go to make up the image) emblazoned at the top of their sales literature.  This suggests that it's the most important aspect of your potential purchase.   However technology has moved on so far that I feel this should be a minimal consideration only.  For example it is generally recognised that 5 Megapixels is enough to print a picture at A4 sized, so the difference between a 9 and 10 Megapixel is largely academic.

I would also want to spend a little less on the camera itself to give me a little more money to buy additional batteries and memory cards.   What good is a camera that you cant take pictures with, either because the batteries have run down or there’s no space for additional pictures on the memory card?   Always have plenty of spares and there’s no excuse for running out at the vital moment.

 Keep watching this space and in the weeks and months to come I'll pass on more "tips from a pro" to make sure you get the most out of your photography.

Dan Davies



Monday, 17 May 2010

North London Photographer: Bridal Fashion Shoot

I recieved a brief the other week to photograph dresses for the website of a client who is setting up her own Bridal Boutique in Crouch End, North London.

So, I set about finding models, a make up artist and a location whist my client prepared around 30 dresses for me to shoot.

My models were excellent and hugely professional, and my MUA a star, as she always is.

Here are a few of my favourite images from our four hour shoot:

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All in all it was a fun, but exhausting day. A big thanks go out to everyone who pulled together on the shoot and good luck to my client - I'm sure the shop will be a huge success.

(See What my wife says about me here!)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Chelsea Open Top Parade - May 2010

I was delighted to cover today's Open Top Bus Parade where 100,000 delirious Chelsea Fans cheered and thanked the players who'd brought not one, but two major trophies to SW6.

With the addition of the FA Youth Cup and Community Shield, it has been a bumper season for Chelsea and filled with many magical moment's. My favourite? Drogba's late winner on the opening day v Hull, in retrospect - how important was that.

Here are a few highlights of today's parade:

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Many more shots of today's celebration can be found on my new Facebook page here. Please view, comment, like and generally enjoy what's been a great day for every Chelsea Fan.


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

North London Photographer: Westley & Karen, Pre-Wedding shoot at Coltsfoot, Herts

Next month I have the pleasure of shooting Karen & Westley's wedding at the lovely Coltsfoot Hotel in Datchworth, Hertfordshire. To cap a busy weekend, I met with them on Monday afternoon and we ventured into the stong wind to have a little fun and capture a few relaxed "pre-wedding" shots.

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I offer a complementary pre-wedding shoot to every bride and groom. Spending a little time together helps to build a good friendly relationship when the big day comes around, gives the couple a chance to know what I'm like behind the camera and gives me a better idea of their likes & dislikes and how comfortable "posing" for me they are. Everything goes together to help me create great images on their wedding day. Have a look at my website for details of our wedding service and the differences that make us the right choice for your wedding photography.

Photos - Chelsea win 2010 FA Youth Cup Final

A noisy crowd of around 12,000 were in attendance at Stamford Bridge last night to see Chelsea take the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1961 with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa to give them a 3-2 aggregate win.

The best report of the game is here

My full slideshow of 180 photos is here (don't forget to hit the "fullscreen button" in the top right of the picture for the best viewing experience.

But first, heres a few highlights.

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Gokhan Tore was an immediate menace on both flanks.

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Using his pace, strength and skill to carve out several early opportunities

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With Villa set up defensively, there were frequent opportunities for all four defenders to raid forward

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Jeffrey Bruma here looking to add to his goal from the first leg ...

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... and berating himself for failing to do so

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Josh McEachran showing no little skill ...

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... to defeat two Villa Defenders.

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Another Tore cross comes to naught.

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The partially hidden Marco Mitrovic (9) fires home from Sala's cross to equaliser.
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A contrast of emotions as the Blues celebrate restoring parity.

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With only five minutes remaining and from fully 30 yards Chelsea Captain Connor Clifford fires home the deserved winner ...

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Before being engulfed by celebrating fans and team mates alike.

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Celebrations when the final whistle blows.

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and a quick lap of honour before ...

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Clifford lifts the cup.

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Much to Manager Dermot Drummy's delight.

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Before finally relaxing and celebrating in a way traditional to all true winners.

It was fantastic to see such a disciplined, skilled performance from 1 to 11 and to celebrate a deserved acheivement. Well done to everyone involved and a big thanks to CFC for the pitchside access they afforded me.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

London Wedding Photographer: Marvelous Military Wedding (and the weather held!)

We spent an excellent day yesterday with Tariq & Rebecca, celebrating and recording the blessing of their wedding at the Guards Chapel on Birdcage Walk.

We had previously spent a really enjoyable couple of hours with them both in St. James's Park for their pre-wedding shoot and really enjoyed their company, so was very much looking forward to their big day.

Here's just a few of the shots that "jumped out at me" whilst taking an first look through the images from the day this morning.

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Sometimes a look says it all.

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At the high altar.

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Exchanging vows.

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A grand exit.

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Am I getting older or are soldiers looking younger & younger these days?

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Formal ...

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... but fun!

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An impressive line up.

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Time for some more shots in beautiful St. James's park and Becky & Tariq's sense of fun is to the fore

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Grey skies gathered but fortunately the weather held for long enough to create some stunning shots in the park.

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A beautiful bride in a beautiful location.

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On to the reception & Tariq's emotions show as he gives his speech.

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The best man kept it cool throughout, however.

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Guests signing the mount of a picture frame that will be updated with a wedding picture and displayed on the couples living room wall.

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Kudos to the cake maker for these superbly accurate cake toppers.

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The first dance and another demonstration of togetherness and joy.

We enjoy every wedding that we shoot, but what was most special about yesterday was how much that both Rebecca and Tariq made us feel welcome and treated us as guests rather than the interlopers we really are! Thank you both for your hugely generous hospitality - we both wish you every happiness for your future together.

Please visit our website if you'd like to see what makes our wedding photography different from the rest - we'd love to share in your celebrations too!