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Updated regularly, tips to freshen up your images.

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The Law and your photography - post 8 - Latest
Increasingly security guards and the police are over stepping the mark when it comes to photography; here are some pointers on the law and your photography.

Key points

  • Tips (1 of 3)
    If you are on public land i.e. the street, town squares and parks you are free to take personal and commercial photographs as long as you are not obstructing others (note: royal parks, Trafalgar and Parliament Square are not classed as public land)
  • More tricky, these are privately owned and therefore can ask you to stop, but officially they allow none flash photography for personal use (this includes student work), if you have a commercial use in mind you will have to seek permission from the appropriate land owner first. Generally tripods are deemed to be ‘obstructive’ and without prior permission you are likely to be asked to scarper.
  • If you are on public land and the building, architecture, sculpture etc,
    Tips (2 of 3)
    is on public view then you can take images for personal or commercial purposes. If you are on private land you need to ask permission first.
  • The law is fairly straight forward on this, if a person is in public and on public land you are free to photograph them. If they are in a situation where they have a’ reasonable expectation of privacy’ i.e. at home, inside or in their garden then you are on dodgy ground. This also goes for photographing children, but as I know a couple of very well established professional photographers who have been attacked for innocently taking shots around children, all I can say is, the law may be on your side, but always put your own safety first and use your common sense.
  • Your images - your rights: Security guards do not have stop and search powers or the right to seize your equipment or delete images or confiscate film under any circumstances’. The police have the right to stop and search, and even to take your property as proof of a crime, but they too cannot ask for an image to be deleted. If you have not broken the law then your images are proof of this.
    Tips (3 of 3)

Remember always put your safety first. To read more about the law and your photography click here.

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Utilising the Golden Hour - post 7

Low light
Low light and night time photography can be a fun and effective tool in your armoury, but dusk is where you’ll find an ever changing array of lighting conditions; the golden hour, lasts for just that in a european summer and about half an hour in winter. So make sure you know where you want to be, set yourself up with a tripod, set your camera to manual, and use the 2 sec, timer to remove the chance of camera shake and then have fun.
Low light also hides a lot of sins, and with its ability (especially at dusk) to show of the interior of a building in the same shot as the exterior, it’s a long established
GoldneHour (3 of 2)
favourite of architectural photographers. Why not practice with your own home, open all the curtains / blinds, turn on all the lights and go outside and await dusk, take exposures over the hour to find the optimum condition, this way you can learn in the comfort of your own home, with a cup of tea or glass of wine for company. If you have family, and as the exposures get longer, you can also have a bit of fun asking them to walk through the rooms, leaving ghostly trails as they go.

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Shooting Live Music - post 6
Photographes by Kevin Nixon, his new book is out now at blurb.

Music photography is something a lot of us will want to have a go at, and with DLSR’s having increasing high ISO rating (sensitivity to light), and ever decreasing ‘noise’, or interference, it is becoming more obtainable.

So here are my simple tips:

Unless specifically asked to by the band, do not use flash, a lot of top acts will have a first song exception to allow the press to gain some clear shots, but on the whole flash is a no no; exceptions are dance clubs, where strobing lights are in constant use.

No Flash:

Use a high ISO, but the lowest one that enables you to use a shutter speed of 60-250, such as ISO1600 - 6400.

Then it’s all about timing, even small gigs these days will have lights that
Bloc Party
phase and move with the rhythm of the music, work out when the back light gives the lead that famous rock and roll halo, then wait for the front lighting to illuminate them for more detailed, gritty emotion shots.
James Morrison
But remember, be polite, a lot of people have paid good money to enjoy the band and don’t want a view of your back for most of the gig, photographers are there on good will, one complaint to the management and you’ll be waiting in the back alley for the exit shot a lot earlier than you intended. Stand at the side and crouch down for the best shots, it’s not about being right in front of the lead singer, you want to create a shot, with the action of the band, the shape formed by the light and even the light bouncing of the crowd to bring your shots to life.

Images clockwise from top left: Elbow, Mika, Bloc Party, James Morrison - Copyright Kevin Nixon.

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Fill in Flash - post 5
Your might think that flash is just for low light conditions, but in fact most professional photographers I know will use some degree of flash in almost all of their work. In fact the brighter the sun, the more need there is to balance up the lighting by using flash to fill in some details in the shadow.

The key to using fill in flash has two components, firstly soften it and secondly to know the power of your flash.
So firstly, softening, by far the easiest way to do this it to buy an off the shelf diffuser, such as Sto-fen Ominflash which retails for under £20, alternatively a reflector style defuser, but I have also seen many a photographers loosely attach a bit of white plastic bag over their flash with rubber bands - when needs must.
Next you need to know how much flash to use, get used to setting your flash to under or over expose, in the UK I mostly find that setting to around -0.5 stops is about right on a bright day, but you will need to practice with the setting. This really is a skill worth investing time in. You’ll have to work in Manual mode, otherwise the camera is likely to compensate for the flash.

Fill in flash, as used by the likes of
Martin Parr, can also be used to add punch and colour to objects in the foreground. See example below.

no fill in flashfill in flash
Even the brightest day, a small burst of fill in flash can really bring out the saturated colours, here I set my flash to -0.7, you need to vary the flash strength depending on the conditions.

Try this out: Take a ‘model’ outside on a bright day, take a test shot on ‘manual’ with no flash (shutter speed will need to be compatible with the flash, usually under 1/250, now take one with the flash at normal power, ten take some shots with the flash set to under and then over expose. Secondly find something colourful, place it near to the camera (no more than 2m away) and take some more test exposures.

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Don’t Avoid the Rain - post 4

RainNyNy (1 of 1)Pier in rain
The world comes alive in the rain, surfaces become reflective, people are less self aware as they dodge the puddles. An excellent Australian photographer Trent Parke, made a whole book of such images, and it really is impressive. See his sight here.

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Vary Your Scale - post 3
I used to teach photojournalism and travel photography, one of the straight forward tips people really responded to was this: When shooting things can become a bit repetitive, so try varying the scale of what you are shooting; when you are stuck simply switch scale.

Scale one: The Overview, scene setting shot. Such as buildings, a street scene, a market entrance etc.

venice river scene

Scale two: Closing in on the action. Such as people, transactions, doorways, window or shop displays, street performers etc.

venice architectual detail

Scale three: Detail. Such as architectural details, close ups of goods for sale, the deli counter in a market, the make up area when backstage at a fashion shoot, a coffee cup etc.

venice close up

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Quick entry - Top 10 Photo You Tube Clips - post 2
Here are a selection of some of my all time favourite YouTube clips, featuring stop motion videos, interviews with photographers, some stylish adverts and some other clips that I’ve enjoyed.


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Welcome to PhotoUtopia - post 1

self portrait
Hi, with two decades experience in the photographic media, and a decade of tutoring in the subject; I thought it was time to share some of the many tips I’ve picked up. I’ll also be asking my professional photographer friends to add their tips. So please book mark this page and come back and see if there are any updates.

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