Team Photocritic

Waterstone's, Cambridge. Tomorrow. Meet Daniela.

social photography cover Between 11:00 and 15:00 I shall be on the second floor of Waterstone's in Cambridge, offering smartphone photography demonstrations, one-to-one advice, and signing copies of my books if anyone wants to buy them.

If you're in or around Cambridge, please do drop by. I'd love to see you!

The winners of our Patience is a virtue long exposure competition are...

It took some serious deliberation. There were a lot of emails between us. There was even the odd expletive. Finally, however, Haje, Tom, and I have selected our five favourite photos from the Photocritic Long Exposure Competition. In no particular order I present to you the winners of Patience is a Virtue:

Set Fire to the Rain by Cybjorg

Sunrise at Botany Bay, Edisto Island by Luke Robinson

Tower Bridge traffic by Nick Jackson

Blades of Light by Paul Shears

and Cairngorm Panorama by Ian Appleton

Many congratulations to the five of you! I shall be in contact presently to enable to you claim your Triggertrap gift card prizes!

We'd also like to say thank you to everyone who entered and made our lives a little bit tricky when it came to selecting a winner. As Haje said when we first sat down to draw up a shortlist of our favourites: 'There's some serious talent there!' Please do go look at the selection in the Flickr pool: there are some inspiring images.

Last call for the Photocritic long exposure competition!

British Summer Time ends this weekend&Mdash;at 02:00 on Sunday, to be exact—which means that time is running out for you to submit your long exposure photos to our competition. We won't be accepting any more entries after the clocks move back, so if you want to be in with a chance of winning a £40 gift card for the Triggertrap shop, you'd better get your skates on. Late night in East London

All of the competition's rules and regulations, not that there are many of them, can be found on the Flickr pool page, the same place to which you need to submit your entries. There've been some cracking shots submitted so far, but we'd really love to see more in the pool!

Good luck!

Patience is a virtue, but we're impatient to see your long exposure photos!

You've just under a week left to submit a maximum of five of your favourite long exposure photos to our competition, and be in with the chance of winning one of five £40 gift cards for the Triggertrap shop. We've already had some terrific entries over in our Flickr pool, but we'd love it if you made the judging even more difficult for us! Triangles galore!

To enter, upload your image to Flickr and share it in our competition pool. There are some rules and regulations, you can find them on Flickr pool page or here on Photocritic.

We can't wait to see your photos!

In or around Cambridge on 8 November? Come meet Daniela in Waterstone's!

One of the questions that people ask me when a new book comes out is 'Are you going to have a launch party?' Once or twice I've even been asked if I'll do a tour. The answer is, for both, sadly, 'No.' That's not so much because I'm a miserable and dyspeptic misanthrope, but more because I'm not exactly Clare Balding or Tom Holland. However, (I do love a good however) in November I'm getting a one-date gig at the gorgeous Waterstone's branch in Cambridge that sort-of maybe perhaps passes for either of these events.

Daniela does smartphone photography at Waterstone's, Cambridge.

Yes, I'm rather excited about it.

That's Daniela. Alleged star of this particular show.

On Saturday 8 November you'll find me loitering on the second floor of Waterstone's, Cambridge, not far from the coffee shop, possibly ensconced in a fortress constructed of copies of Social Photography, extolling the virtues of smartphone photography. At 11:00 and 14:30 I'll be offering a free-for-all 'How to get the best out of your smartphone' session, while in-between-time I shall be on-hand to offer one-to-one advice for anyone with more specific questions or for those whose schedules conflict with the talks. And if you want a copy of Social, I can sign it for you, too.

Social Photo in my hand

Even if you're not that fussed by smartphone photography, do drop by if you happen to be in the vicinity: I'd love to meet you.

Salient details: Saturday 8 November 2014, 11:00 to about 15:00; Waterstone's, Sidney Street, Cambridge; me and quite a few copies of Social Photography.

Introducing Photocritic &c

Have you noticed anything a little different about Photocritic recently? Maybe that we're reporting fewer news stories? Or that the front page looks slightly different? Don't worry; you don't have to answer, but trust us when we tell you that things have changed around here. We set out with the intention of making Photocritic a resource of everything that you should know about photography. It even says so up there. If you think that sounds like an enormous undertaking, you wouldn't be wrong. But in addition to the mountainous workload, the scope of 'everything' carries with it the threat of the insignificant drowning out the significant and the ephemera overwhelming the fundamentals. This is of no benefit at all to you, and it's a waste of our time. Hence we've decided to make some changes.

We're diversifying our presence but consolidating our coverage. No, I'm still not sure how I came up with that statement. Too many press releases, probably.

Let's start here, with the Photocritic website. This will be for the everything that makes you a better photographer. And for everything that deserves analysis and commentary within the photography industry. It will be for tutorials and explainers, for reviews and op-eds. This is for long-tail writing.

PC etc

For the everything that encompasses quirky news stories, exhibition announcements, competition calls for entries, and information about books written by people who aren't us, we've set up Photocritic &c. It's a Tumblr for the sort of everything that won’t necessarily be interesting in six months’ time, but is interesting now. It's more of a rolling news feed.

We've put a link to Photocritic &c in the navigation bar, there's also one in our social bar, you should be able to subscribe via your RSS feed, and if you've a Tumblr account, you can subscribe there.

And of course, there's the Photocritic Twitter account. That covers everything that you should know about photography in 140 characters. (Don't be shy of following Daniela on Twitter, either. She's @SmallAperture.)

We think this is a change for the better: a smoother, less cluttered Photocritic experience. We hope that you think so, too.

Finally, if there's anything specific that you'd like us to cover, please ask us. We have an extensive editorial calendar, but we want to know what you want to read. Do drop us an email.

Social Photography on sale in the US!

I've heard a rumour that my newest—and possibly prettiest—book, Social Photography is now on sale in the US! Naturally I'm incredibly biased (although my father probably wins the prize for most enthusiastic cheerleader), but I am very proud of it. In a nutshell, it's a guide to making the most out of your smartphone, from taking better pictures to sharing them astutely. social photo cover

You can go into a bricks-and-mortar store to purchase it, use your preferred online retailer, or download it as an ebook.

For people in the UK wanting to lay their hands on a physical copy, they'll be here next month. Of course I'll be sure to tell you when! That would be now! Woohoo!

Know the rules so that you can break them properly

Rules. They're pretty important. Can you imagine trying to get anywhere without some rules for the road? No one would know when to stop, when to go, or even where to go. It'd be chaos, and not my idea of fun. They provide us with a framework, a means of understanding how things work, which enables us to get from A to B more safely. Then there are photography's rules. They aren't quite so critical to everyone's navigational competence and safety—the rule of thirds will hardly prevent me from getting run over—but they are there to make pictures look better.

Breaking them properly

If having rules and laws and dos and do-nots seems terribly restrictive to a creative pursuit (or how fast you want to ride your motorbike), remember that if you know and understand them properly and put them into practice, it gives you one up on anyone who doesn't. In fact, it gives you two up on people who follow them blindly. When you know them properly, you know when you can break them successfully, too.

Make sure your horizons are level...

The power in breaking a rule comes from understanding why it's a rule in the first place. When you know how and why something works, you also understand its limitations and restrictions. This means that you know when you need to reverse it, to stand it on its head, or to smash it altogether in order to get the effect that you want.

...except when they're definitely not.

This works better with an example.

Plain versus creative backgrounds

If you want to show off your subject optimally, you're best to use a plain background. That's a fairly obvious photographic rule. A busy background will compete for attention with your subject and your eye will struggle to focus where it should be focusing. The type of plain background that you use has its own set of rules that goes with it: black makes colours bolder, white makes them duller, complementary colours are striking, and using the same colour background as your subject can look stunning, too. But you know that the rule is a plain background will serve your subject best.

Nothing else to distract from gorgeous Sheara


When you need to provide some context for your subject. Photographing an academic against a plain background might make for a lovely portrait, but it doesn't really convey who this person is or what she does. Photographing her in her study, surrounded by her books, would be much more meaningful. What's important here is that the background isn't cluttered or confusing. You need the eye to fall on the professor, but the books to relay who she is.

This background helps to show the context in which the photo was taken, however busy it is

Of course, if you're photographing something like a riot or a protest, the chaos and the confusion needs to come over in the picture. You'll need a point of focus for the eye to fall upon, but everything swirling around it will add to the story.

So you want to be a rebel with a cause?

Photography is full of rules. Which means that understanding them properly presents you with hundreds, thousands of opportunities to break them to creative effect. Rather helpfully, Haje combined lots rules and examples of when and how to break them into one rather awesome book: The Rules of Photography and When to Break Them.

Always use a plain background to bring focus to your subject

Except when you need to bring context to your story

Even better, Rules is currently only £4.99 if you download it from the swish looking Ilex Instant site. That's half-price! This means you can read all the rules and learn how to break them. Go on, be a rebel!

'Social Photography' now available to download!

If you can't wait until next month* to lay your hands on a paper copy of my newest and shiniest book, Social Photography, it's available right this very moment for download as an e-book from the Ilex Instant site! social photo cover

It'll cost you £5.99 and comes in PDF, so that you can read it on your desktop, laptop, or tablet of any flavour, and there are more formats on their way.

Of course, if you'd prefer to wait for a hard copy, you can always put in a pre-order now. It'll be £9.99 in the UK and $16 in the US.

black&white spread

Naturally, I'm incredibly biased, but it is a terribly handsome book and if you're looking to get more out of your smartphone and your social networks, a fabulous companion!

* Oh the excitement! A very large order of copies of Social Photography has been placed by a well-known US retailer, to go on sale by the end of April. The UK release is being delayed a little to cover this, but it should be on these shores by the end of May. If you can't wait that long, you know what to do!

Selfies is now on sale in the US!

When Shooting Yourself went on sale in the UK last summer, Haje was ridiculously excited about his book devoted to self-portrait photography. Unfortunately, he was forced to put his excitement on ice for the US edition, which had a little longer to wait for its release. Thankfully, that wait is over and we can pop the champagne corks because Selfies is now on sale in the US! Photo 12-03-2014 09 54 16

Don't worry, the entire book doesn't comprise selfies of Haje. He does put in an appearance, and so do I, but there are gorgeous images from photographers Carly Wong, from Elly Lucas, and Callan Kapush, amongst many, many others. Some of them are dab hands with props, some are location shooting gurus, and a few even take off their clothes! It's full of tips and tricks, and ideas and explanations. And it's fabulous.

You want to lay your hands on a copy? Awesome! You can pick one up direct from the US publishers, HOW, from an Internet behemoth bookseller, as a swanky e-book, or from your favourite bricks-and-mortar bookshop.

3D printing a rubber stamp

As most of you are aware by now, I'm a bit of an all-round nerd, and I've been keeping an eye on 3D printing for a while now. Yesterday I took delivery of my printer, and I just wanted to share my first little project with you guys: Creating a rubber stamp. I haven't really been in love with any of the 3D printing tech... Until the Form 1 came along. Instead of using filament, the Form 1 prints using a technology called 'stereo lithography', which means that instead of depositing layers of plastic on top of each other, it uses FRIKKIN' LASERS to cure an UV-sensitive resin.

Anyway, enough about that - what I wanted to show off, was the end-to-end process of creating a rubber stamp.

Wot I used

  • MacBook Air
  • Modeling software: Side Effects Houdini FX, which is a procedural, nodes-based nerdfest of epic proportions (I also tried Blender and 123D, but Houdini 'clicked' with the way I can see myself working, so I'll continue using it for now)
  • Printing software: PreForm (comes with the Form 1 printer)
  • Form 1 printer
  • Sugru
  • Ink pad

Wot I did

Shape Step 1 was to model the shape I wanted to turn into a stamp. In this case, I wanted to make sort of an signet stamp for my bonnie lass and I. Since our names start with H and Z, I figured it would make sense to use those letters.

NodeNetwork The modelling itself is a little bit outside the scope of this write-up, but above is the node network representing this shape. At the top left, you can see two 'tubes' - these are the outer and inner wall of the stamp. On the right, I'm creating the text, giving it width, then placing it into the circle. The great thing about Houdini, is that if I later want to change the text, I can go into the 'Font' node, and type in something else - everything else just cascades through the node structure, and I can print another stamp easily. The two 'Cookies' you can see are boolean operations, which is combining the various shapes (in effect, adding or subtracting them)

10-print With the model completed, it was time to try to print my very first 3D object! How flippin' exciting. In this photo, you can see the supports the PreForm software adds to the item - and all I had to do next is to press 'print'.

20-printing Unbearable excitement would have to be beared for about 4 hours, as I decided to print at the highest resolution. In retrospect, that was completely unnecessary and vastly over-kill (there was no way I'd be able to translate 25 micron layers to a stamp anyway...), but you live you learn!

30-printed After a quick bath in acetone (I couldn't find any rubbing alcohol at 18:45 on a Friday night, and I figured 'what's the worst that can happen'? Turns out Acetone works just fine) and a spot of extra curing, I removed the supports, and my mould was ready!

40-sugru Now, it was time to use the mold to create the stamp itself. I picked Sugru for the job (I am a relentless fanboy - Sugru is awesome, and if you've never tried it: Buy some!)...

50-soap To prevent the Sugru from sticking to the mold, I put some some washing-up liquid on the 3D printed part...

60-handle And then pressed a tea-candle into the back of the Sugru, to use as a handle.

70-fail To my dismay, it turns out I hadn't used enough washing up liquid (or rather: I didn't ensure the whole part was covered), and I was also too impatient, leaving the Sugru in the mold for only an hour. When I removed it from the mold, some of the Sugru was left stuck inside.

80-fail It looked OK, but the top bit was missing, which was a bit of a shame... So I decided to try again!

90-trying This time, I just created a handle out of the Sugru instead of using a tea candle, jsut to try something new. I did leave it to cure for 10 hours this time, to make absolutely sure it was fully set.

99-yay And the final stamp worked well! Hurrah!

What did I learn?

Well, it turns out that 3D printing is pretty easy. 3D modelling is harder than you'd think. Sugru is brilliant, of course. Learning new things is fun. And I'm looking forward to experiment more with casting, making, 3D printing, and other nerdy endeavours.

Next stop: Inventing and 3D printing some photography gadgets!

After the competition, here's how the cover of Social Photography looks

In November last year we ran a competition, together with the Ilex Press, to find a photo to add to the front cover mosaic of my forthcoming book, Social Photography. So many fantastic entries were submitted to the pool that we found ourselves selecting two winners, who were announced in December. After a little rearrangement by Kate the Designer, there's now a gorgeous final version of the cover! social photography cover

In case you're wondering, Elisa's photo is in the top left corner, the very first image on the cover; Ben's is the third image down in the fifth column across. It's definitely worth checking out their Flickr streams, too!

Happy 2014!

Haje Jan and I would like to wish you a happy and healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014. For us, 2013 has seen new books, new projects, and new travels and encompassed a gamut of emotions, spanning thrilling, stressful, exciting, and rewarding. Re-establishing Photocritic has certainly been a part of that experience. Thank you for joining us on its evolution. We're looking forward to making it bigger, better, and stronger in 2014, and to having you along for the ride! And to send you off in style, here are a few of our favourite photos from 2013:

Want to learn how to use your shiny new camera? Try the Photocritic Photography School!

You have a shiny new camera with interchangeable lenses, more knobs and dials than the TARDIS, and enough buttons to keep a three year old happy for hours. It's thrilling and exciting, and you cannot wait to get started. But where exactly do you start? How can you get off of the automatic mode and take control of all the picture-making marvel that your camera has to offer? You could always sign up for the Photocritic Photography School.

It's a year-long course, with a lesson and an assignment delivered to your email inbox every three weeks. Once you complete your assignment and share it in your class' pool, you'll receive some feedback on your endeavours. (We also encourage our students to comment on their classmates' work: the more thoughts the better!) It starts with some simple techniques to see an immediate improvement in your photos and moves through technical, creative, and practical exercises to see you taking better photos week on week. No pressure, and lots of fun!

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 11.14.34

Even better: if you sign up for the class that starts on 3 January, it's free! What are you waiting for? The sign-up form's here!

And the winner of the Social Photography cover competition is...

Actually, that should read 'And the winners are...' We received over 200 submissions to the competition to see one of your photos feature on the front cover of my next book published by the Ilex Press. There were landscapes, portraits, and macros, wildlife, architectural, and street photography shots. Some were in colour, some were in black and white; some people had chosen to apply filters, some hadn't. We were delighted by the number of entries and seriously impressed by their quality. Choosing one winner became such a difficult task that we decided that perhaps two would be a better option. It cut down on the nail-biting and shouty emails. I am very pleased and proud to announce, then, that the two images which will feature on the front cover of Social Photography will be:

Instagram by Ben Denison


Untitled by Elisa Alonso Aller

We chose Ben's photo for its instantly recognisable scene fused with gorgeous colours and great composition. We liked Elisa's for its bold colours and great story. Congratulations, both. We'll be in touch soon to organise the tiresome admin of licences and the rather more exciting receipt of prizes.

Everyone who entered made it a tough job to select a winner; thank you. It really wasn't an easy selection process: you gave us so much to consider. And now Designer Kate has to re-jig the cover design... again!

Your photo on the cover of a book?

Fancy a go? My newest book is due, many-things-but-mostly-the-weather-permitting*, to be published in April next year. Apart from me signing off on the final proofs, its publishers, the Ilex Press, and I have one outstanding task to complete: selecting a final image to include on the book's front cover mosaic. Seeing as the book is dedicated to the phenomenon of social photography, we—or rather Adam, the Associate Publisher at Ilex—couldn't think of a better means of finding the perfect fit than to ask you if you've an image that you would be proud to see gracing the cover of an internationally published book.

As well as having your picture on the front of the book, you'd receive a copy of it (when it's released) as part of your prize. If you're very lucky, Ilex might have something else up its sleeve for you, too.

On a need-to-know basis, you need to know that you have between now and Monday 2 December 2013 to submit an image to the special Ilex Social Photo Flickr pool. The photo must be square format and you must own the copyright to it. The winner will be selected by me and the Ilex Photo team and announced on Friday 6 December 2013. Importantly, you will retain all rights to your image and it will only be used by Ilex on the cover of the Social Photography book and for the purposes of promoting the competition.

If you've any other questions, holler. Otherwise: good luck!

* Delivery of my book Surreal Photography: Creating the Impossible was delayed by a typhoon in the South China Seas earlier this year. More recently, several containers of books were lost to the waves as a result of storms. The loss of books is in no way comparable to the loss of lives, this merely serves to illustrate why we don't have accurate delivery dates.