memory card

Let wedding photographers do their jobs; or why you can't expect a disc of unedited images on the cheap

Oh dear. That was a bit awkward. Sitting on the floor at my nephew's birthday party, trying to capture pass-the-parcel photos that weren't anything other than wadges of wrapping paper thrust towards me in a multi-coloured de-forested haze, I encountered a fairly recently married and really rather belligerent woman who who wanted to berate me for the fees charged by photographers. In particular, she was infuriated that her wedding photographer wouldn't just hand over a DVD of all the original images from her big day and couldn't understand why they needed to be edited and why she couldn't have them straight away. Yes, oh dear. Despite being focused on my attempts to capture my nephew smiling and my niece not resembling a demonic, sugar-crazed monster, I did try to offer a reasonable explanation for why her wedding photographer wouldn't just hand over raw images for a flat fee. Naturally, I coined what I think is the perfect analogy when it was too late and I was on my way home. Thus for the benefit of everyone who might yet face this scenario, here it is:

Asking a photographer to hand over a memory card, USB, or DVD of raw images is akin to asking an author to present you with their book in manuscript format: unedited, unformatted, and including the paragraphs and chapters that didn't make it.

For any brides, grooms, or parents of the soon-to-be- or just-marrieds out there who might be wondering the same thing, I hope this helps.

Photo 04-10-2014 15 41 24

A bundle of unedited, unprocessed images isn't the whole story, the right story, or the finished story. You have to trust the photographer to produce a final version that's just right, as right as a book is on publication, as a painting on hanging in a gallery, or as a sculpture upon exhibition. What you're paying for is the complete product, finished by the photographer and making use of all of her or his skills. While any photo needs to be properly exposed and well composed, there are adjustments and edits that need to be made in post-production. And sometimes, they look better in black and white, too. This is all a part of what a photographer does; it is an integral part of of the process of creating images.

I pronounce you... (Image by Haje)

To continue with the book/author analogy, when you purchase a book, you don't get to choose the words on the page, or the images that might illustrate it; what you do get to choose is the format in which it comes, whether that's a signed hardback copy or a digital download. When your wedding photographer has done her or his job to tell the story of your wedding day, you can select from luxury albums or USB transfer.

The book needs to be finished before you buy it

If you're still not sure why photography is so expensive, there are plenty of photographers who've done their best to break down their costs and explain why wedding photography starts at around £1,500. (Yes, there are people who do start cheaper, and some more expensive. It's an average figure.) We even have an article covering it here on Photocritic. However, hoping that you'll be able to reduce your costs by asking for unedited images in digital format is a misrepresnetation of your wedding photographer's job.

Till death do you part (Image by Haje)

I don't especially want to launch into a 'you get what you pay for' tirade about the perils of hiring an inexperienced photographer and the images from your wedding day being an unmitigated disaster. I understand that some people have very restricted budgets and finding the fees requested by some photographers is beyond them. There are photographers to suit every budget; you need to be certain of what they can provide and if it meets your expectations, but you must let them do their jobs. And that job is a finished product, just like an author's book.

10 ways to break photographer's block

A spot of pinhole photography may help you break your photographer's block.

As a writer, I know the feeling all too well – with a sense of dread and a deep sense of apathy, I stare at the blinking cursor and the completely blank TextMate document. I have ten thousand thoughts and feelings and stories that are chomping at the bit to get told, but it’s just so difficult to get started… And the exact same thing can happen to me when I’m taking photos.

So… What can you do to get out there and beat photographer’s block? What can you do when your camera’s batteries are charged, your memory card is fresh, the weather is fabulous, and the light is reflecting tantalizingly off your expensive glass lenses, but your inspiration is just kicking it on a rocking chair on the porch with a cold ice tea, like a metaphor stretched to well beyond the sensible breaking point?

Fear ye not, my photo siblings… Here’s my Top 10 tips to breaking the photographers’ block.

1. The 100 step challenge

The 100 step challenge is one I’ve promoted here on Photocritic before – because it’s one of those things I’ve found work incredibly well indeed. It’s easy: Grab your camera, and start walking. Count your steps. After 100 steps, stop where you are, and where you’re standing, you have to take a photograph.

“But there won’t be anything there”, I hear you cry. Well, yes, but that’s the point. The idea behind the 100 step challenge is to force yourself to see scenes and to create pictures even if there’s nothing there to be seen. It’s kind of like free association writing, where you just start writing, and keep your hand moving even if you have nothing to say – sometimes, the greatest things are created when you’ve run out of things to say.

Even if you don’t get a single good photo out of your 100-step challenge, you’ll have had a nice walk out of it, right?

2. Recreate a photograph you love

Everyone has a photo that they really like. Hopefully, you’ve got a few hundred photos in mind – think about the great photographers who’ve lived before you, and pick one of their photos. Then go ahead and copy it – sure, it’ll be plagiarism, but you’ll learn something in the meantime.

The photo on the right is Still waiting (Yorgos III), from my Flickr stream. Click on it to see it bigger.

3. Learn from the greats

Only in the last few weeks, I’ve written about The top 50 photography websites and 50 amazing flickr streams. That’s 100 URLs worth of inspiration. Pick one at random, study their style, and either recreate one of their photos, or use the observations you’ve learned about style to create a photograph in a similar style.

Flickr especially tends to be open to questions, so if you’re struggling to recreate a style or a ‘feel’ – go ahead and post your best try to Flickr, and ask the photographer whose work you’re imitating where you went wrong…

4. Self Portraiture

The only model you’ll have consistently available is yourself – go ahead, do something awesome. Use make-up if you don’t usually use make-up. Wear girl’s clothes if you’re a boy, or vice-versa. Try to make a recognisable portrait of yourself without showing your face. Go crazy – here’s some inspiration.

Photo on the right: Self portrait sans self

5. Rapid Fire

120 minutes – 120 different photos. Related to the 100 step challenge, but more hectic. This works well with street photography especially – go ahead, shoot first and ask questions later. You may end up with 120 duds, of course, but hell, it’s a lot of fun to come up with them anyway, right?

6. Play the Random game

Play the Random Game – which you do by calling up a Wordsmith random word of the day. That’s the word you have to try to illustrate with a photograph.

If you’re struggling, plug the word into Google Image Search. If it comes up with something, then go ahead and try to copy it!

Bonus challenge: As I was writing this, the word that came up randomly was Bloviate. Illustrate that :)

7. Flickr’s Interestingness


This is Skatezophrenia, from my Flickr stream. Click on it to see it bigger.

I keep telling people this, but if you manage to stay uninspired even after browsing Flickr’s Interesting in the last 7 days for half an hour, you may as well hang up your photographic spurs.

If you want to continue exploring, find the Flickr name of a photographer you admire (or one you’ve just discovered), and plug their name into the Flickr Scout tool from Big Huge Labs, sorting by Best Position – that’ll list a users ‘most interesting’ photos – a great way to get an introduction to a user’s most popular photographic work.

8. Try something new

Lamb of God at Sonisphere IPhotography generally comes in a ton of genres, and I bet you a lot of money that you’re not as conversant in all of them. So why not try to work on improving your work in one genre? For me personally, portraiture really clicked after I had done a load of animal and live band photography.

Not convinced? Well, then… Start a whacky project, like photographing only feet for a few days, or taking photos of toilet locks (see also). If that doesn't float your boat... Have you tried panoramas (see CleVR)? HDR (see our guide / HDR on Flickr)? Portraiture (see “Portraiture: Borrow their soul!” and Do It Yourself: Build A 1600W Studio Broadlight at Shutterbug)? Nude photography (see Renoux’ work and my own Nude photography 101: Photographing your girlfriend)?

How about macro photography (on Flickr)? Long exposure photography (on Flickr)? Photojournalistic photography? Astrophotography (on Flickr)? Street or candid photography (on Flickr, Wikipedia and’s guide)? Paperazzi-style photography? Food photography (for all the icky tricks, read my article)? War photography (my modest contribution can be found in this Flickr set)?

Kite aerial photography? Lomography? Night photography? Infrared photography? The list is long, and this is only a small selection of ideas…

Surely, there’s one style or another where you feel that perhaps you could try it again, and improve a little?

Photo: Lamb of God at Sonisphere

9. Don’t take any photos

Perhaps if you don’t feel like taking photos, it means that you’re not ready to take any photos. Hey, it could happen.

Dig out your library, see if there’s any of your photos you’ve missed. Re-edit some photo sets. Re-upload some of your photos to Flickr, and see if you can’t get some inspiration from your old work.

10. Stop procrastinating

What are you doing reading these guides on the internet anyway? Grab your camera, get out there, do stuff. Stop moaning. No, seriously, outside. Or inside, for that matter. Just do it already!

11. Help your fellow photographers

Do you have something that breaks you out of a rotten spell of photography block every time? Or even just some of the time? Or perhaps just once? The tips above do it for me every time (especially 7, 5 and 2, to be honest, but I guess it’s more important to find something that works for you)… Go on, leave a comment and tell us how you broke your dry spell!

Hat tip to @karbassi on Twitter for the idea for this article!

Phocus Quick and Phocus Mobile from Hasselblad


In addition to an upgrade to its standard image editing software, taking it to Phocus version 2.6, Hasselblad has just announced details of two shiny new picture editing bits of kit. There’s Phocus Quick and Phocus Mobile, for those of us who like to do things fast, and on the move. Well, sort of.

Phocus Quick transfers images from camera to computer at the touch of a button and will even carry out a few minor functions along the way, if you so want. The original RAW images stay on the memory card, though. You can look over the fruits of your labours on the big screen quickly, and then come back and edit them more thoroughly a bit later.

Phocus Mobile lets you connect wirelessly to a Mac running Phocus 2.6 and browse images on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It also serves as a tethering device, so that you can control your shiny Hasselblad H4D from your shiny Apple mobile product.

Will they be useful? I’ve no idea. It seems to me as if they’re halfway to being useful, but haven’t quite managed the entire shebang. Still, if you use Phocus, they’re both free.

Phocus 2.6 and Quick are available from Hasselblad now; Phocus Mobile will be downloadable from the App Store from March. More details are available on the Hasselblad website.

Standardised memory cards a step closer?


If you’re getting ever-so-slightly fed-up with the range of different memory cards that camera manufacturers insist on supporting, and not being able to record lots of frames of continuous shooting in RAW, as well as thinking that your HD-movie-recording capacity is a bit measly, then the end might just be in sight. Maybe. Perhaps.

SanDisk, Sony, and Nikon have put together their heads and drawn up a proposal to standardise memory card formats. They’ve put their idea to the Compact Flash Association. (What a great name. I keep imagining pint-sized superheroes running it.)

The idea is to create a new specification of memory cards that’ll meet the ever-increasing demands of photographers. You should be able to transfer upto 500MB of data per second (a bit of an improvement on the current 167MB maximum) and your memory card might be able to hold 2TB of data.

Sounds okay to me!

The 10 Second Pre-Shoot Camera Check


I’ve been there many times – half way through a photo shoot you suddenly stop and think. “Oh… no.. I did a photo shoot in the dark yesterday. Please don’t tell me my ISO is still set to 800″… And some times, it turns out that yes, I really am that stupid.

A pre-shoot camera check makes a lot of sense, but what should you check before you run off to do a shoot? Myself, I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a single photo. If the camera shows me the photo afterwards, it means that I’ve remembered to put a memory card in the camera, I’ve got my battery, and there’s a lens attached (No, I don’t forget attaching a lens very often. But, to my gravest of shame, it has happened once that I rocked up at a shoot without a lens. Luckily, I did have one in my camera bag. That could’ve gotten very very embarrassing.)

Anyway, there’s a small list of stuff worth checking before you get all snapper-happy, and my good mate Brian Auer is more than happy to run us through it..

Read the full 10-second camera check over on Epic Edits!