new year

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:

Photographing Fireworks: How to get the perfect firework photos

Oh my, it’s nearly That Time Of Year again: burning effigies, sparklers, terrified dogs, and jacket potatoes with charred skins and raw middles. Guy Fawkes' Night is 5 November, so perhaps it’s a good idea to brush up on the ol' fireworks skills in preparation for displays this weekend and next, yes? Indeed…

Rock on… 

Many a budding shutterbug has attempted unsuccessfully to photograph fireworks by merely pointing their film camera to the sky and shooting, resulting dark useless prints. With the advent of digital photography, photographing fireworks has become easy, just by following some basic steps…


  1. Find a location away from the crowd and power lines. An elevated location on a hillside works well. You might want to scout out your perch beforehand: Especially on big fireworks nights (such as July 4th in the US, November 5th in the UK, and new year's eve in most of the world), a lot of the prime photography spots will be taken hours before the fireworks, so plan ahead!
  2. Set the shutter speed to 1 second or longer. Don’t be afraid of underexposing your photos, though. You won’t.
  3. Use a low ISO - you want as little digital noise as possible.
  4. Use a tripod. If you can’t find a tripod use a nice steady base.
  5. Turn off the flash. This might seem like common sense, but remember you are photographing lights, so you don’t need to add more light yourself.
  6. Shoot in RAW. You need as much exposure latitude as you can get, in order to be able to do any adjustments you need to do in post-production.

Point your camera toward the sky and shoot. A key to getting a good shot is anticipating when the firework will explode. Initially you will have many hit and miss shots. As the show goes along, you will be able to perfect your timing, and getting better shots as you're learning!

Case study


This fantastic photo is called Fireworks over Zürich, and is (cc) Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr

To get a shot like this, you'll need to use all the above tips, and you'll probably need to shoot in fully manual (although, interestingly, this shot was taken in Aperture priority).

Take a load of test exposures to see what works best; expose for the fireworks (so, use your histogram to determine how your exposures are working out) where possible, and adjust your shooting as you go along. The above photo was taken with an f/3.2 exposure, using a 1/4th of a second shutter speed, and ISO 400, with a -1/3 EV exposure bias. The results are gorgeous, but a slightly longer shutter speed might have made the water look more 'flowing', and could have increased the 'streaks' of the photographs just that little bit extra. Switching the camera to ISO 100 and 1 second shutter speed would have achieved both of these things.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that there aren't any hard-and-fast rules for how to get the best fireworks shots - Experiment and see what works best for your particular lighting scene!

Even more fireworks photography!

Can’t get enough? Well, try the guides, tutorials and tips from Better, Garry Black,, calphoto, DPchallenge, and Smithsonian institute!

Ten cool photography projects for 2012

There is nothing better than looking back on the photos that you've taken over the years to bring back memories and feelings that have since been stored in the back of your mind. The start of the New Year is the perfect opportunity to embark on a unique photography project to make sure 2012 is a year that you'll never forget and always be able to remember by looking back on photos.

Are you stuck for ideas for how you can make the most of a new beginning? Here's ten clever plans to get you started...

selfie.jpg1. 365 photos: Take a photo a day and compile them in an online album, noting where you took each photo and at what time. At the end of the year, you'll have beautiful montage of your memories. The pictures will highlight where you were on each particular day and will give you some insight into how you were feeling on that day.

Photo (cc) by Daniel Zedda

2. Monthly page challenge: Make sure you bring your camera with you throughout the month to special events and various outings. At the end of the month, pick the best pictures and arrange them on a scrapbook page. Headline the page with the month name and include a brief summary of what the highlights were.

3. Improve your technique: Techniques are what can help make anyone a great photographer. Challenge yourself each month to learn a new photography technique to improve your photography skills. Whether you focus on black and white, macro, high key or experiment in motionblur, there is a lot to learn. Spend the rest of the month trying to polish these skills.

4. Camera experimentation: Digital cameras have taken over the market, but there are many great cameras from the past that are great fun to experiment with. Spend some time finding an old camera and playing with it, to find out what it's like in use. Who knows, perhaps some of these techniques and the lessons learned can be used in your everyday photoraphy!

train.jpg5. Go on a photographic journey: Plan a weekend vacation, or even a day trip, around where you can go take great photographs. A pasture filled with cows? Excellent. A hiking trip up a mountain, with beautiful city views? Even better. An old-school diner with handmade milkshakes? Spectacular.

Photo (cc) by Thomas Leuthard

6. Pick a color of the month: Pick a color to focus on for the month and have that be what you focus your photography efforts on. For instance, if you choose blue, then focus on photographing blue items. Use blue as the accent color in all of your photographs.

7. Volunteer with an organization: Most nonprofit organizations are looking for photographers to help out at their events or with internal projects. Work with an organization to fine-tune your skills. For instance, animal shelters are often seeking photographers to help take pictures of animals that are up for adoption. It is a great opportunity to improve your skill at shooting animals and moving objects.

8. Hold a photo shoot: What better way to test your skills than with a photo shoot! Find a friend or family member interested in getting their photo taken and offer to do it for them. This is a great project to show off your skill or talent, and help someone out. Even if you are a photographer just starting out, it is helpful to hold a photo shoot to see what you need to work on. Plus, once you get more experience, it's fun to look back on and see how you've grown.

9. Get online: The web is the best place to learn and grow as a photographer. Start a Flickr account to share your photos with the world. A great photography project for the year is to create a profile on Flickr, and maintain it throughout the year.

10. Keep a photography journal: You don't need to write in your journal every day and it doesn't have to be filled with long prose entries about how much you love photography. Keep a journal of your photography adventures and include details such as time of day, what you shot, what technique you focused on and what you plan to do with the pictures. It will be a good record to see how much you've accomplished over the year. You get bonus points if you combine #9 and #10, by the way: Keeping your journal online means it's easy to search, and perhaps your friends learn something too!

Some of my best photos from 2011

2011 has been a pretty crazy year all around. This year, I have:

  • been to four different continents and a dozen different countries
  • taken tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of photos (and 6,000 of them were good enough that I decided to keep them in my Lightroom library).
  • gotten engaged.
  • I've (nearly) brought my photography gadget Triggertrap to market 
  • Seen one of my books go on sale, and finished another one that'll go on sale in 2012. 

It's been an incredible ride. But really, in this post, I just wanted to share some of my fave photos from 2011 with you - they're in the gallery above!

Happy new year, and have a well-exposed 2012!

Rock on,

~ Haje


December photo competition winner!

Champagne copy

Christmas might’ve been and gone, and New Year possibly passed in a haze, but there is yet more celebrating to be done as we announce the winner of our December photo competition. Throughout December, we were looking for a portrait that made us go ‘Ooh!’ You rose to the challenge admirably, and as the entries began to roll in, we began to wonder how we would ever choose a winner.

I’m not sure that either of us has recovered yet from the exertion that was required in judging. There was a lot of uhm-ing, ahh-ing, and ooh-ing. We did, however, manage to select a winning photograph.

Untitled, by Patrick Lecuyer

Many congratulations! It was the eyes that did it for me. Please do get in touch with me Patrick so that I can arrange delivery of your prize.

Please do take a look at all the entries, which are here, and we look forward to lots of entries in January’s competition, which we’ll announce shortly.