Top 3 edits you should make to every photograph

Earlier this week an infographic design agency, NeoMam Studios, sent us an infographic about 'smoasting' which they'd produced on behalf of print company Photobox. Once I'd got over the shock of awful elision of 'social media' and 'boast' to form the ghastly portmanteau word 'smoast', there was one particular statistic that caught my eye. Take a look at the infographic and guess which it was.

Despite the prevalence of Instagram, the host of editing features that are built into apps such as EyeEm, Facebook, and Twitter, and the plethora of free-to-download editing programmes, only 28% of photos are cropped or styled in some way? Wow! I am surprised. And it's something I think deserves remedying.

While Team Photocritic advocates getting as much right in-camera as possible—you'll certainly not be able to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse—we're not beyond a little post-processing, either. If it's good enough for Cecil Beaton and Horst, it's good enough for us, too. A snip here and a swipe there can elevate an ordinary image into something a bit more special.

This isn't about air-brushing away half of someone's thigh, but about making minor adjustments to three specific areas: the crop, the colour, and the contrast. Here at Photocritic we call them The Three Cs. They're not complicated and they'll make a world of difference.


However well composed you think your image is, it will almost certainly benefit from having a few pixels shaved off it. It might be a case of reinforcing the rule of thirds, removing a bit of unwanted background that crept into the frame, or getting a bit closer to your subject.

The original isn't that bad
The original isn't that bad

Being a purist, I tend to stick to traditional 4:3 or 3:2 ratios, but don’t feel limited by my prejudices. Select from any of the standard crops, from square to 16:9, or free-style it to adjust the crop any way you like.

But a crop does make it better
But a crop does make it better

At the same time as cropping, make sure to straighten your image, too. Unless you are deliberately tilting the frame for creative reasons, uprights should be upright and horizons should be level. When lines that are expected to be upright or level are wonky, it has an unpleasant impact on our sense of balance. By correcting wonky lines, you'll produce a stronger image.


Light has a temperature, and depending on the source of the light, or the time of day if it’s the sun, that temperature will vary. When the temperature varies, so does the colour of the light. As a general rule, we don’t notice the variation because our eyes cleverly adjust to the changes. Our cameras on the other hand aren’t quite so clever.

Notice how the sheet and Cookie's white fur has a blue tinge?
Notice how the sheet and Cookie's white fur has a blue tinge?

Have you ever noticed how white objects in your photos can show up with blue or yellow casts? That’s because the white balance in your photo was off.

Corrected by nudging the white balance slider to the right
Corrected by nudging the white balance slider to the right

It's a relatively easy correction to make using the 'Warmth' or 'White Balance' function in an editing programme. If you think the whites are looking a bit too blue (or if an image looks a little 'cold' over all), nudge the slider to the right. If the whites are too reddish in tone, or the photo looks a bit warm, slide it to the right. It's a case of trial and error to make the right adjustment, but the more that you practise it, the better you'll understand the shortcomings of your camera and how it reacts to different types of light.

Now if you want to intensify or tone down your colours, you can do so using the saturation slider. I don't recommend bumping up the saturation too much; it can result in a cartoon effect rather than a photo!


Contrast is the difference between the dark and light tones in your photos. Images shot on bright sunny days tend to have a lot of contrast, with dark shadows and bright highlights, but those taken in fog won’t have a great deal of tonal variation and will be low contrast. From time to time, you’ll want a low-contrast image, but, generally speaking, your photos can be improved by increasing the contrast a touch. It brings definition and depth to them.

The original looks good enough to eat
The original looks good enough to eat

Don’t go overboard, though, as too much of a good thing can turn bad. You’ll find that if you over-cook the contrast you’ll lose too much detail and end up with an ugly image. Subtlety beats brickbats.

But increasing the contrast can bring some depth
But increasing the contrast can bring some depth

If you use Snapseed to make your edits, it's worth getting to know the ambiance slider, too. I've often found that this is a preferable alternative to the contrast slider.

Anything else?

At this point, any other adjustments are gravy. I'm a fan of Snapseed's 'centre focus' options and often apply one of those. You might want to play with a tilt-shift effect. Or there's the waterfall of filters you can try in any programme, but you might find that you prefer your own edits to prefabricated filters, now.

Oh, and don't forget that it all starts with a decent photo, so check out our eight tips for better smartphone photos, too.

What do football, copyright, and Vine have in common? A lot of money and a lot of confusion

The English Premier League kicks off tomorrow and in addition to last minute transfer news, shock managerial sackings, and managerial press conferences, copyright and broadcasting rights and the use of tablets inside Old Trafford have made headlines, too. The issue of tablets and laptops inside Old Trafford is fairly self-explanatory: Manchester United has prohibited bringing them inside the grounds owing to security reasons. The copyright issue seems to have people in more of a flap. And heavens, this isn't the first time it's happened. The Premier League has stated that it will be taking action against people who compile and share Vines of goals that they record from live broadcasts of matches. Being able to live-pause broadcasts makes this relatively straightforward technologically, but it's a breach of copyright.

This has thrown up a few interesting questions, not least from the BBC's Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, who wondered if his Google Glass recording of Brentford matches would violate copyright.

I'm fairly certain it wouldn't violate copyright, but it could well infringe on other rights. So if everyone will be please calm down, and preferably sit down, I'll explain what (I think) the situation is.


Copyright is the right to make copies of someone else's creative endeavours. When I click the shutter on my camera, I own the copyright to the image that creates. When BT Sport or Sky Sports record and broadcast a football match, they own the copyright to the broadcast. That is, the producer decides on which cameras to use and how to put together their sequence of use, which constitutes the original work. The football match itself isn't copyrightable, it's the broadcast of it that is.

As well as charging their subscribers a fee to watch the matches, BT Sport or Sky Sports can charge other broadcasters to use these images or they can keep them all theirselves. Their pictures; they decide.

When someone sitting at home on the their sofa and watching a football match compiles a Vine of the goals using pictures transmitted by BT Sport or Sky, they're violating BT Sport's or Sky's copyright. They are taking BT Sport's and Sky's work and using it without permission and without paying for it.

When you read that BT Sport and Sky Sports are complaining about their copyright being violated, this is what they mean.

Broadcast rights

When BT Sport and Sky Sports won the contracts to televise Premier League matches, they paid an excruciating sum of money for broadcast rights, or the opportunity to transmit live pictures from the game. The BBC holds the broadcast rights to highlights of the Premiership matches. They paid a fair whack for that, but not quite as much as BT Sport and Sky Sports. This season The Sun and The Times have the online rights; this is big business and it's this money, paid to the Premier League, which has made it into the financial behemoth that it is.

Turning up at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge and taking photos or video of a match would get you into a different type of trouble, therefore. If you were to try to stream the match live from your seat, you wouldn't be very popular with a gaggle of corporate lawyers for infringing on broadcast rights. Not to mention you'd likely upset the fans sitting around you if you obstructed their view. Whether or not you can take a camera into a football stadium and take some photos for personal use seems to be open to clubs' interpretation. It's worth checking what it says on the ticket. Some might be happy for you to take a photo to remind yourself of the day; others might want to throw you out for just having a camera.

I have no football photos, so have one of the Tour de France instead

Broadcast rights and copyright are different beasts, but from the same genus. You'd own the copyright to any images you were fortunate enough to make inside a stadium, because you'd made them. What you wouldn't own are the broadcast rights to let you redistribute them. Not unless you'd paid an eye-wateringly large sum of money for the privilege and you probably don't have enough kidneys for that.

Performers' rights

Back to Rory Cellan-Jones and his tweet asking about copyright violations at Brentford, someone asked if it wouldn't breach performers' rights. No. As far as I can tell, performers' rights don't extend to sporting events, at least not in the UK, so there would be no infringement there.


Now we get onto Manchester United's prohibition against tablets and laptops inside Old Trafford, which was announced earlier this week. According to officials there, the decision to ban larger devices, including iPad Minis, was made in response to security concerns. They're worried someone might want to pack a bomb into a device, much like airlines are. The ban doesn't extend to smartphones, provided that their dimensions are no larger than 15 centimetres by 10 centimetres (5.9 inches by 3.9 inches). Seeing as smartphones have not been banned and they're still capable of taking photos, we'll take this one at face value. And quite frankly, if it stops people obscuring others' view with when they're recording with the iPads, so much the better.

In conclusion

Please remember that I'm not a lawyer. I'm a writer who takes a fiendish interest in copyright and I've applied a healthy dose of common sense to its ramefications, together with a bit of research.

If you want to take photos or video at any sporting event, I suggest that you check with the stadium before you turn up with any manner of kit. You don't want to forfeit your ticket or have your gear confiscated. Speaking from experience, just go and enjoy the game. Fiddling about with electronic equipment detracts from the atmosphere and what's happening in front of you - the reason why you're there. But maybe that's for another article.

When it comes to making Vines from what you can see on TV - don't. Protecting intellectual property applies to little guys as much as it does to big guys. If we don't want them stealing our content from social media sites and using it for free, best not to infringe their copyright either.

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.

The handy-dandy social media photo sharing guide

One photo, so many options. Where on this huge web of interconnected social media outlets are we best sharing our quick snaps, our painstakingly created works of art, and our selfies? Really, it all comes down to whom you want to see them. The chances are that different people follow you in different social media spaces, and if Twitter's mostly a work thing for you, selfies on the beach aren't all that appropriate a posting there. You're probably best putting those on your friends- and family-only Facebook account. It only takes a few moments of thought, really, but if you're new to the social media fandango, seeing all those apps lined up on your phone can be a little overwhelming. For a bit of fun, I drew up (quite literally, it involved an enormous sheet of paper and felt-tipped pens) this handy-dandy guide to sharing your photos via social media. Of course it isn't meant to be taken deadly seriously, but it's a pretty useful starting point all the same.

Click for bigger!

You can find it looking even more beautiful in print in the delicious-looking Social Photography, which is available now, either in print or to download!

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!

Twitter's augmented its photo capability: multiple images per tweet and image tagging

If you've ever been frustrated by Twitter's inability to attach multiple images to a single tweet, today's your lucky day. An update that's mid-roll-out will allow you to select up to four images to share in one 140 character missive. Tap on a preview image to see it full size, and then slide through to view the group. Three images: one tweet

The update has already made it to my iPhone and is steadily making its way to Android and the website version. However, multiple attachments haven't caught up to apps such as TweetDeck yet. So you're saved from seeing your friends' coffees in triplicate if that's your tweet loft of choice.

But not yet on Tweet Deck

In addition to multiple images, tagging people in photos is now possible, too, and their handles won't eat into your 140 character count, either. A maximum of ten people can be tagged in one photo and they'll all receive a notification telling them that they've been featured in a photo. If you'd rather not be tagged in photos, you can turn off the feature in your settings. If you don't see the update yet, hold tight, it'll be there soon.

Update! 11:10, Thursday 27 March 2014: It seems as if TweetDeck is now displaying multiple images.

TweetDeck multiple images display

The 2012 round-up

Oranges in the early morning light. Davis, California - January

If you want 2012 in a sentence, it was all about putting big sensors in smaller cameras and the continued rise of social photography. Nikon and Canon both unveiled smaller-bodied cameras that had full-frame sensors, the D600 and a 6D respectively. It was down to Sony to put a full-frame sensor in a compact: the RX1.

As for social photography, that's gone a lot further than Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. It's gone further than wi-fi enabled cameras, too. We've now got 'smartcameras', thanks to Nikon and Samsung. They won't be the only ones.

I'm not going to say that 2012 was an exciting year for photography. Photography is always exciting. But these are the headlines.


The new year always brings a flurry of photographic announcements when pretty and shiny new toys are announced at CES in Las Vegas. This year was no exception; if the compact camera is supposed to be dead, manufacturers haven't read that memo yet. Fujifilm unveiled 27 (yes, really, 27) new compacts, as well as a gaggle from Olympus, quite a few from Sony, a couple from Canon, and one from Pentax. There was, however, at least one big-hitter, with the Nikon D4 making its appearance, and not forgetting the Canon G1 X and the Fujifilm X-Pro1, either.

Meanwhile, the Intergoogles went dark to protest about the proposed SOPA legislation, Google axed online editing suite Picnik, things looked very grim for Kodak with the prospect of Chapter 11 bunkruptcy proceedings, and we mourned the death of Eve Arnold.


That memo about compact cameras? No, it still hasn't made it to manufacturers: 11 from Canon, ten from Nikon, and two more from Pentax. But, Nikon also brought out the D800, Olympus announced the deliciously retro OM-D, Pentax let the K-01 play in the mirror-less sand-pit, and Canon had some new lenses, too. Oh, and the Japanese authorities made some arrests in the Olympus scandal.


The BBC decided that footage from the Canon C300 makes the grade; Sony re-organised itself to give priority to cameras, and it also annunced the SLT-A57.


Nikon added the D3200 to its entry-level line-up but officially discontinued the D3x; meanwhile Canon brought out the 1D C and the 60Da especially for astro-photography. When it came to mobile photography, Instagram released its much-anticipated Android app and then jumped into bed with Facebook for $1billion a week later, and Triggertrap launched its mobile app.

There were also vague hints at a Flickr revival: first it brought out the new Uploadr, then it announced that Aviary would be its new partner for editing, after Picnik was rained-off.


That potential Flickr revival continued with a few more tweaks that allowed for better control over sizing photos. Adobe Photoshop CS6 was made available, and its subscription service Creative Cloud came with it.

As for new cameras: Pentax's weather-sealed mid-range dSLR, the K-30; rugged cameras from both Olympus and Fujifilm; another SLT (the A37) and a mirror-less (the NEX-F3) from Sony; and some tasty treats from Leica including the M Moncohrom especially for black and white, the X2, and the V-LUX 40.


Argyll and Bute council showed themselves be, what I'm wont to describe as, camera-shy wimps who were intimidated by a nine year old who photographed her school meals. Martha Payne, who recorded her exploits in school lunches on her blog Never Seconds, was told that her behaviour was upsetting the kitchen staff, so she couldn't continue. When the rest of the world found out, there was a bit of a out-cry; Argyll and Bute backed down.

Oh, and Fujifilm announced some new lenses for its X-Pro 1, which given the limited offerings, was much-needed.


The Olympics began. There was an amazing opening ceremony. The world was focused on that, but it was at the end of the month. Before then Canon went through the mill with a sticky lens problem with the S100 and too much vulcanising agent in the grip on its 650D. However, a years of rumours (that's not an exaggeration), it also announced its mirror-less camera, the EOS M. Nikon brought out its huge 800mm lens and Fujifilm discontinued Velvia 100F and 50.

Flickr users banded together to ask new CEO Marissa Mayer to 'make Flickr awesome again,' and I wondered if there's an ugly truth lurking beneath our beautiful cameras.


I spent August glued to the Olympics and the wonderful images it produced. I could say that was all that interested me, but towards the end of the month, things started to ramp up in anticipation of Photokina. Nikon upgraded its 1 Series J1 to a J2, although I wasn't quite sure what the upgrade really comprised. Olympus announced that it was developing a new top-end camera, so the rumour mill started up almost immediately. There were more new camera announcements from Nikon, including the S800c, which is on an Android platform. There was also the C300 from Canon, the Pentax X-5 bridge camera, and the Sony NEX-5R.

Canon celebrated the production of 80 million EF lenses, Getty Images was sold to the Carlyle Group for $3.3 billion, and I took a look at the overall state of the camera market.


Ehm... Photokina, anyone? Four new cameras from Canon, including the full-frame 6D and the pocket-rocket S110; Fujifilm's gorgeous XF1 was star of the show; five new cameras from Leica; the new Spark from Lensbaby; the D600 from Nikon; four new lenses and three new cameras from Olympus; an update to the Pentax K-5; Panasonic's GH3; new lenses from Samsung, Samyang, Sigma, and Tamron; and from Sony the full-frame flagship translucent mirror SLT-A99, the full-frame compact the RX1, and the NEX-6.

Otherwise: Smugmug announced a huge subscription fee increase that left quite a few people a little bit upset.


Everyone took a breather after Photokina, except for Nikon that turned the V1 into the V2 and Joby, which warned consumers about the perils of fake Gorillapods.


Nikon brought out the D5200, Canon set free some new lenses, Adobe updated Photoshop Touch, Triggertrap Mobile was upgraded to allow wireless functionality, and Jordi Ruiz Cirera won the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.


Apart from a major update to Photoshop, including Retina display compatibility, December was entirely dominated by mobile photography news. There was the minor problem with the Instagram terms of service, awesome editing app Snapseed was made available for Android phones, Twitter and Instagram had a barney, and that Flickr renaissance continued with a much-needed new iOS app and free Pro-subscription for three months for all users.

And 2013?

We're going to be seeing more large-scale sensors in small-form cameras; there's going to be a concerted push towards social photography integration in 'traditional' camera devices; and there will be an increased delineation between dSLR manufacturers and mirror-less camera manufacturers.

Finally, I wish you a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous year ahead.

All images © Daniela Bowker 2012. (Yes, they're my favourites of 2012.)

Biography Buzzword Bingo!

Earlier this week I had the terrible misfortune to follow a link on Twitter that took me through to a photography-oriented q&a column. Someone posed a question and the readers chimed in with answers in the comments section. Of course, a q&a column in and of itself isn't a gruesome thing, and in fact neither was the question. A young photographer was querying the importance of a biography and an artist's statement; she'd never written one before, she didn't know exactly how significant they were, and because she didn't really write she wasn't sure how to approach it. That's pretty straightforward, but Eurynome on a unicycle, the answers left me gagging.

The adage that you should never read the bottom half of the Intergoogles held good here–and given that the article was entirely incomplete without the bottom half, was somewhat unfortunate–because it would seem that there's a shutter of photographers out there who take themselves far too seriously. No, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take a bio or an artist's statement seriously; they're how your audience or your potential clients connect to you as an individual. What it means is that they need to be honest, approachable, and a reflection of who you are.

Your biography shouldn't be so vomit-inducing or cringe-worthy that people can't make it past the first sentence, or so esoteric or unbelievable that people have no idea what you're going on about or think that you're off your rocker. You're a photographer, you take photos; it is highly unlikely that you're capable of changing the world through the medium of your art. If you truly are one those handful of photographers who is able to influence the way that the global community sees the world, the chances are you don't have time to write about it in your bio. And what the hell are are doing reading this?

After I'd restrained the urge to scratch out my eyeballs as a result of the sheer vulgarity of what I'd read, I showed it to Gareth. Thankfully, he had a slightly different reaction: he fell about laughing. When he'd regained his composure (it took a while) he came up with some far superior advice for the young photographer struggling to construct her biography. Here, then, speaks the voice of experience.

Gareth Dutton (Bsc, MA, Ph.D, RGB, ABS, NBA, NBC, HBO, ROFL, LMAO, OMGWTFBBQ) is a hyper-dynamic, dangerously powerful photo-leopard and the proud owner of the title Impossibly Powerful Light Lord of the Entire Photoverse, which is a prestigious title given only to those who undertake a seven day course where you are assigned to photograph a graveyard to learn about black and white conversion: a course run by the prestigious Dr. FraudGob McUntrustworthy-Smyth.

Gareth doesn't just create photographs, though; he visually transcribes the art waves that he detects and accumulates in his emotional core to create powerful, tear-inducing art-tographs. The “Dutton Experience” is one that his clients talk about long after they leave the studio, when returning to their imaginary homes, whilst wearing their imaginary clothes that cover their imaginary bodies.

Seriously, you expect anyone to believe that hurtling ball of imaginary nonsense? Does it say anything at all about the photographer? Does it distinguish his work from any other photographer's? And this is where far too many photographers get it wrong: it's the difference between a bio written by a photographer and bio written by a salesperson.

For a long time, I had no bio on my website, because I just couldn't think of something that didn't sound awful. I had a go at one, looked at it a week later and cringed so hard I burst the blood vessels in my forehead and inadvertently pierced both my ears with my shoulder blades. A few rewrites later and I felt much better, massive haemorrhaging notwithstanding. So why is it so hard to write a bio? The problem lies in avoiding the buzzword trap.

Think about it; how many times have you read these lines?

  • 'I love to capture a moment in time before it is lost forever.' That translates as 'I love to take photos.'
  • 'Gareth's timeless images push the boundaries / are at the cutting edge of photography / display his completely innovative style'. Really? Unless you really are that influential, writing this makes you look silly.
  • 'Clients come away knowing that they've experienced a Gareth Dutton shoot.'  Oh please! Nobody is going to walk away from a photoshoot going 'I really feel like I've just experienced a Gareth Dutton shoot.' Admittedly, this does sometimes happen with me, but that feeling they have is a sense of terrible unease and creeping dread.

Essentially, you want to avoid making your bio sound like a press release: a procession of vague half-lies, presented in the form of sterilised, buzzword-heavy non-sentences. As a result, I was wracking my brain, wondering what I could write about myself that wasn't clichéd and embarrassing. Eventually, I realised I should probably just be honest and show a little personality. I just wrote about what I do, the type of photography I undertake and added the tiniest sprinkling of humour, or 'humour', depending on your standpoint.

It's a bit like taking a self-portrait: you can set up some studio lights, get your face all chiaroscuro'd up, look moody and interesting and then clone out all those blackheads in Photoshop, but is it a portrait of you anymore? Step away from the word processor, forget about writing a bio, and just say something out loud about yourself, to yourself. Don't worry, no one else can hear you, so you don't sound like a prize prat.

Now write it down.

Tiresome ramblings aside, the important thing is to write honestly. Why do you take photographs? What do you like about photography (apart from 'capturing a moment forever')? Anyone you admire specifically? Is there an area of photography you specialise in, or undertake more frequently than others? What are your hobbies? What gets you going creatively, emotionally, aside from photography? These are all good starting points for a more interesting, more personalised bio.

In my opinion, the golden rule is to read a sentence out loud and then imagine yourself saying it to another human being in a bar. If this imaginary scene ends with the human being in question quietly downing their drink, placing the glass down on the bar and saying 'Excuse me, but I need to go and talk to... well, someone who isn't you,' then it's probably a sentence you should edit or remove.

It's that time again, my elegant photo-beasts and beastettes – homework time. Your homework is to have a look at your bio and remove anything that sounds like it belongs in an intro for the Managing Director of a Global Logistics Solutions company (whatever one of those is) and rewrite it.

Then, when you've rewritten your bio so that you don't sound as if you've been processed by a Z-list celebrity agent, we've a treat for you: Bio Buzzword Bingo! You can download your very own word search and seek out the collection of marketing-tastic words that really shouldn't be anywhere else than hidden away in a grid of otherwise incomprehensible letters.


Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find out whether 'synergy' can still be used in a sentence or if it's been ruined forever.

The gorgeous illustration, by the way, was drawn by the highly talented James Park of Sweetmeats Illustration.

Our photo competition winner takes flight!

Almost Like a Lightbulb, by Giuseppe Maria Galasso

The theme for February was 'flight'. We had some amazing entries, and some of them were very original takes on the theme, so as always, picking a victor was a complete pleasure. But our winner really stood out from the crowd with its gorgeous colours and capture of a moment, so many congratulations are due to Giuseppe Maria Galasso for his Almost Like a Lightbulb.

He's won himself a 12" Fracture.

The theme for March will be going up soon, so keep an eye out for that one. And don't forget that you can keep up to date with our competitions - and other photographic news - if you follow @SmallAperture on Twitter, too!

50 must-read photography books

Who even reads books anymore, anyway? Oh, wait - I do. And I write them, too!

Cameras are digital. Developing is digital. The internet is digital. Surely, we’ve moved on beyond a world where we have to look at books for our photographic enjoyment, improvement, and development? Well, you’d be right in one way, of course: You can find nearly everything you might want to look at / learn about on-line.

And yet, there’s something unique about photography which makes books all that more enjoyable. For one thing, I believe the vastly higher resolution of a well-printed photography book is a more natural way of looking at photography.

Best of all? Books don’t have to be expensive. You can buy ‘em for cheap via the internet (type in the ISBN number into a search engine), you can buy them second-hand via the Internet (Amazon has a huge second-hand market of used books, and eBay ain’t bad neither), you can mooch them for free via sites like BookMooch, or you can head to your local library (you do have a library card, don’t you?), and check ‘em out for free.  

Of course, I’m slightly biased – I make my living writing books – but I do think that you could do a lot worse than study what others have done in the past. If Twitter is anything to go by (I’m never quite sure if the assorted Twitter masses are a good or a bad hivemind – but if nothing else, it’s a very enthusiastic one), then books are definitely not dead – I did three recent tweets (1, 2, 3), which easily generated the most response I’ve ever had to anything I’ve babbled on about in my twitter feed – ever.

Maybe books aren’t the death of trees, but the birth of knowledge… And here are some of the books people are most passionate about…

Finding these books on sale: I’ve added links to and Amazon UK behind all the listed books. These are affiliate links, so if you end up buying one of the books, I get a kickback. If you’re outside the US or UK (which I know many of you are), the Amazon pages generally have an ISBN number on it – enter it into your favourite book shop, and you can see if it is available locally. Failing that, your local bookshop might be able to order it in for you if you give them the ISBN number .


Ansel Adams at 100, to me, is a stern reminder that someone was taking better photos than me 100 years ago.

Ansel Adams at 100, to me, is a stern reminder that someone was taking better photos than me 100 years ago.

Ansel Adams at 100 (US / UK) by Ansel Adams.The book marks the 100th anniversary of Ansel Adams and pays tribute to one of the most talented American landscape photographers whose portrayal of nature remains unsurpassable to this day Suggested by @Freeale

History of Photography by Josef Maria Eder (Amazon US / UK) offers comprehensive coverage on a collection of articles and rare photographs by pioneers in photography and contains materials for research into the history, technology and aesthetics of the medium. Suggested by @Wigwam

Lighting for Photography (Amazon US / Amazon UK) is is a classic book describing how Walter Nurnberg does a phenomenal job of using film studio lighting techniques in order to transform industrial photography after World War II. Suggested by @Wigwam

The Camera (US / UK) is one of Ansel Adams’s iconic technical books on photography, writted with the goal of teaching photographers the artistry of harnessing a camera to its fullest artistic potential. Suggested by @mrlizzard

The Negative (US / UK) by Ansel Adams is the second volume in Adams’ vital and celebrated series of technical books on photography, is geared towards enthusiastic photographers on how to use film and the film development process creatively. Suggested by @mrlizzard

The Print (US / UK) is the final book in Adams’ series of books on photographic techniques, deals with every possible detail like designing and furnishing a darkroom, advanced techniques like toning, bleaching, burning and dodging. Suggested by @mrlizzard

Practical Guides / text books

One of the biggest challenges as a photographer is to develop a photographic 'style' and 'language'. This book shows how one photographer pulled it off.

One of the biggest challenges as a photographer is to develop a photographic 'style' and 'language'. This book shows how one photographer pulled it off.

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (US / UK) by David CuChemin serves as a trip down the memory lane, the author creates vivid images of exotic destinations he visited to inspire photographers to express their vision through passionate and compelling photography. (on Twitter as @pixelatedimage). Suggested by @scuba_suzy

The Digital Photography Book (US / UK) by Scott Kelby is the ultimate resource in digital photography, this immensely popular book teaches the professionals and the amateurs the techniques of making any photo look more professional, sharper, clearer and dramatically gorgeous. Suggested by @bimal_tailor

The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos (US / UK) by Michael Freeman uses real life examples from photographic assignments. The book combines traditional techniques with the latest technological trends to educate photographers to explore the hidden potentials in shooting dynamic digital photographs. Suggested by @jkremers and @BBluesman

PhotoJojo: The Book (US / UK) by (@SuperAmit on Twitter) his merry band of pirates. With crystal clear DIY instructions, the book discusses how creativity, simple crafting skills and imagination can go a long way into transforming simple, plain photos into vibrant works of art. Suggested by @HeatherGill

Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace (US / UK) by Dan Margulis elaborates on the immense potential of Photoshop. The book reveals the simple, subtle tools and techniques to use, which can make plain images come to life, and is written in a way that is approachable by “real people”. Suggested by @rpajuaba

The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies (US / UK). Lee Varis is a master in his craft and widely acclaimed photographer. He provides step by step instructions on how to achieve accurate skin tones in men and women using digital photography in and outside the studio. Suggested by @rpajuaba

Getting exposure right is easily the most important part of photography - and yet, it's something many people are struggling with. Read this book, and struggle nevermore.

Getting exposure right is easily the most important part of photography - and yet, it's something many people are struggling with. Read this book, and struggle nevermore.

Understanding Exposure (US / UK) is easy to read and a great, straight-forward introduction to the dark art of getting the exposure on your photos right once and for all. The book, aided with plenty of illustrations offers the basics of aperture, lighting and shutter speed, photography’s basic triumvirate, to beginning and intermediate photographers.

The Moment it Clicks (US / UK) is a book about the 30 years of Joe McNally’s photographic career, some of the images he has created and stories behind the images and the lessons learned from life experiences. Suggested by @ssphillips

Coming into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing Processes (US / UK) by John Barnier is geared towards educating amateur and professional photographers about the non-traditional processes of photography that can serve as alternatives to standard methods. Transforming seemingly obsolete processes to life like magic, Barnier has a gift of making processes exciting and interesting. Suggested by @ louislucci_com

Photography (US / UK) by Barbara London, Jim Stone and John Upton is a fundamental book written mainly for students. It provides comprehensive coverage on color, black and white, digital and all around background on photography by means of illustrations and examples. Suggested by @louislucci_com

The Art of Bird Photography (US / UK). Famous bird photographer Arthur Morris shares some of his hard-won experience, explains various techniques for getting great photographs of birds. Most of it is pitched at a level suitable for amateurs. Suggested by @davidbrennphoto

Light In The Landscape (US / UK) by Peter Watson is an awe-inspiring book for photographers specialising in landscape photography, that describes the brilliant techniques used to capture some of the most captivating images of landscape by the world famous photographer. Suggested by @Frankkster

Reefs Revealed (US / UK). Armed with expertise on reel life, coupled with immense knowledge on natural-light filter-photography, Alex Mustard presents the importance of saving nature’s invaluable treasures to protect the future of our planet. Suggested by @scuba_suzy

A Diver’s Guide to Underwater Photography (US / UK). The beauty of underwater photography in its entire splendor has been unraveled in this book. A & A Ferrari share a wealth of information on techniques and equipment to use – and show off some incredible results. Suggested by @scuba_suzy

Okay, so I might be a teensy bit biased (I did write the damn thing, after all), but I happen to think this is one of the best books for people who are keen to get into macro / up-close photography!

Okay, so I might be a teensy bit biased (I did write the damn thing, after all), but I happen to think this is one of the best books for people who are keen to get into macro / up-close photography!

Water Light Time (US / UK). Combining his love for underwater life and expertise in photography, David Doubilet does a phenomenal job of putting together stunning and breathtaking images of life that abounds under the sea. Suggested by @scuba_suzy

The Underwater Photographer: Digital and Traditional Techniques (US / UK) by Martin Edge is for intermediate level photographers who have a passion for under-water photography – a must-read. Valuable techniques have been laid down methodically for execution of outstanding results. Suggested by @scuba_suzy

Macro Photograpy Workshop (US / UK) by Haje Jan Kamps serves as a learning experience for amateur people who will explore, experiment and discover the innumerable possibilities a camera has to offer in terms of its functionality once you get close enough… Suggested by @Photocritic ;)

Business guides

VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography (US / UK) by David DuChemin is an engaging fusion of the basic techniques of photography with commerce – and shows how a good sense of business can lead to a very rewarding and successful career in photography; the author shares his vision and offers a wealth of advice, tips, and tricks. Suggested by @prairielight

Best Business practices for Photographers (US / UK). A true entrepreneur in this field, John Harrington sheds light on methodologies and formalities that you need to keep in mind, should you desire to carve out a successful and rewarding career-path in photography. Suggested by @brianlarter

Art books

The Life of a Photograph (US / UK) by Sam Abell features exquisite images that can be captured only in our wildest imaginations, takes us on a journey of Abell’s work – A book witnessing how he pours his whole heart into his photographic endeavours. Suggested by @allisterfreeman

Beneath The Roses (US / UK) Renowned for his artistry, Gregory Crewdson’s works seem less like photographs, and more like moments captured from epic movies, seemingly dark and troubling, with a definitive sci-fi twist in them. Suggested by @MilesStorey

American Music (US / UK) by Annie Leibovitz’s is a well-curated collection of portraits of a wide range of musical Americana: nearly a century of musical creativity, condensed into a fantastic book. Suggested by @SvanBaaijen

The original full-size, full-cost version of Helmut Newton's Sumo cost nearly $20,000 - luckily, there's a more accessible version out there these days.

The original full-size, full-cost version of Helmut Newton's Sumo cost nearly $20,000 - luckily, there's a more accessible version out there these days.

The Art of God (US / UK) by Ric Ergenbright might well be the most visually appealing book of its kind, this nature photography book artfully presents text matching each photo and combines to make the “heart leap and the soul rejoice”. Suggested by @Frankkster

Visual Poetry (US / UK) by Chris Orwig is an awe-inspiring book that can encourage people from any walk of life to use their passion and creativity to transform digital images to splendid works of art using natural light. Suggested by @MDDunnPhoto and @tabby2004

Come Again (US / UK) is a collection of photographs from Beirut taken by Robert Frank took after being commissioned to capture the aftermath of the Lebanese war – and Polaroids of the city and its environment. Suggested by @dantebusquets

Snaps (US / UK) by Elliot Erwitt is The book is essentially an effort at portraying and capturing Erwitt’s work of 500 images, consisting of a wide range of subjects, ranging from famous personalities to the very ordinary. Suggested by @zenrhino

For many of us, this will be the closest we'll get to a space shuttle - or, indeed, the moon. What a gorgeous way to travel, though!

For many of us, this will be the closest we'll get to a space shuttle - or, indeed, the moon. What a gorgeous way to travel, though!

Full Moon (US / UK) by Michael Light may be the only science photography book dedicated to capture stunning and absolutely breathtaking images of the voyage to the moon and the return to planet earth. Suggested by @brettbeyer

Sumo (US / UK) by Helmut Newton made headlines for its unique and gargantuan dimensions, is back in a more cost effective version (The original cost nearly $20,000). It and covers Newton’s outstanding career from all possible perspectives. Suggested by @maxwellander

Terryworld (US / UK) is about Terry Richardson, an American fashion photographer who took the fashion world by storm. The book also contains 70 new photographs not featured in the original edition. Terry RichardsonSuggested by @joostdeleij

American Prospects (US / UK) by Joel Sternfeld is an exploration of the landscape as reflected on the changing states of American society. The impact of this work continues to resonate through contemporary artistic, photographic practice. Suggested by @shanegodfrey

The valley (US / UK) by Larry Sultan is an exhibition of photographs by the famous artist. It uses home, work and suburbia as the backdrop and looks at the transformation of middle-class suburban homes into stage sets for adult films. Suggested by @shanegodfrey

American Surfaces (US / UK) is a book that depicts the road trips taken by Stephen Shore all across the United States, and uses hundreds of color photographs as the medium of expression. Suggested by @shanegodfrey

The Americans (US / UK) is a monumental work of Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank. The book was first published in the U.S. and dramatically altered how photographers looked through their viewfinders – and the way Americans saw themselves. Suggested by @shanegodfrey

The Photon Detector Section

The lovely @photondetector went a bit mental with his suggestions for books, and provided a significant stream of fantastic ideas. It’d be rude to not give him his own mini section in this guide as a result (and you should follow him, too; he’s got a consistently awesome Twitter feed!)

Self Portrait With Cows Going Home (US / UK) by Sylvia Plachy is a powerful personal memoir about the author’s beginnings in communist Hungary, her emigration to Austria, New York with her parents and her repeated journeys back to Hungary.

Fashion Magazine (US / UK) by Lise Sarfati explores territories of childhood, adolescence and adult womanhood, and seeks to record possible becomings. Explorations of identity are encouraged by the clothing, which is both incidental and essential.

In High Fashion – The Conde Nast Years, 1923-1937 (US / UK) by Edward Steich is an extensive collection of the fashion photographer Steichen who remains unparalleled in his work on Vogue till date. He truly has become an icon of fashion photography.

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking (US / UK) is an unmissable book about making art. It draws from personal experience, and provides an incisive view into the world of art as it is experienced by art makers themselves.

If you ever thought the Polaroid camera was a toy, then here's your chance to change your mind... Forever.

If you ever thought the Polaroid camera was a toy, then here's your chance to change your mind... Forever.

The Polaroid Book: Selections from the Polaroid Collections of Photography (US / UK) is an unique selection of 400 works from the Polaroid Collection and is a treasure trove of photography. Barbara Hitchcock provides an engaging essay on the history which underpins it.

Deep South (US / UK) by Sally Mann is a much-anticipated collection of Mann’s exquisite, ethereal landscape photographs, taken in the years since she rose to international fame.

In The Garden (Website) by Beth Dow is filled with photos taken in formal English and Italian gardens, which naturally attract photographers in their offering of glimpses of the rich traditions of garden making.

Suspended In Time (Photondetector’s Review) by Matthew Larkin is a collection of stunning Ambrotypes whose unique photographs are made on black glass. Larkin’s pictures capture arresting moments of individuals engaged in the modern practice of suspension.

Your turn!

Turns out that a lot of people are deeply passionate about photography books – ways to learn, tips to improve, and the ever-evolving landscape of arts books. Did I miss any? If so, leave a comment below – If you write it in the same style as the bits above, I’ll add it to the article, too!

News in brief: Copy Instagrams with Copygram

Instagrammers, if you’re looking for an easy means to download all your Instagrams, upload them to FaceBook or Google+, or even print them out (with SnapFish), you might want to take a look at Copygram. Non-Instagrammers, if you’re wondering what all the Instagram fuss is about, you can check out people’s public Instagram streams on Copygram.

In the nine days since Copygram has been going, 163,138 instagrams have been copied. So that’s just a few then.

It’s definitely worth noting that if your Instagram feed is public, anyone can download your images and have them printed off through Copygram. There is a note telling you that Instagram photos belong to the original photographer, but I doubt that’ll stop anyone, will it?

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: UPrinting giveaway winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered our UPrinting give-away. (The questions weren’t that terrible, were they?) Anyway, after sifting through all the entries, I threw the correct ones into a randomiser and allowed it to whir for a bit. Eventually, it spat out three lucky winners.

Congratulations to Becky R, Henry L, and Sylvie S!

They get 100 postcards each, courtesy of UPrinting.

(In case you want to know the answers: a Canon Eos 600D is the same as the Rebel 3Ti; Google’s new image format is WebP; and it’s light reflecting off your blood-rich retinas which makes red-eye red.)

Oh, and a quick hello to Dan S, whose crazy responses made me laugh. Thank you.

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: Twitter + Photobucket = InTwit photo-sharing

Yep, they’ve done it. Twitter’ve announced that they will indeed be introducing their own photo-sharing feature so that you can share your morning coffee or make your followers jealous of the sunset you’ve just seen in a picture direct from And as for their photo-hosting-partner-of-choice: it’s Photobucket.

They’re working on introducing the feature to all of their official mobile apps as well as figuring out a way to let people who’ve not yet succumbed to the allure of a smartphone be able to share images via MMS from their mobiles. Yay for a bit of technological equality there!

More about it on the Twitter blog.

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: 10 photos per second at Instagram

You know that crazy number of users that Instagram has, something like 4 million, which it built up in just over seven months? Yeah? Well it turns out that between them, they’re snapping and sharing ten photos every second. Uh-hmm, you read that right. Ten photos per second. That, my lovelies, is a lot of pictures.

Kevin Systrom, Instragram’s co-founder, announced this to the TechCrunch guys at TechCrunch Disrupt. When he was asked to put his finger on Instagram’s success, Systrom said: ‘It turns out if you make something that people want it spreads really well.’ You know, I can see the logic in that.

(Headsup to TechCrunch, obviously.)

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: Google challenges JPG

The web isn’t quite fast enough, says Google, and they’ve decided that they can do better than JPG, PNG and GIF, with the introduction of a new image format, WebP.

It seems as if Google have found a new way of compressing images, whilst keeping them sharper and less prone to compression artifacts than the current file systems in use.

For now, WebP is only supported in Chrome and Opera, but we’ll see whether Firefox and (god forbid) Microsoft throw themselves into the mix as well.

Exciting times to be a photographer!

More about the format on the Google Code site – and the announcement was made in the Chromium blog

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: 250,000 images free for use from Yale

Scattered throughout its museums, libraries, and archives, Yale holds a collection of hundreds of thousands of objects that are in some way culturally valuable – manuscripts, inscriptions, paintings, that sorta thing; they’ve got millions of high-res images of these objects, too. In an unprecedented move (amongst the Ivy League institutions, anyway) Yale is opening up these images and making them freely accessible in a new collective catalogue.

If the image is in the public domain, it’ll be available for download and transmission without any kind of licence or restrictions on its use. They’ve only just started the process; 250,000 is what’s available right now.

From Yale’s perspective, it is about opening up scholarship and ‘responsible stewardship’ of its collection. It’s also about moving with the times. So, who’ll be next then?

(Headsup to BoingBoing)

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: Do people not have anything better to do with their money?

Why on earth would you pay $1,000 for a lens that you can’t use? Even if it is Leica and has been transformed into a work of art? Actually, especially if it had been made by Leica. Yeah some students at Leica, as part of their graduation project, made art out of a discontinued Tri-Elmar-M 28-35-50mm lens and a 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens by splitting them in two. Valued at $4,500 and $3,700 respectively when whole, the Tri-Elmar sold for $995 on eBay. There are some things in life that I just don’t understand…

(Headsup to Engadget)

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

Leica (not) in bed with Apple


So the internet has been a-twitter about the Black Design Associates concept which marries a Leica M9 with an Apple iPhone, creating the Leica I9 concept. The idea is that you’d use Leica optics and sensors, but your iPhone to control the camera.

It’s a pretty nifty idea, although chances of Leica going for anything like this are beyond slim – Leica tend to make cameras for the ages, and Apple aren’t known for their open standards: Nobody knows whether the iPhone 5 will have a shape (or connector) anything similar to the iPhone 4. Besides, it’s not like Leica to interface with anything.

Having said that, I do hope that someone, somewhere, decides to make one of these cameras – the screen on the iPhone 4 is legendary, and slotting it into a dozen-megapixel camera with some decent optics would be hellatasty indeed. Something for Panasonic, perhaps? Do it!

More info on Engadget!

News in brief: Cities, Time lapsed

It can be no secret that the crew here at Small Aperture are big fans of Timelapse photography… so when Dominic Boudreault created one of the finest examples we’ve seen in a long time, we decided we just had to share it with you!

Turn up those speakers, set your screen to Full HD, sit back, and gawp at this…

Timelapse – The City Limits from Dominic on Vimeo.

In his own words: ‘I shot this timelapse montage from late 2010 through early 2011, it’s one year in the making, and my goal was to show the duality between city and nature.’

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.

News in brief: The itty-bitty medical camera

Having cameras shoved in various parts of your anatomy isn’t exactly a pleasant experience, so the smaller the things, the better. I’m thinking that a 0.99mm diameter camera, with a 0.66 x 0.66mm CMOS sensor and 45,000 pixels of resolution is a pretty good deal.

It’s been developed by the Israeli company Medigus for use in disposable instruments where they need tiny cameras. Things like cardiology or robotic surgery. Astonishing!

(Headsup to Engadget)

What is this? - In our NewsFlash section, we share interesting tidbits of news. Think of it as our extended twitter feed: When we find something that get our little hearts racing, we'll share it with you right here! Loving it? Great, we've got lots more News Flash articles - and, of course, we're still on Twitter as well, for even shorter news tidbits.