Tips & tricks

Spring cleaning my photography apps

I acquire a huge number of photography-related apps on my phone. Some of them I'm requested to review, some of them I choose to download so that I can compare them against similar apps, some of them I download for a specific purpose and never use again, a few of them I even use on a regular basis. I'm not too bad at sifting through them perodically to delete those which aren't serving any purpose and doing nothing more than consuming memory on my phone, but when I realised that I had four folders of photography apps, I concluded that it was time for a spring clean. Thus began the great app cull of Spring 2014. It was a fairly simple process based on the question 'Do I use this app?' If I did, I kept it; if I didn't, it was sent to the great spare app repository in the cloud. Admittedly, I did make a few exceptions, but all will be revealed.

Snapseed is my go-to editing app (followed by Aviary and ColorTime) so why did I have Photoshop Express lying redundant on my phone?

Adobe Photoshop Express? I don't remember the last time that I used it. I prefer Snapseed or Aviary. Gone!

Camera+? Plenty of people rave about it, but I've never got on with it. Gone!

Camera 360 Ultimate? I downloaded it when I was writing the Surreal book; it's served its purpose. Gone!

Loom? Now integrated with Dropbox making the app defunct. Gone!

Luminance? Again, lots of people love it, but I've never been drawn to it in the same way. Gone!

Marksta? An excellent app if you choose to watermark your mobile images, but I don't. I downloaded it when I was writing the Social book, but seeing as I no longer need it, it's... Gone!

Plastic Bullet? In the unusual event that I want to add filters and washes and heaven-knows-what to my photos, Pixlr-o-matic and FX PhotoStudio get the first looks-in.

Water My Photo? Not used it in almost two years. Does it still work? Gone!

And this list doesn't even skim the surface of those that have already enjoyed their five minutes of screen space and been moved on to pastures new. These include DXP Free (I prefer Juxtaposer); NoCrop, Squaready, and Squaregram (out-flanked by Instacrop and Instasize); and blasts from the past Photogram and Flex Photo Lab.

So what's left? Well, with three folders' worth, still quite a lot. I could probably condense it to two folders if I tried hard enough and made a choice between long exposure apps, plumped for either Instacrop or Instasize, and when I've finished off a few things I'm working on that require apps here and there. But I've still plenty of editing options with Snapseed, Aviary, and ColorTime, not to mention the tools that come with EyeEm, Flickr, and Instagram. There's touchReTouch for heavier duty removals, Touchnote for sending postcards, and Flipagram for flipbook-type-videos. Finally for triggering there's Triggertrap (obviously) and Gorillacam.

And there are a few apps that I've kept despite not having used them very much. I'm hoping that by making them more visible amongst my photo app arsenal, I might feel more inclined to tap them. I'm sure that I was suffering from a case of app-blindness with so many unused ones camouflaging ones that I might otherwise be useful. It's certainly been a liberating experience for my phone's memory; I'm hoping it might be an enlightening one for my mobile photography now.

Less is more, I think.

Hot and happening trends in stock imagery according to iStock by Getty

A few weeks ago we published our guide to selling stock images, with content suggestions, style advice, and labelling tips, among other hints. This week, iStock by Getty Images has released an infographic documenting the eight leading trends in business imagery that they've charted over the past year. If you're looking to sell business images, these are the kinds of subjects that buyers are after:

  1. Transparency and openness - business-type scenarios shot through windows and glass
  2. Show me "Innovation" - unusual concepts, unusually shot
  3. The New Leader - think start-up trendy rather than power-dressed exec
  4. Service-oriented workforce
  5. Dads on deck - or hands-on dads
  6. Women in power - we're growing in number
  7. Hipsters are taking over - beards, bikes, and coffee (apparently)
  8. Working from home - more of us are doing it, so it needs to be reflected

Top Trends In Business Imagery 2014_iStock by Getty Images

Get cracking, then!

Before entering a competition, read the terms and conditions

This isn't a new drum that we're beating here today, but we think it's a significantly important issue to warrant another parade: competition rights grabs. Or the attempt by competition organisers to inveigle themselves of the right to use any of the images entered into their photographic competitions, for any purposes, with no compensation to the photographer. This reminder comes as I received a call for entries to a competition run in conjunction with an organisation that I respect and trust, and hoped would be above cheap tactics to help magazines or other companies amass a photo library for free. Apparently not. To quote from the terms and conditions:

By entering your photos in the competition you agree to grant REDACTED and REDACTED a non-exclusive licence to reproduce, publish and feature the photos in association with this competition, or for any other purpose, at any time, in any publication, website or other associated media outlets, without compensation. By entering you agree to grant REDACTED and REDACTED an exclusive royalty-free licence to use the full set of images taken on your photography trip [which comprises the prize] for 12 months.

To use images submitted to contests as promotional material for the competition or its future iterations is a reasonable condition of entry; but to demand they be made available for use in any publication associated with the organisers, for any purposes, across all media, and without compensation is, in my opinion, exploitative.

I have written extensively about the damage that these terms and conditions do to both photographers and the photographic industry before now, so I shan't reprise it here. But do bear in mind that if you're seeking your big break from a competition that employs these sorts of terms, you are doing yourself and fellow photographers—amateur and professional—a disservice in the long run. Furthermore, don't assume that just because the competition is being organised by or run in conjunction with a big name that it won't be out to take advantage of you.

The finale to this performance is then: always check the terms and conditions of a competition and if you consider anything to be unsavoury, please don't enter.

Seeing as I've been asked: no, I shan't be naming the competition in question. I'd rather not bring any more publicity to it. Just read the T&Cs!

7 super suggestions for selling stock

Love them or loathe them, stock agencies are a significant sector of the photography industry. How else do people who are looking to buy images for use in publications, in advertising campaigns, or on websites acquire them without commissioning a photographer? For some photographers, then, selling stock imagery can be an important source of income. It might not keep the wolf away from the door, but it could well keep the candles burning. In which case, how do you make the best of it? If you're looking to make a bit of pin-money selling your photos, what are the dos and don'ts? If you're already in the stock game, how can you do it better? I spoke to a variety of stock agencies—Alamy, Shutterstock, and EyeEm Market—who kindly shared their words of wisdom to help you make the most out of the stock market.


It might come as a surprise, or it might not, but stock agencies need photos of anything and everything. That's pretty much the entire point of them, you see. Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy says: 'Everything can be updated, good photographers will look for a new take on old clichés.' Like me a few weeks ago, people need generic photos of the father-of-the-bride. However, there are particular types of imagery that are preferable and subjects that have growing demand. So think about producing:

  • Real-looking, natural-feeling photos; posed and staged photos aren't so in demand
  • Photos that are out-of-the-office and out-of-the-ordinary; think oil rig as opposed to desk, farm yard instead of back yard, mountain-top rather than table-top
  • Images from the emerging markets: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa
  • Healthcare and medical photos
  • Anything that documents culture and diversity
  • Photos local to you - who else is there to shoot them?

'We’d love to see more adventurous shoots in more unusual locations/scenarios!' says Capel. While he knows that might be easier said than done, 'Photographers are tenacious and resourceful and they will find a way.' And if you're pursuing the emerging markets theme, that should include lifestyle and local culture as well as business and industry photos. Remember: there are consumers in those emerging markets, too!

Be on the alert for local culture and diversity

Is there anything that absolutely should be avoided? Well, if a photo's good, anything goes. But over at EyeEm, they warn people off of pets, pot plants, and predictable self-portraits.

Go for unusual takes on the usual

Spotting trends

It's probably a good idea to keep one eye on what's happening now and another on the horizon. Scott Braut, VP of Content at Shutterstock, recommends using social media to gauge trending topics and examining news headlines for common themes (for example politics, pop culture) to help you pick out favourable subjects. But at the same time, think about what might be happening in two, three, or four years' time: Olympic Games, World Cups, centenaries, and anniversaries.

Keep an eye on forthcoming events and commorations


It's always best to stick to what you know best, which is your own style. But Capel says not be afraid of adding another string to your bow by including mobile images—Alamy has the stockimo app for that, and there's the new EyeEm Market, too—and Braut says that photos with Instagram-esque filters are popular.

You might not like Instagram-esque filters, but they are popular


Be ruthless when it comes to submitting photos to stock houses: if something about an image doesn't feel right, it's probably wrong. Don't include it.

And both Braut and Capel say the same thing about repetitious photos: don't do it! Make sure that each photo you submit is distinct, so that they don't detract from each other.


People need to be able to find your images to buy and use them. This means that they need to be identifiable through tags, labels, and key-words. Capel suggests thinking along these lines:

  1. Literal - what is actually in the shot
  2. Conceptual - what moods, emotions, concepts does the shot evoke
  3. Photographic – predominant colours, any techniques or treatments used

At EyeEm, their top search terms include the abstract, such as 'happiness' and 'hope' as well as more descriptive, for example 'family' and 'fitness'. Spread your net far and wide, but make sure your terms are accurate.

Martini, cocktail, drink, alcohol, sophisticated, James Bond, shaken-not-stirred, party, olive, gin, Vermouth, low-key, dark

And don't be afraid to re-visit and re-label photos after you've submitted them. You never know what you might think of with fresh eyes.


Photos that have people in them will require a model release if they're to be used commercially. Logos have to be rights cleared and securing that can be a proper pain. It's much better to do away with labels on bottles, use plain clothing, and hide obvious branding.

As much as I love this photo, the chances of me getting a model release for it are slim-to-none


The word that came up again, and again, and again was 'real'. Buyers want imagery that's natural and believable, not contrived. There's a whole world out there waiting to be documented, so go explore!

Top tips for terrific travel photos

Seeing as Daniela is currently gallivanting somewhere in Thailand, we thought it presented us with the perfect opportunity to give you our travel photography tips. We've accumulated them from thousands of miles on the road through tens of countries. They might be useful for someone other than ourselves.

1. Be prepared

Like every good Boy Scout and Girl Guide, you need to be well prepared, before you go and when you're away. As contrary as it might sound, even if you favour spontaneous, moment-to-moment travel, a bit of planning will make sure that you get the pictures you deserve. You need to be ready for anything.

Buying supplies at the souq in Tangiers, before taking the train to Fes

Being prepared comes in three parts.

  1. First: Have an idea of what you want to see, do, and experience before you arrive. It doesn't have to be a minute-by-schedule, a wish-list is sufficient. It will help to ensure you see as much as you can and still have the chance to unwind and prevent being overwhelmed and accomplishing next to nothing.
  2. If you know roughly what you're planning on doing, it'll help when you pack your kit. Why take with lenses that you probably won't use at the expense of those you will? Trust me, I schlepped four lenses around the world and used only two of them.
  3. Finally: when you're out and about with your camera, be ready. Remember to re-set your ISO and shutter speed after a night shoot. Have you camera to hand on a bus or train, not in the luggage compartment. And have a smartphone or compact camera with you when you pop out for a bottle of water. You never know what you might see!

2. Tell the story

Every photo tells a story, and the photos from your travels should tell the story of your trip. That means it isn't just about capturing the monuments and the famous views, but about recording the little things that matter, that make a difference, that bring a trip to life.

Bar decorations in Bali, before I got sick

When you look at your travel photos you want to be transported back to the hustle and bustle of the souq in Dubai; your friends and family who weren't there need to sense the crush, the smell, the heat. My photos from Bali include stone lions guarding temples, the bottles of petrol you see for sale by the side of the road, and the pile of medicine I was prescribed when I fell ill. My time there is charted in pictures, big to small.

Sick. Very sick, in Bali

3. Get off the beaten track

I'm a huge advocate of eating in local restaurants and taking the bus to the isolated villages half way up the mountain. It all adds to the experience. But I mean something more when it comes to photos. When you're looking to photograph famous monuments and well-known vistas, look for a fresh approach, an unusual angle, a different feel.

Birds in a row, Rangitoto harbour

4. Take good care

When I first used a mandolin (one to prep vegetables, not the musical instrument) I was advised that carrots are cheaper than fingers. I've a similar approach to taking photos. I'm worth more than my kit; and my safety is worth more than a photo. This means that I don't wander blithely into insalubrious parts of town flashing my camera and I don't ignore the signs telling me that landslips are likely owing to recent heavy rain.

There was a certain element of risk in getting this photo, but it wasn't off-limits

I also make a point of regularly rotating my memory cards, so that if my kit does succumb to theft or failure, I won't have lost all my photos. And if I travel with my laptop, I backup my photos to a hard drive, and if possible a cloud drive, at the end of every day.

The key thing is, your photos are worth more than your kit and you're worth more than both of those.

5. Know 'the rules'

Yes, we would like you to know the rules of photography and we would like you to know when to break them. But that's not quite the point here. We mean the local rules, customs, and mores. Can you take photos of people? Are camera allowed at religious sites? Are certain places out-of-bounds at particular times of the day? Make sure that you know what you can and cannot do; you don't want to offend anyone where you're a guest and you don't want to get into trouble. However far these customs and protocols might seem from your life, they still need to be respected.

A nod to your camera and a smile can establish if photos are permitted

6. Set your alarm

Sunrise and sunset might present you with the best lighting opportunities for your photos, with sizzling stone, luscious landscapes, and perfect portraits, but early in the morning will show you a different side to where you're staying. And you'll escape the tourist crowds, too.

Sun coming up, Bay of Islands

7. Remember to put down your camera

Travel is about a whole lot more than your photos. It's a wealth of experiences and encounters. When you're constantly holding a camera to your face, it means that you can miss out on people, whether your family or anyone new. Remember to put down your camera from time to time, and just enjoy.

Of course, this is just the beginning, the basic principles. Haje covers travel photography in far more depth and detail in his gorgeous Focus on the Fundamentals: Travel book!

Emergency smartphone support: a piece of string!

It's a truth universally acknowledged that the steadier you can keep your camera, the better your photos will be. Keeping your smartphone steady can be a bit tricky because it's small and light. Sure there are smartphone specialist supports, but there has to be a cheaper, lighter way that's in-keeping with the pocket-sized nature of smartphone photography, no? I'm not entirely sure why I decided that I needed to modify an emergency string tripod for use with a smartphone, but obviously I was channeling MacGyver somewhere, so I gave it a go. If you've never used an emergency string tripod, it's a loop of string secured to your camera to help keep it steady. You might've heard of it as a chainpod.

For my proof-of-concept smartphone stringpod, I used baling twine. It's not the ideal material because it's too coarse and too slippery against the phone's casing; however, we have an abundance of it and I just needed to prove my idea. A thinner string with a less shiny finish, like kitchen string, would be better.

Take a length of string that's at least double your height and tie together the ends to form a loop.

Take a loop of string and secure it around your smartphone in girth hitch

Use the loop to secure a girth hitch around your smartphone. Girth hitch: the technical name for a simple knot made with a loop. You can see better distructions here.

You should now have your string looped around your smartphone, and the rest of the loop hanging down from it.

Smartphone held in a loop

Place your foot (or feet) through the loop and pull your smartphone to taughten the string.

Stabilise your smartphone using your feet to taughten the string

That should stabilise your smartphone on the vertical axis, meaning that you can concentrate on horizontal stability. You should have a better chance of taking wobble-less landscapes and shake-free selfies now.

If you need to shorten the loop, just put a twist in it and secure it with your feet on the twist. Also: don't forget to keep your elbows in when you're taking a photo, no flapping around like chicken, thank you!

How's that for a camera stabilisation device that costs pennies and fits in your pocket?

What do beards, witches, and fathers have in common?

What do beards, witches, and fathers have in common? Witches often come with beards in folklore? Some dads have beards? Ehm... According to stock house iStock, we can expect to see all three of them at the vanguard of visual trends in the coming months. Move over vampires, the covern is on the rise. It doesn't have to be all eye of toad and wing of bat, either. Think swishing black taffeta and piercing eyes for our 21st century witches.

Witch hat - bobbieo #9722956, via iStock by Getty

Do you remember 'that' poster of the topless man cradling a baby? Just a vague recollection of it hanging in the window of Athena or plastered to the wall of teenaged girl's bedroom? It was taken by Spencer Rowell in 1986 for the poster shop Athena and it's supposedly the biggest-selling poster in British history. While that might've heraled the 'New Man' aesthetic, this season you'll be looking at dads having all the fun with their children.

Little boy - LifeSizeImages #20428785, via iStock by Getty

Beards. We're going to be seeing a lot more beards. They were all the rage on the Paris, London, and New York catwalks, I'm told. Something to do with 'geek chic'. I bet that the male half of team Photocritic never thought of himself as a fashion icon!

Beared sailor - Alija #24912776, via iStock by Getty

8 tips for better Smartphone photographs

Taken with an iPhone 4

Forgive me for stating the obvious: You get much better photos with a camera than without one. So, whilst I would much rather always be taking photos with SLR body with a sharp Prime lens, the truth of the matter is that you'll sometimes come across moments where you're just bursting to take a photo - and you may not have a 'real' camera handy.

If you're a hard-core photographer, you'll probably have a reasonably recent smart-phone. Great news: The phone comes with a surprisingly capable camera built-in.

It's not without limitations, of course, but here's eight tips to get the most out of your mobile phone snaps...

1) Clean your lens

Mobile phones are usually subjected to all sorts of abuse. Mine lives in my hand and my pocket; neither of which is the greatest environment for a clean lens.

Fingerprints, grease, or pocket fluff are the #1 reason for rubbish smart-phone photos, so check it, and clean it before shooting!

2) Shine a light

Modern mobile phones often come with impressive ISO ranges so you can take photos even in low light; but that doesn't mean you should: The small sensor size introduces a lot of noise, which isn't very nice, and certainly isn't conducive to awesome snaps.

Turn up the lights in the room, or go outside in daylight for the best photos.

3) Rez it up

If your camera has several settings, use 'em! As a general rule, the higher the resolution of your mobile camera, the clearer your photographs will be.

Bear in mind, though, that the higher the resolution of your photo, the larger its file size will be, so if you're e-mailing them, try to make them smaller before you kill your grandma's 28.8 kbit/s modem.

4) Nix the digi-zoom

Using digital zoom to zero in on your subject is fun if you want to use your mobile phone instead of binoculars, but it ain't much good if you're wanting to take photos. For photography, keep it zoomed all the way out, and crop the images later instead.

5) Steady now

When taking photographs, the more steady your camera is, the clearer your picture will be. Simples. If you can, lean your elbows on a sturdy surface, or place the phone against a lamp-post or similar for extra crispness.

6) Don't lose your (white) balance

If your mobile phone has the option of adjusting the camera using white balance, go ahead and experiment how the different settings impact on your photographs.

7) Get closer. No, even closer

To avoid having to zoom in or crop your shots later, ensure that your subject fills your viewfinder.

8) Sprinkle some editing magic

Even though your phone may have built-in editing features out of the box, consider editing them with a separate app instead.

For the iPhone, my favourite editing apps are Snapseed and Photoshop Express - Try 'em out, and use the filters and editing tools to add a bit of sizzle.

Got that? Great. Now go snap some photos you're proud of. Oh, and post them in the comments, I'd love to see what you guys come up with!

Photographing people who wear glasses

My brother has worn glasses full time for absolutely years, which has meant that I learned how to photograph him wearing them to avoid hideous green glare rather intuitively. I probably did have to think about it at some point, but I don't really remember and now I just seem to do it. That was until this week, when one of the students at Photocritic Photography School piped up and asked me what he should do when he has a portrait subject who wears glasses. For lots of reasons, the answer is never 'Ask your subject to remove them,' so what do you do?

Look at the light

Me and some wonderful green glare, taken with an iPhone

The most obvious problem that glasses will present to you is that they reflect light. Instead of seeing straight through spectacles' lenses and into your subject's eyes, you'll have a unpleasant, usually green-tinged, reflection glaring back at you.

Going back to GCSE physics, we know that the angle of incidence (or the angle at which light will hit someone's glasses) is equal to the angle of reflection (or the angle at which the light will bounce back off the glasses). If light is coming in at an angle of 31° to the normal of your subject's glasses, it'll bounce off at 31° on the other side of the normal*. There's a helpful diagram here.

Consequently, if your light source is too close to your camera the light has a much greater chance of bouncing straight off your subject's spectacles and into your camera's lens. And if the light is coming from straight behind the camera and your subject is looking straight back at the camera, you haven't got a cat's chance in hell. But the upshot is: know where your light is coming from.

* The normal is an imaginary line running perpendicular to the plane of the glasses.

Altering angles

Minimising glare is easiest by one of three means:

  • move your light source
  • move your subject
  • or move your camera

Pokey-out tongue copy

By shifting your light source or yourself, you can alter either the angle of incidence, and therefore reflection, or take your camera out of the firing line. Sometimes, though, your light source can't be shifted (say, when it's the sun) and you moving might not be an option. Then it's down to your subject.

Tilting and turning

If your subject tilts her or his head downwards, just by a few degrees, not by much, it'll be sufficient to adjust the angle of the light and prevent a reflection bouncing back into the camera lens. Or she or he could turn fractionally away from the light source; not enough to wreak havoc with your shadows, but enough to prevent that horrible glare.

Me, angled away from the light

When you ask subjects to tilt their heads or change the angle of their shoulders, you might find that their spectacle frames begin to encroach into the view of eye. At this point it becomes a trade-off between reflection obfuscation and frame obfuscation. You need to decide where your tipping point is.

Quit posing

If you opt for more candid shots, you'll be able to capture your subjects looking away or looking down and doing it naturally but still without any nasty reflections.

Downward tilt, candidly snapped.

Go with it

Sometimes, you just have say that the glare is there and it's better to have a photo with a reflection than no photo at all!

Call your phone to trigger your camera

One of the most awesome things about working on the Triggertrap is the community we've built up already. And, like any great community, we keep getting fantastic ideas via our Get Satisfaction forums.

triggertrap_tt_d2_004.jpgAs soon as Triggertrap Mobile launched, we had a fantastic idea from Travis, who wished he could trigger his camera by calling his iPhones... The big dirty secret, however, is that this is already possible, if you have a Triggertrap Mobile Dongle! The little trick is to choose the top secret special triggering sound we use in the Triggertrap App as your ring tone, and then to turn the ring tone sound to maximum. Here's how

WARNING - It's worth pointing out that if you're planning to do this, make sure you keep your Triggertrap dongle plugged in the whole time, and switch the special Triggertrap tone for another ring tone before you unplug it. The tone is meant to be listened to by the Triggertrap Mobile Dongle only; It isn't great for human consumption (For exterior use only; do not swallow; consult a doctor if you spill this sound in your eye socket, etc). Anyway.

How to trigger your SLR by calling your telephone

To be able to call your iPhone or Android phone to trigger your camera:

  1. Plug your Triggertrap Mobile Dongle into the headphone socket of your iPhone.
  2. Download the Triggertrap Mobile Ringtone for your iPhone as a .zip file.
  3. Unzip the tone (it's a .m4r file; Apple's special m4r ringtone format.)
  4. Install the tone to your phone2
  5. Choose the Triggertrap Tone as your ring-tone3
  6. Set up your camera using Single Shot1 and preferably manual focus, too
  7. Call your iPhone from another phone to take a photo.
  8. When you're done, choose your old ring tone3 again, before un-plugging your Triggertrap Mobile Dongle from your iPhone

Brilliant, eh? 1) You could also set it to Continuous mode, but we'll be sending a very long shutter signal to your camera (5 seconds in total), so it would be like pressing and holding your shutter button for 5 seconds. Try it now; press and hold your shutter button. If it takes 30 photos in quick succession, that's what'll happen when you use this trick to trigger your camera. If you'd prefer to just take one photo, use single shot mode!

Additional help and assistance

2) How do you install a custom ring tone to your phone?

  1. Set your computer's sound to mute.
  2. Drag the .m4r ringtone file to your iTunes. If you forgot to set your computer to mute, you'll now get a horrible sound playing through your speakers. Trust me; you don't want this sound: It's bad for your computer and for your ears.
  3. Plug your iPhone into your computer with the USB lead
  4. Click on your iPhone within iTunes
  5. Select 'Tones' from the bar across the top (this is also where you select what music, movies, and apps you want to sync to your phone)
  6. Either choose 'all tones' or just 'Selected Tones' and then tick the Trigger Tone box.
  7. Click 'Apply'
  8. Click 'Sync'.

3) How do you choose a ring tone on your phone?

  1. Go into the Settings app on your iPhone
  2. Choose Sounds
  3. Click Ring Tone
  4. Choose the ring tone you want as your ring tone. In this case, Trigger Tone. If you've only just uploaded it to your phone, it'll show up right at the top.

Hardware hacking: Fixing your X100 charger

Without the easy-to-lose piece of plastic, your FujiFilm charger is useless. Let's go DIY on its ass...

I've had a FujiFilm X100 for a while now, and I still don't completely know how I am getting on with it. Sure, I have taken some rather fabulous photos with it, like these ones:





The FujiFilm X100 battery charger problem

But it is not without its niggles. One of the small but incredibly annoying problems with the X100 is that the battery doesn't fit in the battery charger that comes with it. I know, it sounds completely inane, but it's true: To use the X100's battery in the charger, you have to use a tiny piece of plastic in the charger. Without it, the battery fails to make a connection, and won't charge properly. FujiFilm, if you're reading this: That was a complete bonehead move, and you really ought to be ashamed of yourself.

However, as a DIY photographer, I figured this was my chance to make my own life better. I lost the little piece of plastic nearly immediately, and was using toothpicks to hold the battery in place, but when my good friend Sarah told me about Sugru (by the way, Sugru, if you are reading this you should totally hire Sarah. She is awesome. Also, if you aren't reading this, then you obviously need a new community manager. Which brings me back to my original point: Hire Sarah.), I immediately saw a great use for it: Finally, a way of fixing my X100 charger, permanently and once and for all.

Let's get busy!

So here, offered as a deliciously simply to follow step by step guide: How to fix your FujiFilm x100 charger, by the power of Sugru:

1) Make sure you clean your charger properly; The Sugru is pretty hardy stuff, but if it's dusty or greasy, you're going to get less of a bond:


2) Take two small balls of Sugru (this was about 1/8th of a 5g packet of Sugru - or a grand total of £0.17 / $0.26 worth), and shape them into, er, balls.

3) Insert the battery into the charger, to make an imprint into the Sugru. Push it into the Sugru ever so slightly, and then remove the battery. The material will keep the shape you've just made, and harden over the next 24 hours.


4) Use a wet finger to gently brush off any excess material. Sure, this is an optional step, but if you're going to hack your own camera equipment, you may as well make it look reasonably good.

5) re-insert the battery to make sure it still fits properly, then remove it again


6) Leave it to harden for 24 hours

Congratulations! You've spent pennies on fixing a problem that FujiFilm really should have done right in the first place. More importantly, you can now use your well-earned bragging rights down in the pub, telling everyone that you've improved a piece of your own photography gear!

Adding a protective UV filter to your Fuji X100

Nobody will ever be able to straight-facedly claim that Fujifilm's X100 is without its flaws, but by jove, is it turning it into one of my fave cameras nonetheless. One problem with this little peach is that the lens is exposed, and non-interchangeable - so if you, like me, tend to throw your camera over your shoulder, there's danger abound if you knock it into something.

20111012_img_0089_1000px.jpgAs a double bonus hazard, the camera doesn't have a filter thread, so it's impossible to put an UV filter on the lens for protection. Or is it? It turns out that it does, indeed, have a filter thread, but it's 'backwards' - instead of having the threads facing inwards, like on most cameras, on the X100, the threading is facing out.

"Ah, but that's no problem", I hear you say - "Filters have threading both ways, you can just mount it on the camera backwards!". Well, that's true, but there's a second snag with the X100: Because the inner lens barrel comes quite far out of the camera body, if you simply mount a filter, the lens is liable to get stuck (if you're lucky), or be damaged (if you're less lucky).

So, how to solve this conundrum?

Easy, if a little convoluted.

You need to buy two 49-mm filters, and be prepared to sacrifice one of them to The Cause. What we're going to do, is to stack a couple of 49mm filters, in reverse, on the lens.

Step by step:

Step 1

Take off the ornamental ring


Step 2

This image shows the problem we are facing: See how far that lens extends? Just attaching a filter would cause trouble...


Step 3

Now, the easiest way to take the glass out of a filter would be to unscrew the retaining ring in the filter. However, these can often be extremely well-attached; if you don't have a special tool, they can be very difficult to loosen. I got frustrated with my filter, and took a violent approach.


Step 4

By giving the filter a sharp blow with a screwdriver, and then carefully removing the shards, I was able to take most of the glass out


Step 5

Of course, with most of the glass removed, it was possible to take the retaining ring out. I took out the rest of the glass, and made sure there weren't any fragments left.


Step 6

Mount the empty filter threading on your lens


Step 7

Loosely attach the second filter to the first filter. Then, operate the camera. See how close the lens gets to the filter. Slowly tighten the filter little by little, and keep experimenting with your lens. Be aware that some low-profile filters may not be thick enough to give you enough distance, so being careful at this step is a very good idea indeed.


Step 8

Remember the ornamental ring we took off in step 1? Put it back on, if you like!


That's it!

So, that's how you can mount a filter on your X100 camera. Easy once you know how!

When not to use your flash

It always amazes me how often people just leave their flashes turned on all the time – or, more accurately, how great people’s faith is in the camera’s ‘automatic’ setting. To wit: I recently had the pleasure of dragging myself out at bed before dawn to photograph the sunrise at the legendary Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. Now, this temple is famous for being beautiful and facing west, which makes it great for sunrises. Multiply that with the fact that Angkor Wat is a tourist trap of epic proportions at the quietest of days, and you might imagine that the place attracts a fair few people.


I got to the location by the light of my flashlight – and slowly the sky started changing colors, as the sun was climbing its slow ascent past the horizon. Unsurprisingly, lots of my fellow tourists were taking photos of the sunset. Surprisingly, a huge proportion of them were taking photos with a flash.

When is a flash useful?

All flashes have a ‘guide number’. This is a number given in feet and meters, and gives a good indication for how far away you can expect the flash to reach. Typically, for a compact camera, the flash range will be 5-7 meters (16-23 ft). The pop-up flash built into an SLR camera can have a range of 10-15 meters (32-49 ft) at the most, and EVIL cameras tend to fall in between the compact cameras.


A flash having to be fully charged and fired at full power isn’t great for your camera’s battery life, and it takes a relatively long time to cycle the power (i.e. from taking a photo, until your camera is ready to take another shot), which isn’t all that helpful when you’re standing around waiting for your camera so you can take another picture.

In general, it’s recommended to try to keep your flash at around 50-70% of its output – this tends to be a nice balance between flash charge time, and battery usage. This means that on a compact camera, you should only expect about 3 meters (10 ft) of useable flash range. That’s perfect for indoor snapshot portraits when it’s dark, and not for a lot else.

If you want a flash that charges faster and has significantly more power, start looking for an accessory flash.


When’s the flash not useful?

The built-in flash isn’t very powerful – so unless you are taking a photo of someone that’s close enough that you can throw a stuffed animal at them, turn off your flash.

Whatever you do, don’t be one of the hundreds and hundreds people at a famous landmark after sunset, taking photos with your compact camera with the built-in flash turned on: There’s no way your flash is going to reach that building 600 yards away, so you may as well save your battery…

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© Kamps Consulting Ltd. This article is licenced for use on Pixiq only. Please do not reproduce wholly or in part without a license. More info.

Get the eyes in focus.

The very first thing you need to know about getting people to look awesome, is that their eyes have to be in focus. This is absolutely, completely non-negotiable. If they have their eyes open, get them in focus. If they have them closed – get them in focus. Is your model wearing sunglasses? Well, get them in focus. You see where I'm going with this.

The reason for focusing on the eyes is simple: Whatever your photo, this is really where you want your audience to be looking. In a good portrait, the eyes are a window into the soul, and if you want to move people with your shots, it's important to get (make) that 'connection'.

As you are starting out on your journey of improving your portraiture concentrate 100% on getting the eyes right. Trust me: everything else will eventually fall into place.

Focusing and composing your portraits

If the eyes are so incredibly important, how can you ensure that you get them in focus? Taking a photo is a multi-step process. First of all, check your camera settings. Is your camera in the right file format? Are you in the correct auto-focus mode? Is your camera in the camera mode you were planning to use? Is your ISO set correctly?

Next, Check your exposure. If you're shooting in Program, Aperture-priority or shutter-priority mode, you need to ensure that you haven't changed the exposure bias. If you have ventured into manual exposure, you should check whether you've dialed in a useful aperture. And if you are in a fully automatic mode, you should buy my book and turn to chapter 3 - and be deeply ashamed of yourself.

The final steps are to focus and compose your image:

Step 1


The first step to get your focus right is to zoom in all the way on the eyes of your subject. This helps the camera's focusing mechanism get the focus right, and it reduces the risk of the camera focusing on the wrong thing. Obviously, if you are shooting with a prime lens (i.e. a non-zoom lens), this step doesn’t apply.

Step 2


Now, half-press your shutter button. Your lens will attempt to focus. Since you've zoomed all the way in, it will be very clear when your subject is properly in focus. If your lens gets it wrong somehow, let go of the shutter button and half-press it one more time. Once your subject is in focus, keep the shutter half-pressed.

Step 3


Now, whilst keeping the shutter button half-way down, you can zoom back out, and compose your photo. Take your time, there's no rush.

Step 4


When you're happy with the way your photo looks through the viewfinder, all you need to do is to press the shutter all the way down, and your camera will take the photo.

Finally, you edit your photo to your liking, and bonza - you're ready to go. How you can edit your portraits for best effect is, of course, also covered in Focus on Photographing People.

Like this quick tip?

If you enjoyed this quick tip, there's loads more where this came from. My newest book, Focus on Photographing People, is chocker-block with hundreds of photos, tons of tips, and fist-fulls of advice: All to help you become a better Photographer of People. Find out more about the book on my website, and then head to your nearest brick-and-mortar or online bookshop to buy yourself a copy!

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© Kamps Consulting Ltd. This article is licenced for use on Pixiq only. Please do not reproduce wholly or in part without a license. More info.

Attracting better feedback

As photographers in this Internet age we read about photography, and share our work, in hopes of honing our craft. You could be pursuing a career as a wedding photographer or a sports shooter and either way you’re searching for articles, subscribing to photography blogs, and participating in photo forums in hopes that there are gems of knowledge that will take your photographic prowess to the next level.

What most photographers, especially those that didn’t do any formal art training, are missing from their arsenal of learning tools, is the art of critique.

Defining Art Criticism

Sometimes, it can be fiercely difficult to know what's missing in a photograph. The easiest way to get a bit of help is simply to ask for it - but you've got to do it right.

Simply put: Art criticism is the discussion of the evaluation of art.

And having your peers, especially those whom you respect, evaluate your photography in a constructive manner will make you a better photographer.

And yes… it can seem scary.

We often think of critiques as negative and judgmental. They don’t have to be. And if they are…well, you just shrug it off. Chalk it up to the learning process.

There is an alternative.

You could upload your images to Flickr and join groups where they require comments and post badges and prizes galore! You’ll be inundated with happy unicorns and shiny gold medals. Comments like “Wow!” and “Nice!” will flood your comments sections and you’ll be able to see through rose coloured glasses for days!

While that may be okay for the occasional ego-boost I’d argue that those kind of groups are doing you more harm than good.

I mean, let’s get real for a second…did you actually learn anything from those kinds of comments? Did you become a better photographer because you got a scripted response from someone else looking for tons of comments filled with other scripted responses?

I didn’t think so.

Get Better Photo Critiques

I know from experience that there's nothing more difficult than getting harsh critique or a ton of suggestions for improvement on a photo you're particularly proud of. But stand tall and take it like a (wo)man - it's the fastest way to get better.

Getting better photo critiques starts by going to the right places (hint: you’re already at one of them).

  • You may already know that Photocritic does photo critiques and I highly recommend adding your photos to his queue.
  • Flickr has a rather large assortment of groups that are dedicated to criticism and critique. Simply search Flickr for “critique” and find the one that best suits your tastes and style of photography.
  • DeviantArt also has groups dedicated to criticism. What’s unique about DeviantArt is that you’ll get critiques from artists of varying mediums, not just photographers, which can add a different perspective and unique insights.
  • Photography forums often have sections dedicated to critiques. You’re probably already part of a photography forum, or know of a good one, so search for critique threads.

So you found a place that does critiques. Now what?

  • Upload some of your photographs then submit or post them to the groups or threads in the critiques section.
  • Participate! When you join a new group or forum you’ll likely get ignored for a little while in the beginning. Don’t worry, this is natural in every social setting. You need to be pro-active and start conversations. Critique other photographs. When you start critiquing other people’s photographs you are essentially inviting them to critique your work as well.
  • Keep the conversation going. After someone has left a critique of your work it’s a good idea to thank them for their time and/or insight. This simple act of “conversation” will encourage more participation from others who may be sitting on the sidelines.

Keep it constructive or you won’t really gain much.

The day you think there's nothing left to learn, you may as well eBay all your camera equipment and give up. Trust me; that day will never come. And if you think it has, you're wrong.

  • Feel free to set guidelines on your work. Not everyone will pay attention, but many will. On every image I post on my flickr account I add “While your comments are greatly appreciated, your presence is enough reward. Please do not post awards or banners, leave a comment or a thought instead. I know you can!” in the description box. Think about how you could set guidelines on your work to get the best comments and critiques that you can.
  • Make friends with photographers that you respect. Keep in contact with those that do constructive criticisms and maintain a conversation with them.
  • Give the best critiques you can give by avoiding annoying and overused comments and critiques and other’s will more likely reciprocate.
  • Be as objective as you can. You aren’t going to agree with all of the comments and criticisms you get and they’re not all going to be right. One of my best selling photographs got slaughtered in two separate critiques (one group critique and one published *yikes!* critique).
  • Research. If someone calls your photograph out for not having or overdoing a certain artistic element you need to look it up (especially if you think you know what it means) before you disagree with them in an open platform. Otherwise you alienate anyone else from leaving critiques
  • Be gracious and objective. This can’t be stated enough!

Following these guidelines will help you garner better critiques and comments on your photographs. You’ll learn how others look at your photographs and you’ll learn whether or not you are achieving your goals as a visual story teller. Did I miss anything? Do you actively pursue critiques?

About the Author:

I’m a huge fan of Damien Franco’s work. He’s obviously exploring; finding his feet as a photographer, but more importantly, he’s always ready to share what he knows. He works as a contemporary fine art photographer working in West Texas and writes photography tutorials when he’s not fighting tumble weeds, cactus, and oil tycoons. You could do a lot worse than following him on that there Flickr thing.

Do you enjoy a smattering of random photography links? Well, squire, I welcome thee to join me on Twitter -

© Kamps Consulting Ltd. This article is licenced for use on Pixiq only. Please do not reproduce wholly or in part without a license. More info.

Two steps closer to the perfect photo

Breaking the rule of thirds works well often - especially in scenes like this

Few things confuse me more than someone asking me what camera I use. I understand the question, but I can't help but wonder why the answer would tell them anything about me as a photographer. After all - a painter is rarely asked about what brand of brushes she uses, nor do people care much about which word processor a novelist used.

Great photographs aren't made by a camera-and-lens combination; the equipment you hold in your hands and the tools you use to take the image from RAW file to final JPEG are completely irrelevant to most discussions about photography as an art form. Why? Because none of these things are the wall that stands between you and your yet-to-be-taken masterpieces.

A great photograph needs two things: It needs a creative vision, backed up by a solid set of technical skills. A photo that has one of these two things nailed can be good - but it won't be great.

Step 1: The technical side

The technical side of photography has myriad different elements to it, and a good photographer has to juggle all of them to create the perfect photograph. Getting a photograph is an equation of lighting, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focal length, depth of field, focus, blurring (or the absence thereof), and a whole boatload of other variables. As a photographer, you are akin to a scientist using a sophisticated optical instrument, measuring the world around you, one fraction of a second at the time.

Photographers who are just starting out tend to have the biggest problems with the technical side of photography: Over- or under-exposure were the arch-nemeses of many a fledgling snapper. The challenges of avoiding focus blur, camera blur, and subject motion blur... You name it, we've all been there.

Most photography classes (forgive the pun) focus on photography as a technical challenge. In a way, that makes sense: It's the first hurdle that causes many to stumble out of the starting blocks. Sadly, by making photography into science, many new photographers are turned off - there are only so many diatribes about f-stops a right-minded human being can take before they wander off and reach for the Playstation controller.

More depressingly, many photography teachers stop when their students have finally figured out how to get a classroom printer to vomit up a reasonably well-exposed, moderately in-focus image, forgetting what photography was meant to be all about. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Over time, people learn their tools and what can be done with them. They'll pick up rules, tips and tricks that help them compose well-exposed, correctly white-balanced images that are tack-sharp, well lit, and generally attractive-looking, realistic and accurate depictions of the world.

As you become a more experienced photographer, it's likely that the technical side of photography becomes second nature. Your camera and lens become extensions of your brain, your fingers glide effortlessly over the buttons, and you find yourself tickling the settings to perfection every time. When the time comes to buy a new camera body, you feel that sinking, forlorn feeling of having to re-adjust after the manufacturer moved the buttons around by a fraction of a centimetre on the new version of the camera.

Whilst being able to take technically perfect photos is a surprisingly rare skill, a technically proficient photographer is still merely a technician. Granted, there are places where photographic technicians have a place (archeology, to pick an example at random), but in most cases, merely getting a photo in focus and correctly exposed is not enough.

Step 2: The creative side

Personally, I got started in photography because the technical side of it was interesting to me. Freezing motion with fast shutter speeds - or the exact opposite - was a thrill. Gradually, as I started getting better at the science side of things, I started realising there was more to photography. I started looking at masterpieces by well-known photographers, and after an embarrassingly long time, it dawned on me why their photography was so much better than mine: They had a story to tell.

You've probably been at a party where someone is telling a story and it seems as if everybody is clinging on to the storyteller's every word. The onlookers are practically cheering the narrator on to continue with the incredible tale. I'm willing to bet that this particular raconteur could make any mundane, trivial topic come to life.

If the technical side of photography is the 'how', then the creative side is the 'why'. A great photograph isn't the absence of blur or the perfect exposure: It is telling a visual story, and telling it in such a way that the viewer can't tear themselves away.

Whereas the technical discipline of photography has shutter speeds and ISO choices in its war chest, the creative camp has an impressive array of weapons tucked away, too. The crop of an image, angle, choice of colours, taking the photograph at the decisive moment, being in the right place at the right time, patience, persistence, and the ability to pre-visualise the perfect shot are all aspects of capturing the perfect creative shot.

If a technically proficient photographer without creative insight is a technician, the opposite - a creative snapper without technical skills - would be a whiney art student. You know the type: They'll have an extensive portfolio of 'artfully out of focus' shots that have been photoshopped, textured and filtered to within an inch of their miserable photographic lives.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have a problem with people who bend the 'rules' of photography for creative effect. Quite the opposite, in fact. I do, however, encourage people to understand the photographic principles they are flaunting. Break all the rules you like, but as a creative photographer, you have to know why and how you are throwing convention to the wind.

When I am teaching, I am secretly more excited about students who come brimming with ideas but no photography skills, than the ones who know a lot about photography but haven't had an original thought in their skulls: The challenge with the creative perspective of the photographic quandary is that creativity is bone-cursingly difficult to teach. Which is a shame, because whilst most photographers eventually become proficient with their equipment, only a few go on to use those technical skills with amazing outcome - and all of that is down to creativity. 

Putting it all together: Becoming a better photographer.

Picasso, it is said, once drew a sketch on a piece of paper for someone, and then charged them a lot of money for it. "Hey, that only took you 10 minutes", the potential buyer reportedly said. "No, that drawing took me 30 years", was the retort. If we assume for a moment that this anecdote is true, I'm completely with Picasso on this one: A photo can less than a thousandth of a second to make, but nobody learns photography in a day.

To improve your photography, the key is to know where your weakness lies. Easier said than done, but I found that adding an extra step to my photographic workflow has been of immense value: For every photo (even if I'm about to bin it for any reason), I make a mental note of two things: A technical, and a creative thing I could do to improve that particular photograph. If, at the end of the photo editing session, it turns out I have made a lot of mental notes about focus, then perhaps the time is ripe to pencil in a practice session. If I seem to forget to leverage the angles of my photography to the best effect, then - guess what - perhaps that's what needs to be worked on.

The great thing about self-evaluation is that this technique works well to improve both your creative process and the technical side of your photography. For every shot you're looking at, the question is simple: What could I have done to make this better? Especially for the photos you are most happy with, the answers are going to be valuable additions to your mental checklist the next time you're out and about with your photography kit. Baby-step by baby-step, you'll get closer to that ever-elusive Perfect Photo.

Top tips for sports photography

Canter by Daniela Bowker

Chances are, there’s some sport that you’re interested in, dear reader. Even if football, rugby and the like isn’t for you, there’s always table tennis, trampolining or tiddlywinks. Even if you’re not much of a sports fan, sports photography can be a lot of fun and can seriously challenge your skills, giving you a chance to improve. We’ve put together a little handful of sporty tips, tricks and techniques to give you the edge.

Technique – Panning

Canter by Daniela Bowker

Panning is a technique that is mostly found in motorsport photography. It involves tracking your subject as it whizzes past you at speed. The desired effect is to keep your subject in focus but allow the background to blur, getting across that sense of fast movement. Essentially, the key is to keep your subject in the same position in the frame for the entire duration of the shot. This keeps your subject sharp. It’s not easy, but it’s worth mastering, as it looks fantastic. You can almost hear the car going “VROOOOOM!”. Maybe.

Technique – Manual Focusing

Ugrás / Jump by Peti_205

You’ll mostly see this technique being used in motorcross, snowboarding and biking – basically anything with a ramp for those braver (and crazier) than you or I to fling themselves off. You’ll see most photographers manually focus on a ramp or a bump in the track. Then they can get their framing and composition right, and just wait for the shot to come to them. It’s a tried an tested technique which can yield brilliant results. So give it a go!

Tip – Become A Clairvoyant

Played On, by Jim Campbell

Don’t worry, you won’t need to buy any dream catchers or crystal balls – I’m talking about learning to predict where the action will be. It helps, of course, if you’re familiar with the sport you’re shooting. If you can work out where the action is going to be, you can get yourself into position before it even happens. Then you wait. the last thing you want is to be fumbling around, missing great moments. Get there first, get there early.

Tip – Don’t Just Go Where The Ball Is

Aggie Women's Tennis - 51 by StuSeeger

Often, it can be a good idea to check out what’s happening around the action, there are some great photos to be had when you nab a shot of a furious footy manager on the sidelines, an ecstatic crowd reaction following a goal, or the jubliant player celebrations. Sometimes, the story isn’t just where the ball is.

Tip – Pay Attention To Faces

Photo by Gareth Dutton

Admittedly, this isn’t much use in motorsport, because you can’t see their faces, but when shooting anything else (alright fine, not fencing either) a good photo (OK, nor Formula One) can be turned into a great photo when you capture an expression in there too. Anxiety, joy, despair – there’s nothing like sport for making grown men cry.

Avoiding the evil of red-eye


You have checked your camera, have extra memory cards and back up batteries, and are ready to shoot. You start blasting away capturing awesome moments with family and friends, only to be shocked by your photos days later. You slowly begin to think that everyone you know are evil aliens! Okay, so that joke is getting old, but I’m referring to red-eye.

Red-eye, in photography terms, is when the pupils of the eyes in people and some animals, appear red in photos. Since ’tis almost the season for many great holidays, and amazing photo opportunities, I thought I’d give you a gift of my own, so here it is, how to avoid this tragedy.

What is red-eye?

For starters, we first need to look at the underlying issue that causes red-eye. Without going into too much graphic detail, red-eye is caused by light from your flash; it enters your subjects’ eyes, reflects off the back of the their eyes (retinas), and then back out the eyes to your camera; all before they can blink! Amazing right?
You might be asking yourself, why the eyes actually appear red, and not white. Well that’s due to the blood that nourishes the insides of our eyes.

Red-eye occurs when light from the flash reflects straight back from the retina into the camera lens

Now that the biology of what causes red-eye is covered, let’s examine the technical side. Red-eye occurs more frequently in cameras the have flashes in close proximity of the lens, such as many compact flash digital cameras. Why? This is due to the fact that the flash and lens are almost on the same parallel plane with the eyes, enabling the light to bounce straight into the eyes and back into the lens.

There a number of editing programs with “red-eye fix” solutions, but don’t rely on that for solving your red eye issues.

What to do?

One of the easiest ways to avoid red-eye is to simply not use a flash, but let’s face it, that is not always an optimal choice. You could always make sure your subject is not looking directly into the camera. Although, this can create some amazing shots, this too may not always be practical or wanted option. If you have to use a flash, and want your subject looking at you, there are a number of ways to help eliminate the red-eye issue.

Red-eye reduction feature

Make the iris smaller and it'll help to reduce red-eye

If you are currently in the market, or recently purchased a camera, many cameras these days offer a feature generally referred to as, red-eye reduction. In most cases, the camera will emit two or more lower output flashes before taking the picture. The idea behind this is the lower output flashes will cause the eyes to constrict thus allowing less light in that could possibly be reflected.

By putting more distance between the flash and the lens, you can stop your victims looking like, ehm, victims.

Pop-up flashes

Another technological advancement are pop-up flashes. Here, the flash pops out of the top of the camera, creating more space between the lens and the flash. This can sometimes be used in conjunction with the red-eye reduction feature. Typically pop-up flashes will be found in higher end digital compact cameras, and lower-high end dSLRs.

Off-camera flashes

The best method, would be to get the flash completely off the camera, by using an off-camera flash. This is a more advanced option, but there are number of great ways to do this, from flash brackets, to stands, and everything in between. This not only allows you to eliminate red-eye issues, but also have better control over your lighting, creating more flattering photos.

Bring on the diffusers

Lastly, diffusing you flash lighting works for all cameras. Some methods may not work with your camera, but a few suggestion are bouncing your flash off walls, bounce cards, flash diffusers, filters, gel inserts, and tons of other professional products, and DIY ideas.

Quick red-eye-free summary

  • Red-eye is caused by light from the flash entering the eye, bouncing off the retina and returning to the camera lens.
  • It looks red because of the red blood cells in the eye.
  • You can avoid red-eye by putting more distance between the camera lens and the flash.
  • Diffusing the light from the flash will help, too!

Now go forth and take red-eye-less pictures over the party season!

Stopping down a Canon EF lens

A stopped down lens should look a little bit like this. Or a lot like this, in fact. The size of the hole depends on how far you've stopped down your lens.

If you’re used to manual lenses, you know how easy it is to stop them down. If you are a little bit more advanced than that, and have ‘graduated’ to more advanced lenses, stopping down a lens (i.e making the aperture smaller) while it is not attached to a camera body can get a little problematic. There is a way to do it, however… 


All of Canon’s newer lenses (the whole EF and EF-S series) have electronically controlled aperture. Normally, that’s great, because you can select what aperture you want with the thumb wheel or via the camera’s menu system, instead of having to do it with a wheel on the lens itself.

There is a trick you can use to stop down lenses, however. Mind you, this is probably a bad, bad thing to do, and it may break stuff. Having said that, I have been doing this for years, and it seems to work fine, without any adverse effect.

A stopped down lens should look a little bit like this. Or a lot like this, in fact. The size of the hole depends on how far you've stopped down your lens.

Stopping down a lens is done by putting the lens on the camera, and setting the camera to either manual aperture (A or Av) or fully manual (M). Select the aperture you want. Then, press and hold the aperture preview button. If you don’t know where that button is, it is probably the one near the bottom of your lens, on the side. The one that you never use. Yes, that one. Press it, hold it, and then take the lens off the camera exactly like you would do normally.

If you have done it right, you are now holding the lens, which should still be stopped down. It should look approximately like in the picture with the red circle.

Finally, this trick for setting the aperture is not a “recommended” method (not that there really is one), but at worst the “ERR 99″ or “ERR 01″ it may produce on the camera can be cleared up by turning the camera off and back on.

So why would you bother?

Well, this trick will come in most useful when you’re using your lens detached from the camera, obviously. This would come in particularly useful in macro photography, such as if you are using non-electronically connected spacers between your lens, so your camera can’t send the right signals to the lens to make the aperture change.

If you are reversing your lens with a set of reversing rings (or using my nifty homemade lens extender), it would also be useful, if you want to use the lens at anything other than fully open.

And hey, it’s a nifty trick. Sometimes, that ‘s all you need, right?

Finally, if you like this post and want to learn more about macro photography, check out my book on macro photography (in the sidebar over there →).

Do you enjoy a smattering of random photography links? Well, squire, I welcome thee to join me on Twitter -

© Kamps Consulting Ltd. This article is licenced for use on Pixiq only. Please do not reproduce wholly or in part without a license. More info.

10 essentials for your kit bag


There’s heaps written about what every photographer should have in her or his kit bag: camera bodies that can sink battleships, a range of lenses to bankrupt the Sultan of Brunei, flashes enough to illuminate the Sahara on a moonless night. And really, we know about this sort of stuff; we’d not be taking very many pictures without any of it.

There are other kit bag essentials, though; the little things that you learn about from your friends, the bits that you only realise should always be in your bag after the event. Between us, we’ve accumulated a few suggestions, so we thought that we’d share the sum of Small Aperture’s collective kit bag wisdom.

  1. Gaffer tape. I grew up in a rural community, where most anything could be fixed using baling twine, lolly sticks, and gaffer tape. It has stood me in good stead.
  2. Spare memory cards. I can’t think why.
  3. Spare batteries, of all varieties: for your camera, for your flashes, for your brain.
  4. Business cards. Seriously, you don’t have any business cards? Go to Moo and get some. Now.
  5. Torch. I don’t know about you, but my night vision isn’t that good.
  6. Something to fasten or secure things: string, cable ties, tie-twists, elastic bands. (Or baling twine, even.) Don’t forget that string can double as an emergency tripod.
  7. Microfibre cloth. Shiny!
  8. At least one plastic bag; preferably several in a few different sizes.
  9. Some kind of multi-tool business, you know, Swiss Army Knife, or Leatherman.
  10. Notebook and pencil or pen. Yes, we all have mobile phones capable of taking notes now, but you never know when you might need to actually write down something.

Anyway, this is what we schlep around with us, pretty much. Is there anything that you’d like to add to our mix?