We all get in a rut, however much or little we shoot. It could be that go-to head and shoulders portrait that you already have 3000 of, the same comfortable spot you shoot or just not being able to come up with fresh ideas. You look at other people photos and somehow they all look better, more polished, more inventive.

Well, there is a way out of this samey-samey rut and that’s to take on a photography challenge or exercise and commit to it consciously for at least a little while. Just enough to feel yourself being pushed out of your comfort zone.

We make it easy for our students and alumni – we have a private Facebook group with weekly themes and exercises to focus their photography practice. Our recent theme is “3 angles” which is a really useful creative exercise for anybody, regardless of your level of advancement.

All you need to do, is to photograph your chosen subject – be it your child, your pet, a location, your fancy dinner – from 3 different angles. It’s as easy as that but you will quickly find that it will make you take images you wouldn’t have otherwise shot. Some of them may be terrible – let’s face it, there are only so many good sides a person can have. But some of them will be revelations, surpassing your expectations and helping you find new ways of seeing things.

3 angles. So very simple. You don’t need instructions, you can shoot them in auto if you prefer but as long as you do it, you train your eyes and your photography instincts. Go on, give yourself a challenge this weekend!

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WANT TO LEARN MORE? 

Our AUTUMN photography classes – in LONDON and ONLINE start in September!  Click on the images below to find out more! 

London classes

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The most common – and easily fixable mistake all new photographers make when taking portraits.

So you have your camera and you’ve been happily snapping away. But how much do you REALLY know about your camera’s key functions? Take our quiz and find out!

( The quiz was designed to cover key functions which you may find across a range of most popular DSLR and bridge cameras. In some cameras, some of the functions may be hiding under a different name or variations. Sorry we can’t include them all)

How well do you know your camera? Does your camera have no secrets from you or do you know how to make it do exactly what you want it to? Do you know your way around all your buttons and dials, or are the number appearing on your screen filling you with dread? Take our quiz to find out!

Once you get into photography, your list for Santa will never be short on options. Here is 5 things we think make wonderful presents for a photographer. If you haven’t got one of these yet, there is still time for Santa to get you one ( or more ) of these…

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Photoshop Lightroom from Adobe

We love Lightroom. It’s a powerful yet intuitive software that serves professional photographers around the world – with a price tag that even amateur photographers can afford. Buy it as a self standing software product with a one-off payment of £99. Or even better, get it bundled up with full Photoshop and a tablet version of Lightroom  on Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography subscription for a whisper over £8 pm

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A practical and beautiful camera bag

If you’ve looked for a camera bag in most camera shops you would have seen the bulky, black or khaki nylon bags. Practical – yes, beautiful – no. Luckily for all female photographers out there, there are plenty more options available now which merge both practicality and style. Check out brands like Epiphanie, Cheeky Lime, Jo Totes to name just a few. In the UK, you can buy them via CosyCameras or LoveCases

 

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A nifty-fifty wide aperture lens

If you haven’t moved on from your kit lens yet, now is the time. Affordable prime 50mm or 35mm, wide aperture ( F1.8) lenses for Canons or Nikons ( other brands are available too!) will transform your photography! Dreamy bokeh, creating beautiful blurry backgrounds and really isolating those details – all that with a new lens. Retailing around £100 depending on the brand. 


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Good sturdy tripod

You want one that’s sturdy and secure, one that won’t wobble on uneven surfaces with good swivel head. It should also let you switch between horizontal and landscape modes effortlessly. For a true pro grade, expect to spend upwards of £200 but for an enthusiastic amateur, we like this budget Manfrotto model.


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Wireless memory card

Download your photograph to your phone, iPad, computer without having to take your card out of your camera or fiddling with cables! Several options up there – Eye-fi, Flash-Air, or Transcend – the way they work with your devices may differ slightly from one to another so worth reading up before you buy…ehm…point Santa that way

And finally, a little cheeky plug for ourselves – if you do have a camera and love taking photos of your kids but want to get more out of your camera and get more thoughtful and more creative with your photography – do check out our courses – online or face to face – now both available with 2 advancement levels.

 

Feeling like you’re taking the same children’s photos over and over again?

It’s so easy to fall into a routine with anything, photography included. We tend to be drawn to the same poses, the same angles, the same perspective and before we know it, we’re in possession of hundreds of photos that only vary ever so slightly. If that rings a bell, it’s time to set yourself up a challenge and see how what you see through your lens, changes – and with it – your photos.

Today’s challenge, if you’re willing to accept it is COLOUR.

It’s amazing how a choice of colour can make or break a photo. Use it to accentuate a point of interest and that’s where everyone’s eyes are drawn. Usea toned down palette of similar pastel colours and your photo goes from boring to dreamy. Use contrasting background and make things ‘pop’ agains it.

Your challenge for the weekend is to pick a colour or a colour palette and  try to incorporate it into your children’s photos you’ll be taking throughout the weekend – be it in the background, as an accent element or just recurring splash of colour. Think about how it dominates or defines parts of your photo. Observe how using it in the background or the foreground makes a difference. Match it with similar or contrasting colours. Whatever you do, it has to be in every photo you take.

Some inspiration for you below:

 

 

 

If you’re like me ( and let’s face it : thousands of other parents ) – your phone, your hard drive and your Instagram account are full to the brink of your children’s photos. But can you find the ones you like easily? Are they ordered in a way you can have a clear view of your photo collection? If they’re not, you’re missing a trick and should get them organised pronto. Here are our steps to a well organised photo collection.

1. Organise your folder structure: 

Yes, it’s an obvious one but so easy to get wrong. Decide what your folder structure is going to be: are you going chronologically? Or by event? Or by who’s in the photos? A combination of all would  work too. Below is our recommended structure – think about managing it in 3 levels (well, potentially 4 but more on that later) :

Level 1: All your photos in one place

You don’t want to be hunting your photos all through your hard drive! Make a habit of keeping them all in one place for easy management.

>Sarah’s Photos

Level 2: Selection by year

Chances are, some events will be repeated from year to year : get a simple chronological order in place and you’ll find it a lot easier to manage, search and cross-reference

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
    >Photos 2013

Level 3: Further refinement – including the “who, when and where” info in the Folder name.

Do pay attention to what your folders are called – the names don’t need to be this exhaustive, but I find it does help. The point is, they need to make sense to the future you. If you search for a photo 5 years fro now and open a folder entitled : Jake_May – will you instantly connect it with Nana’s visit?

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

File names

Are your photo files named DSC_9019 or Image_3097?  Chances are, if you saw them in your file catalogue, you wouldn’t have a clue what kind of photos they were without opening each one. However, if you renamed all the photos to something a bit more meaningful, like : Molly_Park_April13_122 –  you get all the most relevant info – who’s in the photos, where and when they were taken without having to open them. They are search friendly and so even if your folder structure collapses, you can still look them up quickly. If you’re using a photo management/editing package like Lightroom Photoshop, you can rename ( and even tag) all the files at the point of download. Otherwise, you can very easily rename them in batch afterwords – here is a little handy tutorial on how to do it : http://www.mediacollege.com/computer/file/batch-rename/

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
                    >Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

2. Select your best photos

This will hurt. I know, I know. The thought of getting rid of any photos of your precious little baby is a daunting one. But hear me out. If you’re keeping ALL of them in the same place and having to trawl through ALL of them to find the few amazing pics, you’re wasting a lot of time and are more likely to miss the really good ones that you’d love to show to the world. So here is your baby-steps, 1-2-3 solution to making this task a bit more manageable.

When you have half an hour or so, pick one lot of photos ( perhaps from the first month of your baby’s life or a specific event) and go through them with the following key

1: The Picks: go through your photos one by one and  “star” or “favourite” in some way all the really good photos – well exposed, well composed, best frame out of a few similar ones, showing something unique or just making you smile. Only the good ones. Not the “kinda good”, not the OK ones. Just the really really good ones. These will form your “Best of ” collection – ready to be shown to friends and relatives or displayed in any way.

2: The Rejects: in the same way you went through your photos to pick the stars, now go through it again and pick the obvious duds. Blurry? Delete. Strange facial expression? Delete. Bad crop? Delete. Trust me. Get rid of them now. You will not frame them, send them to relatives or find time and inclination to ‘fix them” (unless they truly are one of a kind and depicting a very special moment in your child’s life)

3. The rest : not good enough to make the cut for the “best of” folders. Not bad enough to just get deleted. Keep them all together in one folder for reference, as “spares” and because you can’t bring yourself to cutting them all. Maybe archive. But don’t mix them with the Stars.

So finally, your promised Level 4 or your folder organisation is your “Best” and “Others” folders. Easy.Peasy

Sarah’s Photos
    >Photos 2012
           >Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Best_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_001
>Jake_Nana_0512_002
>Others_Baby Jake_May 2012_ Nana’s visit
>Jake_Nana_0512_003
>Jake_Nana_0512_004
>Jake_Nana_0512_005
>Jake_Nana_0512_006
           >Jake_birthday_June 2012_Kiddieland
>Photos 2013

You could of course attempt the selection through a different key – 5stars / 4 starts / 3 stars etc – but will you remember what was the difference between 3 stars and 2 stars? Whatever system you chose, the key is to stick to it and keep it up. If you have a large batch of older photos to organise, start small. First, set up a new structure which will serve you from now on. Then go step by step through your older photos in smaller batches, starting from the most recent ones. This can be quite a labour intensive job so do it in a way that works for you. Don’t take too much on either – if you have 10 000 photos to go through, concentrate on getting the main structure: levels 1, 2 and 3 in place, and go back to making more choices later when you’re no longer drowning in disorganised photos. And make sure that all new images that come through are dealt with according to your new system and best practice straight away. You’ll thank yourself!

3. Back up

This should really go without saying but please, please make sure you have more than one place you keep your photos. Burn them to a separate hard drive, create an online backup – just make sure you have somewhere else you can get to your photos in case your computer gets stolen, broken or the hard drive corrupts. Flickr now offers 1 terabyte of free storage ( equivalent to 500 000 full resolution photos) and  you can make it as private as you want. Just do it.

If you flick through your photo collection, you are likely to see quite a few photos that look distinctly  like one another. We tend to find one or two angles that ‘work’ and produce satisfactory results and just limit ourselves to them. The thing is, however nice they are, they rarely tell a powerful story and can get a little bit…dare I say…boring?

This little creative exercise doesn’t require anything apart from 15 min of your time. Try it! It may just help you shake things up!

1. Get yourself a timer ( the old fashion kind or on your phone  – we’re not fussy)

2. Pick a time of the day when your child is calm, preferably preoccupied with something, or for babies – asleep.

3. Make sure your camera is ready, you checked your light settings to make sure the photos have the best chance of coming out bright and then…

4. Set the timer on for 15 minutes and take as many VARIED photos as you can. Move around your child, shoot from above, from behind, from the floor. Go very close and move a few feet away. Shoot the little details and take in the whole scene. Notice the light and how moving around your child will change things.

5. When the time is up, stop shooting and review your photos.

Most people will  exhaust their ‘go-to’ poses in the first 5-10 minutes so the last 5 minutes is the time when you push yourself and are forced to find different angles and perspectives. Some of the photos will turn out great, others not so. It doesn’t matter, if you discover even just a couple of new angles, this will be worth it.

Give it a try!