Getting ready for trading…

This Saturday I’ll be selling my photos at a craft fair for the first time, in my home town of Denton. It’s Denton Euro Festival time, involving live music, food, drink and a craft marquee…and I thought why not get involved and set up a stall hawking my wares? I’ve been on Etsy for a while but haven’t done any face to face photo selling before. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

I’ve just spent several hours mounting and bagging photos and generally getting very excited. I’m really pleased with how professional it’s all looking; the mounts I got are really nice quality, and I got some stickers made up with my website and name on which adds a nice touch to the back of the mounts. The mounts came with the right sized bags which are perfect and great value. I’d definitely buy more of those…assuming these sell!

I’m not really sure what will sell best so I’ve got a variety of mounted prints in three sizes including a few shots of different places in Manchester (I suspect they’ll do better than some of the more abstract work I have but we’ll see), and I’ve framed a couple of larger pieces on fine art paper. If they don’t sell, I’ll either keep them for a future stall or hang them up at home, so as far as I’m concerned, I win either way 🙂

Now I just need to work out how to display everything and how to price it. And whether to use a bit of behavioural science like a decoy or high anchor price. I say that, I’ve already framed a couple of prints with that exact thing in mind. Although I’m not sure I should be sharing my pricing strategy here…

If you’re local, pop along and say hello – it’s 12-7pm on Saturday in the centre of Denton. If not, wish me luck and I’ll let you know how it goes!

stickers photos

Week 6 of 52: lightening eyes and smoothing skin

Last week’s photo is one I took a few weeks ago. For this one I:

  • Kept it in black & white, which was how I edited it for the 365 project. I think it has a much nicer feel than the original colour photo, and the whiteboard edge in the background is less obvious in b&w.
  • Lightened the whole image a bit in Camera Raw. While some of the background is a bit blown out, the face was a little dark on one side, despite my makeshift paper reflector (note to self – buy a proper reflector). I don’t usually do edits in Raw as I tend to stick to Photoshop, but thought I might as well try it as an experiment. I think it worked okay.
  • Lightened the eyes to make them whiter – being careful not to overdo it, which I did initially. In fact, I’m still not sure whether they’re a bit too bright…
  • Softened the skin using layers.

Here are the before and after pictures, just to prove there’s a difference. And big thanks to Kelly for being this week’s muse 🙂

 

Photos for weeks 1-5 of 2015

For the first few weeks of this year I’ve been trying to master layers and effects by editing and processing my photos. So far I’ve used layers to reposition elements, played around a bit with colour and blur, and used layers to create a multiple photo effect. I think the poppies is probably my favourite so far.

They’re all photos from 2014 or earlier, except the first one which was a new photo of a plastic toy found in a Christmas cracker, then pocketed and photographed for this project.

01 plastic lobster snowflake web 02 London docks creative blur web 03 Millie pop art web 04 Brighton beach photo joiner web 05 colour pop poppies web

10 tips for completing a 365 photo project

Boom! I managed to complete my 365 day project. For the uninitiated, that’s a photo every day for a year. All 365 days, ideally photographing something interesting, but definitely photographing something.

(It’s here if you want to check. The eagle-eyed may spot there are still a few missing; I’m almost done editing them and they’ll be up within a week, I just don’t follow my own advice as you’ll see at tip number 8.)

There were a few hairy moments on days when I nearly forgot to take a picture, there were lots of times I didn’t feel inspired and quite a few where I took a less than great photo, but it feels like a bit of an achievement to have challenged myself to ‘find’ a photo every day. And really, that’s what it’s about – the pictures are out there, you just have to find them. Which is easier on some days than it is on others.

161 the washing machine drum webTaking a photo every day for a year can be pretty tough going; lack of creative inspiration strikes often (at least it did with me), and it’s hard to keep going when you’re feeling ill, busy with work or forget until the last minute on any given day and end up taking a dreaded ‘panic photo’ of something really cruddy. Like the inside of your washing machine (see right for day 161’s effort).

It’s difficult to be inspired every day so it’s a case of forcing yourself to look at the world differently, to see the everyday things you might ordinarily walk past as potential photo subjects. To see the small things as well as the obvious ones, and rewiring your brain to see the world around you through your lens as well as your eyes. It’s definitely doable, just takes a bit of effort. And if I can manage it, so can anyone.

Random washing machine photos or not, finishing it means I have another completed project under my belt, a better understanding of my strengths as  photographer and (I think) a better eye for a photo as a result. I certainly have a better understanding of my camera. And doing the project inspired me to buy a new camera half way through the year – it’s much easier to justify an upgrade to yourself when you’re using it daily. So if you’re thinking about a 365 project, even though I’ve started off this blog post by whining on about how hard it’s been I’d definitely recommend it, and if you’ve just started one yourself – good luck, I hope you’ll agree when you finish it that it’s totally worthwhile.

I like to think I’ve learnt a few things along the way, so here are my tips for completing this photographic feat. If nothing else, it might be useful for me to refer back to in the future. I could do with following these tips a bit more.

1. Have your camera ready for action

196 spot the lady with no visible pants webI’ve put this first because, along with number 2, it’s probably the most important one, or at least the one which has made the most difference to my photos. There are many shots I wouldn’t have taken if my camera wasn’t ready around my neck or in my hand (with the strap safely secured round my wrist!). By the time you’ve gone through the faff of unzipping your bag, putting your camera strap round your neck and turning your camera on, the shot you were after might well have passed you by. A bit like this one would have done. It’s like Where’s Wally but with a lady who’s apparently forgotten to put any clothes on her lower half. (Even when you zoom right in there’s no evidence of underwear. Not that I’ve done that, obvs, because that would be weird.) It was taken at Waterloo Station while I was eating a sandwich.

Okay, it’s far from the best photo technically, but it made me chuckle when I took it. And but for a couple of seconds, it would never have been taken.

Obviously, to have your camera out, you have to have your camera with you at all times which can be a bit cumbersome. I ditched my handbag for the last few months of 2014 and got myself a decent rucksack to carry my kit around, which had a bonus of also being able to carry my laptop so I only had one bag when out and about with work. It was a bit of a standing joke with everyone I know that I always had this huge rucksack with me, and while you might feel a bit like a donkey lugging it around all the time, you’ll soon get used to it. Kind of. But at least I always had my camera with me. And as an added benefit I now have strong shoulders from carrying camera kit, a laptop, my purse, phone etc. on my back everywhere. Hee-haw.

2. Set several reminders

173 gutter and drainpipe web

I had reminders set on my phone at four different times every day to make sure I remembered to take a shot, the last being at 9pm when my phone would remind me ‘last chance to take a photo!’. You’ll get into a habit at some point, but it’s always good to have something other than memory alone to help you along, as there will be days when you’ll forget and have a last minute panic. A bit like this drainpipe shot. Nice. And it would be a shame to miss a day when you’ve gone to so much effort, which would have been guaranteed for me without reminders.

3. Take photos early in the day

149 a lost umbrella web

You can always take another later, but you might regret not taking one as a fall back in case something comes up later and stops you taking more, so have a ‘banker’, and take it early.

One day in the summer I was travelling to the Kent seaside with work – so lots of opportunity to take some nice shots when I got there – but I still took this photo of a discarded umbrella in the street next to the office in Manchester first thing in the morning. I’m glad I did; it turned out I was a week early and not due in Kent until the following week. I discovered this just in time to avoid boarding the train with my luggage at Piccadilly station. Fail.

So if I hadn’t taken this shot when I did, I’d have missed it, and who knows what I’d have ended up with instead. It certainly wouldn’t have been a view of Kent.

4. Take random shots when you need inspiration

266 top of Oldham Street web

It sounds a bit weird, but I found that pointing my camera at anything and pressing the shutter button – even if my first few were not really photographs but views of nothing in particular – seemed to spark the photographer in me and suddenly I’d start seeing potential photos. Once I’d got going and broken the ‘I need to take a shot of something’ mental barrier, I’d usually find something that was actually worth taking a photo of. So get snapping and something might just turn up.

The shot above was taken within a 5 minute walk from my office, at the top of a street while I was in a bit of a hurry to get a photo done before heading back to work. I started taking (pretty uninspiring) photos of the traffic on the main road and then turned around and wondered whether I could make something interesting out of the building column and blurred poster behind me. Getting in quite close and fiddling with the depth of field resulted in an abstract image and I quite like the contrast in shape and colour in it.

5. Find the unfamiliar in the familiar

204 relief in wall of Fred Aldous Lever Street web

Look at familiar things, the ones you might see every day and walk right past, from new or interesting points of view. Looking at the world straight on and at eye-level is pretty restrictive because you always have the same viewpoint; looking up and down as you walk around can show you things you’ve never noticed before.

This photo is part of the brick relief near a shop literally 100 yards from my office. I’d never noticed it before and wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t scouring the floor for something to photograph. I lay on the floor to take this shot – something I wish I’d done more of with some of my other shots to get interesting angles. That’s not to be recommended though when you’re wearing white jeans (as I was). I guess that’s what tripods are for.

Views from the top of multi-storey car parks can also make for interesting shots of cityscapes (although be aware some are private property so check as you don’t want to be booted out), as can looking down out of a second or third (or more) storey window onto the street. When you think about it, there are actually loads of opportunities for shots with a new perspective.

 6. Take photos that mean something to you

278 possible badger toilet in the front garden web

There have been times during the year when I’ve not included photos of occasions or people which with hindsight, I’d change if I did this project again. I’ve looked for technically good photos at the expense of photos that may not be perfect, but which I’ll look back on and be glad I documented as part of my life. So don’t just think about this as an artistic or improvement project, think about it as a record of what’s going on for you, of your surroundings and your view of the world. That’s part of the reason at one point I decided to do a self portrait. I hated taking it at the time (I’m still not mad on it), but in a few years’ time when I have a few more wrinkles I might be glad I included it. We’ll see.

The above shot of a suspected badger toilet in our front garden means nothing to anyone except me, but it will remind me of the badgers we saw sneaking down our street a couple of times late at night – not something I ever expected to see in the suburbs of Manchester. We nicknamed one of the badgers ‘dirty Mike’, but that’s probably for another blog post…

7. There’s always time to take a photo

073 Milton Keynes resized

So many times I’ve had a really short window to get a picture, I’ve been convinced I won’t find anything interesting. What is there to see in a 5 minute walk around the block to get a sandwich? But sometimes limiting yourself means you have to be creative and really open to spontaneous – and fleeting – images.

The above shot was taken in Milton Keynes on the way back to the train station after a meeting. I didn’t have time to stop and set up a shot, but because I had my camera around my neck (see 1) as we were walking past this water feature I was able to quickly capture three people walking past. It’s great when you have lots of time but 10 seconds might be all you need for a photo, you just have to be looking for it – and ready when it turns up.

8. Keep on top of your editing

269 on the tube web

This one’s a bit rich coming from me because I still haven’t got all 365 pictures up on here, although I’m getting there (maybe one of my rules should be follow your own rules). I started off badly and quickly got behind with my editing, ending up with such a big backlog it became unwieldy which then made me put it off even longer. I had over four months’ worth at one stage to sort out and it felt like such a huge task I didn’t want to face it! Try to have a set time e.g. once a week to get them updated, because if you have a habit and routine you might avoid a photo editing meltdown.

Being a bit more selective about shots and moving around more is something else I’ve learnt to think about. While popping off a few shots is good to get you started (see 4), taking lots of shots of the same thing or from slightly different angles does nothing to improve your photography or create more interesting shots. It takes up space on your hard drive and makes it a longer process to edit, so cull obvious duff shots in camera, and then do the same again as soon as you save them onto your hard drive. And move around a bit more when you’re shooting – try some different angles (see 5).

9. Don’t over-analyse your shots

113 sunset in Wales web

You could spend ages agonising over your shots when you’re choosing ‘the one’ to represent the day, especially if you’ve taken a lot of shots or got a few you particularly like. If I did this project again, I’d spend less time procrastinating about ‘the one’ (searching for ‘the one’ can become a bit of ‘a thing’ if you’re not careful), and pick my favourites on gut instinct.

There are some shots I look back at now and I wish I’d chosen another photo from that day as ‘the one’. But I could revisit them again next year and have a different view again. Or I could just accept that I chose what felt right at the time. I had a couple of hundred versions of the sunset above, from slightly different angles and with slightly different lighting. But really, one’s much the same as another. And just because you pick it to represent the day, it’s not like committing to it for life or anything, so keep it in perspective.

On a related note, you could also spend ages editing your pictures and I wouldn’t recommend that either. I didn’t, partly because I’m not as good at post-processing as I’d like to be, but partly because I’m trying to create better shots in camera. I’ve tended to limit any editing to a basic touch of contrast and slight colour boost, the occasional crop and a few black & white conversions, but looking at my images in a fairly ‘raw’ format means I can spot things I’d change in future. It also means catching up on a backlog of images is more achievable as each one is quick to process (see number 8).

10. Challenge yourself

019 Sadie at 364 days old resized

Review your photos regularly to check you’re not photographing the same kinds of things, and challenge yourself to take different types of shots (this is significantly easier if you keep on top of your editing, see 8). Architecture, abstracts, people, shapes and patterns featured quite a lot for me although I made a conscious effort to go out and take different types of photos. Sometimes I’d only take one lens with me, e.g. my 70-300, or just a 100mm, to encourage a bit of creativity. This experimentation will also help you work out what sort of photos you enjoy taking – and are best at. I wish I’d taken more portraits, so that’s one goal for 2015.

And so to 2015…

This year I’m doing another 52 week project, rather than a 365. I decided one year was enough to do it every day, but I was keen to carry on with some kind of ongoing project. So I’m doing a mixture of either taking a new photo every week, or trying a new post-processing technique on existing photos. It takes a bit of pressure off for new pics, but also means I’m still learning new skills. You can have a gander at how I’m getting on here. I’m determined to follow my own advice and stay on top of the editing this year, but we’ll see how that goes.

If you’re starting a project, or if you’ve done one yourself, what are your tips for getting through it?

Good for nothing’s latest gig at Hyper Island

Hyper Island was the rather lovely venue yesterday for the latest gig from Good for Nothing‘s girls crew. As always, it was fantastic to meet so many new people, coming together over just a few hours, and getting through an amazing amount of stuff to help budding social enterprises.

As a collective, we worked on all sorts of stuff from branding to marketing, research, strategy, target markets and finances. We even had a bash at graphic design, as we didn’t have a designer (do you know one? Get them to sign up for the next gig!). I don’t think any of us will be taking up logo design any time soon after that, but at least there’s now a brief for a designer to work from.

Vegetarian community cafe Cowherds provided a a hearty curry lunch for us (thanks guys!) and it was great to see Paula and Jon again after meeting them at a previous gig. I’ve booked a table for one of their upcoming Bistro nights and am really looking forward to it, their food is amazing and it’s great to see them going from strength to strength.

It was a good opportunity to designate myself as official photographer, and it was and nice to practice photographing people – something I enjoy and do a fair amount of on Market Street in Manchester but it’s quite different when you’re having to be sneaky 🙂

Good luck to both ventures, Shapeless and Modst Fashion – hope what we did was helpful. And thanks to Jo, Rach and Bex for organising another great event – hope you’re feeling better Bex!

Can plug sockets make a decent photo?

I’ll leave you to answer that question, but I’ve had to open my mind to think just about anything can be the subject of a photo if I’m going to really improve my photography skills, and stick at this 365 day thing. Whether anything (including a number of lonely plug sockets) can be an interesting or decent photo is another matter though.

This was taken in the empty office which is next to ours at work. I liked the regularity of the pattern and tried this shot from a few different angles – straight on was a bit dull, although I quite liked the shapes and the symmetry. I decided this angle with the blurring effect was the best of the ones I took. I also liked the suggestion that the plugs go on forever (they don’t, that would be a pretty weird set-up for most offices, even empty ones).

013 plug sockets resized

A transport theme for days 9 & 10

Yesterday I walked to the top of a multi-story car park round the corner from work to get some nice views of Manchester’s skyline. I wasn’t particularly inspired by anything but as I was on the 11th floor, I started looking down to see whether I could get an interesting or unusual view on something, rather than photographing a building.

I decided this close up view from above of two bike seats might make an interesting photo. Just as well I took it anyway, as I was moved on by a security guard shortly after.

010 bikes from above resized

I’ve added a bit of posterization and upped the contrast in post-processing.

Today I had a drive over to Wakefield to look at a new car, so I took this photo at the showroom. I decided to capture a reflection in the badge of this Renault – this isn’t the car I went to look at, but it caught the light and reflection well as I walked past it.

011 car reflections resized

Days 6, 7 & 8 of the 365 day photo project

I may look like I’m getting ahead of myself, posting up pictures from days 6-8 when I haven’t sorted out days 3-5 yet, but I’ll have to upload those another time. Days 3 and 4 are time-lapse photos and I haven’t managed to find a decent program to run them through, and the pics from day 5 are saved in RAW rather than JPEG and I have a problem with my laptop so can’t convert them…blah blah.

They’re done though, honest. And I need to buy a new laptop so I can do some proper editing and saving down from my memory card which is getting a bit full in the meantime. Preferably before my current laptop actually dies. (I’m considering doing the Mac thing. But I don’t know if I can really justify the price premium. It annoys me a bit, but I still want one. But I digress.)

Day 6 then is the big wheel which reappeared recently in Manchester, this time in Piccadilly Gardens, converted to black & white with a bit of added contrast.

006 Manchester big wheel resized

I think this daily photo thing is already helping me improve my eye – day 7 is a photo which was taken literally steps outside my office in Manchester. It’s a shot looking up at the building, but as I went to rotate it upside down and resize it to upload it here, I turned it on its side and really liked the effect. This photo also had the best colour in the sky of the ones I took – the others were a bit dull. Which reminds me, I need to buy a filter for my lens (as well as a laptop).

007 looking upAnd so for day 8, which was also taken steps away from my office in the Northern Quarter. I need to try not to end up with 300 photos of graffiti as that would be a bit too easy, and pretty boring.

008 Northern Quarter graffiti

I’d say so far so good; apart from the time-lapse issue, I’m fairly happy with the photos. Let’s see if I can keep it up!

 

a 365 day project – day 1, new year fireworks in Brussels

I may come to regret this but in writing this down I’m committing to attempting a 365 day project, where I take a picture every day for a year. I did a 52 week project in 2012 (one photo a week, the clue’s in the name) which to be honest was hard enough, but because I’ve taken photos so far every day this year, I thought I’d give it a go. I know I’m late posting them up, but I have been taking pictures every day so far – as if that’s some achievement. It’s only day six. Let’s see about the next 359 days…

Seriously though, I’m hoping making myself take a photo every day will (this sounds like a list of objectives, maybe it is):

  • Let me see patterns in the photos I take, given the volume of them over a relatively short period of time, so I can challenge myself to work outside my usual ‘range’
  • Make me focus on what makes a good photo – not just on what the right settings are (not that I’ve really sussed either out yet)
  • Encourage me to use my camera phone more – because as much as I like my DSLR, I know I can’t take it everywhere as it’s not always practical – I think this will help me be more spontaneous
  • Mean I’m using my camera (DSLR or phone – just photographing stuff) more often
  • Get me experimenting with different techniques more often (I’ve already tried doing some time lapse stuff for the first time which I’ll post up shortly)
  • Challenge me to quickly spot photo opportunities because of the urgency of having to take a photo every day (this was a challenge enough once a week, especially on a Sunday night when I ended up in the kitchen or garden in desperation again. I’m not sure what every day is going to be like)
  • Improve my photo composition
  • Document things I’d have forgotten if it wasn’t for doing this project
  • Generally improve my photography skills.

That’s not a bad list really, is it? If I manage to get anywhere with this maybe I’ll revisit this post again and see whether doing the project did actually help. With the best intentions, and with three alarms a day set to remind me to take a photo, what are the chances I’ll remember to do it every day anyway? And there’s no point cheating and taking two the next day is there? I guess we’ll see…

Anyway, here’s day 1 which was taken during the new year celebrations in Brussels. The rest to follow, along with a separate page for the project so they’re all in one place…

001 new year fireworks in Brussels resized