About the author: Jane Burkinshaw is a professional photographer and passionate about all things photography related. Jane specialises in portrait photography and runs photography courses.

Family photo shoots for precious lasting memories

Gosh I really am late posting about this fantastic photo shoot aren't I?! You can probably tell from the thick carpet of leaves that this was shot in the Autumn (early November 2016 actually). 

I've been meaning to share the images for ages as all the elements came together to produce some gorgeous images; the sun was shining and gave us one of those crisp autumnal days that drives us out into the fresh air, seeking leaves to kick around. And the afternoon light was stunning, flattering and kind to faces and creating golden backgrounds.

This family of five are enjoying some of their last years as a unit dwelling under the same roof. Soon the eldest daughter will be off to university, followed in a few years by her younger siblings. It was the perfect moment to capture them all together and create some lasting memories.

To find out more or to book your family photo shoot contact me (Jane) for a chat.


Tell your brand story in pictures and stand out

I did a photoshoot for a client recently that gave me pause for thought and helped me to resolve a problem I'd been struggling with for a while. I knew I wanted to take my photography business in a slightly different direction but was finding it difficult to shape into a clear story.

In my head and, importantly, in my heart it's crystal clear. I want to work with people who are their brand - passionate individuals who have built up their businesses based on their love for what it is they do and out of values that guide them in their lives. I've made some progress already steering my business in this direction, working with artisan bakers, artists and florists, photographing not only their products but also their work place and them as the heart and soul behind the business. 

This is Emma, the driving force behind the Cheshire Flower School.

And this is Jenny of Parsley Pie Art Club Hale
(read more in my blog about this shoot)

These photographs can all be classed as commercial or business portraits but they are actually much more than that, incorporating clear signs of what the person does and also an insight into their personality.

When Naomi of Branching Out Online asked me to do a series of photographs of her that she could use throughout her marketing materials I was delighted. I know Naomi really well and am a big admirer of her ability to maximise businesses' online presence.

Naomi doesn't sell products that I could photograph beautifully for her, she sells her skill, knowledge, experience and passion for online marketing. She's certainly not alone in offering these services but she does stand out in how she "puts herself out there": she is her brand. She is bright, bubbly, friendly, open and insanely enthusiastic about what she does. That's her point of difference.

One of Naomi's trademarks is her use of vibrant colours and she put a lot of thought into how to make this come through in the photo shoot. All the way through we used props and colours that reinforced her branding and her vibrant personality.

Having a great online presence using apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope.

Using appropriate props to allow you to get maximum use out of the images. This is how Naomi is using the images on social media.

Naomi also employs positive messages as a way to motivate and make images talk and I loved the props we used to convey this.

We were also very conscious of leaving space in the images to put marketing messages.

If I go back to the "light bulb" moment I had when I worked my way through these images, it was that I knew that I wanted to be more than a commercial photographer taking head shots for LinkedIn profiles... I want to tell people's story in pictures, capture what makes them and their business unique. Naomi knows the power of telling her story and uses it to build trust and loyalty, to make a powerful emotional connection with her target customer base.

She isn't afraid of sharing the low points as well as the highs and 2016 was a very tough year personally. We did some shots that reflected that and will allow her to share how she turned things around and has moved forward in a very positive way.

Have you thought about your brand story? It gives your brand a very powerful voice, makes it stand out, makes people want to connect with YOU. Why do you do what you do? If you can communicate this in words and then in pictures there'll be no stopping you!

If you are interested in booking your own photo shoot to tell your story get in touch


Commercial photography shoots ARE fun!!! by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Let's face it, most adults hate having their photos taken, especially as we get "older" and clients that come to me to have a commercial head shot or portrait done are usually dreading it. And I know where they are coming from, as I don't enjoy having my picture taken. Is that really me? Is that what I look like? I don't get how I can look so different from the woman I see in the mirror.

Of course I only see myself from one angle in the mirror and my face is in repose (or in my "mirror face" according to my husband!). At other times we are photographed from all angles and in mid sentence, mid frown, mid unflattering looking down - our faces and bodies frozen for  a split second in the most unforgiving light.

I needed some new shots of me recently and decided to invite some of my photography students to have a go. They loved it as an opportunity to learn and, surprise, surprise I really enjoyed it and was very pleased with the results. The secret was lots of laughs and jokes to make me relax and them knowing which poses and light and angles would work. There were some pretty dreadful shots of me where the light and my pose were wrong but we deleted them quickly and moved on.

Shots taken by my photography students
I use the same strategy of fun and laughs when I photograph clients - children or adults - and I love it when people tell me they are surprised that it was so much fun! Last weekend I met a lovely couple, Russ and Teresa, who wanted images for their businesses. Russ needed a very corporate shot and was dreading it! Teresa runs a successful garden design company and wanted pictures that reflected what she does. Fresh from the hairdressers she was also quite nervous before we began.

I always have a coffee and a chat with my clients before we begin and right from the outset I'm working to make them relax. Once the shoot starts I gauge how far I can go with being a bit cheeky, teasing and getting family members or colleagues to help make people laugh. On this occasion I had a great little assistant in 10 year old Ashley and then Russ and Teresa took it in turns. The sight of Russ wielding two enormous umbrellas and a pair of stepladders was enough to guarantee smiles.

Lots of laughs behind the scenes
Teresa's final images
I offer commercial photography services on an hourly, half day or full day basis. I can shoot in a purpose built natural light studio or on location. If you would like to have a chat about your photography requirements please get in touch.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!


Pampering, Posing and Prosecco by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Once the new studio was completed I wanted to organise a shoot that would be fun for friends and allow me to try out the space before I started using it for real. So two weeks ago I invited four friends over as guinea pigs and another friend, Sue, who sells a range of skincare and make up products (Arbonne - promised her a plug!). Our numbers grew when we decided to add a make up artist, Claire  and then Mhari with her gorgeous Stella and Dot jewellery (plugs all done for now!).

The girls - Debbie, Nicky, Kaarin and Lucy arrived with changes of clothes and nervous smiles. We gave them a bit of a pamper with some face cleansing and face pack products (always good for a funny photo!) and then they all had their make up done and jewellery chosen to complement their outfits.
Pampering and gossiping time!
Time to add the stunning bling.
We gave some advice on how to stand for a full length shot as no one ever knows how to do it and what to do with their hands! This pose, demonstrated by Sue, shows how it's much more flattering to stand at an angle, weight on the back leg, front leg forward. I call this the Cheshire Ladies pose as everyone always does it at weddings and events!
Cheshire Ladies pose. But make sure you're facing the light for best results. We turned Sue to face the other way for the actual shot.
I love Nicky's more casual take on this pose. Looks really natural and relaxed.
Everyone had a go at a full length pose, including Mr T - what a posasaurus!
As you can imagine when eight women get together it's very noisy and at times very silly. Nicky might not ever get a job as a reflector holder!

None of them normally enjoy having their photographs taken but all did extremely well, with lots of different poses - standing, seated, lying down. I still haven't had time to edit them all but here's my favourites of the four models.

Sue Cobb of Arbonne, modelling Stella & Dot jewellery.
Huge thanks to Sue Cobb and Claire Fulton of Arbonne and Mhari Oakes of Stella & Dot for giving their time and skills on the day. Thanks to the four models for their sense of humour and willingness to do something out of their comfort zone. Boudoir shoot next time, ladies?!

Thanks to Nic Burkinshaw and Abii Burkinshaw for the catering (a lovely spread of quiche, home made bread, salad and home made cookies, accompanied by Prosecco for a little extra sparkle!)

Almost forgot to mention the star of the show - Bella, Lucy's daughter and my great niece.

Make up (none), clothes and accessories all model's own!


Bring on 2015! By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

When I was made redundant from a role in international marketing in 2007 I knew immediately what I wanted to do: set up my own business taking photographs and writing copy for small businesses, hence the name Picture It Big. Within a few weeks I was heading off in a completely different direction, photographing children at nurseries, after being given an opportunity at my own children's day nursery. Like many new starters I went wherever the business was, hungry to earn money, gain experience and build a portfolio.

A couple of years later I started running photography courses following lots of requests from photography clients. I discovered a new passion: sharing my knowledge with others. It was so rewarding and really enjoyable, although hard to gain enough exposure to fill the course places. I eventually hit on the idea of running workshops from home, thus eliminating the worry of booking and often cancelling venues.

In the meantime I had been reflecting on the photography services I was offering and realised that I needed to focus more on the more profitable areas and on the types of photography I really enjoyed. After all, what's the point of working for yourself, if you are doing stuff that doesn't make you want to leap out of bed in the morning?

As I end my sixth full year in business and look forward to 2015 (a big year in my mind as I turn 50!), I've got a clear business strategy and a wonderful new studio where it will all happen! Portrait and commercial photography will be my main photography focus, both in the studio and on location. I also have a full programme of courses taking place in the studio and interest and take up has so far been phenomenal. The business is being re-branded Jane Burkinshaw Natural Light Photography, to better reflect what I now do, with Love Your Lens as a sub-brand for the photography workshops.

When I look back on the last 6 years, I could kick myself for not having got to this point via a shorter route. If I'm honest I've made tons of mistakes, wasted money on the wrong types of promotion, not always been as focused and dedicated as I could have been. It was very difficult adjusting to a new life of working from home and not having to adhere to a 9 to 5. But if I'm a bit kinder to myself, I know I've learned an enormous amount, about photography and running a business. I've been around to take the kids to after school activities or even just into town to buy Christmas jumpers! I've managed to fit in being a parent governor and a trustee of a charity Gift Of A Wedding. Most importantly, as my husband reminds me, I am no longer the stressed out, slightly depressed person I was back in 2007, when office politics and an unbearable workload dominated my every waking thought.

Via local networking groups I've discovered a whole new community of fellow business owners, who are supportive, knowledgable and generous with their time and advice. Many people have become good friends, along with quite a few of my clients.

As I sit here typing this, I'm grateful that I'm able to be at home to care for a poorly daughter; I'm excited that the electrics are being finished in the studio and I'm looking forward to a Christmas lunch tomorrow, with a lovely crowd of ladies who all run their own businesses and have their own stories of successes and failures, challenges and triumphs.

I think I'd better finish now as I've just read that last sentence! Needless to say I'm really looking forward to 2015 with a new focus and brand spanking new studio (big reveal coming soon)! I need to make the final word a big THANK YOU and shout out to Nic, my husband, who is known as Poor Nic to everyone, for having the misfortune to be married to me. He has been a massive support to me in every way and  I would not have got to this point without him.

Organised chaos on a family photo shoot! By Cheshire Children's Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

This was the most demanding shoot that I've ever done and I have to admit to feeling absolutely shattered as I headed home. Family shoots with several young children are always a challenge and call into play a range of skills from both photographer and parents, along with a huge dollop of patience.

I'm not usually thrown when faced with three boys, in this case 4 months through to 6 years, but I also had to factor in five adults whose first (and in three cases only) language was Chinese. I can't claim to have been in control of this shoot at any one time, with older siblings getting in on the act when I was photographing the baby and then grandparents deciding it was their turn. This isn't unusual and I normally manage it with a few distracting techniques or explaining to everyone what was happening. This wasn't so easy with exaggerated gestures and smiles!

However, despite a huge amount of chaos and chasing around, there are a beautiful set of images of which I'm extra proud, because I know how hard I worked to get them. Baby Eric is stunning and so quick to smile and I'm so pleased I managed to photograph him with his older brothers. The look of pride on Eric's grandfather's face is priceless and I just wish I could have seen his face when he got to see the images.


How professional commercial photography can give a boost your business

A picture can be worth a thousand words ...or can even bring you new business as it did for chimney sweep, Simon Barton. Simon spotted an opportunity to sweep aside the competition when he realized that no local chimney sweeps featured photographs on their websites. He decided to get some pictures of himself at work cleaning a domestic chimney, aiming to clearly demonstrate his emphasis on cleanliness. "Clients are very worried about soot getting everywhere and I wanted to show how my system completely seals the fireplace so that not even a speck of dirt can escape", Simon explained to me before the shoot. He even wears blue shoe covers to avoid bringing in dirt from outside.

I took a series of photographs of Simon as he set about cleaning a chimney and conducting a smoke test. Since posting the pictures on his website he has seen a significant increase in business, with new customers mentioning that they picked him because they liked the way he worked, having seen his website. "I'm really glad I had the photographs done as it's had a real impact on my business" Simon commented. "Jane found a great venue and made the whole shoot feel very relaxed and easy. I just got on with my job!"

Prospective clients can often be wary about what to expect when they book a new service - seeing images of you at work can help to remove their concerns and make them pick you and not the competition.

The small investment you make in professional photography can reap great rewards, so get in touch. My commercial photography rates start at just £125.00.

Thanks to Simon Barton for his great testimony.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

How to take great pictures of babies

From the moment they explode into our lives babies are amazing! For something so small they have a massive impact on everything we do. Life as we know it ceases to be and the world revolves completely around them. We are totally governed by their every need and mesmerized by their very prescence. Go on, admit it, you've idled away many a moment just watching your precious new arrival sleeping and breathing. It's no surprise that we take literally hundreds of photographs, trying to capture every expression and moment. And it's not easy is it?! New babies sleep for England and when they're awake their eyes can't focus and can look a bit bozz eyed for the camera! Well, here's a few helpful hints to ensure that you make the most of this magical, albeit brief time.

Place baby on a sofa covered by a blanket to create a neutral background.
Location: Put your baby in a snuggly, safe and warm place in front of a window where the natural daylight from outside is falling onto them. Floor to ceiling windows are best. If the window is higher up then place baby safely on a sofa or bean bag. If you cover the sofa in a neutral blanket it creates an uncluttered background. Avoid areas of bright sunlight as it creates harsh shadows. Just move back away from the window a little. My children used to have a crib under the living room window and in the afternoon the light was wonderful. Hold your camera nice and steady, lean against a wall for extra support if possible.

Clothing: Personally I think new-born babies look amazing in the altogether - their skin is so precious. You have to be careful to arrange limbs and shoot from the right angles of course and sometimes I use blankets or muslin cloths to preserve baby's modesty! Knitted hats and bootees can look very cute, especially if they are special gifts.

Camera settings: Whatever type of camera you are using, make sure your flash is turned off! If you are using a point and shoot compact camera or phone just take pictures from lots of different angles and zoom in to capture close ups of feet, hands and faces. Try using the Macro / flower setting to get some real close ups.

If you are a little more adept with your camera then take into account the following too: ideally you need a shutter speed of 1/60 minimum - you should be able to see this displayed on your camera LCD or in the viewfinder. If it's less than 1/60 try increasing the ISO number. Using the Program mode will allow you to get some nice shots, especially if you zoom in on details, but try using the Av / A aperture setting and try different low apertures such as f/3.5 or lower and close up shots to focus on tiny details and blur the background. If you are using very low apertures you need to be very careful where you focus. If you have time to plan ahead a 50mm fixed lens will give some great results.

Photograph newborns when they're asleep... because it's easier and also because they look so cute! In the first two weeks a newborn baby will still tend to curl up its legs and arms when asleep and it's such a beautiful pose. The best time is when baby has been changed and fed and has gone into a deep sleep. I'm sure you've realised that nothing short of an explosion will wake them and it's surprisingly easy to move them into nice positions.

Having said that, it's lovely to get some pictures of eyes open and new babies have some extremely comical faces - even mid cry!

Photograph hands and feet... and include your own hands for a sense of scale and to create a picture full of emotional impact. And don't forget to photograph those all important little bootees and gifts, again putting them in natural daylight near a window.

For ideas and tips on how to photograph babies Pinterest is an amazing resource and I've collated quite a few boards full of gorgeous pictures and useful suggestions.

If you've enjoyed my blog please leave me a comment! If you're interested in photography lessons or know someone that would like a newborn shoot then please just get in touch with me!

Tel: 07868 750505

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!


Is AUTO only for beginners (and what the heck is"P")?

“Oh, I never take my camera off AUTO”. A very frequent comment when I talk to people about their photography. Usually said with an air of slight embarrassment as if it’s something to be ashamed about. They would be pleasantly surprised and reassured to hear that I often have my camera on an AUTO mode (although I use the P automatic mode – more on that later). I have lots of gadgets and machines in my home that offer a variety of settings and I only use one all the time – the dishwasher springs to mind. If I choose the ECO setting it does what I want it to and I feel good that I’ve done something slightly environmentally friendly. I know there are faster and hotter settings, salt rinses etc but I’ve never bothered to work out how to use them and I don’t really care as long as my dishes are sparkling. It’s like that with a camera – as long as AUTO allows you to take a good photo and get the result you want, you don’t need to go off piste and try the other settings. So it’s fine to set your camera to AUTO, but it's better that it’s a conscious decision rather than the only option.

Regular readers of my blogs (I fool myself into thinking there are a few!) will be familiar with my views on technological knowhow versus the role of opportunity and having a natural eye. You could know how to use every setting on your camera but still be unable to spot a good shot or perhaps not even have the camera with you when a great shot presents itself. Taking a good picture relies primarily on being in the right place at the right time, an ability to see that something before you has the making of a good image and having your camera at the ready. In many instances these elements will be sufficient and so will having the camera set to AUTO. However, there are situations where the automatic setting cannot get the best results and if you haven’t got other options then you won’t get the optimum shot. You may have already experienced the frustration of spotting a great photo opportunity, only to find that the shot is blurred or wrongly exposed, despite the fact that your camera has previously delivered great results for you.

LIGHT – or not enough of it may be the cause of the majority of your problems when using the camera on AUTO. The camera automatically sets the shutter speed to suit the available light. On a dull day or in deep shade it will use a slower shutter speed to let more light in. This can mean that although the resulting photograph will be correctly exposed any movement may be blurred or the whole picture may suffer from camera shake. Your camera is quite clever and knows this and will decide to fire the flash to provide some extra light. This might not give you the effect you were looking for as flash can be quite harsh or unflattering. If you take the camera off the AUTO setting you would have a number of options available to you, to stop the flash firing and increase the amount of light coming into the camera without slowing down the shutter speed too much. Setting a larger aperture (lower F number) with the AV (aperture value) setting or increasing the ISO would probably work.

You might be thinking that this is not particularly relevant for you but there are lots of circumstances where you could come across dull light conditions during the day. I have done several shoots in woodland areas and have found that the canopy of leaves reduces the light to such an extent that my subjects are blurred if they are moving e.g. running, waving, even just walking. Flash can just kill the atmosphere and make the background appear unnaturally dark. Using other camera settings has enabled me to still get the shot I was looking for.

Another common instance when you might benefit from moving off AUTO is when you are photographing something or someone against a cluttered background. If you are zooming in on the subject then the background will start to blur but you can control how much it blurs and how much your subject stands out by using the AV setting and using a larger aperture (lower F number).

Taking the camera off AUTO and knowing what setting to use instead puts you in control rather than the camera. When I use an automatic setting I make a conscious choice rather than using it because I don’t know what else to try.

Note that I said “an automatic setting” not the AUTO setting. You may not be aware of it but your camera is likely to offer a semi-automatic mode called P or “Program Mode”. In this mode you can make some of the decisions for yourself and make some corrections. For example you decide when to use the flash – it doesn’t fire automatically. You also have the option to make the picture lighter or darker using something called Exposure Compensation. And you would also be able to change a number of other settings whilst still letting the camera automatically set the shutter speed and aperture size.

It can be quite scary when you go off piste (off AUTO) for the first time, but what have you got to lose? If you make a mistake you can delete it and try again. I experimented with the AV setting by propping my foot up on a stool one day and taking pictures of my big toe with different apertures! Needless to say you won’t find those shots on my web site! And try the TV (time value) setting to increase and decrease the shutter speed with a moving subject – I have lots of photos of blurred running dog progressively becoming in focus running dog!

Not sure about apertures and shutter speeds? Forget your manual, it’s unlikely to help you and sadly neither will many of the magazines and books which claim to be guides to digital photography. In my experience they all assume a certain level of knowledge and tend to jump in at quite a technical level. The best quick introduction I’ve found is in Annabel William’s book “99 portrait Photo Ideas” where she tells you just enough to go out and have a go. Then once you’ve had a play around and grasped the basics that’s the time to start looking at the books and delving in a little deeper.

It’s easier to practise these settings outside in daylight, so do a bit of reading in the evening, use the Quick Set Up Guide, which hopefully came with your camera, to learn how to change the AV and TV settings and then get out with your camera during the day. And don’t forget that AUTO is there for a reason – it will give you a good shot in many circumstances – but go on, be a devil, try the P setting sometimes too! You’ll soon find that you’ll be using that in preference to AUTO and before you know it you’ll be flicking onto AV and TV too.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Taking great pictures over Christmas

We had our first Wincham / Pickmere photography group last night and talked about how to get good shots over Xmas, without getting too technical. Hope you find them useful.

“The best camera is the one you have with you at the time”.

Always have your camera near you so that if something happens you are ready to grab the shot. Taking great photos often isn’t about knowing how to use all the different settings, but more about OPPORTUNITY and being able to SEE THE IMAGE.

Take a few practise shots, check the results, adjust settings if necessary and you’ll be well prepared.

The best shots of people are often the candid ones, especially children. Get them used to you taking photos all the time and they will be less self conscious.

For posed photographs help make people relax by talking to them, make them laugh. Try getting people to say “Cheeky Monkeys” or “Smelly Socks” and after you’ve done one shot get people to tickle each other or hug.

If you want a more informal group shot ask people to toast each other, meeting each others’ eyes rather than looking at the camera. This can also reduce red eye. (But don’t worry about red eye and don’t use “Red eye reduction” setting on camera as the double flash is off putting and it takes longer so you can miss the moment. Sort out red eye on the computer afterwards.)

Get people really close together, heads nice and close and all on the same plane (i.e. not some further in front or behind the others as you could risk some being out of focus).

Take several shots of groups in case anyone had their eyes closed.

Fill the frame when taking pictures of people. Use the zoom on your camera to catch candid shots of the kids—they won’t know you’re taking the shot and zooming in has the effect of blurring the background, making the person stand out.

Try different angles—get down to the same level as your children or shoot from low down or high up. Tilt the camera slightly and take the picture on an angle. Experiment.

At night time or in low light try using the night portrait setting on your camera to capture the lovely Christmas lights / candles etc behind or near your subject. Make sure the flash is on and select night portrait. The camera fires a quick burst of flash but then keeps the shutter open for a moment longer to allow light in. Hold the camera steady or you’ll risk camera shake. Rest the camera on a level surface if possible. Try taking pictures of the children by the Christmas tree like this. Or of the Christmas pudding as it is aflame.

If you want to take a picture of Christmas lights in a town or garden etc, rest the camera on a wall, make sure the flash is off and press the shutter. You can do this in AUTO mode. If the picture is too dark, use the TV mode (Might be “S” on some cameras) and slow down the shutter speed. Experiment until you are happy with the shot.

If you are taking pictures of people on a bright sunny day outdoors, use the flash to avoid harsh shadows. Overcast days are actually the best for photographing people. Snowy overcast days are great as colours of scarves, hats etc look really intense against the white snow.

On cold frosty days look for interesting details and zoom in close—use the MACRO setting. Frosted cobwebs, reeds, teasels etc look magical covered in frost.

Landscapes—use rule of thirds, try to lead the eye, have a clear focal point.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Don't let your favourite photos languish on your hard drive - get 'em out!!

We returned from our summer holiday in Cornwall with hundreds of lovely photos of the beautiful cornish scenery, the kids playing on the beach, surfing in the sea - the usual stuff. I sort of had a plan right from the start of the holiday to do something special with the pictures when we got back, rather than leave them on the computer, never to see the light of day. We don't use albums any more (does anyone?) and we only print a few pictures out every now and again - in fact I think it's almost a year ago since we last did.

I've put lots of photobooks together for clients but never for ourselves, so this time I was determined to. As ever I took photographs every day and almost everywhere we visited and
from time to time I spent a little time in the evening jotting down a few notes about the day's events, anything funny the kids had said or the dog had done!

I was all set up when I got home to put the book together and couldn't wait to get on with it. I used Bobsbooks for the first time as they offered full double page spreads, nice quality binding and a full colour wraparound hard cover. They are not the cheapest around but I think you get what you pay for. I downloaded their software and over the next couple of weeks I did a bit of the book at a time. The software for all the different companies is usually pretty intuitive - each has its little foibles which can be frustrating at times but overall it's drag and drop your image into a standard template, move it around and resize it if you want, add some text and so on.
Well, I don't know about you but I was absolutely delighted with the finished result and was dancing around in excitement when it was delivered. The quality is great, lovely vibrant colours, thick pages and just fab! It's slightly under A4 size and now sits in pride of place on my new cabinet in the family room. Any visitors to the house get it shoved into their hands but I've not had any complaints yet!

So go on - get those pictures off your computer and do something with them. I'm already planning a lot of Christmas presents and had better get started as I'm sure they'll get busy soon, as photo books are becoming increasingly popular and are replacing the traditional photo album. (And Bobsbooks are not paying me - I just think credit should be given where it's due!).

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Make photos while the sun shines

 This sunny weather is fantastic but it doesn't half make photography tricky! Have a look at a few of my simples DO'S and DON'T'S of sunny day photography.

DO... Use your flash if the sun is high in the sky when photographing people who are in direct sunlight. Chances are they will have dark shadows across their faces which will look even darker on the photograph. make your flash fire by popping it up or switching it to "Forced flash on" depending on your camera type. (Don't forget to switch the flash off afterwards as your next shot might not need it). In the shot of Abbie and Sam on the statue at Kew I used the flash.

DON'T... make your subjects squint into the sun. Get them to turn sideways slightly.

Do... look for shady areas - umbrellas, shade of a tree etc and get your subjects to pose in the shade. You don't need the flash for this and your pictures will look very natural. In the ice cream pic and the tunnel one the kids are in natural shade and the light is nice and even.

DO... take photos in the late afternoon / early evening (or early morning if you're mad as it would have to be about 6am currently!), as the light is fantastic - the sun is lower down and the shadows are less harsh. In the photo of Abbie on the beach it was late afternoon - you can tell from her longer shadow. No flash was required and the colours are lovely and saturated.

Although mid-day can be a tricky time for portraits DO take landscape shots as the blue sky / green grass / azure seas etc lend themselves to picture postcard shots - no flash required and make sure your horizon is straight. Many cameras have a grid display on the LCD viewer that you can switch on, or you can straighten the shot up easily in PICASA and other software.

So, go enjoy the sunshine, put your suncream on and try out all these techniques. Meanwhile I'll be mostly found in my hammock with a chilled glass of wine!

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By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Look for a different angle

Give your photos a bit of interest and add some quirky humour by shooting at a different angle. In this shot I lay on the ground at Abigail's feet and shot up through the tree branches. The tree in question is a Canadian Redwood, a baby admittedly, as these can grow spectacularly high and I wanted to emphasise the height and the fact that the kids were fascinated by them. I also made sure the flash would fire so that Abbie's face wouldn't be in dark shadow. The flares across the picture are from the high sun coming through the branches. If this had been coming directly into the lens it would have ruined the shot and I would have changed my angle. As it is I quite like the effect here.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Zoom, zoom, zoom!!

I love my zoom lenses because...
  • I can take candid shots without the subject being aware. Little Mathilde had no idea I was catching this lovely moment as she crouched to examine the flower she had picked.
  • It makes people less nervous when you are further away. It can be very off putting when someone points the camera right in your face (Nic - please take note!)
  • Zooming in blurs the background and isolates the subject. Background objects become less distracting and the blurring can create a very pleasing effect - the blues and greens of the bluebell wood in this shot.
I used a 70-300mm f4-5.6 Canon lens for this shot - it's a good lens to use for candid portraits as it has a good zoom range letting me get close up shots from a distance and has image stabilisation - a must if you want to avoid camera shake. (Imagine using binoculars to look at the moon and it seems to jump all over the place?) This lens is at its best when it's nice and bright but I have to watch out if the light is a bit low as f4 does not let a lot of light into the camera, so the shutter speed can be slow, with the result that movement can be blurred. In the shade of the trees it was occasionally too dark to get sharp shots of Mathilde running. I have my eye on a telephoto lens with a wider aperture (lower f number) but you wouldn't believe how much the cost jumps up for this sort of kit!

Many compact cameras now have great zoom lenses. My Panasonic DMC-FZ20 has a 12X zoom (i.e. a lot! equivalent to 36-432mm on a film camera) and also has built in image stabilisation. Be careful about "optical" zoom and "digital" zoom when you use your compact camera to zoom in. The optical zoom uses the lens to make the subject closer. Digital zoom isn't really zoom - it's actually just magnifying part of your image, a bit like zooming in on a picture on your computer screen to look at it closer. Image quality isn't as good once you start using the digital zoom so I usually avoid it. I can set my compact camera to only use the optical zoom but on some compacts the digital zoom kicks in after you have zoomed in as far as the optical zoom lets you. There's often a slight pause and you have to click/ press to zoom digitally. If I've lost you, then just look it up in your manual and have a go with your camera.

Otherwise, just get zooming, fill the frame and enjoy getting some lovely candid shots!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Use flash when it's really sunny outside

This might sound like complete madness - why make it brighter when it's already very bright and sunny?

Have you ever taken a picture on a sunny day and wondered why faces are so dark even when they didn't really look that way? With bright sunlight you also get very dark shadows. We don't see the contrast as starkly as our brains are used to reducing the effect. If the person you are photographing is standing against a very bright background - sky, snow, beach, in front of a window - then their faces may be in dark shadow unless you use the flash. I used flash in the picture above to make Abigail stand out against the blue background and to reduce the shadows. This was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS12 compact camera.

Depending on what camera you are using you may have to "make" the camera fire the flash. On a compact camera on your flash settings you should be able to select "forced flash on". On a hyrbid or SLR you should be able to pop the flash up.

Try the shot with and without the flash and see which you prefer. Don't forget to put your flash back on AUTO once you have finished.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

Blurring the edges

After all the effort to unearth my Lensbaby I had a play around with it today at a local park, as I was wondering whether I could use it during some photoshoots to get some shots which are a bit edgier. A Lensbaby is a cute, but odd looking lens that mimics the effect of a tilt & shift lens. It looks like a short piece of black vaccuum cleaner hose with the same bendiness and it gets some peculiar looks. By stretching or contracting the hose bit and bending it at the same time you can determine where the point of focus is (the so called sweet spot) and also distort the areas around it. I've got version 2.0 which you manually hold in place as you press the shutter. More recent versions have systems to fix it in place. Getting to grips with it again was a steep learning curve but I quickly remembered how to handle it and with a very willing model I got some quite nice images for its first trip out in perhaps two years. You can't set the aperture in camera - you choose a disc with a hole which
defines the aperture. I think the one it had in it was f/5.6. Using the camera on AUTO was a complete disaster - totally over exposed, so I constantly checked and changed the shutter speed. It was a bright sunny day with the occasional passing cloud, and we moved from open grass areas into shady woodland. So we ranged from around 1/600th to 1/2000th of a second.
Anyway I've fallen in love with it again and will include it in my camera bag so that it's available for all my shoots. I'll carefully pick and choose which client I first use it with - it'll have to be a shoot where everything has gone swimmingly, it's all in the bag and I've got a willing model to practise with it on. Before the end of the week I'll have a go at some daffodils as they've all suddenly bloomed this weekend and Spring really feels like it has sprung. It's amazing what a lift a bit of warm sun on your face gives you. The grass was cut this afternoon, we had our first barbecue of the year (and I'm sure we weren't the only ones!) and the children dragged out every blanket, cushion, teddy, hammock etc insight.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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