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.


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!


NEW! Mini portrait sessions


These NEW mini portrait sessions are ideal if you want to try out a lifestyle photo shoot without the commitment and cost of a full session. It's the perfect opportunity to get family photographs shot in a beautiful location. Choose from shoots amongst the bluebells, in a garden bursting with Summer colours or against a backdrop of Autumn splendour. Dates and times are listed at the end of this blog.

A mini portrait session lasts for about 30 minutes and you book a specific time slot with me. The price of the session is £125. This includes:

  • A telephone consultation prior to the shoot to discuss your requirements and for advice on clothing etc.
  • 30 minute photo shoot
  • £75 credit towards the cost of a gallery canvas wrap, framed print or album. Prices for finished products start at £110.
  • Once you have selected your finished product you may also buy photographic prints. 
  • A private online gallery of the final images (usually around 20-30). The gallery will be live for 7 days to allow you to enjoy and select your images.
  • Guidance on the best way to display and share your favourite images, including visuals.
Mini portrait sessions are limited and places are booking fast so don't delay. Book now - send me an email to reserve your session

Dates of mini portrait sessions for 2013 are as follows:


10am, 11am & 12pm on Wed 24th April and Thurs 2nd May 2013

These take place in the bluebell woods at Bluebell Cottage Gardens, Dutton, Cheshire. This beautiful area of woodland is a blaze of blue and green in the springtime and is a magical place to photograph children. Bring along fairy wings and floaty skirts for that extra bit of woodland magic!


10am, 11am, 12pm on Wed 12th June and Wed 19th June 2013

These take place at Bluebell Cottage Gardens in the heart of the Cheshire countryside. Sue Beesley, owner and designer of the gardens, won a gold medal at RHS Tatton in 2011 and is a former BBC gardener of the year. Her garden is always bursting with colour at this time of year and provides a glorious backdrop for a family photo shoot. For little ones I can bring along bubbles and mini gardening tools for extra fun!


September dates tbc
Send an email if you would like to be informed when dates are confirmed

The grounds of this beautiful hotel offer many photographic backdrops, from the sunken garden, to the rose arbour and the avenue of trees looking over the lake.


October dates tbc
Send an email if you would like to be informed when dates are confirmed

This shot will take place at Marbury Park and take advantage of the many lovely locations and magnificent Autumn colours.

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!


All squared up for 2013

After completing the 366 project in 2012 and deciding not to carry on this year I've been twiddling my thumbs a bit, itching to embark on something else, but it had to be less time consuming and a little more flexible, but still challenging.

I was catching up on some reading over the weekend, thawing out after a romp in the snow with the dog and came across an e-book I had downloaded over Christmas. It's called "Square" by a photographer and author Andrew Gibson and looks at images that are square as opposed to the more usual rectangular format. Aside from featuring some really beautiful photography this book looks into the increasing popularity of square images and gives some great pointers into what makes them work.

We are so used to the rectangular format that unless we have a camera (e.g. a medium format camera) or  an app (Instagram etc) that creates a square image, we forget to consider anything else. It's perhaps the amazing popularity of the Instagram type photo that has contributed to a re-appreciation of the square image.

I took a look back at my 366 images and could only find a handful that were square, excluding those that I had taken with a retro camera app on my phone - you can tell which these are as they feature a border. I didn't create any of the non-retro camera images with the intention of them being square - I decided to do that afterwards on the computer, so I wasn't really setting out to shoot and compose for square images.

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The square format has got me buzzing with excitement and now my thumbs are twitching rather than twiddling. During 2013 I am going to create a series of images that are square and intended to be square from the outset - I'll be specifically looking for subjects and compositions that work for the square format. I'm not setting any timescales or boundaries, other than I'll work on it throughout the year. As and when I take an image I am happy with I'll share it on this blog and ask for feedback.

You can download "Square" by Andrew Gibson (and other great e-books from him and other authors) at Craft and Vision. Each book costs around £2 to £4 and they often sell bundles together. I love the fact that I can download them to my tablet and read them wherever I am. I've not bought a bad one yet - they are highly readable, not too techie and the imagery is stunning. I've not been paid to say this, they don't even know I'm recommending them!

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!


Top tips for a great business headshot (Corporate headshots Cheshire with Picture It Big)

In this digital age business portraits are very important. Even before you meet a client for the first time or go for an interview, you will have been checked out on LinkedIn or on your website and will have already made a first impression. A potential client surfing the net may have opted for the next listing below your's because they liked the look of the person more!

So you can't avoid it any longer, you need to get your head shot updated. That grainy old picture just doesn't communicate the right professional image and let's face it, was taken ten years ago. You've changed and fashions have moved on and it just won't do anymore. If you are like 90%+ of the population you dread having a formal picture taken as much or more than a trip to the dentist for a root canal filling! I would certainly prefer the latter and am infinitely more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

I've photographed lots of different people over the years and have also had to face up to having my own portrait done and have amassed a number of hints and tricks to make the experience more pleasant and to ensure that you end up with a portrait you are pleased with.

What to wear (and what not to!)
  • A head shot usually means head and shoulders, usually to around chest level, so pay particular attention to what is worn in this area.
  • Think about the image you want to project. Usually for a business head shot this will be professional business clothes but it depends on the profession you are in. In this shot Maura has chosen a slightly softer but still smart look - she is a collaborative solicitor and wanted to appear approachable and professional but not stuffy so opted not to wear a business suit.
  • Wear something you feel good and comfortable in. Avoid tight fitting clothes and clothes that wrinkle and crease easily.
  • Avoid busy patterns, logos or overpowering bright colours. Reds, yellows and oranges can reflect a colour cast onto your skin and should be avoided. Pastel or nude / skin colours can make you look washed out. Colours that match your eyes are good.
  • Avoid fussy scarves and collars. Simple is usually better. Jewellery is OK as long as it is understated. Don't wear anything that will date your picture too quickly.
  • Go for 3/4 or full length sleeves rather than bare arms. Bare skin distracts attention away from your face and unless your arms are tanned and toned (and mine aren't!) then it doesn't look great.
  • V neck jumpers are generally quite flattering as they elongate the neck. Avoid polo or roll neck tops.
  • If you need a full length shot rather than a head shot, then wear tops and bottoms in the same colour. Avoid strongly contrasting colours i.e. white top and black bottoms, as this cuts you in half and makes you look shorter.
What about make up and hair?
  • If you know you look good then you'll feel good too and that will show at the photo shoot. There's no need to book a full makeover, especially as you might end up not looking and feeling like you! But this is a personal choice, some people feel better if they've had their hair and make up done and others are happy to do their own.
  • If you have long hair you could do some shots with your hair tied back and some with it down. 
  • Wear what make up you would normally wear for a evening out - and we're talking a meal out not a full on Christmas party! Avoid lip gloss and anything too shimmery.
"I feel really uncomfortable posing for my photo".

Don't we all! But any good photographer will know how to make you feel relaxed and how to pose you in ways that flatter you. Here are some tips to make sure your best side is captured:

  • We all feel uncomfortable just standing in front of the camera - how should we stand, what should we do with our hands? To avoid feeling so awkward lean against something if possible and you will feel much more relaxed.
  • Try not to stand full on to the camera, instead stand at an angle, with your hips and shoulders on a slight diagonal and turn your head towards the photographer. If it's for a full length shot, then put your weight on your back leg and bend your front leg slightly, toe pointed towards the photographer.
  • Where possible I get people to sit down on a chair as this is often much more relaxing for them. It also enables me to shoot from above, getting the model to look up slightly which is often more flattering.
  • Sitting "cowboy" style on a chair (astride it backwards) works well, giving you somewhere to rest your hands and getting you to lean forward.
Top Secret Tip
  • To avoid those double chins (we all have them especially when we smile!) then try this little tip: point your chin down and then jut it out forward - this tightens the jaw line.  The photographer is shooting you from face on, not from the side so although this feels unnatural it really works! Try it in front of the mirror.

The decision whether to go for a plain background or a natural one depends on you and sometimes on restrictions imposed on you. In the shot below a graduated grey background was required to match existing head shots of business colleagues on the company web site.

Where possible I prefer neutral, natural backgrounds that complement the image the client is looking for  - complimentary colours, nothing distracting in the background to draw the eye away from the face. In the image below I purposely included the urban background but made sure that it was out of focus so as not to be distracting.

In some cases you can hint at the working environment but always ensuring it isn't a distraction.

And in this next shot we styled it so that the client was lying down amid hundreds of toy white rabbits. It's still suitable as a head shot but has a much more informal feel and is suitable for PR purposes.

A little extra help...

I edit every shot in post production and make sure that the client looks at his or her very best. I remove blemishes and imperfections, reduce wrinkles, slightly brighten eyes and teeth and even slim faces a little. We're not talking L'Oreal airbrushing, my intention is that the client will look at the picture and say "Wow, that's a really nice shot of me!" but not be able to put their finger on exactly what I've done!

What happens after the shoot?

Everyone works slightly differently, but I usually select a number of final images, do an initial edit on them and then send them across as low resolution files to the client who will select two to three they wish to use. I then provide fully edited high resolution JPEG files.

Who owns the copyright to the final images? 

It's usual for the photographer to retain the copyright for the images but to grant you full business usage.

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!


A trip to Crosby Beach with Big Boy

After endless days of rain over Christmas we were desperate to get out somewhere - me particularly so as I had only been able to use my new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens once since Christmas Day!

This is a real Big Boy of a lens - extremely sharp, focuses almost instantly and silently, is image stabilised and has a wide aperture of f/2.8 at every focal length. Basically it's great for making sure moving subjects are really sharp even when the light isn't great.

I first got my hands on one at a pet photography course in December and it went straight to the top of my list for Santa (I did help Santa out a bit with the cost!). I couldn't get this shot of a spaniel in flight with my best zoom lens - it just wouldn't focus fast enough nor let enough light in to achieve the amount of blurred background I wanted.

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On Christmas morning I barely had time to get one shot of our puppy, Ferb, before the holiday monsoon set in. It was well into the New Year before a free day and good weather came together at the same time. The beach seemed like a great idea, especially as Ferb hadn't been to the seaside before.

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Nic's wanted to see Antony  Gormley's "Another Place" art installation at Crosby Beach for a while (once he explained it was those naked statues of men staring out to see we were a bit more enthusiastic!).

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Conditions were perfect for an uplifting frolic across the sand and for getting used to Big Boy - bright, low sunshine, clear, flat light. At any other time of year the sun would have been too high and direct, causing harsh contrasts but it was perfect that day. The sun was at the right angle and bright enough to create silhouettes and I was able to get an amusing picture of Abi assessing one of the figures - we all know what she was looking at! Works well in black and white as it emphasises the contrast.

OK, so the naked statues weren't exactly going anywhere and I wanted some practice shooting moving subjects. The kids and puppy duly obliged by dashing around on the beach, somewhat complicated by the fact that Ferb was on a 30 metre long lead! To keep them in focus I used the AI Servo focusing mode, which I'll admit I've largely steered clear of, but it performed perfectly. You just have to remember to keep tracking your subject with the lens and it looks after the focusing. Takes a bit of practise but well worth it.

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It's not often we see Nic in full flight - he's renowned for falling over, so this is a rare sight indeed! I love Ferb in this one too!

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And freeze framing the kids kicking water around worked well too. (Spot the full frontal statue in the background!)

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Nic had made that fatal mistake of forgetting to put a memory card in his camera so we nipped into Crosby to buy one and to refuel. When we got back to the beach around 3pm the sun was lower in the sky, the light had changed significantly and the tide was in. I would have loved to have got a proper sunset shot of the statues being immersed in the sea but cold, bored kids and wet dog were clamouring to go home. So I made do with this shot instead and felt very jealous of the increasing numbers of people appearing with cameras and tripods.

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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!


New year, new look blog

It's been a while since my last confession post... I fell out of the blogging habit last year, largely because I spent most of my free time on a project to take and post a photograph every day during 2012. (Separate post on this is simmering away in my brain and will come to the boil soon).

I've really missed writing and have made it a resolution for 2013 to do more. I'm planning to combine all my blogs into one - it was getting confusing for me never mind anyone else. So top tips on photography and posts about recent shoots will all nestle here alongside tales of our exploits as a family.

I've given my blog a bit of a facelift - it took far longer than I expected to do a few simple changes to the background and header - but I'm pleased with the overall result. Feels a little friendlier than all that serious black and green I had before. And it seems more appropriate to feature my lovely children and dog in the header too!

Ferb, the dog, is a new addition to our family and he will no doubt be the star of the show for the foreseeable future - he's so darn cute and extremely photogenic. He even has his own Facebook page if you can't wait between posts to see his little hairy face.

Also set to feature a fair amount is our new (to us) caravan. With two successful outings under our belt (we won't mention the encounter between our gatepost and a caravan window!) we're planning holidays up and down the length of Britain this year.

I've already got a long list of ideas for blog posts and am itching to get started. With heavy snow supposedly heading our way I can forecast lots of photo opportunities and lots of time sitting in front of a roaring fire, blogging away. Hopefully they won't just languish unread in the ether somewhere - at least I know my other half reads them and points out where I've used apostrophe's (sic) in the wrong place and embellished the truth somewhat, in order to be more entertaining!

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!


A newborn photo shoot with Ella Rose (by Cheshire baby photographer Picture It Big)

I was delighted to be asked to photograph one week old Ella Rose - she is absolutely perfect and second time mum, Mindy, was totally chilled out, so this was the ideal newborn photo shoot.

Ella was having a feed when I arrived so having set up the first shot I put the kettle on and made us a nice cuppa. After a short while Ella fell asleep and we settled her onto a snuggly blanket and popped a matching hat on her head. I'm a bit of a knitter and take along a selection of things I've made for mum to choose from. This pink and purple blend really suited Ella's colouring.

As it turned out Ella didn't fancy a very long nap and I took the opportunity to set up the next shot whilst she had another feed and a quick nappy change. Mindy's family own the Hollies Farm Shop and we incorporated one of their branded apple boxes into the next shot, along with some beautiful sunflowers borrowed from the shop!

I decided to shoot this against a simple black background with Ella lying on super soft black velvet and I love the simplicity of the final shot. These apple boxes can be decorated with a baby's name or birth date, or simply "Made with love" etc, so watch this space as I intend to offer newborn packages incorporating the apple box, which can be used as a toy box or planter afterwards.

Mindy and Phil had been given a beautiful stripey blanket by some friends and wanted to use it in a shot, so we incorporated it into the next one with Ella's "big" brother, Ewan. Now this is where our relaxed morning shifted to a different pace, as I worked at the speed of light to capture this active toddler with his new sister! Mindy was thrilled to bits with the resulting pictures - it was very important to her to capture them both together and I like to have a happy client!

I then switched to a plain cream background. It's always nice to have a variety of shots with different props and colours. By this time Ella Rose was in a deep sleep and was very amenable to being posed.

The whole shoot took about two and a half hours and I think Mindy would agree that it was a very stress free experience, interspersed with several cups of tea, a delicious lunch brought across from the Hollies restaurant and quite a few curious visitors! I think our only complaint would have been about the heat! With baby Ella stripped naked for most of the time we had to keep the room nice and warm.

A couple of weeks later I returned to show Mindy and Phil the final photographs and to show them some options for displaying them on the walls. Mindy and I had already discussed before and during the shoot what she wanted to do and I also had some other ideas mocked up.

Mindy was a very well behaved client (!) coming back to me with her order within just a few days, so I was able to get everything turned around for her and delivered back nice and quickly. I love presenting clients with their finished, framed images - it's a magical moment, often with a few tears (of the happy variety!) and I realise all over again why I love this job!

They had chosen a number of different framed images - here are some of them.

I'm looking forward to going back to photograph Ella with her family during the next year and seeing how much she has changed.

If you'd like to see how I set up a newborn photoshoot in your home, check out A newborn photo shoot with Isabella Rose.

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 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!

Mad hatter

I’ve come up with a cunning plan to combine my two favourite hobbies and have even managed to dress it up as a strategic business development opportunity. Number one hobby / obsession has already been turned into a profession (although it will always be a work in progress). My second passion is knitting, especially knitting small things that can be completed over a few days. I used to start far more ambitious projects (note the use of the word “start”), but they usually proved to be costly mistakes. £25 of merino wool either transformed into some hideous garment that I would never wear, or simply didn’t get beyond the half a sleeve stage. Abigail was rummaging through one of my knitting baskets the other day and held up several half-finished and very un-loved projects, querying “What’s this mummy?”. One item was part of an apple green jumper for a seven year old. I could no longer remember which part and Abigail is now ten!

Anyway I digress. I am now knitting hats for newborn babies – devastatingly cute and ultra fast to complete. I can whip one out per night or per double episode of Waking the Dead. I am not diversifying into selling hats for babies (although if needs must...), but I do hope I’ve hit upon a way of breaking into a new photography market. Once upon a time newborn babies were only photographed in hospital, something I didn’t quite get. I wanted to be photographed with my precious new baby but I looked like I’d been attacked by the Michelin Man (a bit like being Tangoed but instead of being turned orange I had been inflated), not to mention the suitcases under my eyes. Many mums (me included) then waited for several months until baby could hold its head up and focus both eyes in the same direction before shelling out for a photo shoot. There’s a growing trend now for babies to be photographed within the first 10-14 days when they still have that newborn, curled up, scrunched up look. The photo shoots take place in the comfort of the home, at a relaxed pace and around the baby’s non-existent schedule. New babies sleep for England and capturing them curled up and oh so new to the world is absolutely magical. They lose that special “newness” within a few weeks, unfurling, filling out and growing at an unbelievable rate. Blink and you’ll miss it. I wish I had taken many more pictures of my children during this brief phase.

During an idle moment perusing knitting books I came across one full of the most outrageous hats for newborns and babies. The photography was gorgeous and I experienced one of those “Eureka” moments. Tiny new babies in super soft chunky hats hand knitted by yours truly. The chunkiness, texture and softness of the woollen hats give a sense of scale and a feeling of protection, as well as just being so darn cute!

Since that moment I've been a one woman knitting factory and have put together a nice little collection of natty hats. I've made very good friends with the lady at the knitting shop in Knutsford - she's probably just being nice because I'm such a good customer now! I've probably scared off a few heavily pregnant women with my eagerness to get a few models for my hats! Thanks to those mums who have let me into their homes to photograph their precious bundles.

My new venture looks as if it's going to reap rewards. I can't wait to photograph baby Ocean next week - suspect the azure blue hat will go down well. And I've had a lot of interest in the hats too. Perhaps I should offer them as a package...!

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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Are you making this basic mistake when taking photographs?

When I run courses and one to one sessions on Digital Photography I find that most people are making the same fundamental mistake. And don't get me wrong, I don't think they're idiots - in fact they are intelligent individuals who are keen to improve their photography skills. The blame lies with the people who write camera manuals that are laborious to read and full of jargon. I always advise people to put the manual away and  a) come on one of my workshops (of course!) and b) read some of the photography books I recommend. Once you've got some basics on board, then the manual starts to make a bit more sense, but is best used as a reference tool - look things up as you need to but don't try to read it from cover to cover.

If camera manuals were well written they would start with a few simple bits of information that would get you started on the right path, but this stuff is usually hidden deep in the manual and called something technical!

So, here's the "biggie" mistake you may be making with your point and shoot compact camera. When you just point your camera at your subject and press the shutter, the camera always focuses in the middle of the frame and that's what will be in focus. 8 times out of 10 that may well be absolutely fine. But what if you are photographing two people and there's a gap between them? Your camera will focus in between the people, making the background in focus and the people blurred. Go on, be honest, you've done this before haven't you!

Did you know that you can focus on one of the people, press the shutter halfway down until the green light comes on and the camera beeps, telling you that it has focused, then keeping the shutter button pressed halfway, move the camera to frame both people and then fully press the shutter down to take the picture. If you practise this a few times, it's really easy and then eventually becomes second nature.

And once you've got the hang of it, you can start to put people, objects etc to one side of your picture and not in the middle. Radical! An example of this might be if you're photographing someone with a lovely landscape behind them. Try putting the person to one side. This may also have the lovely effect of keeping the person in focus whilst the landscape is softly out of focus. In the example below it is our lovely Daisy sulking as she watches people playing on the beach below (no dogs allowed), with St Michael's Mount in the background.

This technique is called FOCUS LOCK - sounds scary doesn't it? But it's so simple and so important!Look it up in your manual now that you know what it is.You can then start to get creative and take pictures of all sorts of things with the point of focus wherever you want it to be. And practise it - after all you can just delete any that don't work.

And if you're taking close up pictures of people's faces ALWAYS makes sure you focus on the eyes. If the eyes aren't in focus your picture just won't work.

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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The 3 "P"s of photographing toddlers

In 2010 I took Katie and Alice's portrait in their home and within a very short time had some picture perfect images of them sitting side by side in party dresses. Dad received a framed picture for his birthday and was, by all accounts, thrilled to bits. One year on and Mum, Tina, wants to mark his birthday again with a more up to date picture of their twin girls. Now, there's one major difference between last year and this - those girls are now toddling! When I arrived they were prettily dressed in matching tops, posh trousers and bows in their hair. Now I had more than a sneaking suspicion that things weren't going to progress as smoothly as last year - after all I've photographed a few hundred toddlers and have begun to understand the species quite well. I was under no illusion about the challenges I faced in trying to capture that perfect moment when two toddlers beamed at me, at the same time, whilst standing or sitting closely together. Once in a blue moon it does happen, usually when I'm changing lenses or catching my breath!

But let's come back to some sort of reality (and normality - I don't want mum to think that her girls are out of the norm!) when dealing with toddlers. They truly define the expression "a law unto themselves" in every sense. Whatever you think they're going to do, you can bet it will be the opposite. They cannot be directed, positioned or posed. Reasoning, begging and pleading fall on deaf ears. Distraction can work but you have to be prepared to work like greased lightening.  I usually enlist the help of mum, dad, nanna and older siblings to act like complete lunatics in order to get a toddler's attention and to earn their smiles and laughter. But remember that we're talking double trouble here and you can guarantee that whilst one child is beaming beautifully at the camera, the other has got closed eyes, hand in mouth or finger up nose! I sometimes use bubbles to get them to look upwards but that usually ends in complete chaos as you can't expect any self respecting toddler to sit quietly and admire the bubbles - where's the fun in that?!

Many of my clients want that dream shot of their beautiful children, smiling together with scrubbed, shiny faces and best party outfits. And if you're lucky and the wind is blowing in the right direction and the gods are smiling down on you then you just might get it. And as kids get older and respond better to bribery and cajoling it becomes much easier. However,I try to persuade parents of babies and very young children that it's better to forget trying to stage manage the shoot, forget Pears Soap portraits and concentrate on photographing toddlers being toddlers. They are absolutely wonderful creatures, fascinated by and engrossed in the world around them. Walking and running is a novelty - they don't care where they're going just as long as they can do go there without being stopped. Toys are great but they'd pick puddles, mud and sand any time.

I hope mum and dad like the photos - we did manage to get a few of the girls smiling side by side (albeit fastened down in their high chairs!), but I will always prefer the portraits of Katie and Alice as they raced around the farm yard, splashing (and sitting) in puddles and bouncing around in glee on the trampoline!

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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!

I have around 55,000 images in my picture library. If I assume that around 50% are work related that leaves 22,500 personal images taken since I got my first digital camera back in 2002. Forgive my shaky mental arithmetic but that works out at about 2,500 per year, or just over 200 per month on average... that actually feels quite reasonable, especially when I consider that I took 360 pictures on our recent holiday in Cape Verde. However, it would be an exhorbitant and quite impossible number if I was still using a film camera - imagine the cost in films, developing, postage or bus fare.
I guess that I could be considered a hard core user when it comes to my photography habit. Strangely enough I am often the only person with a camera at many social occasions, although increasingly less so these days. I feel bereft if I leave the house without at least one camera and am convinced that I will miss a golden opportunity - that once in a lifetime shot. Indeed it is a mantra and firm belief of mine that good photography is as much about opportunity as it is about knowing your way around a camera. Quite simply, it's often about being in the right place at the right time WITH YOUR CAMERA AT THE READY. But I'll save that lecture for another blog and endeavour to keep on topic, which, in case it's not yet apparent, is why do we take so many photographs (some of us admittedly more than others)? I'm excluding professional photographers, myself included and have my personal hat on.
The affordability and accessibility of digital photography has completely changed the way we take photographs and enjoy them. Photography is no longer confined to special occasions and holidays but is a part of our everyday life - a picture snapped on a mobile phone is uploaded onto Facebook in seconds for thousands to view and enjoy. When did someone last show you a dog eared photo of their beloved child or pet from a wallet? I'll bet it was displayed on a phone or IPOD. 
The digital age has changed our relationship with photography but I don't believe that the underlying emotional need has altered. We just do more of it for the same reason - and for me that is to freeze a moment in time, capture it and make it into something more tangible than a fleeting memory. Equally as important is the need to then share that moment with others. And as time goes by, those images of moments that were important enough to us to photograph become increasingly more treasured and special, because the memories fade and cannot possibly retain all the details.
The collection of photographs shown here are all taken from my childhood and represent just about all the pictures of me upto the age of about twelve. Baby photographs are conspicuous in their absence - my mother died when I was around 9 weeks old and photography probably wasn't top of mind for my poor dad. Despite that I am still struck by how few images there are, but this is probably not that unusual for the era (1965-1977). After this period I know there are many more photographs still in my dad's possession - he was a bit of  a gadget fiend and was (and still is) a keen photographer. But this handful of pictures is extremely valuable to me - I see things I couldn't possibly remember and without photography those details would be lost forever. The picture of my mum is one of only 3 that I have, sadly there are none of her with me. What I also find interesting is how much the line blurs between what we think we remember and what we are actually remembering from photographs. Our memories of smells and how things felt are often more accurate than of things we saw. I can remember how the big old sofa in the living room felt both velvety and rough and had soft gold fringes around the cushions but I can't remember sitting on it with my brothers and a ball bigger than me!
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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!

Made in Cheshire

Dinner, bed and breakfast at a luxury country hotel and kids on sleepovers – fantastic! As soon as offspring and dog were despatched, we headed off to Nunsmere Hall Hotel with a guilty sense of freedom and anticipation of an evening of fine food and wine.

This was likely to be a bit of a busman’s holiday for me, having promised to take a few photographs of the food, as it was a rather special event – a Made in Cheshire evening with all the food sourced from within the county, even including staple ingredients such as flour and salt. As people gathered in the bar and on the terrace in the warm evening sunshine, they were offered a champagne flute of locally made, chilled cider. I, in the meantime, was nipping in and out of the kitchen photographing Chef for the evening, Mark Fletcher, putting the finishing touches to the canapés of scotch quails eggs and welsh toast. I did find time to sample both the cider and canapés and was very pleasantly surprised by just how refreshing and enjoyable cider can be, as an alternative to the more traditional champagne.

I had spent some time chatting with Mark, usually the Sous Chef at Nunsmere, but very much in charge of the Made in Cheshire evening, and he had told me with some pride how he had personally sourced all of the ingredients from suppliers within a thirty mile radius of Nunsmere Hall. He came into the bar to welcome the diners and to talk enthusiastically and humorously about the menu, despite being much more comfortable behind the scenes in the busy, hot kitchen. I don’t envy anyone working in such a heated and pressured environment – it would be my idea of hell – but the kitchen staff seem to thrive on it. Behind the swing doors it was noisy with the banging and clattering of pans, instructions were shouted across the kitchen, there were people rushing about and all seemed rather chaotic to me. But then as a course was plated up and Chef shouted “service!” suddenly all fell into place, waiters and waitresses appeared as if by magic and calmly ferried the dishes out to the dining room. Mark took a gulp of tea from his West Ham mug (I promised to fit in a mention!) and then moved onto preparing the next course.

Out in the restaurant everyone was enjoying the gazpacho with a selection of breads made from locally milled flour. This was followed by a visually stunning goat’s cheese and beetroot dish, which brought out the geek in my husband: “it’s a cone bisected by a plane, which would create an ellipse if sliced across...”. Personally I just thought it looked amazing and tasted divine! Each course was accompanied by a different wine and we had a lively conversation about how hard it is to find wine that tastes as good as those in a restaurant. I think we were underestimating the skill required to match wine with food and then serve it at the right temperature in the correct glass. The goat’s cheese was followed by trout caught locally.

By now my fellow diners and long suffering husband were getting used to me dashing away from the table between courses – at least the presence of my camera reassured them that I hadn’t just got a very weak bladder! In the kitchen the medallions of beef were being plated up and Mark’s two young sous chefs for the evening were carefully adding the vegetables. The attention to detail in the presentation of food never fails to amaze me – as an artist bends in concentration, nose almost touching the canvas, so a chef leans over each dish, carefully positioning each item and then adding jus or sauce with a flourish like a signature. The end result looked almost too good to eat, but you could soon hear the scraping of cutlery on empty plates and the rise in chatter that signals the end of a course. We were enjoying the company of the people around us, the majority being strangers to us beforehand. The couple next to us explained that they had bid for the Made in Cheshire Evening (plus bed and breakfast) at a charity auction, with Steven, at the time, under the illusion he was bidding for a balloon ride and egging on his partner, Jane, to bid increasingly higher!

As we enjoyed a short break before dessert, we could see a figure with a torch roaming around the edges of the garden and eventually setting up a white sheet and bright lamp on the lawn. This turned out to be Fungal Punk, a familiar figure at Nunsmere Hall, preparing for a late night moth hunt. I don’t know about anyone else, but in my experience a restaurant dinner has never been followed by a midnight search for Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies to you and me), but more on that in a moment! Dessert was a fruit salad served with locally made elderflower ice cream , followed by a fantastic selection of Cheshire cheeses. I could have grazed on the cheese and sipped port until bedtime but the moths were gathering outside to put on a show for us. Actually it turned out to be a little too late and a little too bright (almost full moon) for them and they had to be enticed out with a mixture of wine and treacle daubed on tree trunks. We must have made a strange sight weaving our slightly tipsy way through the tree line along the edges of the lawn, stopping to peer at moths and spiders in the light of Fungal Punk’s torch (the only torch (!) and we lost a few diners along the way!).

Back to the bar, laughing about our midnight walk and a quick brandy before bed. This was a delicious, fun, and very entertaining evening and nothing like hard work for me.

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!

Perks of the Job

Actually there are two recent shoots which could warrant this title! The reason the first qualified as a perk is a bit sexist I suppose but I don’t think the clients will mind! The owners of the gorgeous and very friendly Bez (see earlier blog) gave my name to a couple, Stacey and Lee, with four month old India. I was really looking forward to this shoot, partly because I love photographing very young babies, but also because I knew they wanted a very stylised black and white look to the photographs. Oh – and how could I forget to mention that they also have a very handsome boxer dog called Kilo! Regular followers of my blog will know that we have a boxer too and that immediately pre-supposes that we will get on well with all other boxer owners – a bit like the Porsche owners club! (Although I don’t think Porsche would thank me for that analogy!).

Stacey had a very clear idea of what she wanted – very simple images of Lee with India primarily and then anything else was a bonus. With Lee stripped to the waist holding a naked India I set about capturing some special moments between father and daughter. We worked fast as babies have a tendency to mood swings and frequent calls of nature (India only peed all over Lee once!) and I could immediately tell that we were going to have some lovely photographs. It would have been a real shame for Stacey not to be in the shots as well and so I got a few great shots of all three of them. Stacey was wearing a strapless maxi dress and the final shots are just gorgeous, with no clothes to distract from the simplicity. The final challenge was to get some shots of Kilo and then of the family altogether. I have to say that Kilo was brilliantly behaved – are we the only people with a completely bonkers boxer dog?! What could have been utter chaos – parents with baby and dog – was really easy and painless; in fact the whole shoot had been very enjoyable, not like work at all!

Back to perks of the job – it wasn’t until I got back home and looked through the pictures that I realised I had been photographing a really hunky, half naked man. I was quite impressed with my own professionalism – not being distracted on the job as it were! Anyway, I loved the pictures and by all accounts Stacey and Lee are very pleased too. India is absolutely gorgeous and it was exactly the right way to photograph her, so that her beautiful baby skin, tiny toes and fingers and big eyes are the focus of every shot. To find out about the second perk read my blog “A night with a difference”.

Mad dogs and english men...

... out in the midday sun! Phew! We've had an arctic Spring so far and then suddenly we're sweltering in mediterranean temperatures with no chance to gradually acclimatise. I've been on the verge of complaining that it's too hot but have caught myself in time and just made the most of it. I'm never more certain that I made the right decision to work for myself than when the sun is shining, I no longer have to commute to work and I can choose to be outside whenever I want. This week I've done several outdoor shoots - watch this space for more on twin boys with a lively puppy and a Weimaraner called Bez who took rather a liking to me! I've also been to three different gardens - 2 in Cheshire for my Picture It in the Garden Challenge - and one in Derbyshire.
If you are a keen gardener or visitor of gardens then you'll know that the flowers of the moment are azaleas, camelias and rhododendrons. Yesterday we went to Lea Rhododendron Gardens with Nana Maggie (the nanas in our family have to adopt the name of their dog to help the children know which one we are refering to and Maggie is a black lab owned by my stepmum Ann). We last visited Lea (nr Matlock) about 10 years ago and Nic has never let me forget that I shoved him (gently!) in the back and caused him to go head over heels down a path. Steep paths wind their way down the hillside through rhodendron bushes as high as single storey buildings and laden with stunning blooms of every hue. The kids really enjoyed exploring, hiding from each other and occasionally calling out "I'm down here, you numpty!"

Back to almost complaining about the weather - it was stinking hot in the gardens with hardly a breath of fresh air but luckily lots of shade under the rhodendron bushes and plenty of little shady benches to sit awhile and drink in the view. Shade was a scarce commodity in the tea gardens though and pensioners are particularly spritely when they spot a table with an umbrella suddenly becoming vacant! I'm usually a champion at elbowing my way over to a free table before anyone else but I was no match for this bunch.

We've enjoyed the sudden arrival of Summer in lots of other ways. The kids have almost lived outside and the hose pipe seemed to be a good substitute for a paddling pool (which fell foul of Daisy's claws last year). We've all had a lot of fun - me especially - with a bubble set which created enormous irridescent bubbles. We've spent ages swinging in the hammocks - until Nic and Daisy somehow put their feet / claws through the big one - it now has a yawning hole and I'm replacing it at Tatton in July (Nic's paying!). And we spent an interesting hour or so at the lake which has become a mecca for people far and wide on sunny afternoons.  The heat did get the better of us by the end of the afternoon and we came back to find shade in the garden. Anyhow, I'm really not complaining and it's not often I can blog outside at 9pm - it's been idyllic this weekend and long may it last (as long as it cools down just a bit!)

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!

My lovely 50mm lens

(Sorry for the annoying centre alignment - it's refusing all my efforts to left align - some bug in Picasa I think!)
I've been battling with this lens a bit since I bought it a couple of months back.
I'm not sure if every one is the same but I tend to have a breaking in period with any bit of new kit. I've used it a fair amount but unlike my other lenses, the results have been a bit hit and miss - too many over-exposed or out of focus shots. I've finally worked out that shooting at such low f-stops -it's the Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens - was the main cause of the problems. I love shallow depth of field, closely cropped shots, so was tending to mainly shoot at f/1.8 - 3.2 - this needs a huge degree of accuracy and is not easy with fast moving portrait shoots. When I have a problem with a new piece of equipment I force myself to use it exclusively for some non-work photography. So over this last weekend, which incorporated Father's Day, a visit to the mother-in-law's garden and a trip to the seaside, I left all my other lenses at home and had a proper play around with this one. With no deadlines or pressure to deliver I think I've mastered it and have a series of images that I'm really pleased with. With no other lenses to hand I've shot close up and distant in various light conditions. Subjects were as ever the kids and flowers. My 60mm lens is my fail safe, amazingly clear and sharp portrait lens but too narrow for close ups of three people, so to get some great quality, head and shoulder shots of the kids & Nic was good news. My favourite picture taken yesterday at Llandudno was of Abigail blowing bubbles off the pier (in black & white above). I think it really gives a strong sense of place and almost nostalgic atmosphere (but perhaps that's just the G&T talking!).
Nic's mum's garden never disappoints at this time of year - the beds and containers are filled to over flowing with scores of different flowers and shrubs. I was, for the first time over the weekend, seriously regretting not packing the macro lens but soon realised that using the 50mm lens was forcing me to compose differently, look more at the whole plant. And the f/1.8 aperture was creating some seriously beautiful background effects. Astrantia is one of my favourite flowers for plant portraits - so small and delicate but very architectural and with lots of interesting markings. I've shot them lots of times before but with the 50mm lens have managed a different take on them.
So it's turned out to be a real little beauty and worth much more to me than the £75 I paid for it.
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