What To Make The Camera See

More often than not in photography in general we are looking for a great picture, and that’s certainly very true whilst shooting a wedding.

Sometimes however, the situation doesn’t quite lend itself to giving you the right ingredients for that great image, but a compromise has to be sought. Take today’s wedding with Samantha & Andrew. They hired me for a half day coverage, so my day was done before the far nicer sunset light was upon us, but I still wanted to get them the best imagery I could for their Bride/Groom portraiture.

As the weather this afternoon was very very bright, with not a cloud in the sky I employed the trick, or should I say sensible approach of working in the shade, so I could control the off camera lighting on the couple and the bring a bit of the sting out of the harsh light in the sky by under exposing the images a tad to leave the sky a nice crisp blue.

For me though this wasn’t quite enough, I wanted to take in a step further and get them something that would normally be shot far later in the day, and with the the help of my wife, and one of the guests, I manged to get that shot.

As you’ll see here in these shots of me by the swimming pool, the sky was very very bright, and the reflection of the couple wasn’t great with natural light along. My wife and the guest stood at either end of the swimming pool and held out two light stands with my most powerful flashguns pointing at Sam and Andy. I under exposed the image in camera far greater than I had before with the other portrait shots of the couple and then hit them with a lot of light from the flashguns.

The result was a nicely darkened sky and background, isolating the couple and making them stand out, but also their reflection has now come alive as well.

I love doing this kinda stuff and getting stunning imagery for my brides and grooms. To the naked eye at the time of shooting these images you’d never have believed it was possible to make the camera see something so different to how we saw it at the time. But with the right knowledge, and the correct gear, it’s definitely possible.

Dom :-)

Nikon SB-910 or Is It Time For A Shanny

You, like I did, might well be wondering what on earth a Shanny is. You’ve probably already assumed that it must be something to do with camera lighting and it is, it’s a Flashgun.

So why might I be interested in whether it should be time for a Shanny, well, on Saturdays wedding (22/08/15) my Nikon SB-900 blew its tube, going off with big bang just inches above my head. Did it make me jump? the dent in the ceiling should confirm that, but regardless of the fright it left me short of a flash. Which for the main part isn’t a problem as I have two others, but it left me needing a work around for the 1st dance where I shoot with three. One commander on the camera, putting out a minimal amount of light, and two slaves either side of the dancefloor and behind the happy couple, thus putting them in a stunning silhouette. So my workaround was to use the pop up flash to command the two slaves, which is fine, but on small dancefloors and finding myself to close to the dancing couple the pop up flash won’t clear the 24-70 lens properly, therefore leaving a shadow on the lower quarter of the image, so when using this work around I simply have to be very mindful of my position and the way I am am shooting.

Sounds like I have experience of using this work around before, and I have, after losing two flashguns at different weddings whereby light stands have toppled over in the wind smashing said flashguns on the floor. Not ideal I know, but the work around works, however, the financial pain of replacing these flashguns is getting a bit beyond a joke.

So I guess I should be more careful, well in the previous two cases I guess there is a call for it, but working under pressure on weddings where every minute counts you can’t always have you mind on the next gust of wind and what may happen to your gear. Having the element explode on me of course is just sheer bad luck and clear sign of how busy I have been of late, but I’m simply tired of having to spend out £225-£335 on either a new Nikon SB-700 or Nikon SB-910 when there are no guarantees that I won’t be replacing these in the near future either, and to be honest if you strip down the flashgun to its bear parts and see whats in there you would never agree that it’s worth that much, they are way overpriced.

Looking at secondhand see the prices drop to a far more manageable £180-£200 for the SB-900 or £240/£260 for the SB-910 but I am still aware that there are 3rd party flashguns far cheaper than this brand new. So initially I investigated the Youngnuo range and was all set to jump in and get one but on reading one review the photographer involved mention a new brand called Shanny and he expressed his surprise at exactly how good the SN600SN was in terms of function and build quality, so I spent the next hour or so checking out videos and blogs and found there wasn’t a huge amount of info but what there was was incredibly positive.

My order, which on the back of the price and positivity towards it, went from one to two flashguns arrived today and I have to say that on just opening the box you get a sense of quality that you wouldn’t really expect from a cheap alternative. I know the box means nothing in reality but it was that same style and build quality that a Samsung or Apple device would arrive in.

Taking it out of the box I’ve found the case it comes with to be decent as well. It’s not just a wrap around material but a padded case with a belt loop and hook. Removing it from the case I found the cold shoe, which is plastic as expected but the lightstand screw mount thread is also plastic, so this is the first negative compared to the Nikon which has a metal thread. I can live with that though, I just have to remember not to over tighten it.

The flashgun itself feels sturdy, well made and looks the part as well and sits perfectly on top of the camera in the hotshoe, and thanks to the Canon style locking mechanism, holds very firmly in place.

Going with the Canon style. I’m not a Canon shooter, never have been, but I do believe its style and function mimics one of their flashes, and if the menu system is the same then I have to say they are very easy Flashes to work with as the menu system and button layout is very easy to get on with. I’ve already figured out how I access all that I would need to and how to change what I would need to change.

Still, I’m finding no negatives, other than the plastic thread of the cold shoe, so I guess I’ll find it’s down fall in the actual use.

My first few shots with it on top of the camera are a perfect success, in fact I used it to light the shots of the flashgun sitting on top of the box. It was in i-TTL mode and nailed the exposure first time. I’ve since gone on to test the exposure compensation settings and as expected it goes up and down in power just as you would expect. So it’s main function seems to work well, but where does it stand on the power side of things, where does it rank against the Nikons.

Obviously I don’t have a working 900 anymore but I do have the 700 and 800, so, I put together a small test that goes some way to show it’s no slouch, though the test was not to the absolute millimeter accurate but it’s as close as  it can be without a tape measure.

Basically I put one of the wife’s ornaments on the black TV cabinet, set the SB-700 on top of the camera on manual at 1/1. I set the camera to ISO100, 1/200th and f/22, and the following image was the result shot at 70mm

Next I placed the SB-800 on top and with it also set to manual 1/1 I used the same camera settings to see if it would be any brighter. I took the shot pretty much the same place also at the same 70mm and this was the result.

Lastly I did exactly the same with the Shanny.

As you can see it puts out far more light than the two Nikons, just as an SB-900/910 would do so I’m very happy that it packs enough power into each flash. Thats not to say I shoot at full power, but sometimes when you are battling very bright sunshine in the bride/groom portraiture I might very well need full power.

This last image I shot again with the Shanny with the same flash power settings, and all the camera settings remained the same apart from dropping the ISO to 50 and it brings the exposure to about right, in fact it’s probably just a tad to bright still.

All of these test shots were done with the flash on the camera but how will it get on off camera with the use of my Phottix Odin triggers and receivers. As it happens very well. I went through a few shots, changing from TTL to manual, running up and down the power settings and it all responded just as it should.


Off Camera TTL


My last test was to ensure the Nikon Creative Lighting System works so that I can continue to use it for my first dance sequences and……it’s perfect.

I’m going to be putting these two flashguns to the ultimate test on Thursday when I shoot Tayla & Chris’ wedding, but as far as I can tell these Flashguns have just blown the Nikon ones out of the water. If I get any issues with them on Thursday then I might have to reassess this next line, but I won’t be buying anymore Nikon Flashguns!

Oh, and what did they cost £68 on Amazon, though they can be found on eBay as well. Hence why I bought two, so should I ever smash one ever again I can still shoot my first dance with three flashguns. I paid a little extra in postage to get them here well ahead of the wedding on Thursday so I could put them to the test. I know I can get my SB-900 repaired and it would have probably been cheaper than buying the both of these, but the repair wouldn’t have been done in time. Still, once it is repaired I can sell it for nearly £200 and get myself two more Shanny’s and then sell my 700 and 800 to get some finances back after investing way to much in flashguns that only command the cost due to the name.

I hope very much not to be reporting back on these by Friday but rather to be giving a positive update in 6 months or so on how well they are going….time will tell I guess.


Thanks for dropping by.

Dom :-)

How Did I Get 42 Weddings Booked This Year?

It was four years ago that I stumbled my way in to shooting my cousins wedding. It was the usual story that a lot of full time wedding photographers would cringe at, that, as someone with no experience of shooting weddings, I shouldn’t even be entertaining the thought of attempting a wedding, even one that was for a family member, but I did. However, I did’t end up shooting that wedding alone as I roped in the very excellent photographer Scot Baston to help guide me through the day, and I’m glad he did. I thoroughly enjoyed it but was glad of the help.

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After that shoot it took me another 4 or 5 months to pluck up the courage to make people aware that I was open to taking more weddings on. The imagery from that first wedding was wholly acceptable and some of that shoot still plays a part in my advertising portfolio, and proudly so, but there was still the mental block of self doubt and a distinct lack of confidence as I still believed that the age old “You’re good enough to be a pro” coming from the mouth of a friend or family member wasn’t reason enough to actually go ahead and do it.

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At the time I know I will have had conversations with Scot, and indeed with another very good wedding photographer Shelly Lovegrove and between them and few nice words of encouragement from other togs I looked up to, I took that step to advertise my availability and as expected the response was very slow.

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At that stage I had no reason to have any expectations over my photography ever becoming a business of any worth, with weeks between enquiries and months between bookings it would have been very easy to just pack it all in and leave it at that, but I stuck at it. I’d enjoyed my first wedding shoot and had eventually built the hunger to do it again and prove the first was no fluke. Finally the next wedding came in, it was shot, and was thankfully a success like the first.

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I knew then that I wanted to do it yet again make it a success, though how much of a success I wasn’t sure. Did I want as my full time job, as a 50/50 with my then current business in Chauffeuring or would one wedding a month be enough? My thought process at that time was to under estimate what I wanted, setting no specific target, so as to create a self preservation mindset that would see no disappointment in only doing a small number but believing in the baby step routine that any step forward would be a good one. To be fair, in doing that and knowing that I could earn from the chauffeuring it meant I could keep the ball rolling, albeit slowly, and not have to worry.

Katherine & Marcus-209                Vicky & Rhys-295

It was this time last year that I faced a huge dilemma and for the first time my expectations on my photography business had to be analysed, questioned and realised. The licenses to do with my chauffeuring business, and the insurance was due all within 2 weeks of each other and I had to decide whether we needed the car business to get us through the coming winter months where the photography would go quiet.

Laura & Stuart-285                Lois & Chris-177

As it was last year ended with 26 wedding shoots and at this point last year I had shot probably 17/18 of them and had 5/6 more to shoot with two end of year bookings still to arrive. My decision on whether the photography would be enough to see us through was a complete knife edge choice, I was so so close to believing it could sustain us and we’d be alright, but I had this nagging doubt it wouldn’t be enough and so I chickened out and paid for the licensing and insurance, a combined bill of about £1750.

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You know whats coming next though, yeah, it was a waste of money. I shut the car business down in November last year as the bookings for the photography just continued to roll in. I was lucky enough to get a rebate from the insurance on the unused term of 9 months but as you’d expect there was no way of getting anything back from the council.

DSC_6069               Jemma & Nick-389

Just after Christmas 2014 I had reached 17 wedding bookings for 2015 and I hoped I could get up to that magical 26 weddings again for the whole year, that way I knew my choice to shut down the car business will have been justified. Roll forward the diary to mid January 2015 and in that 3 week period I took on a further 10 wedding bookings for the year, and since then I’ve been very lucky to have had a steady flow of more for this year, resulting in me taking my 42nd for the year just a couple of weeks back.

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Right now I have done 25 of them, and the imagery you are seeing in this blog is one image from each of those weddings and my thanks go to each and every one of those 25 couples for giving me the privilege of shooting their big days. I’m truly humbled that this many people have trusted me to get them the imagery that they want, and the same goes for the 17 more couples I have left to capture on camera this year. I have no idea if this is a freak year, or whether this is the way its always likely to be, but it would probably be unwise of me to set a target of achieving the same again next year, hitting 30 would be ideal, any more than that would be a major bonus.

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The one thing this big increase in work has done is to extend the amount of time I am editing, quite obviously really, and instead of having a 2/3/4 wedding long queue of edits, I’m currently about 9/10 behind, which wasn’t helped by a 3 shoots in one weekend a few weeks back, but I am working my way through it, though my workflow was brought to a juddering halt today when my youngest and most inquisitive son decided to investigate my Wacom tablet/pen and put them through his level of quality testing, unbeknownst to me, only for me to return to a broken tablet and obliterated pen. Very normally he wouldn’t get hold of these bits as they would be in the studio, but we’ve just had a few days away and as Daddy is so busy and behind he took his computer with him so he could edit by evening/night.

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I’m now back up and running in the edit department thanks to Park Cameras as I now have the Intuos Pro Medium to replace my wrecked one, and I have just finished setting it up to run the way I want it to with Lightroom, Photoshop and Perfect Photo Suite. Not exactly what I had planned for the day but, well needs must and the editing has to go on, so the replacement was quickly sorted.

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The one thing I can say is that I have no hard and fast method or ploy for how I have become so busy this year and got so many weddings booked. I guess a lot of it is down to having had previous couples that are very happy with what I have done for them on the day after by way of the images they’ve then received from me at a later date. I’m always astounded by how often I get told by the couple or their direct families, just as I go to leave at the end of the night, that I did a fantastic job, put a huge amount of effort in and that it was a pleasure to have me there…….yet at that point they’ve hardly seen an image that I shot on the day. It all adds up to telling me I did my job, not the imagery part as such, I kinda know I’ve got that in the bag, but in the way I’ve acted out my job in terms of being friendly, fun, professional, organised and on hand to help with any given situation to the best of my abilities to ensure the happy couple get a day to remember.


Well, I’d best get back to the editing, after all it won’t get itself done, and I’m not going to out-source it just to get it done. I would much rather be in full control of the edits so that the end results my couple get will be my own work and style, even if they have to wait just that little bit longer.

Many thanks for stopping by :-)


Dom :-)

Want To Use Your Camera Like A Pro?

A few days back I found myself following a link from a Facebook post to a photography blog that professed to give you a heads up on features to use on your camera that’ll have you shooting like a pro in no time, so intrigue took the better of me and I had to have a look and see if I was missing a trick or two.

Well I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the knowledge this blog post was willing to give away as good sturdy basis behind getting the most out of your camera that’d have you shooting like the best in the business.  The advice hinged around shooting bracketed, which if your purposefully after an HDR result would be fine, but if you’re shooting bracketed exposures just to cover all bases to ensure that at least one shot was perfectly exposed then it’s not teaching anything but preaching the technique of spraying shot and praying for a result.

The second gem was to use the Depth Of Field preview button. Whilst I guess this can be handy, as such, I’ve never really found it does much other than darken the viewfinder as it closes the aperture making the sceen harder to see, unless your shooting wide open. I’d much prefer to see those wanting to up their game simply learn what happens to depth of field at any given aperture setting and how this is then affected by changing the focal length, and how using the aperture to your advantage can make your resulting images more creative. Then there would be no real need to struggle to see what the depth of field preview might be trying to show you.

The last was using the inbuilt spirit level, which depending on the camera might be displayed through the viewfinder if it’s an EVF or on the main LCD screen on the back, to ensure you don’t have wonky images. Whilst it’s true I don’t really want wonky images I quite simply don’t have to get it spot on in camera as it takes just 5 seconds in Lightroom to get it spot on anyway.

The one thing that relates to all three things that makes them mildly pointless is time. On a pro shoot, say a wedding, I’ve got no time to waste spraying and praying, stopping to check that the depth of field I have is correct for what I want to achieve or that the image is perfectly level. Whilst the levelling can be fixed afterwards, all I quite simply need is to have the knowledge of how to shoot like a pro to ensure I don’t need to resort to using the mildly gimmicky inbuilt features that won’t actually have me shooting like a pro at all.

If you want to shoot like a pro, learn these three basic things. Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. 

Figure out what the aperture does to the depth of field, why and when you would want it set in certain ways. For example, a detailed shot of the wedding rings, for me, would be shot at f/8 to ensure a good amount of the rings were in focus, yet a portrait of the bride might be at f/4 so I can blur way the background.

Learn about shutter speeds and how to ensure you don’t suffer movement blur from either the bride walking to fast down the aisle or through your inability to remain steady enough with a slow shutter speed, and then in turn what the advantages and disadvantages of altering the ISO would be.

There are a few ways to learn about these things depth and what they do. Reading through resources in books or online. The other is to get the camera and experiment, play with the settings and visually see what’s occurring, but I’m not going to teach you directly here about them other than to say, if you want to learn to shoot like a pro, then you simply must learn about those three very basic things.

It’s what I did, and here I am now, a good few years later a have to admit, lucky enough to be shooting as a pro. The truth of the matter really is that even though both my cameras have all manner of features there are pretty much only six things I’m ever using or bothered about throughout the course of a shoot. Focal length, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, the inbuilt light meter and flash compensation (for when I’m using the flashgun). Understanding that lot means I get the best of of my cameras and gets great images, so I’d urge you to do the same to.

It might be handy or fun to have a few added features on a camera to use, but they won’t really have you shooting like a pro, learning the fundamental basics of photography will give you a far greater chance……..that and practice, lots of practice, fun practice, so go have some fun and I’ll catch up with you sometime soon.
Thanks for stopping by, and……..Happy learning!

Dom 😀


Has The Photography Hobby Ended?

I’ve no idea when it started but photography for me was always a hobby and very little else, away from my family or work, took my interest, well, apart from football I guess. I would always be on the look out for opportunities to be out shooting and it would bug me if that opportunity didn’t arise.

Four years or so ago I ventured into the possibilities of turning my photography hobby into something more serious and slowly but surely my business in photography started to get somewhere, but as it grew I failed to notice the decline in the hobby, to the point these days where I don’t have a hobby in photography. Pretty much everything I do with my cameras is attached to work.

That, by the way, isn’t a sob story because I get the same enjoyment out of my cameras when working on weddings or shooting portraiture, knowing the images I take will remain as part of those families memories for a lifetime and very possibly a lot longer, but after a long days shoot or editing session I don’t get the urge to go off and take photos for myself anymore.

I now have a new hobby to add some get away moments back into my life, as well as it giving the added benefit of slowly turning me from a 16 stone lump into a slightly more toned 14 and a half stone version of myself. I’m now a mountain biker once more, though Surrey is somewhat devoid of mountains but does have its fair share of hills and country parks.

I say once more because in my younger days I did enjoy bike riding, but learning to drive and finding a social life ended that as a mode of transport and at the age of 24 becoming self employed as a chauffeur ended all sporting activities that could harm my ability to work should I become injured. Of course the absence exercise wasn’t great for my health and fitness, but hey that’s life. Trouble is after 15 years of the lazy lifestyle I put on a bit of weight. I’d always been around 12/13 stone and so being 16 stone I felt it was time to do something about it.

The options where joining a gym, which I had done 3 or so years ago and got bored of after a few months, or getting a bike. The choice was easy, and quite surprisingly it was nearly quite as easy to convince the wife that the financial spend would be worthwhile, thankfully, and that is something photography and cycling have very much in common, the amount you can end up spending!

There are mountain bikes that can be had for £150 and then there are those that are at £4000 and above, and its the same with cameras, and just like when anyone gets started in photography there is little point in buying the very best possible if you have no idea how to use it or if you have no idea how involved your even going to get with it. So I bought a budget bike with the outlook of upgrading a few bits as I went along.

This bike purchase was back on Feb the 1st, 2015, and I have to say that going out riding is a bug that’s bitten me hard, I love it. Yeah early on some of the longer rides would be a bit of a killer and the hills were hard work, and even now the steeper ones really do give the legs a bit of a burning, but as of today (15th May 2015) according to Strava I’ve already clocked up 590 km’s (approx 367 miles) and there is no sign of that number stopping there as I’ll be out again in a few days adding another 30 or so km’s for sure.

One other added bonus to these rides, now I have some decent fitness I’m venturing further and riding in places that I wouldn’t attempted due to the kind of effort it would take to ride, like along the ups and downs of the North Downs, but as a result of this I’m now starting to find some awesome scenery and it’s effectively right on my doorstep, and whats more I’m finding the need to photograph some of it as I go along, so it seems the hobby side of photography isn’t dead to me after all!

What I need to sort out is a decent but small camera as the one I use is just my phone, and yes I know the best camera you have us the one you have to hand, but I can’t stand the fact that on bright days you can hardly see the screen to see what your taking a photo of.

So, where once I thought photography was lost to me as a hobby it has returned with the addition of getting fit, making new friends on group rides, and having a blast on the fast, twisty, adrenaline pumping downhill stretches of these rides I get to go on, and with that in mind I’m off to plan my next ride.

Thanks for dropping by.

Dom :-)

(Oh and excuse the wonkiness of the images, they are all from my phone and unaided by editing or a spirit level lol)