Posted tagged ‘black and white’

Taking images that sell.

January 14, 2011

I’m a subscriber to a stock image library called Alamy Images.  A stock library is a source of images for book publishers, website designers, magazines, newspapers, in fact anyone who needs images for their publications.  Alamy is a large stock library, and it now has over 21 million (!) images for sale.  The deal is simple: I take the images. I upload the images to Alamy. Someone searches for and then buys an image.  They pay Alamy and use the image.  Alamy take a commission and pays me the balance.

So what is it that people buy? 

"Whirling Hygrometer" by Derek Gale

This image is my best-seller.  It’s of a whirling hygrometer that’s used to measure the humidity of the air.  It was great fun taking the image whilst holding the camera one-handed and whirling the hygrometer with the other.  Not usually a good recipe for a sharp image!  It’s been used in various textbooks in a number of countries round the world.

"Fly tipping" by Derek Gale

This image was my first ever sale on Alamy.  It’s of some fly tipping just off the A420 near Swindon in Wiltshire.  I was passing, and as always was carrying a camera.  I stopped and took some shots.  It’s not exactly very pretty, and it’s not a very creative image, but earned me a $250 sale, so I wasn’t complaining!  This is a really good example of something that most people would walk past producing a saleable image.

"The Sage, Gateshead" by Derek Gale

This image, of the Sage Arts Centre in Gateshead, has also sold several times.  I was on my way to a friend’s wedding in Scotland, and stopped off in Newcastle overnight.  The weather the next day was great so I wandered around taking some stock images.  This image was taken from the Newcastle side of the River Tyne, and it’s probably so successful because it’s a very simple clear image of a landmark building in sunny weather.

"Kit's Coty" by Derek Gale

This is another wedding-related image.  It’s of “Kit’s Coty” which is a Neolithic chambered long barrow near the Medway valley in Kent.  It was taken whilst I was photographing a wedding reception in an appropriately named venue nearby.  The blue colour comes from the use of a blue filter in front of the flash.  The flash was on the ground just inside the railings and was fired remotely.  This shot was used in a Halloween-related publication in October 2010.  They clearly liked the spooky blueness.

"Westmill wind farm" by Derek Gale

This image is my most recent sale, I only found out about it today!  It’s of the wind farm at Westmill near Watchfield, in Oxfordshire.  It took most of a day to find the best place to take the shot.  On another day, with the wind and light in different directions, somewhere else would be the best place.  The image was used in a UK national newspaper this week (11th/12th Jan 2011).  With Alamy you aren’t told where your images have been used, just that a sale has been made.  If you are lucky someone sees it, and posts a report on the Alamy forum.  So if you’ve seen it please let me know!

I’ve just had another batch of images accepted by Alamy’s Quality Control department, so I now need to do the keywording that will enable the images to be found, and then hopefully be bought.  The great thing about stock libraries like Alamy is that you can earn money while you are sleeping!

Cheers,

Derek   www.galephotography.co.uk

Here’s to the next 10 years!

January 6, 2011

It’s my 10th anniversary!  On Jan 1st 2011 Gale Photography celebrated being in business for 10 whole years. Woo hoo!!!

It’s been great fun working with all the changes since 2001.  Back then it was hard to predict just how much the technology of photography would change in just a few short years.  The digital revolution was underway but many photographers still used film.  Today the default is digital, and there are very few users of film. 

When I went professional I used a Rolleiflex 2.8f medium format film camera.  It was, and is, a fabulous tool ( I still have it), but it only took 12 images on one film, so it meant that I had to change films quite often.  I shot colour on the Rollei, but as my wedding photography involved black and white images as well, I also had to have a 35mm film camera loaded with B&W film.  I also carried a 2 spare 35mm cameras loaded with colour film.  It was all very heavy, and all the wedding guests shot film too.

"It's a film camera!" by Derek Gale

Digital arrived in my professional photography life in the middle of 2001, and my first digital camera was a compact.  The Kodak DC4800 “Professional Digital Imaging System” was a 3 million pixel camera that cost an eye-watering £600.  The 128Mb compact flash card I needed for it cost an even more eye-watering £175!!  To put that into perspective, nowadays a typical 8Gb compact flash card, (64 times more capacity) is around £20. 

"3 mega pixels" by Derek Gale

I did use the Kodak the following week for an urgent commercial photography job and it was great.  This shot was done in camera with a colour-filtered Vivitar 283 flashgun on a long lead lighting the background, and another 283 on the camera lighting the bag in the foreground. What you can’t see is my assistant standing up a ladder out of shot pouring the grain into the sack.

2003 saw the really big change when I got my first digital SLR.   It was the oddly named Pentax *istD.  This 6Mp camera cost me £1200 just for the body, and would be considered to have a very low specification today.  From the first day of using it I was inspired!  I loved the freedom, the flexibility, and the “insurance”.  Insurance?  Well, with a film camera you send away the precious original negative to be processed/printed, and if it gets lost you’re in trouble. With a digital camera you only ever send a copy, so you increase your customers’ confidence.

"Ian & car" by Derek Gale

The really great thing about digital that I found so liberating was the ability to experiment and see the result immediately.  This portrait of a guy and his beloved Range Rover is an example.  I was able to slightly rearrange the composition and check it, then alter the exposure and check it again, to give the image I wanted.  With film this would have been much more difficult.  Digital makes the whole photographic experience much more interactive and much more fun.

"Dog portrait" by Derek Gale

In 2006 I moved from Pentax to Nikon as I wanted a wider range of lenses than Pentax offered, and I’ve stayed with Nikon since then.  The fast response and great lenses let me get candid images, of people or their pets, that would have been very hard in the Rollieflex days.

"Hands" by Derek Gale

That’s some of the technology changes over the last 10 years, but what’s stayed the same?  Well, the need to be as photographically creative as possible and to offer customers; the best possible images, the best customer experience, and the best value, have been constants.  Without offering these the equipment used is irrelevant.

I’ve met some fantastic people over the last 10 years, and it’s been a real pleasure to be part of your families’ lives, if only for a short time.  Thank you!

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years!

Cheers,

Derek    www.galephotography.co.uk

A highly dynamic photographer

December 9, 2010

Our eyes are wonderful things.  They can see texture on brightly lit surfaces and in deep shadows, let you read a newspaper by moonlight, and even see in starlight. Cameras aren’t quite as good as our eyes.  They can record good highlight detail, or they can record good shadow texture, but most of the time they can’t record both simultaneously.  The amount of brightness and shadow that a camera can record is known as its “dynamic range”.

There’s a photographic technique that you can use to produce images that more closely resemble how the eyes see.  It’s called “High Dynamic Range” photography, or HDR for short.  In this technique you take a series of images with different exposure settings; known as “Exposure Bracketing”.  The simplest method uses images taken at; the correct exposure, one unit under exposed, and one unit overexposed, however you can take other combinations.  I’ve taken up to 9 shots with varying exposures for some of my HDR images.  The sets of images are then put together on the computer using special software.

"Canadian street HDR" by Derek Gale

This is a simple HDR image of the sunset in a small town in Canada.  Without HDR I had the choice to expose for the sky or to expose for the trees, not both.  The images were taken hand-held.  That’s always a bit of a risk with this sort of photography as you can get “ghosting” where the images don’t quite overlap because you’ve moved a bit.  You’re better off using a tripod.

"Tithe Barn HDR" by Derek Gale

I used a tripod for this 9-image HDR shot of the 13th-century tithe barn at Great Coxwell near Faringdon.  I loved the dramatic sky, and wanted to really show it against the texture of the stone barn. Converting the final image to black and white helped to give an air of mystery to the image.  I used a very wide angle lens to give a bit of perspective drama.

"Tractor & farm HDR" by Derek Gale

One thing you need to be careful of with HDR images is the “cartoony” effect that you can get.  The software I use has settings for various styles of image.  I like the “photorealistic” option as it leaves the images looking more natural.  This tractor shot shows what can happen if  you use the “surrealistic” setting.  The contrast and colour are significantly changed from the original images.  It’s OK for a few images but can be a bit intense for some subjects.

"Leopard tank interior HDR" by Derek Gale

This image is from a trip to the “tank shed” at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham.  It’s of the interior of a sectioned Leopard tank; Germany’s main battle tank for many years.  The lighting was quite contrasty and using HDR helped me to get detail in the shadows that was not recorded in a normal exposure.  HDR’s not a good technique for portraits as the need to take multiple images means your subject has to stay absolutely still.  Here the crew were dummies so it was easy!

"The Folly HDR" by Derek Gale

HDR is useful in architectural photography too.  This image, of an 18th-century folly in Berkshire, shows detail in the artificially lit interior as well as the naturally lit exterior.  On the day there was a significant difference between the brightness of the inside compared to the outside, but HDR was able to show both well.

So, to improve the dynamic range in your creative photography try a bit of HDR!

Cheers,

Derek                www.galephotography.co.uk

Snow, snow, quick, quick, snow!

December 2, 2010

The winter weather has come early to the UK, but instead of  hiding away inside in the warm, treat it as a chance to take some stunning winter images.  As long as you keep yourself safe, (no walking on icy lakes), and keep your camera as warm as you can, it’s a great time for creative photography.  You’ll also see things that you never see the rest of the year.

"Frosty windscreen" by Derek Gale

A frosty car windscreen is a perfect example.  I’ve used a 50mm macro lens from inside the car (out of the wind!), and made sure the background was dark to give better contrast.  These ice crystals are a pain to shift when you want to drive, but are simply beautiful to photograph.  Their fractal character means they look like feathers, or ferns.

"Icicle" by Derek Gale

Icicles are excellent photographic subjects.  This one, at the base of a wind turbine, seemed to be not very bothered about which direction it grew in.  It only started to point downwards near its end.  Again I needed to control the background to make the icicle stand out.  The out-of-shot sky was blue, which gave blueness to the shadows, and gave a very cool feel to the image.

"Snow shadows" by Derek Gale

Snow images often benefit by being turned into black & white.  I loved the way the winter sun formed long shadows across the snow by the table.  The low early morning sun really picked out the snow’s textures, and the black & white conversion simplified the image.  My high viewpoint helped to give a strong, simple composition.  As with most snow pictures I needed to give some positive Exposure Compensation so the snow came out white, and not grey.

"Trees in snow" by Derek Gale

For most of the year the ground under these trees is mostly brown.  This means that the colour contrast between the trees and the ground is quite low.  The snow on the ground changed all that, and allowed a pattern picture with a contrasting foreground.  The trees’ shadows gave more contrast and texture to the snow.  I cropped it into a vertical letterbox to accentuate the trees’ shapes.

"Birdtracks" by Derek Gale

Although a lot of the time it’s quite hard to see birds, the snow lets you see where they have been.  This bird has walked, not hopped, and left a great trail running diagonally across the image.  I’ve dropped down to get the best angle, and focused on the nearest track.  I let the other tracks go out of focus, into the darker area. Control of focus is a powerful compositional tool for photographers.

As you can see the winter weather is a great aid to your photography.  Wrap up warm, and use all that reflected light creatively!

Cheers,

Derek                          www.galephotography.co.uk

They’re not all there…

October 7, 2010

One question that’s come up in discussions about portrait photography, is whether it’s necessary for a portrait to show the whole of a person’s face, or even to show their face at all?  In a previous blog post I explored the use of shadows and out of focus areas in creative portrait photography, and I’d like to develop that a bit more. 

"Part portrait 3" by Derek Gale

In this outdoor portrait I’ve cropped the image at the centre of the subject’s nose.  It helps to contrast their skin tones with the tones of the rusty corrugated metal behind them.  It also puts the person in a more interesting place in the frame, with much more space above them than the space they take up. 

"Part portrait 2" by Derek Gale

This is a horizontal treatment of the same compositional technique.  Here the empty space was black, so it was better to convert the image into black and white rather than leaving it in colour.  You get a real idea of the boy’s character even though you can’t see all of his face. 

"Part portrait 1" by Derek Gale

This is an even tighter crop on a girl’s face.  It’s said that the eyes are the “windows to the soul”, so I’ve really concentrated on a single eye.  As it was so strikingly blue, I left the eye in colour and converted the rest of the image to B&W.  This splash of colour helps to draw your eye to the girl’s eye. 

"Part portrait 6" by Derek Gale

So how small a part of a person can we show and still show their character?  This shot of an eye, taken with a macro lens, shows a good line of communication between the subject and the viewer.  The fact that the person’s “laughter lines” aren’t creased tells you that they aren’t smiling.  The direct gaze, with a large pupil, shows confidence. 

So what if we don’t show their face at all? 

"Part portrait 4" by Derek Gale

To me this is still a portrait even though the child’s face isn’t visible.  There’s a delightful contrast between the girl’s dress and the chunky boots; a contrast between smartness; “I’m being photographed”, and practicality; “It’s raining”.  Her parents would immediately recognise it as her. 

So, it’s clear to me that you can show a person’s character in a portrait without showing the whole face.  Set yourself a project to take a person’s portrait without showing their face at all! 

You can learn how to look for images like this, and learn creative compositional techniques, on my “The Creative Eye” course on November 13th at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage.  You can book your place here

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

A trip to deepest Surrey

September 9, 2010

For portrait photography most people come to our photographic studio in Oxfordshire.  However, on a recent family portrait shoot I travelled to deepest Surrey.  The shoot was for a family with three kids, and they were easy to work with; great fun, enthusiastic, and happy to be photographed. 

The family’s house had a verandah/porch with fabulous light. 

"Surrey 3" by Derek Gale

  The light in the verandah was mostly quite diffuse, but with a soft directionality in places.  This image of the older girl shows that to perfection.  I used a focal length of 75mm, equivalent to 112mm on a full-frame camera, which gives a very flattering look to portraits and helps throw the background out of focus. 

"Surrey 4" by Derek Gale

 I used the same location and camera settings for this portrait of the younger girl.  Her expression was great; not quite smiling, and not quite not smiling.  Because the image is a bit more complex, it works better in B&W rather than colour.  The choice between B&W and colour is always interesting, and there are definitely some images that work better in colour than B&W, and vice versa. 

"Surrey 2" by Derek Gale

 The youngest child, a boy, was very excited to be photographed, but here I’ve caught him in a quieter mood by the main support pillar of the verandah.  The garden beyond him gives good context, and frames his head nicely.  There was a roof light which lit him from directly above, and acted just like a hair light in the studio.  The crack in the pillar divides up the white area very effectively. 

"Surrey 5" by Derek Gale

 In this final image, I popped the kids down on to the doorstep into the house.  The unlit room behind them gave a good dark background, and the front door had a fabulous texture.  They were happily laughing and looking at each other, and the image really shows their relationship well.  I had to increase the ISO a bit to keep the shutter speed fast enough, as it had clouded over, and I didn’t want to use flash.  This is another image that works much better in B&W rather than colour. 

So, a successful photographic trip to the wilds of Surrey, to work with a really interesting family. 

To book your own portrait shoot ; family, couple or individual, just give me a call on 01793 783859. 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

I’m just a regular guy: Part 4.

August 12, 2010

It’s the “regular guy” thing again!  

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a real privilege to photograph the same people over a period of time, especially kids.  You see how they’ve grown and changed, and the shoot is easier, because you’ve photographed them before.  

At a recent portrait shoot, two brothers and their respective families, came along.  I’d photographed the family of one of the brothers twice before.  With the other brother’s family it was the first time I’d met them. 

"Looking up 1" by Derek Gale

On their previous shoots I’d gone for a natural style, with diffused lighting, so to keep the  same look and feel as the previous images, I did the same for this shoot.  Here I’ve concentrated on the girl’s eyes, which were slightly accentuated by the angle I chose.  

"Looking up 2" by Derek Gale

This image of her brother uses a similar technique.  With this sort of image the conversion to black & white really helps simplify the image, and in each case I’ve used a long(ish) lens (80 mm equivalent) to throw the background out of focus. 

"Looking up 3" by Derek Gale

I didn’t need a black and white conversion here.  The boy’s skin tones were fantastic, and it would have lost too much of the colour contrast with his blond hair.  Again I’ve used a long(ish) lens to simplify the image.  He was great to photograph, with a really good “resting face”. 

"Looking left" by Derek Gale

Here you can see the difference between looking down on a subject and being at their eye level.  In this image I dropped down to his level, and to me he looks a bit older because of that.  It’s much more of a “moment observed”, as he seems unaware of the camera.  Once again the black and white conversion helps to make the image stronger. I didn’t need the colour contrast, and didn’t want the green foliage in the background to distract. 

"Looking right" by Derek Gale

His brother was really fun to work with.  He was asking “Why?” to everything, and was very lively.  He had a very expressive “active face”, and a great grin.  This image, of him looking off camera, caught his personality well. 

So, all in all it was a great shoot.  I look forward to the next one! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk