Visitors to PhotoActive at Focus on Imaging Exhibition

Today has been amazingly busy on the PhotoActive stand at the Focus on Imaging Exhibition. Countless new friends have been made and, best of all, dozens of old friends and former students have turned up to say hello. Among them disabled photographer Ian Farran at PhotoActive standwas Ian Farrant, from Dover. That’s Ian in the picture at the PhotoActive stand.

Ian, who was severely injured in an accident some years ago, came to me for tuition a while back. I found his determination to enjoy his photography hobby truly uplifting – and make no mistake, Ian is no mean photographer – he’s just a bit good.

Anyway, Ian, it was great to see you again.

Don’t forget, you can follow us at the show on Twitter – – or by looking at the widget on the sidebar of the PhotoActive homepage

Even better – come and see us on stand L47 at the Focus on Imaging Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre, Bitmingham.

We’ll be there Monday & Tuesday 10am – 6pm and Wednesday 10am – 5pm

PhotoActive stand – all set at the NEC’s Focus on Imaging Exhibition

Well, that’s us all set up and ready at the Photo Imaging Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. One of the advantages of having a stand not much bigger that a wardrobe is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up.

PhotoActive stand at Focus on Imaging Exhibition at the NECThe PhotoActive ‘wardrobe’ is literally in the shadow of the Sony stand in Hall 10 at the NEC. Christian and I have taken a walk around to peek at the other stands at the Focus on Imaging show and we are mighty impressed. Of course the place is bedlam and everyone is very busy getting things ready for tomorrow so there isn’t a lot of time to stop and chat. But the atmosphere is very friendly and everyone is looking forward to the doors opening to the public tomorrow morning at 10am.

So if you want a great day out – get yourself along to the Focus on Imaging Show at the National Exhibition Centre anytime until next Wednesday.

Christian and I will be delighted to have a chat – remember, we are running a free prize draw and the winner gets a full day of one-to-one tuition. There are also special deals for the photography DVDs while the Focus on Imaging show is on.

If you book a photography holiday or photo weekend there is also a show bonus of a £10 voucher – AND a free copy of the DVD Light and Composition.

We’ll also be ‘Twittering’ live from the show with the micro-blogging website Twitter. This means you can keep up-to-date with us during the show and we’ll make sure we upload some pictures to Twitter over the next few days so you can soak up a bit of the atmosphere if you can’t make it to Birmingham yourself – please excuse the quality of them we’re using Christian’s mobile phone. To follow us on Twitter you can use the widget at the side of the PhotoActive homepage or go to

See you at the show.

Photographers welcome in the wardrobe

Photographers who can make it to the Focus on Imaging exhibition at the NEC Birmingham next week will find a warm welcome with Philip and Christian on the PhotoActive stand L47.

Focus on Imaging logoThis will be our first ever show. The PhotoActive stand is, to be honest, more the size of a wardrobe, but don’t let that put you off – the welcome will more than make up for what we lack in floor space. You’ll find us just opposite the huge Sony stand.

It will be a real father and son double act. I will be there each day with son Christian, and we are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible. Christian, of course, is the film cameraman, director and editor of the Better Photography DVDs, and our latest DVD – Portraits in Natural Light – will be officially launched at the show.

To get the launch off to a good start we will be having a prize draw for you to win a full day’s personal one-to-one photography tuition with me. Entry will be absolutely free. We’ll be offering a special show price for those who buy both DVDs, and everyone who books a holiday or photography weekend will get a free copy of the Light and Composition DVD and a £10 discount voucher.

So, we hope to see you any time on Stand L47

22-25 FEB 2009
10am – 6pm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
10am – 5pm Wednesday

In fond memory of George

George Greenhill passed away yesterday evening. All the photographers who knew him are  deeply saddened by the loss of a great pal. He was a lovely chap who took a sense of fun and mischief with him everywhere he went.

George came with us to Menorca on two occasions and it was pleasure to share his enthusiasm for life and photography. Menorca will not be the same without George’s socks and sandals.

Our pal George with Philip Dunn at the trotting races in Menorca

Our pal George with Philip Dunn at the trotting races in Menorca

My favourite George story (one of many)
It was at the horse trotting in Menorca and I was explaining the technique of ‘panning’ a fast moving subject. George listened intently then set about taking his pictures of the horses as they came rushing past. I left him to it for a while.
At the end of the evening I was looking at everyone’s pictures and was astonished to see that every one of George’s shots had the subject spot-on dead-centre of the frame. It was uncanny.
I asked him if he had done much panning with a camera before.
“No, never,” he said. “But I was a machine gunner in the army.”
Bless you George.

There’s more about George on the Forum.


VIDEO: how to get better flash pictures

The small, pop-up flash on your DSLR camera is not ideal for photographing portraits of people – it is a very small light source and will give hard, crisp unflattering shadows. The flash is also very near to your lens, and this can lead to the dreaded ‘Red Eye’.

So what can you do to improve things?

Well, it’s easy, and all you need is a wall and a small piece of white card – and a basic understanding of light

Stand yourself and your subject beside a white wall or reflector – place the white card – no bigger than postcard size needed – at an angle of about 45 degrees in front of your flash so when the flash fires, the light will be directed at the wall and bounce back onto your subject.

Result – beautiful, soft sidelight – perfect for portraits.

To see this in action, watch my One Minute PhotoActive video tip. If you find these short videos useful, please let me know.

A range of top quality flash units is available from the PhotoActive Camera Shop

For how-to instruction on portraiture without flash my DVD Portraits in Natural Light is available to but online

Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon

Better Photography DVDs

Photographing snow


Don't be afraid to look for smaller details in a snowy landscape - and use backlight to bring out the texture in the snow

How to photograph snow? It’s a question on an awful lot of photographers’ minds right now – and what wonderful opportunities there are for those prepared to brave the elements during this wintry blast of blizzards and get out with their cameras. There is more snow forecast for Northern Britain – so more opportunities on the way.

If there is one BIG secret about photographing snow it is to over expose. That will avoid the disappointment of dull, lifeless photographs from what should be the most lively and brilliant subject.

Remember, the brightness of the light reflecting on the white snow will fool your camera’s built-in light meter and make it cut down the exposure. This leads to those dull pictures. It is easy to counteract this by going to your Exposure Compensation function and setting it to the plus (+) side of the scale by up to one full value (or ‘f’ stop). Most exposure Compensation scales work in increments of 1/3rd. Try a value of +2/3rds or even as little as 1/3rd. Experiment to get the best results.

If you are using the Manual (M) exposure mode, look at the exposure scale in the viewfinder and set this to over expose by up to one value or ‘f ‘stop. Remember also that the colour temperature in the shade areas of snow will be very high (blue). Auto White Balance (AWB) is best for most situations, but once again try experimenting with the Cloudy setting. If this makes the snow look a little yellow, revert back to AWB. Of course a lot of these effects can be changed on the computer after shooting – if you use the RAW Mode. But it’s always best to get things right in the camera to safe messing about later.

I have written more about How to Photograph Snow and this might help.


Camera batteries do not function well in very cold conditions Keep your camera under your coat and take it out only when you want to take a photograph. If you have a spare battery, keep in in a warm pocket – not in your camera bag.

As far as subjects are concerned,  don’t just look for the big view of a snowy landscape. Smaller details can make fascinating shots. Try to use side light or back light to emphasise the texture of the snow. If the light is behind the camera (frontlight) the pictures will appear flat and the snow will lack contour. Move around and ‘explore your subject’.

A polarising filter can add extra drama to snow pictures by increasing the contrast between the white snow and a darkened blue sky – but take the filter OFF when shooting into the light. See How to use a polarising filter

Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon


Forum Members’ £10 Gift

The PhotoActive Forum has been online for just a week and already has over 70 registered members. I have decided to give every one of these  new members a special welcome present in the form of a £10 Gift £10 PhotoActive gift voucherVoucher that can be used on any of my Photography Holidays in Menorca or Weekends in SW Scotland.

Members are already sharing images and tips and you are more than welcome to join in.  The offer will only be for a limited period so please register now to get your free £10 voucher.

Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon


Photo Challenge

The very first monthly Photo Challenge on the new PhotoActive Forum is now open to all members, and is intended to get you out there with your camera taking pictures.

The first theme is ‘Optimism’ – so that should give you plenty of scope.

PhotoActive photo challenge - optimism

PhotoActive photo challenge - optimism

There is nothing to heavy or serious about the challenge – it is for fun.

However, I will give a full and constructive professional critique of the top three pictures, which will then be put to a poll to choose the most popular image. That picture will be featured here on the blog.

So here’s your chance to join in, share and learn.

Just for starters, here is an old picture of mine taken for The Daily Telegraph – well, come on, he really is an optimist. I’m afraid you’ll have to come up with something new.

Good Luck

Go to PhotoActive Forum

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Better Photography DVDs