Inspiration Photography Blog

Moving works from Nat Geo Nature Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

National Geographic has announced the winners of its annual photo competition. TheGrand Prize Winner Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan receiving a prize of $7,500 for his image of an orangutan in Borneo (at the bottom of the post).

The winning shots are the perfect celebration of Mother Earth. 11,000 photos were submitted, competing in four categories: wildlife, landscapes, aerials, and underwater.

Here are my three favourites:

Honorable Mention, Wildlife: Macaque Maintenance, Lance Mcmillan.

A Japanese macaque indulges in some grooming time on the shores of the famous hot springs. I just love the tenderness of this image!

Mother Natures Camo, Cole Frechou 

It's one of those images that throws you at firts. On the 1st viewing I presumed it's an aerial photo of a mountain covered by forestation. Only when you I looked closely I realised it is a crocodile camouflaged in moss.

Honorable Mention, Landscapes: Cold And Misty, Gheorghe Popa 

Morning fog blurs the dead trees of Romania’s Lake Cuejdel, a natural reservoir created by landslides. Eerie but stunning.

A male orangutan peers from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, Indonesia. Rampant palm oil cultivation threatens this critically endangered ape, forcing the normally arboreal species to resort to unusual behavior—such as wading through crocodile-infested rivers—in order to survive.
Learn best wedding and engagement poses in under two minutes

Wedding or engagement poses can be tough to master and are often a little cliché. 

Photographers Phil Chester and Sara Byrne come to our rescue in their short video on how to pose a couple  - which, I imagine, makes them relax and giggle at the same time. It shows a range of poses, from "The Cool Kids" to more classic "Noodle Canoodle" to get your creative juices going. 

If you enjoyed this video check out Phil & Sara's YouTube channel PS Photo Stuff.

Best tools to find relevant images for your content.

When it comes to sharing your content onto the social networks, it is no surprise that the accompanying imagery has a big impact in terms of engagement. Buffer suggest that posts containing images generate 39% higher engagement than those without.

Where then can you go to find relevant images that add value to your content? 

Below I have listed a few helpful tools that are readily available to use with minimal design experience:

  • Canva - free web-based tool (with additional premium features) easy to use for someone without design skills creating brilliant on-brand images that you can share onto social.
  • Pablo - an extension of Buffer, invigorates quotes and short snippets of text from your content into thought provoking pictures. 
  • Over - great app for creating custom social media graphics on your tablet/smartphone (fee to download app in appstore). 
  • PiktoChart - perfect to creating infographics to align your insights (free with premium options). 
  • Snappa - create compelling icons/graphics that are easily resizable for sharing on each social network (free with premium features).

If however, you would prefer to use images already created and purposed for reuse, I would recommend: 

  • Flickr - provides access to online galleries which you can embed into your content.
  • Google Images - see the video below providing a step-by-step walk through on how to search for content that has been "labelled for reuse" - providing access to an enormous repository of images that you can share with your content.

The only remark I have is that you keep selected images relevant to each of your posts as it will maximise the quality of engagement. 

Use Google Search Tools to search for images labeled for reuse.
How to make a decent, shareable image at an event using your phone ?

You are at a conference. You want to share your excitement with the world, you take a picture on your smart phone. You are about to send a glorious tweet about the speaker line-up. You look at the photo. It is rubbish. The speakers look like they have covered themselves with a ton of self-tanning lotion. They have all turned orange

Photo by Joseph Akbrud on Unsplash

Conference venues are notoriously dark and often badly lit. They typically use traditional tungsten bulbs which can cause horrible yellow tints; fluorescents can make your photo too blue; and LEDs can make everything look washed out and pale. To be honest, to produce a good quality picture in such tricky lighting conditions you would need a decent SLR and even more decent flashgun. But what can you do to produce an OK photo just using a phone camera that can be shared to the world with more pride than embarrassment? 

Here are a few pointers for you:

1. Change you angle (if you can).

Sometimes the key to a good photo is simply reframing it or taking it from different position. The speakers could have a massive lamp behind them and it might be enough to simply move your camera an inch or two to avoid taking a potentially horrid photo with a backlit subject and a massive lens flare. Alternatively, you can try to refocus your image on the darker area of the photograph, for instance, by tapping and holding on the viewfinder while in the default camera app.

2. Turn the Live Photo feature off (on an iPhone).

Your camera will handle handle low-light situations much better with the Live Photo feature off. You can find out why by reading this article.

3. Make magic with camera filters (and other iPhone smart adjustments)

You are stuck in a row of seats, and you cannot move or even stand up. You have taken the photo and you have to make it work! What do you do? Use your camera's built-in, super clever editing tools and filters to turn an ugly photo into an arty one... :-)

Here is an image I took at a The Zero Outage Executive Summit I photographed some time ago. I took this picture using my iPhone as I wanted to send it to my social channels while at the event. The composition is pretty good but the speaker is badly lit and there are some distructions creeping in...

Turn it black and white using Filters in Photos. The first thing I do is trying to turn it into black and white. To open filters, click on the Filters button (second icon) and select the one that works best for the photo. Of course, there might be different filter that will make the photo shine other than black and white.

Finetune with smart adjustments in Photos. The speaker's face still looks rather dark, so I lighten it using black & white light controls (3rd icon). 

  • Tap on the adjustments button in the bottom navigation — it looks like a dial with dots around it.
  • Tap on the dropdown arrow next to Color, Light, or B&W.
  • Tap on the name of the adjustment that you'd like to make.

Cut out distractions. I now want to get rid of the annoying destractions in my photo, so I go to the Crop tool (1st icon) and tweak the image until I am happy.

Et voila! My image is ready for my social media.

Editing photos with Google photos. If you have an android phone, you can edit your photo in a similar fashion using Google photos, which has editing tools available to add filters, adjust your light and colour, and crop your image. You can find out more by reading this article

4. Use Instagram

If you are an Instagram fan you are probably familiar with an awesome selection of filters you can use - to transform a poor image into an arty one in seconds! Choose from a large variety of filters, crop the photo, and you are ready to go. Once you have posted to Instagram you can easily share the same post to other social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter. Read this article if you need reminding how to edit photos in Instagram.

Smart adjustments in Photos let you enhance your images, either automatically, intuitively, or precisely. Magic wand is still there, of course, but you can also change light, color, and black and white with a swipe, or dive down into brightness, warmth, and other details. Crank it up, crush it down, or go gray. It's all up to you!
Create your duotones using this nifty online tool

Duotone Effect Generator is a nicely designed and crafty browser tool that makes it easy for you to easily create a beautiful duotone effect in seconds. You can upload your own photo or use one in our searchable collection, then choose the color pairings and adjust the brightness and contrast for your perfect effect. Neat! And free.

Here is a quick sepia example from the latest work day out with Passle.

Edward Burtynsky becomes 2018 winner of Master of Photography

This year's Photo London Master of Photography award has been awarded to Canadian fine art photographer Edward Burtynsky. The winner is known for his large format photographs of industrial landscapes. His work is all about the profound human impact on our planet landscape shot from above, taken from drones, propellor planes and using a 50ft selfie stick. His images are not only beautiful but they are regarded as key visual records of our time. 

As part of Photo London’s 2018, Burtynsky will present new and rarely-seen work as well as a newly developed Augmented Reality experience, which visitors will be able to engage with in the exhibition space. His work tackles diverse and challenging modern issues such as urbanisation, industrialisation and extraction, from oil bunkering and sawmills in Nigeria to the salt pans at the Little Rann of Kutch, in Gujarat, India. 

He is currently involved on a new project on the Anthropocene, the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered to have a lasting impact on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet). In the artist's words:  

“We’ve had the five great extinctions. Now humans are having the equivalent effect of that meteor impact.” (source: Photo London).

The Photo London Master of Photography award is given annually to a leading contemporary photographer. A special exhibition shows new and rarely seen images from Burtynsky’s portfolio including a preview of his new work, Anthropocene
Global Initiative turns 18!

Global Initiative, Oxford-based digital agency, has recently turned 18, so it was time to throw a big party! There was champagne, talks in a lecture room, tasty canapes and lots of happy faces - all of this in the amazing surroundings of the the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

It was a fabulous night. Lucky GI employees, not many people can say 'T-Rex has posed for our team shot!'...

GI asked me to take some snaps and here are a few favourites from the evening.

A photo of butchered rhino wins 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Sometimes it is not the beauty but the rawness and poignancy that wins. 

Such is the case of the 2017 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. This year's winning image was taken by a photojournalist Brent Stirton. His heartbreaking photo, entitled Memorial to a species, shows a recently shot and de-horned black rhino in South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. What's more horrific, Mr Stirton allegedly visited over thirty similar crime scenes while covering this tragic story.

Black rhinos are now a critically endangered species, mostly thanks to poaching and the illegal trade in their horns. There are thought to be only around 5,000 left in the world. Rhino horn is very highly valued in China and Vietnam as it is considered as a miraculous cure for many illnesses. 

The winning photo is beautifully shot yet, most of all, it is disturbing and it will hopefully get people talking about the issue again.

The exhibition opens at the Natural History Museum in London on 20 October 2017 and it will touring across the UK and worldwide thereafter.

Liz Bonnin, Science and Wildlife Presenter, says that “this year’s winning image conveys a powerful and disturbing message from a master storyteller.” She adds that it doesn’t only shine light “on a species being pushed to the brink of extinction, but also on the issues of human morality and compassion for the animals we share this planet with.”
How to influence people? A few shots from the Passle event.

I have recently shot a Passle event How to influence people: What I learned about content marketing from the Taliban (but didn’t realise until much later). I love photographing events as I always learn something new...! 

Dan Connors from Applied Influence Group gave a very interesting insight into his work which involves leading multiple military influence operations across the globe. He revealed a few secrets how he dealt with his contacts, what is the "DNA of Influence" and how to apply them to your own practice. 

The event was held in the Free Word Centre, a wonderful venue full of wise words!

If you have ever wondered how to influence and create lasting relationships with your key prospects, then this event is for you.
How to remind people to visit an art gallery

'Great art is for everybody' is the main message of this daring but awesome campaign by the online gallery Rise Art.

Body paint artists, Sarah Attwell, was hired to paint famous artworks on (almost) naked models - Van Gogh's Sunflowers, Picasso’s Seated Woman and Edvward Munch's The Scream, among others. These 'walking works of art' have then paraded about the streets of London, posed for photos holding picture frames outside The National Gallery and hung out on the London Tube. Check out the video about how it all came about. 

The main aim of the campaign was to engage more people with art. In the words of Rise Art founder Scott Phillips:

"The research shows that many Brits seem to feel a disengagement with art due to the long standing perception of the art world and the more elitist ‘establishment’. This is such a shame as it has never been easier to access, experience and enjoy fantastic art online."

Great collection of free ebooks about photography

Check out this awesome collection of free ebooks from Light Stalking. Amateurs or pro photographers alike will find something to read in this collection, might it be how to improved their lighting, where to find your inspiration or how to be a better street photographer. 

These will keep you busy for a really long time. Go ahead, download them! Print them if you want to, or save them on your smartphone to read them on the go.
Obama's tweet after Charlottesville events is the most liked ever

A few days ago former US president Barack Obama tweeted  this photo as his response to the awful events in Charlottesville. Twitter has announced that Saturday's tweet is the most-liked tweet ever, so far reaching over 4.1m likes and 1.5m retweets. 

Photographer Pete Souza took the photo in 2011 at a daycare facility next to Mr Obama’s daughter Sasha's school in Bethesda, Maryland. As he was leaving he noticed some small kiddies peering out of the window at the nursery next to his daughter's school so he walked over to say hello.

The photo itself tells a story, and in his tweet Obama paired it with a beautiful Mandela’s quote:

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…
Sick of stock photos? Try these options

The link below leads to a rather amusing take-down of the most frequently used types of stock photos in B2B collateral: the chessboard, the handshake, the businessman in the wild, they're all there (and we've all been there!)... Clichés aren't necessarily bad, but they can make you blend in rather than stand out, and the effect of seeing an over-used image tends to be to glaze over. Not an ideal situation then if you're trying to impress!

As an antidote to the usual photos, I must admit that I'm a fan of PIE Recruitment's job adverts, which are always retro and witty, see for instance:


Need some ideas to rejuvenate your image bank?

Here are three links with ideas for you:

  • My colleague Freddy has collated a handy list of places where you can search for, or create, images for your posts or presentations.
  • 10 alternative ideas to stock photography can be found here.
  • And here's a great list of links to websites that host more interesting photos than standard

To these, I must add that I'm rather partial to the Public Domain Review which curates some bizarre and wonderful things.

Okay, a picture says a thousand words – but in some cases the opening words are: “We were feeling lazy this morning so we just went with the first stock photo in the search results” or perhaps “we really don’t have anything different to say to the last brand you heard from – which is why we’re using exactly the same stock image.” 

As B2B marketers, we seem drawn to the same core set of stock photos like moths to a very familiar looking flame – so I decided it was time for some B2B stock image group therapy.

Are you a photographer in need of improving your presence on Instagram?

In this handy guide, Photoshelter and Feature Shoot have compiled a curated list of some of the best searchable and submittable hashtags that might help you be found quicker on Instagram. 

Inside you get the rundown on 11 photography genres:

  • Travel
  • Portraits
  • Black and White
  • Street
  • Architecture
  • Minimalism
  • Documentary
  • Landscape
  • Film
  • Fine Art
  • Drones/Aerial

So, go on, download it and get busy!

Hashtags just might be the key to getting that extra exposure for your photo business, so get started with this guide. 
Unseen and untouched collection of celebrities portraits

I'm a big fan of Andy Gotts

He is a great celebrity portrait photographer, of course, but he seems to have a special talent to bring out something special out of his subjects, might it be their silly side or deep emotions. Even though his subject are mostly (very) famous actors. His work is very refreshing in the world of tiresome beauty of perfection. 

I was curious how he does it so I did some digging. In one interview Andy tells us just to 'chat to them!', find out what they are about, what makes them tick and laugh. Then just keep chatting and shooting... Some spontaneous priceless moments might just happen. Here, among other stories, Andy describes such a moment when he got the famous shot of Robert the Niro (highlighted in red):

"At the very end of the shoot I asked Bob how he feels about people doing  impersonations of him, especially his famous quote from Taxi Driver. He  asked if I had seen Al Pacino doing an impression of him, to which I  said no. All of a sudden, he squinted his eye and with an  ever-exaggerated downturned mouth, he started bellowing: 'Are you  looking at me?' Through my tears of laughter I took only a couple of  shots." Source: BBC In Pictures

This very contact sheet of Robert De Niro can be examined and admired at The Unseen Collection at The Showroom Presents in London until the end of July. The exhibition also features Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia Roberts and other great stars.

Each contact sheet shows a series of photographs taken in one sitting, all untouched (Andy Gotts is one of the few photographers who famously refuses to retouch and photoshop his portraits). The frames that have been shown before are highlighted. 


How to connect architecture and portraiture in a fun way?

Well, standing in front of a building with a cracking smile will not crack it, I'm afraid. Take a leaf out of these artists' book and become a subject in your photos in a carefully thought-out and creative way... 

Here is a inspiring collection of images by two architects turned photographers, Daniel Rueda and Anna Devis, who travel the world and capture interesting architecture while acting as subjects in their photographs.  

I love how playful but perfectly balanced, and almost soothing these photos are. Anna and Daniel have clearly become experts of working with shapes, scales and concepts. 

Below, Anna explains why placing themselves in their photos as main "characters" is so vital to their photography:

These “characters” serve to explain the scale of a space. The size of things would be higher or lower depending on the proportion it has with a human being. However, the role of these characters in my pictures is to tell a story that goes beyond aesthetics. That is, it is not enough to just have an image that looks more or less beautiful; it has to tell something without the need of putting it into words… While it is true that the texts that accompany the photographs are sometimes as important to me as the image itself.
The Photographer's guide to Instagram hashtags

Most photographers know that Instagram is a powerful tool for promoting their work. The big questions is: how do you use it more effectively so that it brings you more clients? How do you get photo editors and potential clients to even find your photography in the Instagram jungle?  The  answer is: hashtags.

Check out this free guide on how to crack this hashtaging game from Photoshelter and Featured Shoot. Very handy indeed.

Inside, you’ll get the rundown on 11 genres including travel, street, black and white, landscape, fine art, and more. Hashtags just might be the key to getting that extra exposure for your photo business, so get started with this guide. 
How to balance speedlights with bright sun

Are you struggling with making portraits look good in bright sun? Have you tried using your speedlight to make an outdoor portrait look better, only to be let down with the quality of the light?

Gosh, this is something I have been battling with for a while - admittedly, with varied results. In this video  Zach Gray demonstrates how to get enough power to balance mid-day sun with speedlights.

Thanks Zach & Jody, yet again! It's like you have read my mind... :-)

Free 'How I Go the Shot' Guide

Thether Tools and PhotoShelter have published another educational guide How I Go the Shot, showcasing work from a bunch of talented photographers working in various disciplines - from fashion, through commercial, to fine art photography.

As all PhotoShelter guides, this one is a cracker and worth checking out. 

In this How I Got the Shot Educational Series we partner up with PhotoShelter to showcase work from ten incredibly talented professional photographers whose work widely varies and includes fashion, commercial, time-lapse, product, portrait, fine art and conceptual photography. Each educational article features a different image, behind-the-scenes video, as well as a detailed breakdown of how the shot was made.
World Press Photo of the Year Award 2016

This year's World Press Photo of the Year Award went to Warren Richardson's image of a refugee passing a baby through the fence at the Serbia and Hungary border. 

Entitled 'Hope for a New Life', this image was taken in early hours in summer 2015. The man and child captured in the picture were part of the movement of people trying to cross into Hungary before a secure fence on the border was completed.

This disturbing photograph is part of Richardson's series Refugee Crisis Hungary, which includes many images that are grainy and blurry - some would say technically imperfect - but it only makes them more real and convincing.

“I must have been with this crew for about five hours, and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone.”
Winners of Open & Youth Sony World Photography Award 2016

Not bad for a bunch of amateurs and kids! :-)

My favourite picture from this selection has got to be a photo of morning Spanish swimmers from Enchanted category by Pedro Diaz Molins, entitled "Planned Obsolescence".

Pedro managed to capture a perfect moment in a perfect light. 

This is what he's got to say about the photo.

"I shot the subject last summer in Torrevieja (Spain). One day I went to take photos at sunrise and when I came back home I saw the first swimmers at morning. The woman captured my attention because she seemed recently arrived from the 60's and then I thought the history between them and in the metaphor with planned obsolescence. It is the result of 5 blended photos and shadows adjustments to get more realism. The old woman in foreground in very shocking for her pose and her gaze to spectator. The old man in background helps me to complete the history with the up or down stairs."
Beautiful and simple light set-up with just one flash and a reflector

This is ingenious! I love the quality of light this set-up produces. Thank you Jake Hicks.

Note to myself: I have to try this!

A while back I was experimenting with the reflector by bouncing back light into the shot from two hair lights behind the model pointed towards the camera. I had the reflector on a stand and I was literally holding the camera up in front of it so that the viewfinder was pressed against it and taking pictures using the blessings of autofocus alone because I couldn't look through the lens.

It then dawned on me 'to hell with this' and I cut a very rudimentary hole in the middle of my reflector so I could see what was actually going on.

From there I ended up changing the lights around by putting a big softbox behind the model and letting my reflector simultaneously be the key-light and the fill-light.
Six photographers. One subject. Six Perspectives.

‘Decoy’ is a photographic experiment from The Lab, designed to shift creative thinking behind the lens. 

A man is photographed by six different photographers. The twist is that they all hear a different life story of his. They then have ten minutes to "flash out the essence of what he is".

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they end up with six photographs which looks like six different people. Different life story = different person = different artist interpretation. 

An interesting experiment. It would however be far more fascinating to let six different photographers  interpret the same subject - with the same life story - in their own way. It would show how different artists visions can really be, even when faced with the same brief.

A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what's in front of it.
Are you an artist? Pay a tribute to David Bowie.

Check out this awesome list of artists' tributes to the late David Bowie, who passed away on the 10th January 2016, just two days after his birthday and the release of his latest album, Blackstar. It's heart warming to see how many people he inspired. True legend.

The list is open to submissions...

We've decided to make an open list from the artistic tributes to Bowie that have been popping up all over the Internet. You can pay your respects by submitting your artwork too.
Faces made from fruit and vegetables

Here is one interesting project for food photographers out there... 

Stem from a collaboration between artists Emily Dryden and Zahydé Pietri, this series recently took the second place at the 2015 International Photography Awards category advertising and food. Each portrait is entirely made out fruits, vegetables and botanicals, meticulously selected for a creative and harmonious rendering contrasting with a deep black background.
From palaces to rubbish dumps: where children slumber

With support from Save the Children, photographer James Mollison has created a mesmerising and deeply moving series of photographs which he calls “Where Children Sleep.” And it's exactly that: a collection of large-format photographs of the places where children from around the world sleep; each photograph is accompanied by a portrait of the child in question, and a detailed caption telling the child's story. The book was written as a tool to help young children better understand the lives of other children around the world - yet it is also very much a poignant meditation on human rights, and on privilege and poverty, for the adult reader.

From the girl in Tokyo whose mother spends thousands of dollars per month on new dresses for her, and the shotgun-toting US boy who killed his first big game at age seven, to the Nepali girl who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three years old, and the Bedouin boy living in a one-room shack in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank - the photographs and stories are all captivating.

Though Mollison's diptychs offer an eye-opening insight into the disparity between children's lives around the world, they also show how children from radically different backgrounds often have the same aspirations and dreams.

Most of the photographs are available here; see here for some of the captions.

"I hope the book gives a a glimpse into the lives some children are living in very diverse situations around the world; a chance to reflect on the inequality that exists, and realize just how lucky most of us in the developed world are," said Mollison.
Photography heuristics from Eric Kim

Eric Kim is arguably the internet's most popular street photographer. The cynic in me says that the young Californian is no Henri Cartier-Bresson or Vivian Maier, and that a big part of his success is down to him being really good at using social media to promote himself as an authority on photography. Still, his portfolio is impressive, and he knows a damn sight more about street photography than I do. So I try to pay attention when he dispenses advice (which he does not infrequently).

Most recently he's published a list of "60 Street Photography Heuristics (Rules of Thumb)" that he believes in, and tries to follow. I don't agree with all of them - I certainly couldn't travel with only 2 sets of clothing! - but there is definitely some good insight and general photographic wisdom contained in his list.

A few that resonated with me (paraphrased into my own words/interpretation):

  • spend money on experiences (e.g. travel) rather than material things (e.g. new photo gear)
  • backup, backup, backup!
  • try only to show people your best work; don't waste their time with so-so shots
  • no amount of post-processing can turn a mediocre photo into a great one, so don't waste time on it
  • don't get on the defensive when people critique your work; listen instead with an open-mind
  • when booking accommodation while travelling - location, location, location!
  • the more tourists in an area, the less interesting (more hackneyed) the place is to photograph

I’d say his list is worth a look for anyone hoping to improve their photography - or maybe just enjoy photography more.

The less time I spend on social media, the happier and more focused and productive I am.
Will It Beard series

Looking for an inspiration for No-Shave November?... Look no further!

Stacy and Pierce Thiot's Will It Beard series will give you plenty of ideas.


...the creative duo enjoys seeing exactly how many random objects they can fit within the folds of Pierce's facial hair. Vibrant flowers, bubble wands, toy dinosaurs, slinkies, and even LEGOs are just a few of the whimsical items that have been featured amidst the photographer's signature whiskers.
Adorable baby in pun-filled onesies

Something cute and cuddly for Friday afternoon post... Which reminds me of my baby daughter Izzy - and makes me want to take even more pictures of her...

A new mum Ceylan Sahin Eker has created a series of witty images for her baby son Timur in funny onesies.

It made me smile. :-)

"He changes every day and I don't want to forget any moment," the mom explained. "So this project gives me a chance to document his uncontrollable growth. Babies do grow freakishly fast."
Photographing climate change losses

Capturing multiple events in a single frame is complicated. This is why many magazines over the decades have stuck with the obvious ‘before and after’ shots of two images side by side to convey change.

Photographing natural resource degradation is very difficult. As an environmental researcher and avid photographer, I wrestle with this. How do I encapsulate over-fishing; deforestation; aggressive commercial farming; ocean acidification; or water pollution in just one shot?

Many photographers shoot environmental change with shock factor images: starving animals; barren, drought-ridden lands beside lush forest; and of course the classic image of a distraught polar bear disoriented upon melting ice.

The accuracy of photography is one great tool to raise environmental awareness, especially with the tool of ‘before and after’ complementary images.

Other masters, such as Sebastião Salgado, offer stunning visuals into the consequences of humanity’s insatiable greed. While I’m not a fan of Salgado’s over-processing and heavy shadows, he successfully raises the environmental consciousness of huge numbers of people. Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s aerial photographs of Earth have also been an enormous hit,first touring the world and then being produced by Luc Besson into feature film, Home.

Another series of powerful climate change photographs are Daesung Lee’s, who contrasted contemporary landscapes with old photographs to highlight the drought and desertification that has plagued Mongolia, especially its nomadic peoples. Lee placed printed billboards of a lusher, greener countryside and placed them in the current, barren landscape with actual people with their livestock, the snapshots (sectioned off with velvet ropes) bear resemblance to a museum exhibit).

Environmental changes are threatening to the Mongolian people, whose dependence on the land is central to their culture. Despite urbanization of the globe, over a third of the Mongolian population still leads a nomadic life. Nearly 25% of Mongolian land has transformed into desert over the past 30 years, with a potential 75% of its entirety at risk of heading the same way.

Lee hopes to emote the sense that these peoples' lives now "occur between this reality and virtual space." Without intervention, the traditional Mongolian lifestyle may only be something to be seen in museums of the future.

The effects of human-induced climate change are keenly felt in populations all over the world. Lee’s images provide confronting exposure of the now arid Mongolian landscape and highlights the necessity of action, before further destruction of global lands and cultures.
Original fashion collection looking like vector art

Here is an inspiring collection of fashion images created by Erik Madigan Heck. To create this 2D look, which makes the images look more like vector art than photographs, he used a special print process called dye-transfer.

The dye-transfer process is unfortunately a dying art being very labourious and expensive. However, the process gives the artist an exceptional degree of aesthetic control. It can produce prints that have a richness, depth, fidelity and longevity unmatched by any other kind of photographic print.

Good effort, Erik.
The collection features sculptural, origami-like shapes, whether it’s in a helmet-inspired headpiece or intricate, faceted textured skirts. To truly be able to highlight the architectural-like, full blown nature of the collection, Erik photographed and created dye transfer prints to “make the images look like paper cutouts.”
Beautiful and powerful nude portraits of dancers

Guido Argentini spent years working with dancers, gymnasts, and aerialists to serve as the models for Argentum, his innovative nude portrait series. Argentini painted his models in metallic silver paint and photographed them in front of a simple white background. The final effect is a series of stunning and innovative dancers portraits, which highlight the intrinsic beauty of powerful yet gracious and aerial human bodies.

Since the project's beginning in 1995, Argentini assembled 100 favourites for his collection. He has since published a book Argentum and a documentary about the process (check out the trailer to sneak a peak how he did it).

I love everything about this project: subject matter, the simplicity of it, the statuesque look of models achieved by the silver pain, the play of human body combined with shadows and geometrical forms.

Beautiful work, worth checking out in more detail.

The fluid form of the human body is recast in a metallic coat, juxtaposing the flexible mobility of women with the rigid elements of metal to create a fascinating series of photos.
Iconic portraits recreated by Sandro Miller, starring John Malkovich

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to photographic masters is a project by a brilliant American photographer Sandro Miller (on Artsy), who collaborated with the actor to recreate some of the most famous portraits captured throughout history. Sandro's project is a homage to the photographers who have inspired him and influenced his photographic career. 

Below, Sandro explains why he's picked Malkovich as his collaborator for this project plus the iconic David Bailey portrait of Mick Jagger “Fur Hood” (1964). 

Brilliant work, Sandro and John!

John is the most brilliant, prolific person I know. His genius is unparalleled. I can suggest a mood or an idea and within moments, he literally morphs into the character right in front of my eyes. He is so trusting of my work and our process… I’m truly blessed to have him as my friend and collaborator.
Thinking about backgrounds in photography

When one thinks of memorable photos, interesting subjects or foregrounds usually spring to mind. A striking facial expression or human interaction, a lion bringing down its prey, a dramatic feat of engineering, or maybe just an aesthetically-pleasing object. But what of the background in the photographs? Many photographers relegate consideration of their backgrounds to, well, the background.

And what a pity! The linked article argues that careful choice of background is something that distinguishes good photographers from great ones. I for one have been struck by the remarkable backgrounds - often beautiful, or striking; sometimes subtle, sometimes layered and complex - in the photos of Magnum greats such as Alex Webb and David Alan Harvey.

And looking at the useful, straightforward illustrations the author provides of what a difference a slight change of background can make, I have to agree that a bit of careful thought about one's background can make all the difference. It can turn a good photo into a great one.

A tutorial that's definitely worth reading! I guess it's time I start foregrounding the background in my photos.

Learning to see past an exotic or exciting subject, to catch the details in the background, is what will distinguish you from a beginning, hobbyist photographer to an experienced professional. The background in your image immediately stands out to a trained eye. Learning just this skill can very quickly elevate and improve your photography.
Want your photography project funded?...

It turns out it is feasible - provided you are talented and have a worthy photographic project in mind. Photoshelter has put together a handy list of 16 organisations which are ready to help.

...there are many foundations, non-profits and private companies alike, who are willing to fund worthy photographers based on talent and project goals. Some offer grants for photojournalists who expose social injustices; others focus on editorial photographers who tell long-form stories.
I Died Today - a photo essay

In isolation at least, none of the photographs in this essay is particularly powerful (in my opinion) - and there’s something inescapably cheesy about a photographer captioning photographs as though they were the thoughts of a pet dog. Yet put the story told via the captions and the sequenceo of photographs together and you end up with something incredibly moving.

“I Died Today” is a touching photo chronicle of the final day in the life of Duke, a dog who had to be put down on account of bone cancer.

Apart from serving as a little encouragement to try enjoy every day to the fullest, this photo essay reminded me of the power a story can give to a series of images, and of the power that photographs can sometimes possess that is completely independent of high-brow aesthetic considerations.

"We didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but Dukey’s story has created this beautiful forum for people to share stories of their beloved pets who have passed away," she said. "Photographing [and] documenting Duke that day has really empowered people to find a way to cope and ease the pain of letting a pet go by celebrating them while they are still here."
A competition for all you budding photographers

Even the most industrial locations and subject matter can with the right photo be both beautiful as well as interesting and inspiring. If you have a chance try to take a picture of what seems mundane from a different angle or in different light or even from the perspective of being at floor level.

This must be my creative side coming out but a £5000 prize is worth entering the competition for.

After all it only takes a second to take a picture with the technology we have today.

EEF photo competition to show the beauty of manufacturing
Goodbye Robin Williams

I am deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who is said to have committed a suicide yesterday at his home in California. He was only 63. They say he's been grappling with depression and alcoholism for years.

My first reaction has been: BUT WHY??

I've found it really hard to digest that this hilarious actor and comedian, who radiated more sunshine than the Sun itself, and who was so incredible at his job could have had such a dark side.

After reading up about it I am starting to understand... His friend and fellow comedian, Jim Norton, tries to explain it in TIME's article: "By all accounts, Robin struggled with depression and addiction over the years. So many comics I know seem to struggle with the demons of self-hatred and self-destruction. ... The funniest people I know always seem to be the ones surrounded by darkness. And that’s probably why they’re the funniest. The deeper the pit, the more humor you need to dig yourself out of it."

Sigh. There you have it.

Below is a photo by Peter Hapak shot for Time in 2011. I really like it. It's not a typical photo of Robin Williams when he is pulling a face or grinning with his whole face. He looks older and more serious. He wears a grey beard and not much of a smile, yet his eyes are still full of sparkle and humour.

What a terrible loss. I hope he is finally at peace.

A homeless man turns his life around with photography

Here's a real feel-good story about a man who battled poverty, alcoholism, and drug addiction - and who found unlikely salvation in the form of a DSLR camera.

Norman Eric Fox carried around a digital camera as he wandered homeless through shadowy downtown Vancouver. There he encountered beauty in the midst of poverty, addiction, mental health issues, and crime...and he found himself taking pictures.

Fox knew he had found his calling. He tried to learn everything he could about photography on the internet; he scraped together money to print portfolios; and he knocked on countless gallery doors, hoping to land a sale or an exhibition. His perseverence paid off - every one of his prints was sold at his first exhibition.

Recently he suffered a serious setback when all his equipment was stolen - fortunately, though, donors and buyers helped him get back on his feet, and he was even able to donate money to a local food bank that helps the homeless.

A nice story - and Fox offers some great photographic insights, too! I'm particularly impressed by his B&W collection of photos. Certainly goes to show you don't need expensive gear to make it as a photographer.

I stopped hunting down images and began to see them. As corny as that might sound, I stopped thinking of life, and photography as journey and recognized that everything is already in place. The shot is there; I just have to trust my instinct, I practice integrity and hit the button.
Maternity shoot by a father-to-be...

This made me chuckle - and shed a tear or two of laughter! Funnily enough this guy has got a perfect belly shape for the job... Bloody hilarious and worth a look!

My wife didn't want to take maternity pictures, so I hired a photographer and took her place...
How speedlight modifiers will change your portraiture

This is a very well explained video about speedlight modifiers from Syl Arena from B&H prospectives. It covers 3 ways of modifying the light by:

  • Increasing the apparent size to create soft light
  • Limiting the direction of the light to guide the viewer’s eye
  • Changing the color of the flash to blend it in with another light source or to make it stand out for creative effect

Worth a watch!

Street View Photography: Reflections

I am a big fan of photographing reflections in a different shape and form - they are all around us. This collection of the top 10 reflections captured in the street on is really brilliant and inspiring. It is hard to create something original in this theme loved and explored by so many photographers. Below is my favourite, ghost-like image of passers-by.

It makes me want to pick up my side project of the same nature I started a while ago. Check out some of my reflection shots on the Facebook Page.

With nothing but a few drops of water or a conveniently placed piece of glass, a reflection, carefully composed into a photograph, can take us into a parallel universe of fantastic shapes and magical abilities, like riding the sky on your bike or even walking on water.
The most important piece of gear in your camera bag

A must in every photographer's bag (also dirt cheap) is not necessarily an expensive flashgun or a softbox, according to Zach & Jody, a brilliant American photographers. It is the humble reflector and a diffuser.

So true!... Especially when shooting on location I always have my 5-in-1 reflector with me, it does wonders to making my portraits pop!

Read the full article to discover more tips and methods how to use it to your best advantage.

The most important and used piece of gear for us is a simple reflector and diffuser. This tool is a must-have for our gear bag and allows us to add just the right amount of light to many of our portraits that make them sing.
Photographs of Children's Nightmares

This surreal and stunning collection of images are based on children's actual nightmares. It was shot in the 1960s and 70's, by American photographer Arthur Tress and is entitled the “Dream Collector”. 

Full collection is featured on Tress's website.

In the artist's words: 

“Dreams or nightmares were collected by conversations with children in schools, streets, or neighbourhood playgrounds. The children would be asked means of acting out their visions or to suggest ways of making them into visual actualities… These inventions often reflect the child’s inner life, his hopes and fears, as well as his symbolic transmutation of the external environment, his home or school, into manageable forms.”
Village life of a Polish family, wonderfully captured by a father of two

This photo collection has been captured by Sebastian Łuczywo, a talented Polish photographer who loves capturing the fun and dear moments in his rural family lives. His photos are both heart-warning and tongue-in-cheek, worth a look.

Below one of my favourites that made me chuckle.

“I tried to show life in the country, but look at it with a grain of salt,” Łuczywo wrote in an interview with Bored Panda. “The inspiration for me is the music and the light that, for every photographer and painter, should be valid. Light is an important factor in creating a photograph. If it is good, it makes the climate, it can create a story.”
12 Mind-Bending Photo Manipulations

Some impressive examples of photo manipulation and very creative mind at work... Worth checking out the whole collection.

Martin De Pascal also shows us how he did one of his manipulations. Worth watching, especially if you are bewildered by how it's done.

Buenos Aires-based art director and digital artist Martín De Pasquale is called a Photoshop wizard by some, and not without reason – his masterful digital photo manipulations blur the boundaries between dreams and reality and between humor and fear. He even deals with the issues of life and death, mainly focusing on mortality and the vulnerability of human body.
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