Swivi VF-3 DSLR view finder review

I've been experimenting more and more with shooting video on my DSLR lately and so I started looking at  some extra bits of kit to help improve the results that I'm getting. First up is a detachable viewfinder.

After doing loads of research on the net I found this gem of a viewfinder made by a company called Swivi. Its a really well designed piece of kit and easily beats all the other brands that I looked at in terms of design and functionality. I would even go so far as to say that a lot of the design features are actually better than what you'll find on the much acclaimed Zacuto Z-finder and yet its a third of the price!

Photoshop tutorial - Layers panel overview

An overview of the many different buttons, menus and features in the layers panel. This tutorial is mainly aimed at people that are fairly new to photoshop, but even if you have been using it for a while you might still fine a few interesting things in here.

Photoshop tutorial - Actions

I've just started doing video tutorials, the first one is all about actions. I'll be covering all sorts of tricks, tips and techniques in Photoshop and Lightroom so if you enjoy this be sure to subscribe to my channel on youtube. If there is anything you'd like me to cover just leave me a message in the comments.

Ayla Sky nude shoot 2 { BTS video }

Over the summer I had another marvellous shoot with one of my favourite models, Ayla Sky. We rented a fantastic little one bedroom shack out in the middle of nowhere to use as the location and spent all day shooting there.

I set up a video camera on a tripod and left it running as we where working and also shot some HD footage on the 7D. What follows is a 6min edit of all that footage along with a few of the finished images.

For this shoot I wanted to keep things simple and use lots of natural (or natural looking) light. I used the canon 7D, 24-105 F4 lens, 50mm f1.4 lens and the 320ex flash through a shoot through umbrella.  The flash was triggered using the 7D built in flash, which worked pretty well and meant I could keep the camera in AV mode and not worry too much about the changing ambient light level.

I was basically using the flash just to bolster the light coming in through the windows, and occasionally to create a bit of lens flare to create the illusion of sunlight coming through the windows (it was overcast and raining pretty much the whole time we where there!)

If you missed it you can find my post on the first shoot I did with Ayla here

You can see more of the finished images on my website ~ www.image23.co.uk


Click through for the video and more pictures...

Lighting: Spotlight Silhouette

This set up is really easy and a great way of creating strong images with bags of 'pop'. I used an elinchrom Dlite 2it to light the background. it was on a floor stand pointing up at the wall, bare bulb, and set to 3. I then mounted a flash gun with a 1inch deep grid spot attached on a stand. This was set to 1/4 power and placed just infront of the model, slightly off to camera right.

Essentially what this gives me is a wall that's exposed to f11 and a very small spot light that exposes to f8 which i can use to light small areas of the silhouetted model. I set my camera to F8, 1/200th, ISO 100, so that the spotlit area would be correctly exposed, the background slightly over exposed and the shadows nice and black.

The only tricky part with this set up is ensuring that your spotlight is pointing at the right thing. Because a small spotlight is so hyper directional, even small changes in the models position can have a dramatic effect. I've found though, if you make the model aware of this and keep checking and re-adjusting, you'll be fine.

Fashion Shoot at Warren House

I had a great shoot last week at Warren House hotel so I thought I'd share some of the behind the scenes shots with you. The designer and stylist for the shoot was the wonderful Ley Lau of Wall and Jones which is a fantastic little boutique showcasing a number of very talented local designers. Its somewhat of a hidden gem and well worth a visit if you're in east London.

I was also working with an amazing team comprising of exceptionally talented hair stylist Myo Myint and the very wonderful MUA - Gia Mills. Our two beautiful models were Madison and Elena.

Big big thanks to everyone involved for all your hard work! Watch this space for the finished images in the not too distant.

Team work

Where the hell have you been?
I've been a bad boy of late and completely neglected this blog for months and months (whoops!) please accept my apologies and I hope to resume normal service asap!

One of the reasons I haven't been on here as much lately is that I've just upped sticks and moved down to that there London, which is all very exciting indeed.

One of my goals upon moving here has been to work much more frequently with other creatives - MUA's, hair stylists and designers predominantly.  Whilst it takes a fair bit more organisation and communication to bring a larger group of people together, it definitely has a number of benefits that make it all worth while, not least of which is adding a whole other level of quality to your images.

So how can you ensure that a shoot with a full team goes smoothly?

The most important factor is simply good communication. If you can, speak to people face to face or on the phone instead of texts or emails.  Its faster and far more efficient.

Having good solid idea's will help when it comes to making sure everyone is on the same page. This doesn't have to be complicated, in fact simple idea's are often the best route to take. A short description backed up with a selection of example images will usually put your team in the right direction.

And finally get a date for the shoot set early and give yourself plenty of time to get everything in place. 

For a recent beauty shoot I had the pleasure of working with the very talented Neeza Rahim (MUA) and Myo Myint (Hair Stylist). They took my ideas and really brought them alive. The model was the beautifully versatile Lucy Parkes and what follows is some behind the scenes shots along with the finished images.

Lighting #6 Film noir style lighting

The film noir lighting style is defined by high contrast highly directional lighting and the look is completed by rendering the images in B&W. Its a style that I love using and if done well can help you achieve really dramatic striking images.

It can be quite a tricky look to get right simply because the lighting is so directional and focused - you'll typically have a relatively small hotspot which will quickly fall off into shadow. Of course you can move the key light away from the model to gain a wider hotspot, but you'll also find as you move the light further away you'll also loose drama in the shot. I tend to simply ask the model to stay in one small area and keep an eye on where that hotspot is landing - Adjusting the light as needed.

I decided to use this lighting style for an erotic 'secretary' themed shoot I had recently and I think it worked pretty well. I  used an Elinchrom D-lite 2it with a grid spot attached as the key light. This was placed on a boom stand directly above the model and facing pretty much strait down. I also used an SB28 flash gun with a home made grid spot on in a few of the shots to pick out any details that where missed by the D-lite.

Shooting Allegra with my new 7D

Last week saw me bouncing round like a small child as I awaited delivery of my new camera ~ the Canon 7D. I'll do a full review at a later date once I've had chance to use it for a while, but the headlines are, this is one awesome camera! So many brilliant features.

I bought the camera from Flash camera which is a fantastic, yet little known online store. They offer Excellent prices, very pleasant and efficient customer service and super fast delivery. If you're buying Canon gear its well worth checking them out.

I was shooting in London with Allegra on the weekend, so a perfect opportunity to test out the 7D. Here's some shots from one of the shoots that we did. One of the brilliant features of the 7D is its ability to control off camera flash which I made full use of here.

The headshots where taken with my newly fixed 50mm 1.4 lens and I used some white curtains with sunlight blazing through as the backdrop. I then popped my 320ex flash gun through a shoot through umbrella quite high on a stand - camera right. I set the flash compensation in-camera to +1.5 to get that really bleached out look.

The long shots where taken with a large white curtained window extreme camera right. I then used the same flash set up slightly off axis camera right to just fill in some of the shadows and soften the look. For lenses for these shots I used my Lensbaby and the 24-105 f4.

All these shots are pretty much as taken, with only a small amount of colour tweeking done in lightroom.

Fixing a stuck focus ring on a Canon 50mm f1.4 lens

So a few months back disaster struck, I managed to break my 50mm 1.4 lens! Focus completely jammed - couldn't even manually focus. gutted. I took the lens to my local camera shop and they said they would have to send it off to Canon and it could cost up to £180! Ouch.

Having just forked out for xmas, car insurance and about a gazillion other things that wasn't a particularly inviting proposition. So in some what of a bold move I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After a quick web search it became clear that this fault is actually quite a common problem with this particular lens and is caused by an arguably dubious design choice on Canons part.

What follows is a guide to what I did to fix the problem, I am not a professional repairs person and I am not for one minute saying this is the best way to fix your lens, but it worked for me. This is a delicate procedure that could easily go wrong and if you try this yourself you do it entirely at your own risk. If you are in any doubt, send it to a professional.

To dismantle the lens you'll need PH0 & PH00 precision screw drivers, also useful will be a scalpel, fine tipped tweezers, lens cloth, some sort of tray to put bits in & a pen and paper. 

In order to fix the actual problem you want a good quality digital calliper and a hammer. Yes that's right you'll be hitting you beloved lens with a hammer. There are other ways to do this and I'm sure there are much more professional, efficient and expensive tools for the job. This is simply how I chose to attack the problem (literally!)