Category Archives: Editing

Photographing Musicians – Part 2 (behind the scenes)

Yesterday I shared some of the images from my shoot with Leah and Celeste. Today is a look behind the scenes of the shoot.

Here’s photo number one. Yes, I am wearing gloves…it was freezing!

Below is the shot I was taking at the time. As you can see above, I’m crouching down for a lower perspective, so that the cobbles lead into the image. The light is blocked on either side by the buildings, making it directional enough for a good black and white conversion. Leah was going for a Vogue-ish look, with a vintage vibe. The use of black and white and shooting in a street with old buildings helped create that.

I used a wide aperture (f/2.5) so that only Leah was in focus and the buildings behind her added to the vibe, but weren’t distracting.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.5, 1/250th)

Number two is a good example of using whatever space is available. I’ve posed Celeste just inside the covered walkway between a giftshop and some public toilets. (Who says being a photographer isn’t glamorous?) I picked that location because a covered walkway gives brilliant control of light.

Here’s the end result. Celeste was looking for edgy photos that contrasted sharply with normal perception of a soprano. The strong light and brickwork are a big contrast to the style of images I was shooting for Leah.

Using the walkway with the strong light behind me has given Celeste lovely ‘catchlights’ in her eyes.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.2, 1/125th)

Here’s another image from the same location. This time I’ve moved Celeste away from the wall and allowed the end of the tunnel to add a bit of backlighting to the scene. I’ve also moved slightly closer to make the depth of field shallower.

The result of a shallower depth of field (Celeste’s hair is out of focus on one side) and the backlighting is to make the image much softer. The strong light and leather jacket are still harsh, but the result is (I hope) an image that presents a more delicate side.

Note that Celeste’s eyes are placed at the top third of the frame and the eye closest to the camera is on the right hand third of the frame.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.5, 1/160th)

Number three is, I think, the most interesting. We’re back in the same street as number one and I’m crouching down again, but this time I’m breaking all the rules.

Celeste is front-on and above me, traditionally an angle you would NEVER photograph a woman at – apart from making them look square, by shooting from below you also make them look larger. Not recommended! However, there is a reason for my flagrant rule-breaking.

By shooting from below, I’m putting Celeste in a dominant position, but by turning her head away from the camera I help to define her features, which goes some way to negating the fact I’m shooting her straight on. Shooting straight on makes her shoulders square, which adds a strength and aggression to the pose.

The most interesting part? The image below is Celeste’s favourite from the shoot. Some people will tell you there are no rules to photography, and in some ways they are correct, however, you earn the right to break the rules if you know them.

Finally, I shot with my widest aperture of f/2.0 to remove some of the distractions from the background and then chose a panoramic crop of the image, because I felt it best matched the look we were aiming for.

(Nikon D700 & Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar @ f/2.0, 1/160th)

Do get in contact if you’re interested in a portrait shoot.

If you’ve got any photography questions, do ask away via my Formspring page and if you’re interested in my 1-1 photography training workshops, you can find more info here.


Colour or black & white?

Most images will work much better in either colour or black & white. It’s rare that an image can be both.

When I’m looking for a black & white shot there are a few things I specifically look for:

  • strong directional light
  • a small area of highlights

In a black and white photo your eye is drawn to the lightest part, so the highlights (the lighter parts of the image) have to draw the eye in to the subject.

This image though, I think, works in colour and black and white. Which do you prefer?

(both images shot on a Nikon V1 with a Zeiss 50mm f/2 lens)

If you’ve got a real interest in black & white photography, I now offer a specifically tailored black & white photography workshop. For more info check out the training page on the Charlwood Photography website.

Black & White Wedding Photography

The decision to make a photo black & white depends on all sorts of factors. I’ve frequently been asked, whilst running workshops, how I decide between colour and black and white for an image. There’s no simple answer, because most of the time I ‘just know’, but there are few key factors that make an image more successful in black and white.

For years the still image was black and white and there is still a raw power and emotion about the medium. By removing colour our eyes are drawn stronger to light, form/composition and the moment. Those three are my criteria for a good black and white. Some shots I’ll know instantly as I take them will be black and white, the combination of light and contrast demands it…

Other images will work well in both. For portraits there is a third dynamic, and that is the subject. Strong features and dark colour make for a good black and white, so subjects with dark hair and/or strong features will convert into black and white more powerfully…

There is only one ‘rule’ that I would offer, and even that is not always to be adhered to. Very often a black white image will not work if the subject is back-lit. When looking at a black and white our eyes are naturally drawn to the highlights of the image, if the background is an entire highlight then you can draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject.

The final image is one from last week’s wedding, and one of my absolute favourite black and white portraits…

(Shot on a Nikon D700 with a Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar lens @ f.2.)

If you’re interested in seeing more of my black and white wedding work, you can visit the black and white gallery on

Get in contact if you’re interested in a group or 1-1 photography workshop. I’m based near London, but happy to travel.

The film look – do you like it?

It is an ironic fact of the photography world that after almost all professional photographers have switched to film, so many spend hours trying to get ‘the film look’ for their digital images. It’s not something I do often, as I love the contrast and punchy colours that you get with digital, the post processing options and the instant image feedback of an LCD on the back of the camera. For a moment of nostalgia I enjoy it though…

If you like the film look there are options that will save you having to spend hours in photoshop altering saturation and toning etc.

Alienskin make the incredible ‘Exposure’ software as a plug in for Photoshop – check out their examples page.

I would be really interested to know if any of you still shoot with film, let me know…

Spring and the Canon G11.

Spring has finally arrived, and that means snowdrops all over the place. I’m going to share how I go about photographing Spring using the Canon G11.  (If you’ve not read my review of the camera – and why I think it’s one of the best you can buy – you can find it on )

There are several components that help to make this shot. The most important thing is the light. It was taken at sunset, with the sun to low my right. Composition comes second. I wanted to capture the idea of lots of snowdrops as a carpet, but an image needs a clear and well defined subject to draw the viewer’s attention. I took about three shots until I got the camera angle right, with the one flower isolated against the background of fallen leaves, trees and sky. (Camera settings can be found here.) I opened the aperture as wide as it would go and kept the ISo as low as possible so the image was the best quality the camera could produce. The G11 was also set to macro mode to allow it to focus on the close subject.

Shots from the G11 require more editing than shots from my SLRs.  The contrast has been increased, noise reduction added to help soften the background and I’ve altered the colour temperature and saturation to best replicate the character of the light when I shot the image. Photographing Spring is all about colour and getting in close.  Capture the colour and push in tight to the subject to create strong composition and you can turn a seemingly average shot into one you want to share.

Portraits 8 – and how to take a good portrait

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given about taking portraits was “Get in close.”  The closer you get to your subject the better your shot will generally be. There is a limit however. If you push in too close with a wide lens you will distort the subject’s features and produce a very unflattering portrait. The advice should perhaps be changed to “Get in close, with the right lens.” For a tight portrait you want at least a 50mm lens, and preferably an 85mm lens. (Both Canon and Nikon make excellent cheap options at this focal length.) The following portrait was shot at 50mm quite close to the subject – it’s full of atmosphere and character…

The generally accepted wisdom is that if the nearest eye is in focus then it is a good shot.  Be creative with aperture. I do a lot portrait work at f/2 if the light is low, but generally I shoot at f/2.8 – f/4. Cropping is crucial.  This image is tightly cropped but I’ve deliberately kept the woman’s hands in the shot, they help frame the face an add another area of detail. Finally the image has a slight sepia tone, which warms up the image. Shooting portraits? Get in close with the right lens and watch the light.

What else do you think is important when shooting portraits?


Normally I am very against excessive use of photoshop.  I grew up with film photography, and have turned out a bit of a purist.  Every now and then it can be fun though…

This, rather shoddy effort, is just the use of tinting to change the background colour.