Untitled photo

Photography - The Tools Of My Trade

My approach to many aspects of my life is combining quality and reliability with minimalism and simplicity. With photography, I enjoy spending time searching for subjects and places,  exploring the outdoors with my dog, rather than trying to understand complicated technology and advanced features of many modern day cameras or sitting in front of a computer screen for endless hours editing images.

I try to keep things simple, focusing on the basics of photography such as technique, composition and camera settings, rather than using computer wizardry to create my images. That said, there will always be some computer based editing before reaching the final published image but in my case I try to keep it to a minimum, mainly due to my own limitations, with just a bit of cropping, adjusting highlights and contrast and a few other minor adjustments as and when required.

During my early years studying photography it was primarily monochrome and using good old fashioned film and dark room processing. This was before the advent of digital photography and home editing software which personally I find an absolute blessing with the flexibility and affordability it provides, although there will always be people who prefer the old ways which admittedly there was something kind of special about developing your own photos in a dark room.

Back in the days of film and chemical processing it was an expensive hobby and my good photos were few and far between as I spent many hours in the dark room trying to get my efforts just right and usually failing miserably. Fortunately, these days we have much more flexibility with digital photography and it doesn't matter how many attempts with the processing you have, the only expense is the time and effort as there's no wasted chemicals, film or paper.

I see my photography as a way of focusing my mind in a positive, creative direction and if I can produce an income from my passion then I will feel a huge sense of personal achievement and be thankful that people are enjoying my work.

Untitled photo

Camera Equipment

The best camera I currently own is a first generation Leica Q with full-frame sensor and Summilux 28mm f/1.7 fixed lens which is relatively simple to use and delivers excellent quality results.. 

The main controls are all easily accessible, shutter speed, focus, aperture and ISO, and any or all of these options can be set to automatic as and when required. Depending on the circumstances, this enables me to prioritise certain aspects for manual control depending on the scene and allows the camera to work out the remaining variables. Very useful in a fast changing environment where speed is of the essence to capture an image whilst maintaining manual control over certain settings to achieve the desired results.

Although the Leica Q produces great images, is compact, convenient and a pleasure to use, I sometimes find it restrictive in certain situations, often finding myself too far away from a subject with no way of getting closer. For this reason I occasionally wish I had a camera with either changeable lenses or a built in zoom which would open up a whole new world of possibilities but for the time being I concentrate on trying to get the most out of the only decent full frame camera I have which is my Leica Q.

I find many of the modern DSLR's are overloaded with features, menus and technology making them extremely complicated to use and for me, this detracts from the enjoyment of simple photography. I will probably remain loyal to the Leica brand as I am comfortable and familiar with the menus and cameras and I enjoy their no nonsense, simplistic approach to photography and their cameras are robust, reliable and easy to use.

I use my iPhone most frequently as it's often the only camera I carry with me on a daily basis and is always easily accessible. As the old saying goes, "the best camera is the one you have with you" The sacrifice for this convenience is obviously quality when compared to using my heavier Leica camera but fortunately smart phone manufacturers are constantly improving their cameras making them a convenient substitute to DSLR's for everyday simple photography. I tend to use my iPhone for personal photos and Instagram, saving my higher quality images from my Leica for my website.

I also occasionally use a Nikon Coolpix S9500 compact which is a nice little pocket sized camera with good all round capabilities. This is my preferred camera when there would be a strong likelihood of loss or damage to the camera in less predictable environments such as when out exercising or travelling the canals and operating lock gates.

Editing Software

I really struggle learning new information and therefore prefer using basic software I am very familiar with and have been using for many years. I use Apple Photos for editing with all options enabled, giving me a limited but useful range of adjustments to produce my final images. I know most photographers use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop but these products are far too complex for me to learn and beyond my capabilities these days. I prefer instead to work with what I know and use minimal post editing whenever possible.

I don't often use RAW files as I prefer my Leica camera to process the image to a JPEG format from the in camera settings I use and so far I have been happy with the results. RAW files are huge compared to JPEG and when you have thousands of images this can ultimately occupy a huge amount of disk space or in the case of cloud storage could become quite expensive with  such large amounts of data.

Maybe in the future I will do more RAW file processing but at the moment I prefer to keep things simple as I still have a huge amount to learn and I try to keep costs to a minimum.

Untitled photo

Computer Hardware

I use an Apple MacBook Pro computer and have done since about 2009 when I switched over from Microsoft Windows. Since making the change I have never looked back and thoroughly enjoy the user experience of Apple products although they are not without fault and are much more expensive than other computers on the market.

I have found my Apple products have lasted and performed well for many more years than their rivals ever did. As a result, in the long term they have probably worked out more cost effective than replacing other cheaper products every few years as they grind to a halt with errors, viruses and all kinds of system and software conflicts. I am sure Microsoft has greatly improved since the days of Windows XP but unless Apple go seriously downhill I doubt I will ever change back as I am very happy with Apple technology.

Tripods

I own two tripods both of which I regretfully rarely use due to the spontaneous nature of much of my photography but nevertheless they are a vital element of many photographers equipment. I use a Manfrotto Carbon Fibre tripod for its light, compact, quality design providing an easy to use secure platform for my camera. I also have a small GorillaPod which is useful and convenient but I wouldn't trust it with anything heavier than my Nikon compact camera.

Website

My website is the heart of my creative world where visitors can view and purchase my work in various formats and sizes. I use the excellent online SmugMug portfolio building software which is user friendly and specifically designed for photographers.

My chosen package includes a comprehensive fully automated sales service enabling me to get on with taking and processing images without having to worry about all the technicalities as well as time and effort trying to run an online store. Using SmugMug allows me to keep 85% of any profit which is far better than when I sell my images on stock photography websites.

Whilst SmugMug is very simple, logical and has a user friendly interface, it does still require time to title, describe, keyword and sort images into their appropriate pages, folders and galleries making it important to have some basic computer skills. For those who are new to this, there is plenty of online support and videos to help with any difficulties in building your desired portfolio.

Some of the images used in the design aspect of my website I purchased through Shutterstock which is an excellent stock image website when you need very specific images to meet your design needs. For peace of mind I will always purchase and download my images from legitimate stock photography websites and adhere to the licensing restrictions when using such images.

In terms of pricing my images, this was a very difficult area for me as I really have no idea what my images are worth. I know some of my images have been very popular when sold through stock photography websites, but I don't know how to reflect that in the pricing on my own website.

For me starting out, my images are not perfect and I just want people to enjoy my work at an affordable price and therefore opted for modest rates compared to many other photographers. I will review these rates in future but at the moment I feel they are very fair considering the time and effort I put into my work.

Filters

I use several filters with my Leica, the first being a Leica clear filter purely to protect the camera lens. Secondly, I use a circular polarising filter, mainly to suppress the glare on images containing water or to darken the sky. Finally, I occasionally use a Neutral Density (ND) filter for those longer exposure shots. I try to keep things fairly simple, lightweight and portable and seem to manage with just these three filters at the moment.

Untitled photo

Social Media

The subject of social media is a complex issue with many different options available with some better suited to certain types of business than others. I believe social media has a part to play and is a necessary tool to promote your work but I also feel that trying to spread yourself too widely across many platforms requires a huge amount of time and effort and never really lets you fully utilise the potential of each platform. There is also a danger of spending more time and effort on social media than actually creating the work you're trying to sell.

After having looked at the various options available and considered their ease of use and suitability to my needs, I decided to focus my efforts mainly on Instagram as it appears to be the most appropriate to my circumstances and I also find it simple to use without too many complicated options or settings.

Stock Photography Sites

There are benefits and pitfalls with these sites, and this is a subject I may dedicate a complete article to in the future as I gain more experience in using them. I currently submit to 4 stock photography websites (iStock, Shutterstock, Adobe and Alamy), with non-exclusive contracts enabling me to publish the same image to all sites, but like social media, I am finding it difficult using different platforms and ultimately I may end up focusing on 1 or 2 sites that are delivering the most sales and I find easiest to use.

Final Thoughts

As time goes on and I continue to develop as a photographer, there may be equipment I add or change in the future, but at the moment this equipment is sufficient for my level of expertise and what I aim to achieve.

I hope I can inspire others to follow their passions and show with patience, commitment and a belief in yourself, you can turn your hobby or passion into a success. Through my photography and writing, if I can make a positive, creative contribution to the world whilst getting out with my dog and finding enjoyment in life then it will have been worth the effort.

One of the most important things I have learnt through life is that perfection is the enemy of good. Only through our mistakes can we learn how to improve and if we never publish our work for fear of mistakes or imperfection then we will never move forward.

Spending a lifetime trying to capture a technically perfect image or write the perfect article is most likely to result in never achieving anything.

My work is not perfect, in fact far from it, but I want to learn and grow as a photographer, writer and guitarist and only by publishing, writing and playing can I build my confidence and improve my skills. 

I strongly believe you should never give up on your dreams because it is those dreams and passions and your commitment to achieving them, that ultimately define who you are.


Comments Welcome Below:

  • No Comments
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In