Four edits

There are only a few common pieces of advice I take stock in when it comes to Street Photography. With so many photographers out there trying to come up with regular blog posts you often get bombarded with do’s and don’ts that are just nonsense. But one of them will absolutely improve your photography, edit your work like a beast.

I have a process, it’s very simple and it removes a lot of the hand wringing you get when trying to whittle down your work. I call it the four edit process.

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Stage 1. Import

In the import screen don’t just import everything. I used to do that and would carefully go through each image looking for something that I could use in each one. But some shots are not even worth importing and your hard drive will thank you for getting rid of them right at the start. Make the thumbnail size large enough to weed out the missed, out of focus and just plain rubbish shots.

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Stage 2. Process.

Now go through your images and decide which ones to process. If you’ve done stage one really well you should be processing most of the ones you’ve imported because you’ve deemed them worthy to live on your hard drive. The ones you thought might be ok but when looking at them large won’t cut it should be deleted completely.

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Stage 3. Export.

Now of the processed images decide which you will export to jpg and at this stage in Lightroom you could probably lose a couple. Once they are in your folder on your drive open them in your image viewer and go and weed out the ones that aren’t as good as the rest. Be vicious, you’ve got this far so be really strict with yourself and even if you think a picture has potential, if it doesn’t stack up to the others in the folder, leave it behind (but don’t delete it).

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Stage 4. Publish.

My online platform is Flickr, it’s where I put everything and see how it performs. I upload the images to my account but set the visibility to just me. This gives you another opportunity to view them in context with your other images in your photostream and every morning I set a new image to public and post it on my Facebook, Google+ and Twitter streams. The result of this is that some images never get published, they stay in my photostream unseen because I shot something better the next day.

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The result is you publish the very best of your work but you get to contextualise it with the stuff that nearly makes it but not quite, which I think is sometimes the most valuable comparison.

Check out my Flickr page

My photography in 2014

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A year of new projects, new cameras and new focal lengths.

During December 2013 and the early part of 2014 I was looking for a new job so my photography took a back seat. I’d also just bought a Fuji X100 and was struggling to get anything other than out of focus rubbish.

I found a role in Edinburgh and moved up there in February and during my first weekend Enna took me to an underground car park in the city centre. We walked down the stairs to level -4 and when we went through the doors I knew I’d found my new project. Taking place, far underground, was a car boot sale.

When I think about my photography it’s all based around people standing and waiting on platforms, perfectly lit by spotlights with loads of texture and depth around them. I pull people out of the crowd and freeze them; constantly fascinated by interesting and unusual faces. With my Nikon I’d been getting closer and closer to my subjects on the London Underground but when I bought my Fuji it’s focal length was 24mm and the autofocus was much slower. As it turned out the underground car park was perfect for the new camera, I was stepping back and observing so a lightning fast autofocus wasn’t always needed, also the wider lens actually brought more to the scene. Each bay was lit by a spotlight and also down the centre of each corridor, this meant that everyone was steeped in light and shadow which made for some excellent shots.

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I went back to the car boot sale every Sunday morning for four months, I played with using my Fuji on numerous settings, took the Nikon a couple of times and eventually bought a Sony A6000 but the best shots were taken on the Fuji on almost auto settings. It brought back my days at Borough Market but enhanced by the months and months on the London Underground building up the nerve to shoot people who were looking straight down the lens of the camera.

After 4 months I felt the project was finished, I’m not sure why but it had come to a close. I used a website called The Newspaper Club to create a newsprint tabloid of the project and had 10 copies made, I sent them to various magazines and in early 2015 my shots will appear in Amateur Photographer.

The Sony did allow me to get back into close up work on Princes Street in Edinburgh, my Lunchtagram project was a combination of the new super fast autofocus on the Sony, it’s Wifi function to send a shot directly to my phone and Instagram. I had wanted to get back into using Instagram for a while but never saw much point because the camera on my phone was just not easy to use. When I got the Sony suddenly I could go out at lunchtime and have a shot up on Instagram as soon as I got back to my desk at work in the afternoon.

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During my time at FreeAgent Roan Lavery asked me to take some pictures for him as an Australian magazine called Offscreen was doing a piece on him. They gave us reasonably strict style guides and we shot lots of pictures around the office, in coffee shops and the back streets of Edinburgh. The resulting article and shots looked fantastic. It’s also reignited my curiosity in taking portraits.

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Coming back to London in the Autumn ment back on the Tube! I had missed it so much and now my commute involves going through two major stations, St Pancras and Paddington, and using a very busy tube line. Using the 35mm lens on the Sony means my shots have been wider and much more like the car boot shots. I’m hoping to build another portfolio of tube shots that are less portrait and much more about the life of the commute and find some interesting scenes. I’m also looking for another project, something like the car boot sale that I can regularly go to and build up over time.

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So overall this year has been excellent, I feel I’ve grown and expanded my work while still maintaining the overall themes and style.

Car boot sale newspaper

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I’ve been going to the Edinburgh Omni-centre Car Boot Sale every Sunday for about 5 months, in that time I think I must have taken hundreds of pictures but at the start of August I felt that I had come to a natural and logical close to the project.

I’ve been looking around for different types of ways to present my work and for a while I’ve wanted to experiment with a tabloid newspaper format. A company called The Newspaper Club digitally print onto newsprint and in this case I felt the subject matter suited the newspaper format perfectly.

The results are great, naturally the newsprint sucks some of the depth out of the images and I don’t think this is something I’d do on a large scale but as a promotional item to send to magazines and galleries it works perfectly.

Strictly limited to 10 copies, signed and numbered a copy is available for £9.99. If you would like one drop me a line on the contact page.

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Lunchtagram

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There are two things that really move your photography forward, new technology and a new setting. When I moved to Edinburgh one of the things I was most worried about was the lack of Underground system to shoot my close up portraits on. My photography is based on two elements, low light and close up portraits where the subject doesn’t get time to compose themselves before they realise they are being captured. I had always connected the two together and so I always felt my best work was the mixture of the two.

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When I started shooting in Edinburgh I went to the underground car boot sale for my low light stuff but it wasn’t the sort of environment that I could practice my close up portraiture but then two things happened. I rediscovered Instagram and I bought a new camera, a Sony A6000. It was only the super quick auto focus and WiFi connectivity of the A6000 that allowed me to get back into the close up work.

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Every lunchtime I go out and walk up and down Princes street taking pictures of tourists and locals; practising my technique of walking across their path or quickly darting in front of them to get a close up shot. I love the work of Bruce Gilden but don’t quite have the courage to get right in the face of my subjects like he does yet, however I managed to get some quite impressive shots of the unusual and interesting women who populate the city centre.  It’s not the perfect time of the day to shoot, in the midday sun, but I was surprised by the results.

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Instagram evolved earlier this year to give you much more editing power over your pictures adding vignetting, sharpening and much more control over your colour as well as the standard filters it’s always had, this allowed me to get the type of results I always look for. In addition the WiFi connection between my phone and my camera allowed me to get my pictures into Instagram immediately resulting in an ever growing set that allows me to scratch my itch of close up work once again, let me know what you think.

You can see the full set here

Sony A6000 first thoughts

So this is not a technical review, specs don’t interest me at all. This is a short piece on my reaction to this camera after one week of using it. If you don’t have time to read it the TL:DR is the Sony A6000 is the best camera I’ve ever used.

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I’ve been slugging my Nikon D7000 around for three years and it’s heavy and big and cumbersome. The reason I’ve been doing that is that it performs, no other camera I’ve ever used could match it’s autofocus, it’s low light capability and it’s immense battery life.

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For the past 8 months I’ve been struggling, persevering and becoming more and more frustrated with my Fuji X100, a camera which takes amazing pictures but has a glacial autofocus and a dreadful battery life. I experimented with zone focussing but found it just too difficult in low light and I’ve tried slowing down my photography, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I would often go out and shoot, miss shot after shot and find myself cursing it all the way up to the moment the battery died.

The one aspect of the Fuji that I did like was it’s size and weight. Being able to just slip it into my pocket was really appealing so I’ve been looking for something for a while but of all the mirrorless cameras out there I haven’t been able to find one that was the right price coupled with the right performance. I need fast autofocus in low light, it’s what my photography is based on and I can’t compromise on that.

So when the Sony A6000 was announced I read the reviews and after a particularly disappointing evenings shoot with the Fuji I just went ahead and bought it.

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I’ve been shooting with it for a week with the 35mm f1.8 lens and it’s speed, accuracy and image quality has blown me away. The electronic viewfinder is bright and clear, the menus are pretty good compared to even the Nikon (and head and shoulders above the puzzle menus of the Fuji) but it’s the autofocus that really stands out as a stunning feature.

With face recognition switched on it locks onto people so well and so quick that it feels faster than the Nikon and whilst I’m still getting my head around the other focus settings, so far it’s performed amazingly well. I’ve been able to point the camera in someones general direction and it locks onto their face and gives and clear sharp image at f1.8 focussed on their eyes.

The low light outperforms the Fuji with far less grain and even at the lowest light levels the autofocus didn’t even blink.

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Battery life too is great due to some neat power saving tricks like a proximity sensor next to the eyepiece so the electronic viewfinder only comes on when you look through it. I shot for around 3-4 hours without a charge and still had around 30% left however this is all academic because the A6000 uses an Micro USB cable (like Android phones) so you can charge it from your computer, lovely.

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It’s also tiny, with the lens on it’s not quite small enough to put in your coat pocket but taking into account the performance this is still a very compact and light camera which is comfortable to hold and much lighter than my Nikon.

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So it’s only been a week but I’ve decided to go all in and sell my Nikon and lenses, I’m that confident in the abilities of this little camera. I’ve bought a 50mm f1.8 lens to accompany my 35mm and I’m looking forward to combining the wider style shots I’ve been getting at the car boot sale with much more intimate close up portraits, I finally feel like I have the camera that can deliver the performance I need without compromise.