Categories
Miscellaneous

The Lockdown 50kcal Biscuit Review

I know what you’re thinking:

This blog post is genius.

And you’d be right.

Not only do I get to play around with some indoor still life photography, I also get to eat a tonne of awesome biscuits.

And as if that’s not enough, I get to put them on my expenses too.

Yes, I am a genius.

But enough about me. This post is about the biscuits.

You’re probably wondering why I put an arbitrary calorie count on the biscuits in this article. Well, it’s quite simple.

I am a glutinous pig who binge-eats biscuits like they’re in short supply.

I eat my biscuits four-at-a-time by dunking them in my tea or coffee, so I try to keep my intake below 200kcal in order to maintain a modicum of control over my expanding waistline.

Another thing about the biscuits featured in this article is that they all cost £1 or less. Most of them were purchased from Poundland, but some came from Bargain Buys or Asda.

I’ve offered my thoughts on each individual biscuit, then ranked them at the bottom. Let me know if you agree with me.

A small legal point – this article is not sponsored or endorsed by any of the companies featured, and these are my individual opinions.

Let’s get started.

Ginger Nuts

These are Asda’s own-brand, but I personally can’t differentiate between them and any other brand, so they’re easy to find wherever you shop. They stand up well in tea and coffee – you’ll very rarely find one that breaks off mid-dunk, though they do impact on the taste of the hot drink so that’s something to consider.

They’re easy to find and 46 calories per biscuit they’re a really satisfying way to spend my allocation. You never feel like you’ve been short-changed by a ginger biscuit.

Biscoff Lotus

If you’ve ever bought a coffee from a swanky independent coffee shop, you’ll be familiar with the Lotus biscuit. It usually comes in a plastic red and white transparent packet on the side of the saucer, and it’s inherent elegance adds a feeling of sophistication to your overpriced coffee.

That is, until you see you can get a massive packet of them for £1 from pretty much any mainstream supermarket.

Don’t get me wrong though – I LOVE Lotus biscuits. It has a real richness to it that belies it’s 37 calories, and it means I can eat five of these and still have space for a carrot (yeah right) within my 200 calorie allocation. Partnered with a nice rich coffee, there’s no doubt this is a perfect mid-afternoon biscuit. Oh, and it’s vegan too.

Biscoff Lotus with Belgian Chocolate

Now I wasn’t planning on including these in my blog, but when I saw them in Poundland I shrieked with joy and felt compelled to buy these as a duty to you, dear reader.

My, was I disappointed. This biscuit is the perfect example of why you should not try to build on perfection.

Amazingly, this chocolate version is still only 37 calories. However, this has been maintained by significantly slimming down the biscuit. The problem is twofold: Firstly, the layer of Belgian Chocolate is so thin that you can’t really taste it. The biscuit is so rich anyway that unless you rub the chocolate against your tongue, you barely notice it in your mouth. Secondly, the reduced size of the biscuit means that you can’t make out the unique flavour that makes a Lotus biscuit what it is. The upshot of all of this is that ultimately this just tastes like a mouthful of tasteless brown sugar. That’s not the worst part though – when I dared to dunk it, it lost all taste completely.

Stick to what you know, Biscoff.

Belvita Breakfast – Milk & Cereals

I still laugh in the face of the suggestion that any biscuit can be considered a breakfast meal. It is fantastic marketing though, and as a biscuit addict I don’t need much justification for adding them to any meal so let’s go with it.

I could make a comment on the timed carb release and all that stuff they talk about in the adverts, but let’s be honest, there are only three things I really care about here: taste, texture, and dunking durability.

It could be argued that this one falls down on the taste test. There’s no arguing that it’s a little bland, but the lack of a potent sugar hit at least fools me into not feeling so guilty about eating biscuits for breakfast.  The texture gives a satisfying crunch as well, so no complaints there. Where this biscuit really stands out though, is both in its dunking durability, and its impact on your drink.

This biscuit stands tall for a long while in my morning cuppa. On the rare occasions that part of the biscuit has fallen off into my tea, its impressive structure means that there is usually time for me grab a tea spoon and rescue it before it ruins the bottom of my cup.

This one comes in at 54 calories per biscuit, and they come in pre-packaged bags of four so obviously you have to eat them all in one sitting (it’s the law, in case you’re wondering). That means it’s slightly over my 200 calorie limit, but then you do get a good size, texture, and a satisfying crunch, so it’s still worth considering.

Bahlsen Milk

This one came a little out of leftfield. It wasn’t on my radar until I spotted it in Poundland, and even then I wasn’t intending to buy it until I caught sight of the nutrition information on the packet. Amazingly for such a sturdy, chocolatey biscuit, the packet tells me that a serving of two biscuits comes in at 89 calories – or 44.5 calories each.

You don’t get a huge number of biscuits in these packets (12) but the quality of the chocolate and the dunking durability means I’ll definitely be picking some more of these up in the future. The chocolate melts perfectly when dunked in tea, meaning you can lick it off and then enjoy the Rich Tea-like biscuit separately. This feels like a premium biscuit, as well as being relatively light, so this is a welcome new addition to my regular shop.

Fox’s Sports

Ah, here we are. The biscuit that prompted this article. An impulse buy at just 67p from Bargain Buys, I really wasn’t expecting much.

These incredibly tasty shortbread biscuits come in at just 41 calories each, and because they’re called Sports, that means they’re healthy, right? It’s an amazing achievement which further compounds my theory that Fox’s really are the king of biscuits.

Fox’s Sports really do have everything – low calorie content, a sugary hit that’s not too rich, a relatively dunk-resistant structure, and a luxurious melt-in-your-mouth taste. They’re also the perfect biscuit to crumble and put with ice-cream and fruit (making them even healthier) on a hot summer day.

McVities Digestives Twists – Chocolate Chip and Caramel Bits

I bought these for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Anything caramel-flavoured will always catch my attention, and even more so when they’re only 45 calories each. I think these are actually £1.29 now, though they were on special offer at £1 when I first bought them. That said, it’s quite a big pack so I didn’t feel short-changed.

The first thing you notice is that they’re slightly thinner than your regular digestive. I’m guessing this is because the caramel flavour is quite subtle and it’s very possible it would have got lost completely in a full size digestive biscuit. They definitely have a caramel-ly sweetness to them, but personally I found it a little underwhelming.

In terms of structure they’re quite brittle. They break very easily in your hand, and thus melt and dissolve into a cup of tea very quickly.

These were nice for a change, but given that there are more satisfying biscuits on this list that cost a fair bit less, I’ll probably only buy them for a bit of variation every now and then. There’s also a coconut version that I haven’t tried, so maybe I’ll give them a go sometime. 

Rich Tea

And finally… no, don’t go yet, this isn’t as black and white as you think!

Another biscuit that you can get from any supermarket, and one that tends not to have a huge amount of variance between brand names.

This might surprise you given the other types of biscuit on this list, but Rich Tea will always come in near the top in my opinion. For me, they are the deserving sidekick to the archetypal British cuppa.

Yes, they’re not fancy, they don’t scream luxury, they don’t have any bells and whistles, and they’re probably not going to be the ones you instinctively go for when you raid grandma’s pantry. But – and this is an important but – in terms of structure, taste, and dunking durability, they’re pretty much unbeatable.

You can count the number of seconds before the biscuit bends and still have time to get it up to your mouth. You can experience the satisfying crunch no matter how little is left after the biscuit after dunking. And you know damn well that you’re going to get a sweet, sugary hit that isn’t too overpowering, meaning you can demolish these between meals without ruining your appetite.

And all this in a perfectly-sized, round biscuit, for just 38 calories.

Summary

Here are my rankings. I decided on these by ranking each biscuit on three factors: taste, dunking durability, and calorie content. Taste and durability are marked out of ten, while calorie content scores are created by subtracting the calorie content of the biscuit from 50.

I’m sure there are other methods you could use – for instance checking the amount of sugar in each biscuit – but hey, I just wanted to write about biscuits. If you’re here for nutrition information you’re in the wrong place.

Anyway, here is the final table:

BiscuitKcalCalorie ScoreTasteDurabilityTotal
Rich Tea38126826
Biscoff Lotus37138425
Fox’s Sports4198623
Bahlsen Milk44.55.59721.5
Ginger Nuts46461020
Biscoff Lotus Milk Chocolate37134219
McVitie’s Digestive Twists4556617
Belvita Breakfast Milk & Cereals54-46911

Who’d have thought it, eh? The humble Rich Tea biscuit coming top of that list? When all is said and done, the reliability of an old low-calorie favourite always comes through. The classic Biscoff Lotus deservedly comes in second – there’s no doubt it’s a superb coffee biscuit but it’s lack of dunking durability ultimately cost it top spot. An honourable mention too, for Fox’s Sports, which will no doubt be making a more regular appearance in my biscuit tin/belly going forward.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Did I miss your favourite biscuit out?

Let me know by liking, sharing and commenting on social media!

Categories
Photography Tips & Tricks

7 tips for creating great character headshots at home

Getting a great character headshot at home needn’t be expensive or boring. Whether you’re looking for a headshot for a creative business, or a picture to use as a poster for a show, here are some simple ideas that can help you make the most of whatever camera you have to hand.

Disclaimer: All the pictures in this article were taken on my camera phone, which does not have a great quality lens! You’ll likely get much more success from iPhones or high-spec Huawei phones.

1. Use what you have

Want a funky coloured background to inject some energy into the shot? Hang a bed sheet over a door. Make sure you iron out the wrinkles first, but if you’re only taking a head-and-shoulders shot then you don’t need to worry too much as long as it’s not too distracting. Otherwise, a nice, bright, single-colour wall will do the trick – just try to avoid taking pictures in marked or stained areas.

Another option is to buy some coloured A1 card from your local craft shop. It’ll probably set you back around £3-4, and you can then use blu-tac or electrical tape to stick it to whatever you surface you wish. See the pictures below.

2. Shoot during daylight hours

There are lots of things you can do creatively with household lights. For instance, pointing a desk lamp at one side of your face, and/or covering the light source with a coloured A4 folder to obtain some funky colour. But to give yourself the best chance of obtaining a nice, clear, in-focus shot – do it during daylight hours in a room where there is plenty of natural light. You don’t necessarily need to be next to a window, as long as there is a good amount of light coming into the room.

The reason for this is that if you’re shooting on a camera phone (or any camera that is using automatic settings), the camera will increase it’s light sensitivity setting (or “ISO” for those of you with DSLRs) to compensate for the lack of light, and a side-effect of this is that grain is added to the picture. How much grain depends on the processing capability of your phone’s built-in image processing software. You also risk a blurry picture as you camera will be shooting a very slow shutter speed.

Of course, this can also be used a stylistic choice – so if you WANT grain and/or blur in your picture – shoot out of daylight hours with artificial lights!

3. Use a tripod

If you have access to a tripod, use it. The tripod I use for anything I film on my phone is a simple piece of plastic I bought from a pound shop about six years ago! You can get them on sites like eBay and Amazon for a couple of quid including p+p, and it will make your life so much easier. If you want to spend a little more or position your camera at a higher point, you can get a standard tripod for around £15 that will be more than enough for a camera phone, though you might still need to get the phone holder adapter.

Above pictures: (L) My mini-tripod, and (R) My phone camera’s timer menu.

My camera phone also has a palm-detect function. This means that once the camera is in position I can flash the palm of my hand at the lens, and it will count down from three and then take a picture. Be sure to have a nose through the settings of whatever camera you’re using – and play around with the settings to learn how to use them. Don’t be afraid to take lots of photos – no one has to see them except you, and this is often the best way of understanding your camera! If you don’t have the palm-detect or similar function, most phone cameras will have a timer that gives you up to 10 seconds to get into position before it takes the picture. Some will also have a “burst-mode” option – this means that the camera will take between 5-10 photos in quick succession when the timer runs out. This can be really handy for capturing candid moments, though it will mean you have a lot of photos to delete.

The beauty of a tripod is that it allows you to structure the shot, then leave the camera in position. This is particularly useful if you’re taking your own pictures, as you’ll be able to work out the composition of the shot you want before you put yourself into it. Each time you come in and out, the camera will still be in the same position, so at this point you only have to focus on your own appearance.

4. Have someone directing you

While it can be fun to take photographs on your own, it’s always better if there is someone behind the camera who can direct you. A good character portrait can be enhanced by the smallest movements – particularly if you’re taking a shot of only your face. Having someone who can see the effect of each slight movement in real time can save a lot of frustration, and a lot of time involving you going back and forth to the camera after every single shot.

Above pictures: In the shot on the left, my ear has been cut off, and the phone leeches outside of the blue background. I recomposed for the image on the right, but this would have been a lot quicker had someone been telling me “lift the phone up, bring your head forward…”

A second person is helpful for generating ideas, particularly if it’s someone that knows you well. It can also help you relax, and feeling comfortable during a photoshoot is one of the most important aspects of capturing a great photo.

Crucially, a second person can select the correct focus point once you’re in shot. If you’re using a camera phone, this could be the difference between a good and a great shot.

5. Get stupid and use props

Seriously. Even if you’re taking more formal shots. Why? Because playing helps us relax and get to the core of who we are. Pull faces: open your eyes as wide as you can, flare your nostrils, stick your chin in the air, show your teeth, look suspicious, scrunch your face in anger, put a finger up your nose, hold your head, turn and point your ear at the camera, stick your tongue out – I could go on.

Find props: If you have anything you use in your business or show that could be used a signature item – try playing around with the placement of it within the frame. Look at it, put it in places it wouldn’t normally go, point with it, tell it off, put it in your mouth (if it’s clean), put in on your head. If you don’t have a signature prop, do the same thing with household objects: a broom, a chair, a banana, an item of clothing, a toy, a newspaper, a phone, a pencil… you get the idea. Immediately you’ve added an interesting narrative to your picture – even if you don’t know what the narrative is yourself!

The benefits here are two-fold: Firstly you might get a picture that you wouldn’t have thought about staging, or it might give you an idea to stage something more specific. Secondly, even if you don’t use any of these pictures, you’ll have warmed up some of the muscles in your face, probably made yourself laugh, and helped yourself to relax – meaning that if you take “straight” pictures afterwards, you will likely look a lot fresher!

6. Think about your style / talk to a graphic designer

Here’s a first-hand example of how not to do it: For a show I wrote and produced a couple of years ago, after I’d done all of the above, I took it even further and wrote the word “ARSE” on my head in red lipstick. Some of the pictures looked so ridiculous that I decided that I just HAD to use them.

The above images didn’t present my show in the correct light.

What I hadn’t considered was that this had nothing to do with my show. What I had produced was a poster suggesting that my show involved fooling and self-idiocy (is that even a phrase?), whereas the show was actually about pointing out the stupidity of those in power. I received feedback that audience members expected a more clown-based show, based on the image on the poster. So consider your style if you’re a performer. Is your character calm and serene, or loud and shouty? Do you have a deadpan style of delivery or are you loud and boisterous? This will affect your choice of colours, props and expressions. 

If you’re taking a photo for a website, consider where it will sit and how it will look within the site. For example, if your website has muted pastel colours, you probably don’t want a bright yellow backdrop ruining the vibe.

If you’re taking a picture for a show poster, try to visualise the layout of the poster before you take the picture. Where will the title go? Where will the show details (venue, time, date, cost etc.) be placed. If you’re unsure where to start, google some show posters for inspiration. If you’re employing a graphic designer, speak to them first. Failing any of those things – take as many pictures as you can in as many styles as you can, and a good graphic designer will be able to create something suitable for you. See the next images for an example of how to leave enough space for text.

7. Use the highest resolution, don’t crop unless necessary, and only use editing apps that export at high resolution

If your image is to be used for printed materials, check your phone’s resolution setting and always use the highest resolution possible. Don’t crop your image unless absolutely necessary – focus on getting the composition right in camera. Small crops are okay (for example, cropping 5% of the image in a corner to remove a distracting object) but remember that each time you crop the image, you lose detail. This could be crucial if you’re planning on printing posters larger than A3.

Don’t judge the design skills – I’m not the most skilled graphic designer! These images show how a graphic designer would use negative space, and how small details like the fact you can see the wall in the bottom-left corner can be eliminated fairly easily.

There are lots of amazing editing apps out there that allow you to add filters, stylise, and colour your images. If you are creating an image for a poster, ensure that the app can export in high resolution. For example – Instagram will export images with a file size of around 0.2MB, which would look terrible printed at anything above 6x4in. A graphic designer may be to advise and/or recreate filters, so always save the original version of a photo to pass to them.

Some quick bonus tips:

  • – Always make sure your lens is clean before shooting.
  • – For posters, shoot in portrait mode at a 3:2 ratio if possible. Some phone cameras default to square (1:1), 4:3, or 16:9. While this isn’t the end of the world, most poster sizes are in 3:2, meaning a 3:2 photo will fit more naturally. If you’re shooting in anything other than 3:2, be sure to leave lots of negative space (space with nothing of consequence in it) as you will probably need to crop the image for your poster.
  • – Shoots outside on location can work if the location is relevant to whatever you’re promoting, and the backdrop is not too cluttered and distracting.

I hope you’ve found that helpful. I’d love to know how you get on, and see some of your efforts! Drop me an email or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram if you have any questions or feedback.

The quality of your results will be dependent on the quality of your camera phone. If you find you’re not getting the sharpness or professional look that you’d like, you can book a character photoshoot with me from just £67 by clicking here.

Did you enjoy this article? Make sure you tell your friends! Want more tips & tricks directly to your email box a couple of times a month? Then sign up to my mailing list now – you’ll also be entered into a draw to win a free photoshoot at the end of every month in 2020!

Categories
Media Coverage

Social Distancing Project in The Argus

My photographs from St Patrick’s Day (Tuesday 17th March) were printed in The Argus today. The photos in the two-page spread show empty pubs, restaurants and takeaways, showing the effects of the government’s initial recommendation that the public stay home. This was almost a week before today’s full lockdown announcement.

I also made a point of mentioning the lack of support for the people affected by the closures. Many people working in leisure are freelancers and workers on zero-hour contracts. As of today there has still been no support offered to these workers, although there are rumblings that a package of support for self-employed people will emerge later this week.

You can read the full article and see all of the pictures online at this link. The pictures can be viewed at full resolution in my online gallery.

Categories
Competitions Photography Tips & Tricks

Take Better Cat Photos (part 2)

Thanks for all the feedback so far and I hope you enjoyed the first part of this post. If you haven’t already taken in part 1, start here!

I’ll be following this up with some how-to videos in due course. Remember to sign up to the mailing list if you want to know when they’re released – where you’ll also be in with a chance of winning a free photoshoot EVERY MONTH!

Anyway, on with the pictures!

Picture 4 – Darren

I love how this photo almost looks like the cat is taking a selfie! If the paw had been leaving the frame on the left hand side it would have been perfect, but it’s still a great photo. The strong eye contact, the face in full focus, and the way the top of the ears have been included make this a really satisfying picture. What makes this work so well though, is the series of lines that run through it at diagonals. The bars behind, the lines of blue and white blind, the radiator and the spaces between the sofa cushions all converge to help to draw the attention towards our feline.

There are a few things I would do with this photo if I was editing it using professional software– the first thing would be to straighten it up slightly. It only needs rotating a fraction, but it would make the picture that tiny bit easier on the eye. The other thing I would do is enhance the eyes a little post-production. I’d add a little sharpness and increase the exposure ever-so-slightly – to really enhance that eye contact. I’d also change the colour of the orange object in the background – the rest of the picture has this wonderfully consistent colour palette and it’s a really shame that the orange in the background is slightly distracting.

That said – given the dynamic nature of cats, this is a wonderful shot to capture. Some people might prefer to see the paw that has sneaked out of shot, but if Darren had carried on shooting from different angles or distances, the cat would have changed position and he may have lost the eye contact or the calming stillness in the shot. Remember – you’re always likely to be compromising on something.

Key points: Great colours, strong eye contact, face in focus, wonderful use of lines, could be ever-so-slightly straighter.

A picture of a cat

Picture 5 – Linda

Now for something a little more abstract. I love the atmosphere this picture evokes – a sense of calmness, simplicity, restfulness. There’s something incredibly cute about a cat’s paw. The little pads, the small spaces between digits, the tenderness of the fur. The choice to make this black and white is the right one – we don’t know what colours are in the background, but it immediately stops any attention being taken away from the subject.

It’s always really tricky to take close-up photos and keep them in focus, particularly when fur is involved. The autofocus sensor looks for areas of strong contrast to identify the subject, and fur is usually multi-layered and thus the contrast is subtle. A couple of potential changes spring to mind – one would be to put the focus on the claw that is sticking out. This can be done by using the rule of thirds (see bottom of post) and placing the claw on one of the power points. It would involve a change of angle but would highlight the sharpness of the claw in contrast to the delicate nature of the fur. Another way would be to move the camera to a slightly different spot and hide the white patch on the left side of the photo, which distracts from the subject.

This would look great on the wall of a cat-lover. I can see it as part of a collection of images looking at the detail of various parts of a cat’s body.

Key points: Good decision to go with monochrome, interesting subject, background could be less distracting, consider use of rule of thirds.

Picture 6 – Manon

The simplicity of this photo is wonderful. We’re all very familiar with seeing a cat on a shelf, and the use of a limited colour palette in the edit/choice of filter means this almost feels like a painting. The Tibetan singing bowl next to our subject adds to the air of peace, and there’s a very subtle colour change on the wall above the cat that helps fill the frame and maintain interest. We have back-to-front sharpness, the shelf is perfectly straight and this really could have been taken by a professional.

There are two things I would have been tempted to do differently, but these are entirely subjective. The first is I would have tried moving the camera to the right slightly to remove the reflection from the bowl. The slightest movement can make the biggest difference. The second is a technical aspect using professional editing software – I would look to raise the shadows (the darkest parts of the image) ever-so-slightly slightly to bring out a little more detail in the fur.

Key points: Nicely balanced composition, lovely colour palette, wonderful feeling of peace.

Rule of Thirds Explained

In picture 5 I mentioned the rule of thirds. This is a very simple, but very powerful composition technique that can easily boost the quality of your images. Take a look at the picture below.

Many camera phones and compact cameras will have the option to select an overlay when taking photographs (see above). Have a snoop through your menus and see if you can find it. Don’t worry if it’s not there though, because all you need to do is imagine that the picture is split into three sections both horizontally and vertically.

The eye is drawn naturally to anything positioned on the points where the thirds meet – indicated by the places at which the lines meet on the overlay. You can see there are four “power-points” – if you place your subject on these power-points you will naturally make your subject stand out. If you are taking a portrait of a person or an animal – try to place one of their eyes on the power-point for extra emphasis. You might need to play around to find out which eye works best, but that’s what photography is – playing around within the knowledge you have to find the composition that works best for your photo!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Let me know how you get on by sharing your pictures to me on Facebook at my Brighton Cat Snapper page!

Keep your eyes peeled for some tutorial videos and don’t forget to to subscribe to my newsletter to receive free photography tips and tricks, and to be entered into a draw to win a free photoshoot every month this year!

Categories
Competitions Photography Tips & Tricks

Take Better Cat Photos (part 1)

In December I wrote a blog asking you to send in pictures of your cats, which I would then use to offer some simple tips for improving your photography.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone that submitted their photos. What’s interesting is that these photos are all wonderful as they are – they’re very clear, they have the subject in frame and in focus, and they all show the character of their felines! Photography is subjective, and my feedback is around what I would do to try take the quality up a notch – not to correct anything that is wrong – so you may or may not agree with me and that’s fine! I’ll be talking about some basic composition techniques that anyone can use – I’ll be doing my best to illustrate them with some examples but if you have any questions please drop me an email and I’ll do my best to expand on my point or link you to other online resources.

Right, let’s get started!

Picture 1 – by Charlie

A black cat lying on its back on a blue floor

I love this picture! You really get a feeling of playfulness and attention-seeking. The face is in focus, there’s adorable eye-contact with the camera, the paw sticking out to the right gives us just enough information to know they’re lying down, and the light blue background and light-coloured floor provide a lovely contrast to the black cat. The reflections in the eyes show that this was taken in environment with a lot of natural light, and this is really useful for bringing out the detail in the black fur. The whiskers help fill the frame as well. This is a really great photo, taken on an iPhone 8.

There are a couple of things that I would have been looking to do differently as a professional photographer. One is something that only a nit-picking photographer like me would be doing: the left eye is ever-so-slightly out of focus, so I’d be looking to widen my aperture to make sure it was in focus. Most camera phones don’t allow you to change the aperture setting manually, so to get around this you can back away from the subject slightly. This will increase the depth-of-field (the amount of the shot that is in focus) – just make sure that the camera is focussed on either one of the eyes, or the space between the eyes.

That also links to my second suggestion. I’d love to see a tiny bit more of the head. By moving the camera away slightly, the ears will come into shot, as will as a little more of the body.

This really is a wonderful photo as it is – great work Charlie!

Key points: Fill the frame, keep eyes in focus, strong contrast between background and subject works well, strong natural light for black animals will bring out details in their fur.

One caveat here that will apply to all of these photos – and indeed all pet photography – is this: Animals are lively! Everything I’m suggesting is in a best-case scenario. The “perfect” photograph is almost impossible – you’ll always be compromising on some aspect of the photo – the only really important thing is that you like it and it means something to you!

Picture 2 – by Rachael

A white cat with grey nose and mouth, surrounded by toys

Look at that cute little kitty! In many ways this picture is perfect. A perfectly central composition, lots of other items in the frame that are relevant to the subject (toys, litter tray etc.), and that gorgeous look of expectation in kitty’s eyes! The spot of light on the head provides a wonderfully-satisfying curve over the eyebrows, before the shadow kicks in beneath the face – this really helps draw attention to those gorgeous eyes.

Going back to my caveat – this is a great photo of a great moment, and that’s the most important thing – the only thing I would be looking to change in a professional shoot is removing some of the other items from the shot that are a little distracting: the grey and orange tag on the left-hand side, the cushion/pillow in the top-right corner, and the sock beneath kitty’s paw. I might also tidy up the litter tray and distribute some of the toys up the right hand side of the frame. BUT in doing this you are of course creating a false situation and relying on kitty to get back into the correct position for the re-shot, so it would depend on whether you are looking for an authentic or an ideal photo. Personally, I prefer authentic and I think this is a great photo as it is.

Key points: Frame is full of (mainly) relevant objects, strong eye contact, could be tidier for a “perfect” photo.

Picture 3 – by Staci

A cat wearing a red bow tie, on top of a hamper

A wonderfully colourful image! I love the contrast of the burgundy bow tie with the blue background. The hint of the Christmas tree behind our subject, and the wonderful warm colours suggest a cosy winter theme. I love the cat’s expression, and the relaxed paw positions. It was a great choice of shoot from below the subject as well – it’s a different angle to what we as humans usually see, and it really brings us into our subject’s world.

Capturing the perfect moment with animals is always tricky, particularly when the photographer probably had to stabilise their hand in an unnatural position to take this, but in an ideal world I’d love to see the top of the ear, perhaps with a little space separating that from the top of the frame. Something else you can do is crop the image to either a 1:1 ratio (square) or a tighter 3:4 ratio, and take out some of the hamper that is dominating the picture. I’ve posted examples below – both place more emphasis on the subject, but lose the sense of height on the hamper. Which do you prefer?

Key points: Lovely colours, warm and relaxed seasonal vibe, subtle crop can bring the attention more towards our subject.

Tighter 3:4 crop

Square crop

You can read part 2 here, and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to receive free photography tips and tricks, and to be entered into a draw to win a free photoshoot every month this year!

Categories
Competitions

Free monthly prize draw!

You may have noticed by now that I LOVE a competition. Everyone loves a freebie, right?

I like to keep my competitions simple, so that anyone can enter. No photography skills are needed, just a working internet connection. After all, if everyone was a photographer, I’d be out of work!

Not only is this competition the most simple of them all, you’ll be entered automatically every month. If you enter in January you’ll have TWELVE chances to win over the course of the year!

Over the next twelve months I’ll be sending out one to two emails a month to my mailing list subscribers. This will include hints and tips for taking photographs at home, exclusive subscriber offers, and – yes you’ve guessed it – more competitions!

Here’s the best bit though – on the last day of every month one mailing list subscriber will win a free photoshoot of their choice. The winner will be able to choose from a pet photoshoot for their pampered furbaby, or a character portrait shoot for themselves. The prize can be redeemed anywhere in Sussex, or exchanged for a gift voucher to pass on to a loved one.

To be in with a chance of winning a photoshoot every month between January and December 2020, simply use the form below to sign up for the mailing list. You details will not be passed on to any third parties and will be stored using the GDPR-compliant Mailchimp mailing list software.

Want one more chance of winning a character portrait shoot? Check out my free-to-enter competition on Snizl!

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Terms & Conditions

  • One entry per email address per month.
  • Cannot be exchanged for cash.
  • Each winner will receive one Purrfect for All or Character Portrait Starter photoshoot.
  • Photoshoot dates cannot be guaranteed in advance – to be arranged around the availability of the photographer.
  • Photoshoot must take place in Sussex.
  • I reserve the right to refuse a photoshoot in an unsafe or unsuitable location (but you wouldn’t do that to me anyway, right?).
  • Competition can be withdrawn or changed at any time at the discretion of the organiser (I’m only including this in case life happens, y’know?)
  • Questions? Drop me a line.

Categories
Competitions

Pet Photo Feedback & Prize Draw!

Please note this competition closed on 31st December 2019.

It’s coming up to Christmas and I’m in a giving mood. I know that although a pet photoshoot with free A4 framed print makes a wonderful gift, a lot of people love the photos they take on their phones.

Many phones these days contain high-end cameras with amazing capabilities – with the image quality often coming close to the that offered by a professional camera. Multiple lenses in camera phones mean that problems in the old brick phones like shooting in low-light conditions or difficulty tracking fast-moving objects are no longer obstacles to getting great pictures of your furbabies.

I’ve yet to come across a camera phone that can offer the same dynamic range and level of sharpness as a professional camera, and this becomes more obvious when photographs are printed, however, some simple tips to improve sharpness and composition can really take your images to the next level, and if you’re only using them on social media this lack of sharpness may well go undetected.

Professional pet photography makes black cats looks great!
A professional camera can usually pick up more detail in the range of blacks in an animal’s fur than a camera phone.

So here’s what I’m offering: submit a photograph of your pet between now and midnight on 31st December 2019 and in the new year I’ll write up a blog post offering ideas for some simple tweaks to improve the photos I receive. You’ll not only pick up tips for your own images, but you’ll be able to learn from the pictures submitted by other people too! Plus, you’ll get to read a whole blog post full of pictures of furbabies! What’s not to like? I can leave your name off the post if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

All entries will be entered into a draw to win a free 30-minute pet photoshoot in your home, garden or on location (Sussex only). The winner will be drawn at random from the list of names entered. Just to be clear – this isn’t a photography talent competition – quite the opposite! You know that picture that you love, but you think could be slightly better? Send me that one!

There are two ways to enter this competition:

  1. Fill out this simple Google form (link removed as now closed)
  2. Email competitions@guywah.photography with your image attached as a JPG file*

It is important that you have the relevant copyright before you submit any pictures – don’t panic though – if you took the photo, you are automatically the copyright holder! If you didn’t take the photo, you must seek permission from the person that did before submitting it to the competition. You retain all copyright – you simply grant permission for me to use the image for the purposes of this competition. It won’t be used for anything else.

It’s that simple! If you have any questions, please get in touch. I look forward to seeing my email inbox filled with gorgeous animals!

*By sending your entry via email you are agreeing that I have permission to use the submitted image on this blog and on social media for the purposes of this prize draw. You are also agreeing that you either are the copyright holder or have permission from the copyright holder of the image.

Categories
Photography and Mental Health

Photography & Mental Health and Wellbeing

Long before I was involved with photography, I worked in a job helping people with mental health support needs back into work. I had more than one client that used photography as a way to manage their wellbeing and keep themselves present.

A long time would pass before I would pick up a DSLR myself, but, now two and half years into this journey, I am feeling the positive effects myself.

Aside from keeping me present and keeping my mind focussed on the job in hand, taking photographs has numerous other benefits too. For example, one of my long-standing self-imposed life rules is to try to walk somewhere new every day. Even the simplest act of walking a different way to work or going slightly off my regular route into town brings with it a sense of excitement and refreshing anticipation, no matter how small. Not knowing what is around the corner or behind the wall stimulates my imagination and gets my creative brain working.

Working on the Brighton Cat Snapper project means I’m completely focussed on what is going on around me at all times

When I’ve got a camera in hand, that excitement is amplified because not only am I experiencing something new, I’m also analysing the area for an interesting composition. I’m looking closely at colours, textures, curves, lines and points of contrast. I’m looking for signs of movement, for juxtaposition, for drama, for comedy, or for an interesting moment.

Now let’s bring cats into the mix. Not only do I have the image composition to think about, but I also have a live animal to keep an eye on. Cats are no doubt my spirit animal, due in no small part to their unwillingness to do what anyone tells them to do. They are stubborn, they don’t care for human values, and they don’t play by your rules. Which, as well being reasons that I love them to much, are the reasons I have no choice but to stay present if I want to get the photo I’m looking for!

Then there’s the exercise. I can walk for miles with a camera in my hand without realising how far I’ve travelled. On more than one occasion I have found myself in the middle of nowhere, miles away from home, having set off with the intention of turning back a mile down the road. I tackle steep hills with enthusiasm, steps with a tingling anticipation, and fields without thought for my own safety. (Don’t try that at home, kids)

Walking through the Suffolk countryside allowed me to take one of my favourite landscape photos

But I think the biggest benefit to my emotional wellbeing is the immediacy of the art. Now I know a lot of people will preach against instant gratification, and I believe in longer-term development too, but when I’m feeling anxious or depressed and I need something to get me out of my head, the fact that I can pick up a camera and start creating something without hesitation is a real bonus. That’s in part how the Brighton Cat Snapper project came about. I can just pick up my camera and wander.

Sometimes I get in my car and drive to the nearest hill, or field, or windmill, or other point of interest. Sometimes I’ll put a podcast on in the car, and sometimes I don’t get out of the car at all. But it gives me the release I need.

I think everyone should find the thing that helps them stay present. Some people draw or paint, others play music. I tend to sing or write too. I’m a big believer in mindfulness, and the arts are a great way to occupy your mind in a positive manner.