About the author: Jane Burkinshaw is a professional photographer and passionate about all things photography related. Jane specialises in portrait photography and runs photography courses.

Bring on 2015! By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

When I was made redundant from a role in international marketing in 2007 I knew immediately what I wanted to do: set up my own business taking photographs and writing copy for small businesses, hence the name Picture It Big. Within a few weeks I was heading off in a completely different direction, photographing children at nurseries, after being given an opportunity at my own children's day nursery. Like many new starters I went wherever the business was, hungry to earn money, gain experience and build a portfolio.

A couple of years later I started running photography courses following lots of requests from photography clients. I discovered a new passion: sharing my knowledge with others. It was so rewarding and really enjoyable, although hard to gain enough exposure to fill the course places. I eventually hit on the idea of running workshops from home, thus eliminating the worry of booking and often cancelling venues.

In the meantime I had been reflecting on the photography services I was offering and realised that I needed to focus more on the more profitable areas and on the types of photography I really enjoyed. After all, what's the point of working for yourself, if you are doing stuff that doesn't make you want to leap out of bed in the morning?

As I end my sixth full year in business and look forward to 2015 (a big year in my mind as I turn 50!), I've got a clear business strategy and a wonderful new studio where it will all happen! Portrait and commercial photography will be my main photography focus, both in the studio and on location. I also have a full programme of courses taking place in the studio and interest and take up has so far been phenomenal. The business is being re-branded Jane Burkinshaw Natural Light Photography, to better reflect what I now do, with Love Your Lens as a sub-brand for the photography workshops.



When I look back on the last 6 years, I could kick myself for not having got to this point via a shorter route. If I'm honest I've made tons of mistakes, wasted money on the wrong types of promotion, not always been as focused and dedicated as I could have been. It was very difficult adjusting to a new life of working from home and not having to adhere to a 9 to 5. But if I'm a bit kinder to myself, I know I've learned an enormous amount, about photography and running a business. I've been around to take the kids to after school activities or even just into town to buy Christmas jumpers! I've managed to fit in being a parent governor and a trustee of a charity Gift Of A Wedding. Most importantly, as my husband reminds me, I am no longer the stressed out, slightly depressed person I was back in 2007, when office politics and an unbearable workload dominated my every waking thought.

Via local networking groups I've discovered a whole new community of fellow business owners, who are supportive, knowledgable and generous with their time and advice. Many people have become good friends, along with quite a few of my clients.

As I sit here typing this, I'm grateful that I'm able to be at home to care for a poorly daughter; I'm excited that the electrics are being finished in the studio and I'm looking forward to a Christmas lunch tomorrow, with a lovely crowd of ladies who all run their own businesses and have their own stories of successes and failures, challenges and triumphs.


I think I'd better finish now as I've just read that last sentence! Needless to say I'm really looking forward to 2015 with a new focus and brand spanking new studio (big reveal coming soon)! I need to make the final word a big THANK YOU and shout out to Nic, my husband, who is known as Poor Nic to everyone, for having the misfortune to be married to me. He has been a massive support to me in every way and  I would not have got to this point without him.
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A practical photography class in sunny Chester (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 125
For one of my "pupils" it was time to put into practise what she'd learned during our previous two sessions and where better than in the beautiful city of Chester on a glorious Spring day. After a quick coffee and chat about how Ann had been getting on since we last met, we headed up into The Rows to do a re-cap on one of the most important camera functions for low light photography - ISO.

f/3.2, 1/40, ISO 500
If you want to capture the ambience of scenes like this you need to turn your flash off and increase your ISO. As the lights were a bit orange I converted it to black and white in Photoshop. It has also removed any colour distractions.

At this point Ann went straight to the top of the class as she asked how she could have more control over the exposure than the Av (Aperture) setting was giving her. She knew the principles of Manual Exposure but had never dared try it out. After a few goes she was flying and didn't move out of Manual Mode all day!

Chester's wattle and daub, black and white facades made for great shooting material and we talked about selecting the right buildings to photograph, where the light was best, and about cropping out unwanted distractions (lots of "To Let" hoardings).

f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 200
I applied an infrared effect to this shot to enhance the sky and clouds.

One of the day's biggest challenges was the sunny weather! You become very aware of the harsh quality of bright sunlight and the consequent deep shadows, especially in close ups. You also have to think about how bright the sky is and whether it will appear as blue with fluffy white clouds in your shot or as a bland bright white band.

f/8, 1/500, ISO 160
Looking left along the river the scene was idyllic, with people enjoying the warm sunshine and the sky is blue with cloud detail.

f/8, 1/400, ISO 160
Looking right along the riverbank it was a different story, with bright sunshine bleaching out details in the sky and on the water. So I opted to crop out the sky and go for an almost silhouetted look. This took a few attempts in Manual Mode, taking a few different exposures until I was happy.

As we made our way back into the city via the walls, we came upon a crowd of people pointing mobile phones and cameras at something happening in the street down below. An episode of Foyle's War was being filmed and we joined in the frenzy to capture some of the action. It was a tricky street scene with deep shadows and bright sunshine. Great fun to watch even though Michael Kitchen was nowhere in sight.




Last lesson of the day was looking at how a higher f/number (smaller aperture) gives focus throughout the scene (broad depth of field) and from under the famous clock tower we took a shot of the busy shopping street below. With such bright conditions shutter speed wasn't an issue, despite the small aperture.

f/9, 1/80, ISO 100
Ann felt that everything had clicked into place today with using the combination of aperture, shutter speed and ISO to give her much more control over the images she takes. Once someone reaches this point I think their photography really starts to fly and they can concentrate on the creative side more.

These images were all taken by me but I know that Ann has some great pictures too and I've asked her to share them with me. She was over the moon with what she'd taken today and I was over the moon with her reaction!

If you'd like to take great photographs all the time, rather than occasionally just by accident (we've all done it!!), then get in touch to book a course or a one to one session via the website.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too! Like Picture It Big on Facebook to see more tips like this.



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Using white card to fill in shadows in your product / still life photographs. By Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Taken by one of my photography students
Natural light photography is wonderful: it has a beautiful, soft quality about it and it's "free", as you don't have to invest in a studio and lighting equipment. This shot was set up on my dining table near a large window and using a couple of pieces of board with a grey wood grain printed on them. I had these made specifically for the purpose but you could use pieces of wood, card, slate etc that you might find around the house.

Dark shadows on the left side of the vegetable.


When we did the first shot we realised there was a lot of shadow on the left side of the vegetable - the side furthest away from the window. This might not be a problem for certain shots, as shadow can add mood and interest. For the purposes of what we were doing we wanted to reduce the intensity of the shadow. This is easily done by using a piece of white card to bounce the light from the window back onto the subject. You can easily see the change as you move the white card around. You need to ask someone to hold it for you or prop it up against something.

Sometimes you may need 2 or more pieces of card to fill in shadows, as was the case with this flower shoot.



The final edited shot

A few tips to finish off with:

  • Make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/60th of a second to avoid camera shake.
  • If it's too slow, increase your ISO or use a tripod.
  • If bright sunlight falls on your table top set up, move it away from the window until you're in even shade.
  • If you want a really soft blurry background set your f/number as low as it can go.
By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too! Like Picture It Big on Facebook to see more tips like this.



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How to create a Facebook banner using Picasa (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)


Would you like to know how to create a banner like this one for the top of your Facebook page, without using Photoshop and without having to spend money on templates? You can create it easily in Picasa, free software from Google, that helps you to organise, edit and share your photos. Once you've downloaded it and told it which files you keep your pictures in, then you're good to go. It's very easy to use and always preserves your original image, regardless of the editing you perform.

To create a Facebook banner like this, select the photos that you would like to appear in the collage and click on "create collage". I've written a blog on how to create collages so if you're not sure how to do it then take a look at it first. 

You need to make your collage the right size so that it displays correctly on Facebook, so when you are creating it and are selecting the dimensions you need to scroll to the end of the size options and create a custom size. If you enter 30 X 11 as the dimensions and then name it as. Facebook banner, it will always be there for you to use.

Click on the image to see a larger version
You can shuffle the images around in your collage until it looks like you want it to. Just bear in mind that much of the bottom lefthand image will be concealed by your profile picture once you upload the banner to Facebook.

This is how it should look on Facebook once you've uploaded it
Once you've clicked on "Create Collage" and it's finished you will need to re-size it as it will probably be a bit big for Facebook. You need to use the "Export" option at the bottom of the Picasa screen. If you're not sure how to do this I've also written a blog on this(!) so take a look. Re-sizing images in Picasa. I'd re-size this banner to around 1000 pixels.

I love creating different banners for Facebook and keeping it fresh and topical. This one is to celebrate my son's 11th birthday this week.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!



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Wintry walks with a compact camera (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

I've been desperate for some proper wintry weather, a hard hoar frost to transform everywhere into a glittery winter wonderland, or a decent covering of snow just for a few days, preferably over a weekend. Instead it's been mild, wild and wet for the most part, depriving us photographers of any typical winter landscapes to get excited about. If it weren't for Ferb, our Italian water dog (a lagotto  if you want his posh name) I would have stayed indoors waiting for more exciting and photogenic weather to arrive. Our energetic dog lives up to his name and needs his daily splash in filthy water, so we've been out anyway and along with lead, treats and poo bags, I always pick up a camera on the way out of the door.

Occasionally I have a photographic mission in mind and will take a SLR and specific lens along with me, my "nifty fifty" for arty, soft focus shots of forest and fauna, or "big boy" (my super fast Canon 70-200mm f/2.8) for action shots of Ferb haring along woodland paths chasing squirrels. Lately, due to an increasingly painful tennis elbow (or in my case photographer's elbow) I've had to opt for a much lighter load, so it's the Fujifilm X10 that's accompanied me. Not that I'm complaining as it's a wonderful little camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.0-2.8, beautiful colours and great performance in low light. A whole load of other typically Fuji features make it a joy to use, much more than a point and shoot compact. The zoom is a bit limited at 28-112mm but for general shots of landscapes, close ups and portraits (usually my husband or the dog!) it's perfectly adequate. If you'd like to see more images taken with this lovely camera see my Pinterest Board.

All taken with the Fujifilm X10. I had some fun editing them too with actions in Photoshop Elements.
You might wonder what I've found to photograph on our muddy walks, but if you've got the clicking bug like me, then almost anything can be transformed into a picture if it catches the light in an interesting way, or if you can see a striking composition. I have a thing for trees at the moment, but haven't quite mastered how to shoot them when there's a lot of other trees around them creating clutter. Watch this space for a tree project one day. On our last few walks we've had a few sunny spells and the low winter sun has created slanting shadows through the trees.

Top tip for this time of year
  • Wintry light can be quite dull and if you are photographing anything that moves you need to watch that your shutter speed doesn't get too slow. It needs to be at least 1/250th of a second or your moving subject will be blurred.

  • Check your shutter speed as you take the picture. As you half press the shutter button it will be displayed on the LCD display or in the viewfinder.




  • Or after you take the image and are looking at it, if you press "Display" or "Info" (depending on your camera) then you can usually see what shutter speed you used.

  • If it's less than 1/250th then you need to increase it. If you're using the green fully automatic mode then you need to change to P (Program Mode) by turning the dial on the top of your camera. The camera still does the important stuff automatically for you but you can take charge a little.
  • Now look up how to change the ISO setting. This might be a button on the back of the camera or in the menus. Increase it to a higher number until your shutter speed is fast enough. You can check your shutter speed by half pressing the shutter down as you focus on your subject and checking what number it displays.

  • You can do all of this on any type of camera apart from the majority of camera phones.

Knowing my way around the camera, being aware of what the camera can and can't do on the Auto settings and knowing what to do if the light is tricky is second nature to me now and I can concentrate for the most part on "seeing the image". If something happens unexpectedly I am ready to catch those spontaneous moments (or some of them at least!). Photography is a constant learning process for me, and probably for everyone and that's one of the things that makes it so addictive and enjoyable.


If you'd like to get to grips with your camera then why not book a course or one to one lesson with me. This all becomes second nature very quickly when someone shows you how to do it and it will make a dramatic difference to your photography.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!


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In 2014 I resolve to… (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Is it too late to be talking about New Year's resolutions? It usually takes me a few weeks to work out which ones I'm serious about and therefore have a chance of actually keeping for a while. On New Year's Day I'm usually suffering a tad from the night before (if not from the effects of the whole of December) and I vow to cut down on wine consumption and with that goes losing a few pounds and getting fitter. Yeah well, I know in which direction those resolutions quickly go and it's not up! I have spent a few quid on a phone app that measures how far I walk with the dog and I'm cautiously optimistic that I will get a bit fitter that way.

Now that we've passed the mid January mark I've settled on some resolutions that I've had time to think about a bit more and - surprise, surprise - they are photography related all the way! I've made a few business ones and overall they are focused on making a living from the things I really enjoy about photography, but I'm keeping them under my hat for the moment! I can share with you the resolutions I've made regarding my personal photography:

To be in more photographs. I hate pictures of myself and delete most of them before they have a chance of being seen by anyone else. I do not exist in albums or sideshows and this is sad. I also realised that as time passes we become more forgiving and I now quite like pictures of me that I used to hate and see them for what they are. An image of me looking bloated and exhausted after giving birth to Abigail, is actually a lovely shot of me in the first moments of motherhood.

I hated this when it was taken in 2001. I love it now, especially the way Abigail is doing Phones 4 U with her fingers!
So I took my first selfie late last year and posted it on Facebook. No one wrote rude comments, not even my brother, in fact some people were quite complementary. 

My first (and to date only) selfie
I was even more daring when I included in a slideshow a picture of me slumped asleep on Christmas Day.

The only picture of me Christmas 2014… oh dear.
And again, the world didn't stop turning and I wasn't banned from Facebook for offending public decency. I love my family and I love remembering where we've been and the stupid things we've done together. But where are the shots of me hugging them, laughing with them and being hugged back? So watch this space and apologies if I'm not always airbrushed within an inch of my life! And of course there's a chance that knowing I'm going to be photographed more might drive my never quite achieved fitness and weight loss goals!

Get photographs off the computer and into photo books. I suspect we're all guilty of doing nothing with our digital images and I find it a bit frightening if I'm honest. When we are dead and buried will our children know where to find all our photographs in the Cloud or on our hard drives? They won't have heavy, battered albums with yellowed tissue paper separators to leaf through and reminisce about. So I'm resolved to create an annual photo book, no mean task as I went digital in 2001. But it will be well worth it, as I imagine our great grand kids looking through them and asking who is the blond lady who isn't in many pictures?! (Until 2014 that is, of course!)

I've created lots of photo books for clients and recommend Bobs Books for their quality and colour accuracy. The software is quite easy to use and layouts can be easily customised. Delivery is quick, rare problems are resolved quickly and without quibble. They are not the cheapest photo book supplier but that's because they're good. For everyday albums go for their standard quality but if it's for something a bit more special it's well worth paying that bit extra for "photographic quality" paper. Aside from superb print quality the pages lie completely flat so you don't lose part of the image in the book spine.


Photographic quality book from Bobs Books
I was sorely tempted to add a few more resolutions but instead think I'll store them under Projects I Hope To Do In 2014. I've more chance of sticking to a couple of resolutions rather than a long list. Feel free to challenge me and ask how I'm getting on. If I do well it should be obvious on Facebook. And I'd love to hear if you've set yourself any photography related resolutions.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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So you've had a lovely new D-SLR camera for Christmas - what now? By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw


Santa has been very generous and has given you your first digital SLR camera for Christmas. You've taken it out of its box, charged the battery, inserted a memory card and attached the strap - all pretty straight forward so far. You've even worked out how to set the time, date and language. Then you've turned to the next section in the manual and probably lost the will to live after about 5 minutes! Do the manufacturers not realise that manuals are mainly read by relative beginners who don't yet know their f-stops from their focal lengths?! The manual goes back in the box (with the CDs containing some software stuff that you don't think you need) and you switch the camera to the familiar green Auto setting. You take some pictures that seem to turn out all right - isn't it nice to have no delay when you take a photo and to be using something that feels like a proper camera.

However, after a little while you get frustrated. Some of your pictures are blurred and the flash fires when you don't always want it to. You had thought that by getting a decent camera you would be able to take much better pictures. You know that you're not using it to its full capability, settling instead for the "safe" Auto setting. You also think you might need another lens too, as the one you have doesn't zoom very far, but you don't know where to start and worry that you could make an expensive mistake.

Well, don't despair, as you are far from alone and help is at hand! The quickest way by far to get to grips with your new camera is to book on a course. You don't need to embark on a year long evening course, a half day or full day workshop will get you off to a great start and you can always book another at a later stage as you progress. There are lots of courses available now and you just need to shop around a bit to find one local to you, at the right level and concentrating on the right photographic subject.

If you live in the Northwest of England then look no further! I've got a full programme of courses for 2014, including courses for parents, bloggers, flower enthusiasts, as well as general beginners. I also offer bespoke sessions tailored to your skills level, camera type and preferred area of photography. I offer advice on what kit you need and what you don't! Although the magic is made in camera, you also need to know how to edit your pictures and I can share my expertise on that too.

You can also learn a great deal from reading books and browsing the internet. Personally I've found that this is only really useful once you've done a course to understand the basics, as many books and blogs assume you already understand apertures, shutter speeds, focal lengths etc.

In the meantime, whilst you decide what is best for you, here are my top tips on how to get started with your new camera:

  • Shoot in natural daylight as much as possible - it's much nicer than flash. If indoors, open blinds & curtains and sit people so they are facing the window light.
  • Use the P (Program setting) instead of fully automatic, as it still does all the important stuff for you, but won't fire the flash automatically.
  • Look up in the manual how to see how fast your shutter speed is. To avoid blurred pictures it should be at least 1/125th of a second.
  • If it's slower than this then all you need to do is increase the ISO number. Look up how to do this in the manual and then increase it until it gives you the shutter speed you need.
  • If you have to use your flash then make sure you are no closer than 1 metre to your subject and no further away than 3 metres. Don't use the red eye setting, fix it later in a free editing programme like Picasa.
  • Have your camera out and ready to use all the time so that you get in to the habit of taking lots of pictures. And do take lots at this stage, as you will learn from your mistakes.
  • Look at other people's photographs  - in books, magazines and on forums like Flickr and Pinterest. Don't be afraid to copy their ideas in order to learn.
Good luck with your new gadget - with a bit of practise it will soon become your new best friend!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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What sort of camera should I ask Santa for? (By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

If you are thinking of asking for a camera for Christmas from Santa (aka a generous loved one), you may well be a bit confused about what exactly to ask for. I'm going to try and simplify it a little for you, based on my experience of buying cameras. I currently own 2 compact cameras, a bridge camera and 3 DSLRs, quite a few lenses and a mountain of camera bags (I seem to have an inexplicable weakness for these and can always justify buying a new one!). Running workshops has also given me insight into what people are typically concerned about and confused by.

Your choice of camera depends on what you want it for - nothing like stating the obvious - and it's very difficult to recommend one option. It may be your first camera, or an extra to be used alongside existing cameras or you could be considering trading up to a more sophisticated camera. Hopefully this summary of the options available will help you decide. I've recommended a few models based on my personal experience but always read independent reviews before you buy.

Compact camera or camera phone
Image borrowed from http://www.all-things-photography.com/digital-compact.html

Both these formats offer convenience and ease and use. We can carry them with us all the time and quickly take photographs on a variety of AUTO settings. Images can be quickly edited and enhanced - often in camera / phone - and quickly shared with friends and family. Beginners and professionals alike use them on a day to day basis but they do have their limitations - here are some:

  • Delay after pressing the shutter.
  • Poor performance in low light.
  • Poor in camera flash.
  • Can be difficult to get soft focus backgrounds.
  • Despite their positioning as "point and shoot" cameras they can have incredibly complex and hard to navigate menus.
Briefly this is how I get the best results from my compact camera or camera phone:
  • Shoot in good natural daylight.
  • Avoid photographing subjects in bright sunlight - too much contrast with harsh light and dark shadows.
  • Shoot without flash whenever possible - even at night. If you increase the ISO value you can get a faster shutter speed. 
  • Think about composition as this is one element you can control.
  • Use apps such as Instagram and Retro Camera to take funky, creative shots.

Taken with Instagram or Retro Camera on Android Phone

Why buy a compact camera when you can use the camera on your phone?

It's a great question with the latest camera phones giving good images. The main disadvantage of the camera on phones is that most don't offer optical zoom, so any images taken with zoom are poor quality as they use digital zoom (just magnifies the pixels). You'll notice I say most as at the time of writing several manufacturers now offer a zoom lens built into a camera phone. With this recent development some are predicting the death of the standard compact camera as all its functionality is captured within the camera phone, or soon will be. I certainly wouldn't be considering buying a new compact camera at present, but I will be reading with great interest reviews of new phone cameras with optical zooms.

Image borrowed from http://www.photographyblog.com/category/Camera%20Phones
 Enthusiast Compact Cameras

I didn't make this category up, it does officially exist and describes more sophisticated and more expensive compact cameras. I own a Fujifilm X10 that falls into this category and I absolutely love it. The image quality is superior to any compact cameras I've owned, it does superb close up shots, I can get great soft focus backgrounds and it performs well in a wide variety of light conditions, including low light. It's only downfall is lack of significant zoom - only 4X, but I accept that and take it into account when I use it. If I'm going to the zoo and want to photograph animals in enclosures I don't take the X10!
Taken with Fujifilm X10
This camera and others like it are ideal as a second camera (to their DSLR) for the enthusiast or professional who demands a bit more from their compact camera and isn't frightened of exploring all its settings and capabilities.

Image courtesy of http://www.kenrockwell.com/fuji/x10.htm
Bridge Camera, Compact System Camera or DSLR?

Typically if you are considering upgrading from a compact you will be faced with deciding between a bridge camera or a camera with interchangeable lenses (compact system camera or DSLR).

Let's look at bridge cameras first. These are so called because they bridge the gap between compact cameras and cameras with interchangeable lenses. A bridge camera offers more sophisticated performance than your average compact and usually has a very powerful zoom lens. It's ideal for people who don't want the inconvenience of carrying and changing lenses, not to mention the expense.

There are some excellent bridge cameras available, with image stabilised lenses and lots of the features and controls of SLR cameras. I always recommend Panasonic if asked as I've never had a bad experience but there are lots of options and as ever I suggest you read the reviews. Here are some of the limitations versus DSLRs (I'll come to Compact System Cameras in a moment).

  • Still a slight delay after pressing the shutter.
  • Such a long zoom range (sometimes up to 60X) cannot possibly produce the image quality of most DSLR lenses. Having said that they will be perfectly good enough for the amateur photographer.
  • Poor performance in low light vs DSLRs as the camera sensor is smaller.
Compact System Cameras

Image borrowed from http://www.photographyblog.com/category/compact_system_camera/P20
These are a similar size to compact cameras but with interchangeable lenses and similar performance to entry level DSLRs. If you want the convenience of a small camera but the creativity and flexibility offered by having different lenses then this could be the ideal option. I've never used one and can't really justify getting one but It looks like they could have their place based on size alone . As they are a relative newcomer the range of lenses may be limited in the short term. I have also read that their autofocus system is not as  sophisticated as that of DSLRs, meaning that they may struggle to focus on rapidly moving subjects.

Digital Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras

Image borrowed from http://www.slrhut.co.uk
In my opinion and experience the performance of a DSLR cannot be equaled or beaten by any other camera type and if you are serious about photography - a keen amateur or considering going professional - then it's a no brainer. Yes, you have to spend money on lenses (the kit lens that comes with your DSLR body will have a disappointing zoom) and you will have to be prepared to carry lenses around and change them "in the field". But this comes at a small price when you consider the advantages of a DSLR:
  • No delay on pressing the shutter.
  • Better performance in low light than compact or bridge cameras.
  • More sophisticated auto focus and metering systems
  • Wide variety of lenses and accessories, offering unparalleled image quality and creativity.
DSLRs aren't for everyone, they are less convenient to carry around and it can prove expensive investing in lenses and accessories. But for some the barrier to trading up from a compact or bridge camera is because they think they'll be difficult to use, when in actual fact entry level DSLRs offer several fully automatic modes similar to those on compact cameras, as well as the more manual options.

To reiterate what I said at the beginning it's a very personal choice and you have to go with what feels right for you. Where possible borrow cameras from friends and try them out before you buy. If you're buying online make sure you've had chance to check the camera out in a shop first and held it.

I hope Santa is good to you - I'm not expecting too much this year as I had a very large lens from him last year and he's already warned me to only submit a small list with a price ceiling this year! :-(


I hope this was useful. If you have any questions please let me know. If you live in or near Cheshire why not book onto one of my courses and learn lots more!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

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How I got this shot (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)



Click on image to enlarge

I got some lovely comments about this pic that I took and posted on Facebook yesterday. Just thought I'd share with you that I took it with a  compact camera on an automatic setting. Often it's about keeping an eye out for a nice shot where there's something interesting going on with the light and having your camera handy.

I was careful to ensure that the light was just peeking between the leaves and I could see on the LCD that it was creating a nice sunburst effect as opposed to lens flare (lines or circles of light across your shot when too much light shines directly into the light).

I also used that very handy and simple to remember composition tip The Rule Of Thirds (where you divide your shot into thirds horizontally and vertically). I made sure that the burst of light was roughly on the intersection of two of the imaginary lines.



Heres the techie stuff from the camera too in case you're interested.


  • Fujifil X10 - brilliant little compact camera (doesn't zoom very far but otherwise very good).
  • Shot in Program Mode (Auto but gives you a bit more control over certain settings and stops your flash firing automatically).
  • The camera automatically set the shutter speed at 1/320 (my subject was nice and bright) and an aperture of f/3.6, which is why the background is soft focus.
  • Flash off - flash would have killed this shot.
  • ISO 250 - we'd been walking through woods and I'd increased the ISO a little bit to make sure my shutter speed stayed at 1/60 at least, to ensure a steady shot.
  • The only editing I did was to crop it square as it looked much stronger that way, so I chopped of a bit of the bottom and the top. Normally I mess about a bit in Photoshop but this really didn't need it.

I hope this was useful. If you have any questions please let me know. If you live in or near Cheshire why not book onto one of my courses and learn lots more!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

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Re-sizing images with Picasa (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Collage created in Picasa
I'm always singing the praises of Picasa to people who come on my photography courses for beginners. After all it's FREE for the full version and has no annoying ads. Just a reminder of what you can do:

  • Easily view your images in one place.
  • Perform simple edits including removing blemishes.
  • Easily apply creative effects.
  • Add text.
  • Create collages, slideshows, online albums.
And it's so easy and user friendly! To go to Picasa's web page click on the link http://picasa.google.com

I only have one gripe and hopefully they're working on it as I've seen it mentioned by other people - how on earth do you re-size images to make them suitable for using online?! Given that 300 million photographs are uploaded to Facebook daily (!) you'd think there'd be an obvious  "re-size image" button on any editing package wouldn't you?!

You can re-size images with Picasa and even add a copyright statement but it's not obvious how. You have to select your images and hold them in the bottom left tray and then press EXPORT. Don't ask me why!
Click on image to see larger version

This is the pop up window you will see when you click EXPORT.

Click on image to see a larger version

Click on "Resize to" and then select the appropriate size (see my guide below). The maximum size shown is 1600 pixels but you can enter your own value that is higher or lower if you wish. I usually leave the image quality on Automatic. You can also see that you can use a watermark by entering some text and ticking the option.

It's important to specify where you would like the images to be exported to so that you can find them. I usually send them to the Desktop and then periodically delete them to clean up the desktop. Remember that your original files will still be preserved unchanged in their original location.

I usually re-size as follows:

400-600 pixels => to display on mobile phones.
600 pixels => if I want someone to see the image but not be able to print a decent version of it.
800-1000 pixels => for Facebook.
1500-2000 pixels => for Pinterest
2500 pixels => to result in an image that is between 1-2MB and could be printed 4"X6" or 5"X7".

I always copyright my professional pictures with a watermark.

These are based on what works for me.

If I'm emailing images I usually use Picasa's EMAIL button which automatically re-sizes them. Sometimes I EXPORT them first to apply the watermark and then EMAIL the exported images.

I hope this was all clear. If you have any questions please let me know.

If you live in or near Cheshire why not book onto one of my courses and learn lots more!

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All the gear and no idea! Photography courses by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw


All the gear and no idea!

This made me laugh out loud when Julie and Gill announced it as they turned up for their photography lesson! They are not alone in having made the step up from compact camera to SLR and only feeling confident enough to use it on the AUTO modes. Camera manuals don’t help as they are full of jargon and are unnecessarily complicated.

Your new SLR camera will take reasonable photos on the automatic settings and you’ll still be pleased that you upgraded, no doubt glad that there’s no delay when you press the shutter and it feels like a “proper camera”. However, a SLR is capable of so much more if you take charge rather than letting it be in control.

During yesterday’s two-hour lesson with Julie and Gill I walked them through some key information, settings and techniques that will make a significant difference to their photography and how they feel about their SLR cameras.

Lenses – they had both realized that although the kit lens that came with their camera gives them nice clear pictures it doesn’t zoom very far and they needed to buy a telephoto lens. After a quick explanation of the numbers on their lens (18-55mm) and talking about some of the lenses available, they both felt confident enough to start shopping around for a telephoto lens. They also wanted to know if they needed a macro lens to photograph things close up. I think they were pleasantly surprised to discover how close they could get with their existing kit lens.

A kit lens can get this close
Auto vs P – Gill was using her camera on the green AUTO mode, whereas Julie was using the P (program) mode and I explained why P is a better automatic alternative. I’m a firm believer that there’s no shame in using the automatic modes as long you know what to do if they don't give you the picture you wanted. It should be a choice to use them rather than the only option.

Soft focus backgrounds – wanting to know how to get that lovely blurred effect behind your subject is one of the main reasons people book photography lessons with me. They have often been baffled by talk of depth of field, apertures and f numbers. By the end of the two hour lesson Julie and Gill knew how to use their cameras on the Av setting to blur the background, whilst keeping an eye on the shutter speed and how the ISO setting can help when the light isn’t very good. Our mosaic frog was an obliging model!

Soft focus background using the Av setting
Composition – it’s amazing what a big difference a few simple composition tips can make to your photographs and I shared these with Gill and Julie. They were quick to pick up the technique of Focus Lock that allows you to put the subject of your photo anywhere in the frame and not always in the centre.

Using focus lock to put your subject off centre
With all that covered in just two hours there wasn't time to cover editing photographs – that’s a separate session – but I did point them in the direction of Picasa, a free programme from Google that allows you to perform basic edits and create some really good stuff.

From their enthusiastic comments I think Gill and Julie left brimming with confidence and keen to try out all the tips and methods we’d covered. I’m looking forward to seeing their photographs on a Facebook Group that all my “students” are invited to join. I hope they’ve ditched the phrase “All the gear and no idea” now!

If you feel that you have all the gear and no idea, take a look at the course programme for 2013/14 and if you can’t make any of the dates then why not book a bespoke session – share the cost between up to four people if you prefer. 

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50/50 project #37/50 In the round (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 37. In the round.

50 days with a 50mm lens

Ok, confessions first. This project was originally about taking a photo every day with a 50mm lens for 50 consecutive days... major fail! This is probably day 75 so I've really fallen behind. But having got so far I don't want to abandon it so will carry on, on the premise that I will have taken 50 photos with a 50mm lens when I finish.

So, after a considerable gap here is photo number 37. This is a silver coloured globe in our pond and I love the reflections of our house (the white building at the top), the rather dominating gable end of our neighbour's house, our slightly trendy green sail, the umbrella, fountain and pond grasses. Oh, and me of course, hidden safely behind the camera.

Quite a tricky photo exposure wise, with dark areas of the pond and the very bright sky. The only way to capture the clouds and jet trails in the sky would have been to combine multiple exposures in Photoshop. You can see the image where I exposed for the sky below.


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5 reasons why you should do a photography project (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

All 366 images taken during my photo project in 2012
(Click to enlarge)
I love babies and (most) kids and for some crazy reason I like to earn a living by chasing them around with a camera, capturing natural photos of them and selling them to their parents. Newborn babies are my favourite subjects as they don't get about so much and because they are without exception extremely cute.

In 2011, however, I started to feel the desire to photograph something in addition to little people. I looked back fondly to my days as a mature photography student, when I worked on projects that made me explore different photography techniques, use various forms of lighting, photograph everyday mundane objects and create striking images. For an assignment called "Silhouettes" I even photographed a Barbie doll being chased down a dark corridor by a wooden mannequin!

During yet another evening of browsing online photography forums I came across the concept of taking and posting a photograph a day for a year. I was immediately hooked and 1st January 2012 I began my 366 project with a shot of empty bottles from our New Year's Eve party. I posted the image on my Facebook page for Picture It Big and on a website called The 365 Project (www.365project.org). As each day went by I got more support and comments on my images and was spurred on to keep posting. I even felt as if I would be letting people down if I didn't. This played a big part in ensuring that I stuck at it for the whole year. 14th December 2012 was my only major fail when I completely forgot to take a shot and uploaded a picture of our calendar with a big red "F" for fail scribbled on it.

A friend presenting my photo book at a networking event
I've just got round to completing a photo book containing all the images, a truly rewarding task seeing all my hard work presented over 98 pages. It struck me again how much I gained from this year long project and I want to share with fellow photography enthusiasts seven reasons  why they should take up some sort of photography project or challenge.

1. Get out of a rut 

If you feel like you are shooting the same old stuff all the time and not feeling very creative, then an exciting and challenging project is just what you need to make you feel a renewed enthusiasm and creativity. Before long I was digging lenses out of my camera bag that I hadn't used for months or even years. I had been shooting kids on the Av setting for years and it was fun to start using Tv and experiment with  long exposures to blur movement or to capture the sky at night. I started to use different effects in Photoshop - selective colour, filters. I played around with still life on different backgrounds, reflective surfaces, using natural light, reflectors and continuous light. I tackled street photography and photographing strangers - way out of my comfort zone. Some days I used a DSLR, other days all I had was my camera phone or a compact. Some of my favourite images were with my phone where you are forced to work really hard getting the composition right.

2. Improve your photographic skills

I am amazed at how much my photography improved over the course of the year and what I had learned. It's easy to stick to what you know especially when you are working to deadlines but but we can all learn new stuff if we put our minds to it. I started to shoot on Manual for the 365 project and before long I was doing it during all my professional shoots too. I learned how useful Live View is in making sure your focusing is spot on.

3. Train your eye to see images everywhere

At the risk of sounding like a geek I was getting out of bed in the morning already thinking about what that day's image would be. I'd turn my breakfast plate around wondering how to capture bacon in an interesting way or stare at ripples in puddles as I walked the dog. You can find a creative shot anywhere when you put your mind to it.

4. "Meet" like-minded people

I've already said that without the support of people on Facebook and The 365 Project I would probably have given up, missed days out. It was so rewarding and motivating to get comments from people in countries on the over side of the world and to see their images, which opened a window on their worlds - exotic flowers and birds, different cultures, amazing scenery. People's pictures and their commentary could be quite personal and revealing about their lives, as we often use our cameras to mark significant life events. During 2012 we lost my husband's mum and then our boxer dog died of cancer a few months later and we received a great deal of support from the online forums.

5. Create a visual record of a period in your life

What I didn't expect out of the project was to get such a great visual diary of a year in our lives. Inevitably I took pictures of the everyday, the mundane as well as celebrations, holidays and special occasions. I never tire of browsing through the images, seeing the seasons change, remembering what we doing and where we were when I took the picture. It was a good year for Britain with the Golden Jubilee and the Olympics and this is reflected with a shot of the Olympic Torch in our local town and lots of union flags in other shots.

If you'd like to see the photobook I created and had printed click on the link.

http://www.bobbooks.co.uk/bookshop/366-days-through-my-lens

I hope you are inspired to start your own project. It doesn't have to be for a year and it could be on a particular subject. I've recently been doing 50 days with a 50mm lens (not quite so successfully!). I also bought a book called "Photocrafty: 75 creative camera projects for you and your digital SLR" by Sue Venables and there's definitely some inspiration in there.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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50/50 project. #36/50 Cupcakes (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 36. Cupcakes
50 days with a 50mm lens

Bit of a foodie theme this weekend with cupcakes from a charity cake sale today. A 12 year old girl in our village is well on the way to raising £2000 for a charity that her nan has set up to help a school in Kenya. Can't help but admire her energy and resolve - and baking skills!

The Mary Wood Trust
If you'd like to know more about the charity get in touch and I can give you details.

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50/50 project. #35/50. Churros. Nom nom (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 35. Churros. Nom nom
50 days with a 50mm lens
It was foodie heaven at the Nantwich Food & Drink Festival this weekend and also a treat for me with lots of colourful food and people to photograph! Firm favourite with all four of us were the churros with warm chocolate dipping sauce, well worth the 20 minute wait in the queue.

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50/50 project #34/50 Bad laundry day (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 34 Bad laundry day
50 days with a 50mm lens
Call me sad but I love this cheap little laundry dryer. It makes hanging out socks and smalls so much easier - less bending down to the peg bag must be better for my poor aching back!

This pic also gives me chance to "air" one of my grievances - people who tumble dry all year round and don't ever peg out laundry outside, even on sunny days. What wanton wastefulness and idleness!! I just can't understand it and don't believe that being supposedly time poor or not wanting stiff towels are valid excuses. Even when I'm in a hurry, the sight and scent of freshly washed clothes hanging in orderly rows lifts my spirits.

Folding warm washing fresh from the tumble dryer is a pleasure I save for wet days like today.

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50/50 project. #33/50 Headline news (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 33. Headline news
50 days with a 50mm lens

This attention grabbing headline certainly worked on me!

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50/50 Project. #32/50. Summer stripes (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 32. Summer stripes
50 days with a 50mm lens

The best summer in years is drawing to a close and one of the things I'll miss about it the most is lying in dappled shade in my hammock, swaying gently whilst looking out over the garden, reading or snoozing.

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50/50 project. Day 31/50 !Yo Sushi (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 31 !Yo Sushi

50 days with a 50mm lens

I've finally given up on my 50mm f/1.8 lens which has been struggling since I dropped it (it was knocked out of my hands by a boisterous puppy!). Focusing has been hit and miss and it's been making grating scratchy noises. With my birthday imminent I've been treated to the Canon 50mm f/1.4 today - a more grown up version - faster, quieter and with even more bokeh! So here's the first shot taken at my birthday lunch at !Yo Sushi. I had to wait ages for the conveyor belt to be full of dishes on both sides and almost had a Miranda moment with my scarf!

I thought the new lens deserved a try out on a serious camera so this was taken on the 5D Mk II.

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50/50 project. #30/50 Making Waves (by Cheshire photographer Picture It Big)

Day 30. Making waves
50 days with a 50mm lens

Suddenly it feels like Autumn with a nip in the air and a cold breeze which was whipping up waves on the surface of the lake.

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50/50 project #19-29 (Photography courses Cheshire with Picture It Big)

50 days with a 50mm lens

On our recent holiday in Pembrokeshire I had loads of opportunities to do the daily 50/50 shot and managed to keep it going throughout. Where I fell down was getting access to my laptop and precious WiFi - the kids won out each time so I hardly posted any of my shots. So here they all are - day 19 through to day 29, each with a brief commentary. It's been fun looking back on what we got up to - what would we do without photos to bring back those precious memories?

Day 19 Coastal Flora and fauna
The amazing colours, textures and smell of the heathers and ferns on the cliff tops and along the coastal paths remind me so much of childhood holidays in the UK.

Day 20 Walking (sitting) on water
We tried to balance days at the beach with more active days and all absolutely loved Heathertons Activity Park. They even let dogs in so Ferb got to watch us on the zip wire, go karts, golf, shooting, zorbing and more!

Day 21 Pebbles
What is it about pebbles on the beach? Sam and Nic loved skimming them across the surface of the waves and Ferb tried pointlessly to retrieve them (dumb dog!), whilst Abi and I hunted out special ones and built towers.

Day 22 Rusty mooring at Porth Clais 
A morning's kayaking instruction for the kids led to us discover a beautiful little harbour just outside St David's called Porth Clais. It was very sheltered, perfect for learning how to kayak and with a tiny National Trust cafe it was unspoilt and quiet. Whilst the children paddled off into the distance we watched families arriving to drop crab lines off the side of the slipway and read our books in the warm sunshine.

Day 23 Rusty railings in Solva
Solva is a lovely little port (best seen at high tide) with a clutch of shops and galleries and a very nice pub. A restaurant called the Old Pharmacy had closed down since we were last there and was on sale for £295k - we were tempted!

Day 24 Catching some rays in cool shades
We soon worked out that the boys got bored sunbathing whilst Abi and I were happy to sit for hours and people watch at the beach. My little girl is growing up fast.

Day 25 Early evening in Porth Clais
We headed up the coastal path to a rocky outcrop for a spot of early evening fishing but I feared for Ferb's life as he leapt across the rocks, so I took him down to safety of the harbour. This time the tide was out and we walked along the beach where boats were moored high and dry, waiting for the tide to turn.

Day 26 Meet Philippe Phlop
Family holidays are great for forcing you all to spend time together and I really enjoyed the banter and jokes. I can't even remember why we named my flip flops Philippe Phlop but it stuck and had us in hysterics (almost certainly one of those times when you had to be there for it to be even remotely funny!)

Day 27 In search of Dobby
Dobby the house elf was laid to rest in the dunes at Freshwater West so we went looking for his grave (as you do if you have Potterheads in the family). We expected at least a sign post or a gift shop with a few bits of Potter paraphernalia, but there was nothing apart from a spectacular windswept beach and a top beach deli.

Day 28 Surf's up at Whitesands Bay
Following a day of strong winds and driving rain (the only one in 14 days) the sky cleared in the late afternoon and we headed down to Whitesands for a walk. The high winds meant that the waves were big and the surfers were out in force. I could have sat for hours watching the waves with the sun and wind on my face.

Day 29 Doggy days
Taking a dog on holiday can be a bit restricting - many beaches don't allow dogs in the summer, you can't leave them in the car in warm weather, they can't be left in the caravan for hours on end and you have to sit outside pubs and restaurants with them. But Ferb went everywhere with us and looked as if he had an amazing holiday with his humans. He swam in the sea with the kids, dug holes on dog friendly beaches or just lay down to sleep next to us - Nic even used him as a pillow when he snoozed on one beach.

If you'd like to see more pics from our Pembrokeshire holiday watch out on the blog over the coming weeks as I'm putting a digital scrapbook together.

If you'd like to learn how to take great holiday pics get in touch to book a workshop or one to one class with me. Details are on the Picture It Big website.

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For the love of dogs (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

You’re either a dog person or you’re not - no halfway house nor sitting on the fence about whether you like them or would have one as a pet. If you’re in the “don’t like” camp, you probably see them as loud, dirty, smelly, messy, unruly, destructive, slobbery, hairy, a restriction on your freedom and possibly even downright scary and dangerous. Non dog lovers (I won’t go so far as to call them dog haters - they just don’t like them or “get” them) are usually more forgiving towards cute little puppies. That is until they leave puddles and steaming piles around the house and garden! I suppose if you look at all these negatives then it’s surprising that anyone even lets these nuisance canines into their houses, never mind on sofas and beds (53% of dog owners let their pet sleep on their beds*)!

But with approximately 23% of UK households owning at least one dog, and a UK dog population of around 8 million**, many of us must be willing to put up with their less pleasant attributes, feeling that they are outweighed by the benefits of sharing our homes and our lives with a dog.

We had a succession of pet dogs when I was a child - Copper, Jason, Muffin and Penny (two boxers, a springer spaniel and a golden retriever). I remember Copper being a bit fat and old, but very gentle, Jason farted for England, Muffin would bite your hand off if you went near her when she was eating and Penny shadowed you everywhere. Following a long period where I had to make do with visiting my parents’ and brother’s boxers - Chloe and Basil - we finally found ourselves in 2007 in a domestic and work situation which allowed us to have our very own dog at last! I felt I was immensely well prepared, having come from such good dog-owning stock and without hesitation we decided to choose a boxer - well it was in the family after all!

However, we were soon to learn that having a dog around the house to cuddle and occasionally play horsey on (as a child!) is very different to actually being responsible for all its needs and training! Boxers are notoriously boisterous and require a lot of hard work and time to train as we found out.

It’s easy to see why the campaign “Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas” is necessary. Puppies are simply irresistible and it’s so easy to fall head over heels in love with every single one. We fell  for Daisy from the moment we saw her aged just 4 weeks. She was like a little pot bellied pig with wrinkles of super soft skin everywhere. Her dad, Tom, put his front paws on my shoulders and peed on me - I assume he was giving his seal of approval for us to take one of his babies away. We couldn’t wait until she was old enough to come and live with us.

She came to us in August 2007 and immediately became a huge part of the family.

Apologies to Paul O'Grady and ITV for nicking their phrase but it's so apt.

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The RHS Tatton Flower Show - by Cheshire Photographer, Jane Burkinshaw



Take one look at my garden planted haphazardly with plants that are probably ill-suited to the soil type, aspect or location and you’ll know I’m not a skilled gardener. Those flowers that thrive do so in spite of my efforts. I don’t even particularly like gardening, limiting myself to bunging in some bedding plants, pulling up a few weeds and doing a bit of dead heading, whilst sipping a glass of wine on a summer’s evening. I do, however, love sitting out in the garden, admiring my efforts and am often found swinging gently in the hammock, enjoying a latte or aforementioned glass of wine, depending on how low the sun is in the sky!

Whilst gardening isn't a great passion of mine, photography is, particularly close ups of plants and flowers. I’ve visited many of Cheshire’s beautiful gardens and lost myself for several hours, engrossed in my favourite activity.

One of the many glorious show gardens - I love the quirky ones!



Going to the RHS Tatton Flower Show is an un-missable opportunity for me to indulge in my love for flower photography, enjoyment of other people’s hard work in creating beautiful outside spaces and, of course, some retail therapy. And did I mention drinking Pimms in the sunshine and nattering with Debbie, my sister-in-law? A day at Tatton isn’t always this idyllic – we’ve stood like drowned rats in the entrance to the floral marquee and fought vicious battles with pensioners over free tables and chairs in the sheltered eating areas.

But this year’s visit on Friday 26thJuly was absolutely perfect, with wall-to-wall sunshine guaranteed. The newly invented Ladies’ Day inspired us to switch jeans and crocs for sandals and frocks (neither of us do posh hats, we haven’t got the right kind of heads) and we set off on our grand day out in the Cheshire countryside.

Propping each other up!
Ladies day for young and old
One of the things I really love about our annual visit, aside from the awe inspiring gardens and floral displays, is that it is a wonderful place for endulging in people watching. I have a hypothesis that you can break down the visitors to Tatton into four main types (forgive me, these are a bit tongue in cheek):

The stalwart RHS members who take their gardening extremely seriously, as evidenced by their sensible walking shoes, rucksacks, picnic lunches, thermos flasks and those walking sticks that become little stools.


The Cheshire Set – posh summer frocks and big handbags, 3 course luncheon reservations in the formal dining room and jugs of Pimms in the afternoon. Ladies Day gave them the excuse for even posher frocks and big hats this year.



Weekend gardeners – that’s us! We’re there to enjoy a day out admiring the show gardens, pick up a few plants that are unlikely to see another season and buy some totally useless garden gadget. I’ve been known to arrive home with a rake that no one could use and a very expensive blender that is only ever employed to make smoothies these days.


And finally the photographers (me in spirit) who are focused (!) solely on capturing shots of the abundance of beautiful plants and gardens. Almost every visitor to Tatton has a camera in some guise but I’m talking about the true enthusiast or pro with cameras and bags hanging off both shoulders.


I would love to visit the flower show twice each year, once as a browser, shopper and sipper of Pimms and then again a second time armed only with my camera and a zoom lens. I’ve managed to combine both needs each year on one visit but I have to strike a compromise to ensure that Debbie wants to come along with me the following year!


This year I stood near the exit just before the show closed - in the lovely low slanting sunlight of early evening – and enjoyed watching people leave, dragging behind them trollies full of bobbing flowers, carrying long pieces of twisted metal trellis, occasionally smart designer carrier bags (the posh ones with string handles) and some just with a single plastic bag containing a few much sought after plant specimens. I think everyone leaves at the end of the day with a smile on their face (aching, possibly soggy feet aside), for there’s something very uplifting about being surrounded for a day by nature’s bounty. With bees buzzing around flower heads wherever you turn and butterflies flitting from one bloom to another it feels like a little bit of paradise, pure escapism for a day.


But not everyone loves Tatton!
This blog was  originally published on the Cheshire Life website. I've included more pics here.

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50/50 project #18/50 Simple fun (by Cheshire portrait photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 18. Simple fun

50 days with a 50mm lens
This little girl was playing in the shallows with a boat she had built using a piece of polystyrene and a stick, pulling it along on a piece of string. I watched her play for a while and then wandered back to the pub where my two would no doubt be fighting over who could play Doodle Jump next. I passed a family of four playing pooh sticks off the bridge and was tempted to advise them to make the most of it, as such simple fun wouldn't keep them occupied in years to come.

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50/50 project #17/50 Surfing (by Cheshire childrens photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 17. Surfing

50 days with a 50mm lens
The kids are old enough to play in the surf on their own now but I still feel the need to check on them periodically (at the end of a chapter in my Asa Larsson Swedish crime thriller). It's a challenge to pick out your own children out of all the silhouetted, wet suit clad kids throwing themselves fearlessly onto each wave. I cheered a boy in a black and red wetsuit as he caught a wave and rode towards me. As I gave him an exaggerated thumbs up I realised with some embarrassment that it wasn't Sam.

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50/50 project #16/50 ...and relax! (By Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day16. ...and relax


50 days with a 50mm lens
After a marathon 6 and a half hour drive down to Pembrokeshire dragging our shed (caravan) behind us, we finally got all set up and felt as if we were on holiday. The caravan site is beautiful, just one mile from the beach and we are looking forward to exploring after a good night's sleep. That might be interesting as there are about a hundred very noisy crows flying from tree to tree on the edge of the site and they are making an almighty racket! Still nice to listen to as the sun sets and I sip a cold beer.

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50/50 #15/50 Keep calm it's onesie time (by Cheshire children's photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 15. Keep calm it's onesie time

50 days with a 50mm lens

Abbie and I found this onesie today (bargain at £7.99!) and fell in love with it - pity they didn't do my size - or maybe a blessing? Still really want my own onesie before they've gone out of fashion!

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50/50 Project #14/50 Distressed denim (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 14. Distressed denim

:50 days with a 50mm lens

Technical stuff: Canon 350D, 1/800, f/2.5, ISO 100 Aperture Priority

After Sam's mud bath yesterday I rinsed his jeans off with the hose and left them to drip dry on the line. They are now as stiff as cardboard!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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50/50 Project #13/50 No more pictures! (by Cheshire children's photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 13. No more pictures!

50 days with a 50mm lens
This is what happens when I take pictures of my kids nowadays! They'll appreciate me one day. We were at Manley Mere adventure trail where it's a bit muddy after the recent rain...

(I think they were both doing victory V signs at me  but one of them got confused with doing it backwards!)

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50/50 project #12/50 New Converse! (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 12. New Converse!

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 5D, 1/160, f/2.2, ISO 100, manual exposure

Abii has been waiting an age for these to arrive - a very late birthday present. They are custom designed and say "POTTERHEAD" up the back, homage to her love of all things Harry Potter / Daniel Radcliffe related.

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50/50 project 11/50 Down by the lake (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 11. Down by the lake

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 5d, 1/2500, f/2.8, ISO 250 Aperture Priority

I had a totally indulgent day of shooting at Lake Coniston today. A "styled shoot" had been set up for a group of professional photographer so that we could practise our craft with models and props. The theme was Swallows and Amazons. I shot mainly with my 70-200 f/2.8 "big boy" lens but took some time out to make sure I grabbed a few shots with the 50mm too.

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50/50 Project 10/50 Bee on heuchera flower (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 10. Bee on a heuchera flower

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 5D, 1/1000, f/1.8, ISO 125, Aperture Priority

There are plenty of bumble bees in our garden at the moment, but they aren't very obliging when you try to photograph them, only settling for a few seconds at a time. It makes it very hard to photograph them at extremely low apertures as you have to be spot on with the focusing.

I took this from above (and many more very similar to it but with blurred bees) and love the contrast of the flowering spires of the heuchera with the dark soil below.

The 50mm lens survived being dropped and the front element falling out. It's very noisy on focusing and I'm still eyeing up the f/1.4 - need to save up though!

The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that I've switched to the Canon 5d. This has made quite a difference as it has a full frame sensor, meaning that the 50mm focal length is now actually 50mm, rather than the 80mm equivalent focal length that I was getting on the 350D which has a cropped sensor. I wasn't being too precious about this as I really liked the ease and convenience of carrying the much lighter and smaller 350D around everyday. But on the 5D the 50mm lens gives a considerably bigger / wider view and I know I'll get much better performance at lower ISOs. So from now on it's 5D all the way.

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50/50 project #9/50 A la Turka (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 9. A la Turka

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 350D, 1/1000, f/2.0, ISO 100, Aperture Priority

The bright early evening sunshine was streaming into this turkish restaurant in Stockton Heath and I wanted to see how the camera coped with the very contrasty scene. I love the way the menu and glassware are lit by the sun. A few minutes later sun had moved and the menu was in shadow.

By the way we had a cracking meal there with great service. Really delicious food - starter and main course £12.95 and kids menu £4.95. Their dessert was a piece of art - complete with cherries drawn with chocolate and red berry sauce.

The bad news is that a very excited dog greeted us at home wearing a neck cone and he knocked my handbag onto the hard stone tiles. My 350d and Canon 50mm f/1.8 were in it and sadly the lens has broken :-(. So this may be its last shot.

My husband suggests I check out the 50mm f/1.4...

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50/50 project #8/50 natural symmetry (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 8. Natural symmetry

50 days with a 50mm lens

Technical stuff: Canon 350D, 1/80, f/1.8, ISO 400 Manual exposure

I bought this plant in 2007 - it was about 2 foot tall. It now stands at least 7 feet high and has thrived in its sunny, south facing corner. I love its enormous symmetrical, waxy leaves, especially after a down pour.

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50/50 Project #7/50 The day after the flower show (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 7. The day after the flower show

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 350D, 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 100, Aperture Priority

Inspired by all those lovely gardens at Tatton I tackled mine. Unfortunately my lack of green fingers and any knowledge means that the plants survive in spite of my efforts and the end result is "eclectic" if I'm being kind.

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50/50 Project #5/50 Blue wins! (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 5. Blue wins

50 days with a 50mm lens

Technical stuff: Canon 350d, 1/1250, f/2.0, ISO 100, manual exposure.

I wanted to take a shot today that embodied how good life is when the sun shines. The kids had been playing boules on the front lawn and left them out (!)  and I thought this might work. We only ever play boules a) on holiday and b) in the summer. Also our front lawn is particularly dried out and yellow - another sign of a long hot spell.

There was some dappled shade courtesy of an enormous pine tree, but I've blown the highlights on the distant red boule. Did a bit of warming up in Photoshop and was tempted to patch the chip on the blue boule but managed to suppress the urge! 

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50/50 Project: #4/50 Poor Ferb (by Cheshire family photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

IMG_1354
Day 4. Poor Ferb

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 350D, 1/160 f/2.8 ISO 100 Aperture Priority

Have you ever seen such a sorry sight. Poor Ferb went off to be neutered today and has to wear this collar for three days. He's so frustrated and unhappy as you can tell. I know this collar looks enormous but he was still managing to lick his wounds with the first one he came home in. And to add insult to injury this one is pink - as if he wasn't already feeling emasculated.

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50/50 Project: #3/50 Rainbow Sharpies (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 3. Rainbow Sharpies

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 350d, Shutter speed 1/15, f/1.8, ISO 100. Aperture priority

As ever I had to play around a bit before I got the final shot. I did lots of different angles but found it hard to fill the frame with a long thin line of pens. This final angle has allowed me to capture every pen with no empty space in the frame. I've put a few of the rejects at the end of this post.

Working with the fixed 50mm lens is certainly making me work. With a zoom lens it would have been easier to just zoom in to fill the frame. But I would not have got this incredibly shallow depth of field with only 2 pens in focus.


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50/50 Project: #2/50 Windswept man (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 2. Windswept man

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical data: 1/400, f/3.5 ISO 100. Aperture Priority.

We went shopping in a very hot Manchester city centre today and came across this strangle windswept man - especially as there wasn't a breath of wind! He's a street artist - what a strange way to earn a living. Perhaps his wife thinks he's actually going out to work in an office each day!

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50/50 Project: #1/50 (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 1. Seedheads

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical data: Canon 350D, 1/500, f/1.8, ISO 200 and manual exposure.

I really enjoyed taking the 350D out today - it felt like a little compact compared to the 5D mk II that I've been lugging around lately. And of course the 50mm f/1.8 mk II lens is very light too.

This was taken whilst we were out walking the dog at an area known locally as the Flashes and we chose a route along the river Weaver. I was spoilt for choice really but settled on this image because it was "cleaner" than some of the others - less clutter from stray grasses and leaves in the background and a nice contrast between the lighter seed heads and the darker background of ferns.

F/1.8 is a very shallow depth of field (most of the image is soft focus apart from the small focal area) but it does allow a faster shutter speed. I had to be really careful about picking the point of focus out and also waiting for the plant to stop swaying in the breeze.

I did a little processing afterwards to slightly emphasise the contrast between the foreground subject and the darker background.

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A new photography project - 50/50 (photography course Cheshire)

I've really missed doing the 366 project I did right through 2012, when I took and posted a photo every single day. It wasn't always easy (at times it was a downright chore done at 11pm at night!) but I learned so much and enjoyed swapping comments with other people in 365 forums.

I was chatting with another photographer a few weeks ago and he suggested that I do something else this year that wasn't such a big commitment but would give me scope to be creative - a 50/50 project. My brain was trying to work out how a project could be half and half of anything but he put me out my misery and clarified that it was 50 days using a 50mm lens. I was hooked straight away as I have a 50mm lens that I adore using but haven't had out the bag much recently.

(Pic taken on my lovely HTC One camera phone)

This is a Canon 50mm f/1.8 mk II prime lens and cost me around £90. To cut through the jargon / numbers it is a lens that doesn't zoom (to get closer to your subject you move yourself), it isn't very wide angle and is often used for portraits. The low aperture of f/1.8 means that you can get very creative with soft focus and also it lets in lots of light so is good in low light conditions. Not bad for £90 and a favourite of wedding photographers.

I used this lens a fair bit last year for the 366 project until I bought a new telephoto 28-300mm lens from Tamron which quickly became my favourite toy. So I'm looking forward to pushing the boundaries a little more this time with the 50mm lens.

366 photos taken in 2012 with 50mm lens
I hope you'll follow my daily photos for the next 50 days and let me know what you think of them. If you're doing a photography project at the moment I'd love to hear about it. And don't forget that I run courses in digital photography and offer one to ones designed around your needs. Find out more about my photography courses on the website.

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How to take great summer photos - Tip 7 (Cheshire photography course with Jane Burkinshaw)

And here's the final installment for this series on how to take sizzling summer shots:

ENHANCING, ENJOYING & SHARING YOUR PHOTOS

You haven't taken all this trouble to take some great photos only to leave them languishing on your hard drive, so the next step is to edit them and create stuff. If you're not very confident at image editing - or you just don't have the time, then you should consider using some of the straight forward software that's available. Two great examples are Picasa and Picmonkey and they are both free. I prefer Picasa because it's the one I've used for ages and has been developed by Google. Lots of people love Picmonkey and it looks good but certain features are only available if you upgrade whereas Picasa is 100% free.

I'm not going to go into loads of detail here on how to use these applications - they are both straight forward and intuitive so the best thing is to play around with them. You can crop, straighten, change the exposure, recolour, add great effects, make collages, share on line and by email and lots more. Although I edit all my professional work using Photoshop I often use Picasa to show images to clients and I am a HUGE fan of collages. See my earlier blog on how to make collages.

If you want to try more sophisticated editing but feel a bit intimidated by Photoshop you should try Photoshop Elements and if you know someone who is in education or at school then you can buy it more cheaply. Also you can try before you buy by downloading a 30 day trial.

To see the difference between a non edited and an edited pic see below - it really is worth learning how to use editing software if you're keen on photography.



I'm a big fan of photo books too and can't remember when I last used an album (all those plastic pockets and pics that fall out of them!). Photo books are really easy to do and there's a huge choice of companies doing them now. My favourite is Bobs Books for quality and great colour reproduction but they are not the cheapest. I've also used Photobox and Albelli for cheaper options and many people swear by Blurb for really great value.




This book on our holiday in Cornwall was made with Bobs Books and you can read more about how I made it in my blog.

And why stop at books when you can share your images on mugs, key rings, jigsaws, placemats - you name it and I think you can probably get a photo printed on it! I use Snapfish for travel mugs (love my coffee whilst I'm travelling!) but again there are lots of companies. Look out for all the offers and you can get some really great deals.

I hope I've inspired you with this series of blogs on Top Tips for Sizzling Summer Shots. If you need any help I offer one to one tuition tailored to your requirements (in the Cheshire, Manchester area).

May this weather last into August when I'll be heading off to South Wales with my photobook half visualised in my mind!

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How to take great summer photos - tip 6 (Cheshire photography course with Picture It Big)

This is my favourite of the top tips so far...

BE CREATIVE, EXPERIMENT AND HAVE FUN!

This sounds like it could be the introduction to a totally different topic, but we are still talking photography!

Digital photography is brilliant because you can play about as much as you like, take dud pictures and just delete them - at no cost. With apps and different settings you can get some really great effects. I've never done Instagram personally, only because I'm an android girl, but I've got some great apps on my phone that I use a lot for my fun photos. My favourite is Retro Camera - it's really easy to use and has about 6 or 7 different camera effects.

Most of the pics on the left have been taken using this app and a few had effects applied in Picasa - free image editing software from Google (more on this in the 7th and final post of this series).

A word of caution - don't over do the effects - don't use them for every picture and make sure it's still a photo worth taking. It should still be well composed, in focus and correctly exposed. Don't use effects to disguise a bad photo - it never works.

I like to make photo books, calendars and all sorts of stuff so that I can enjoy and share my photos (again more on this in tomorrow's post), and this sort of fun, creative shot gives some variety to whatever it is I'm making.

I also like to capture shots of details that remind me of my holiday or that special day. I love trying to do abstract shots too. This next collage has some great examples.


The more you experiment the more you learn so get playing with those settings and apps!

And if you like the collages learn how to create them in Picasa by reading my blog about it! Here to serve!

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How to take great summer photos - TIP 4 (Cheshire photography course with Jane Burkinshaw)

We've done a fair bit on taking photographs of people in the sunshine, so let's look now at

HOW TO TAKE GREAT PICTURES OF LANDSCAPES

Now I'll freely admit landscape photography isn't really my bag - I can capture a half decent picture on holiday but I take my hat off to the true landscape photographer greats - like Joe Cornish, one of my favourites. They devote an enormous amount of time to searching out great shots and planning the best time to photograph them, even going back time and again to get it just right.

But for us mere mortals there's some simple ways to make our landscape photos look better and here's one:

THE RULE OF THIRDS

Imagine your picture (the one you're going to take) is divided into thirds, horizontally and vertically and put the horizon on one of the horizontal thirds. This gives a much better composition than if you put the horizon across the centre.



 You can decide whether you have more sky or more land, depending on which has more interest.


On many cameras you can get a grid to display on the LCD screen to help you divide the scene into thirds. This also helps make sure your horizon is level!

Also - see whether your shot looks better as a portrait or landscape orientation - take both to compare.



So whilst the sun continues to shine have a practise! Tomorrow I might skip ahead to sunsets as we're getting such beautiful ones at the moment!

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How to to take great summer photos - TIP 2 (Cheshire photography course with Picture It Big)

OK, today's tip is a great one:

HOW TO MAKE YOUR SUBJECT FEEL COMFORTABLE

I hate standing and having my picture taken! I don't know how to stand, what to do with my hands and I'm convinced I'm going to look embarrassed and awkward - and I did!

Until, that is, I learned to pose people myself and now I feel much more comfortable. I hardly ever stand if anyone wants to take my picture - I lean or sit because I know I feel so much more relaxed and I look at ease.

Izzi looks very relaxed in front of the camera

And again here she is looking chilled out sitting down


This really works and results in lovely natural shots. Keep talking to the person you are taking a photo of and don't take ages! Sort your camera settings out first and then get them to pose for you.


This is a great pose and has resulted in a lovely shot of Sam




In the shot above of Izzi and Abii, they look very relaxed but also this shot works because there is a lovely vibrant background behind them and also they have put their heads close together. This would work well cropped in tighter around their heads and shoulders too.

And here's a pic that Abii took of Izzi on a compact camera - I did an edit on it for her but what a lovely shot - by a 12 year old!

So there you have another very simple but really effective tip! Look out for tomorrow's on the blog!

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How to to take great summer photos - TIP 1 (Cheshire Photography Course with Picture It Big)

Summer is here (for the moment) and if you're anything like me you're making the most of it whilst it lasts. As I've browsed Facebook I've been seeing lots of pictures taken at the beach, at picnics, barbecues, out on bike rides and walks. They've inspired me to put together 7 top tips for sizzling summer shot.

These tips are for anyone who uses a point and shoot compact camera or camera phone whilst out and about enjoying the lovely weather. I've kept things very straight forward, there are no tricky settings*

So - here's Tip 1

AVOID BLURRY PICTURES BY STANDING & HOLDING YOUR CAMERA / PHONE CORRECTLY


  • Stand with your feet hip width apart, flat on the ground. If you are kneeling, sitting or lying to take the picture always make sure you are stable on the ground i.e. sat on both buttocks, leaning on both knees or both elbows instead of just one.
  • Hold your camera / phone with both hands, taking care not to have any fingers over the lens or flash.


    Girl looking through view finder of camera
    Izzy looking through viewfinder of compact camera
  • Tuck your elbows in at your sides - whether you're using the little viewfinder or the larger LCD screen. It's tempting to hold the camera with arms held out away from the body but this makes you much less stable as you take the picture.
Abii keeping her elbows tucked in whilst using the large screen on her phone to take a picture.
  • When you actually take the picture, stand nice and still and squeeze the shutter or touch the onscreen icon gently - don't stab at it as this can jerk the camera.
  • If it's dull where you are taking the picture, lean against a wall or column. But make sure its solid - my dad leant on a grandfather clock in a store and knocked it over - but that's another story!
This may seem like basic stuff but it all makes a difference. Tomorrow we'll look at how to take great pictures of people on bright sunny days - it can be trickier than it first seems!

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Learn how to take great photographs for your blog, Pinterest and online shops (photography course Cheshire)

Calling all bloggers...and eBay and Etsy sellers, in fact anyone who regularly posts pictures of their products online and can't call on the services of a professional photographer every day, for obvious reasons. Are you taking your own photographs but getting frustrated and a bit embarrassed because they don't do your yummy product justice?!

I knitted these gorgeous hats for my newborn photography shoots and decided to photograph them for the website. I didn't use any fancy kit - just an entry level SLR and natural daylight  - oh and I used some simple photography basics to get a really nice shot:

I made sure that it was an overcast day - bright sunlight would have killed this shot.

I knew that diagonals make a nice strong composition. And I'd spotted a similar shot in a knitting book which "inspired me".

And I used a zoom lens to make the background nice and blurred.

And that was more or less it, apart from a few simple tweaks on the computer to crop the shot and saturate the colours to make the hats really stand out.

Of course practice makes perfect and I have taken a fair few pictures in my time! But you could do this too, with some simple and practical tips and probably with your existing camera. I offer photography classes on an hourly basis, tailored to your requirements and experience. I'll work with you at your place of work, using your camera and show you how to dramatically improve your photographs.

I charge £40 for the first hour and then £25 for every hour thereafter. This rate includes:
  • A telephone consultation to find out what you are looking to gain from the tuition.
  • A proposed schedule for the session.
  • Travel to and from the your home or another location*.
  • Follow up notes from our session.
There's no truer saying than "A picture is worth a thousand words" and it's well worth investing in a little help to make your products stand out from the crowd.




* I am based in Cheshire and my fee includes travel within 30 miles of CW9. Any distance in excess of this would be charged at 40p per mile.

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How professional photography will make your business stand out from the crowd (by Cheshire commercial photographer Picture It Big)

Lexington soft furnishings for Arighi Bianci
Never was there a truer saying in this age of the internet and social media. Hopefully I'm preaching to the converted and you already know that having great imagery of your product or service has a major impact on how you are perceived by your target market.

But the accessibility of digital photography - snap an image on your phone and upload it in a matter of seconds - means that many people are still tempted to do their own. This can seem to be a sensible way of saving money - and we're all trying to do that at the moment - but unless they know what they're doing it's a false economy.

Why spend all that time, energy and passion creating a brand new product or  renovating new business premises, to simply present a second rate view on your virtual shop window i.e. your web site!

Many people are worried abut the cost of commissioning a professional photographer - even sounds expensive doesn't it?! But I work with a wide range of clients, with differing needs and budgets. From the outset I work with you to understand what you can afford to spend and what you would like to get out of the shoot. It's surprising how much can be done in a half day's shoot if we are organised and have planned out exactly what we are doing beforehand.

PR shot for the Managing Director of White Rabbit England
I have done several shoots for White Rabbit England, designers and producers of a range of very cute products for children - bone china animal shaped lamps, soft furnishings and lots more. Each time we have packed a lot into each day long shoot, including individual product shots, rooms and PR shots. It's important to know how the final image will be used, whether it's for a catalogue or product listing, a  piece of editorial or banners for an exhibition. I have to admit to getting a real thrill when I see the final images displayed on leaflets, web sites etc!

White Rabbit England home page
I was approached recently by a company called Kraamzorg, offering private postnatal care (I wish I'd had access to this!). Their shoot was a little more complicated as they required models - a baby, a mum and some slightly older siblings! Rather than go to the expense of using professional models we called on friends and acquaintances and accomplished everything in a half day shoot - you don't waste time when babies and young children are involved. The resulting images are lovely, communicating the caring professionalism of the Kraamzorg service.

Kraamzorg UK home page
For private dental care company Beyond Orthodontics it was extremely important to show prospective clients that their reception area was more like that of a spa than a dentist's waiting room! This shoot, including shots of "patients" in the treatment rooms, was accomplished in a two hour shoot.

Reception and client consultation area for Beyond Orthodontics
If you  require product shots on a frequent basis e.g. cupcake companies, some crafts etc, I can work with you to show you how to take better shots with your own camera. These shots shouldn't be the showcase images of your web sites or promotional materials, but will provide you with decent images to post onto Facebook and Twitter. Usually a couple of hours tuition is enough to teach you some easy tips and techniques.

For more information, for a no obligation chat about your photography requirements or to book a shoot contact me (Jane) on 07868 750505 or email jane@picture-it-big.co.uk. I cover Cheshire and the South Manchester area.

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From athlete's foot to apertures

(Bear with me on the title, all will become clear!) I'm hoping that the process of writing this post will help me to see the wood for the trees, put some order of priority on all my projects. I feel like my brain is on overload - in a positive way, when compared to the brain fries I regularly experienced when working full time for someone else. I expected and planned for Jan / Feb to be quiet, particularly with portrait work, and decided to use the time for business planning, web site updates, even taking it a bit easy and getting to the gym occasionally. I'm feeling dragged down at the moment by a feeling that I've not made much, if any, headway on any of these, but logic and ever supportive husband keep telling me otherwise.

Portrait work was non-existent but Spring must be in the air because bookings for March keep coming in - bank balances must be starting to recover from Christmas and the gradual warming temperature and lengthening days are making people emerge from hibernation. And photography jobs involving glass baubles, food and snow kept the wolf only scratching at the door over the last two months.

The new area of business I am pushing this year is photography courses. This is something I find so exciting - combining one passion, photography, with another, training or teaching. A long time before I started taking pictures for a living, I wrote "a jargon free guide to taking better pictures" and had more or less put to bed the portrait section. I've always been excited by the idea of enabling people to improve their photography with some simple, non technical tips and techniques. I spent the last two years of my life as an international marketer developing and running training courses on foot disorders - anything from athlete's foot to verrucas. Despite the unappealing subject matter I got such a buzz from this job and can't wait to get training again. Working on my dad's old adage "if you don't ask, you don't get", I approached a number of local venues and struck gold with Willowpool Garden Centre, Lymm, an absolute Aladdin's cave in terms of photographic subjects. So my first course is booked in and I can't wait to start the marketing and get the course material written.

I've updated areas of the web site and tidied it up a lot, but there's lots more housekeeping to do - I suppose you never actually get up to date with this kind of job. If you've read any of my recent blogs, you'll know that taking it easy never happened and aside from dog walking my keep fit regime doesn't deserve the title! My "quiet period" is officially over and I'm chomping at the bit to get on with March's workload. And I think writing all this down has sort of helped with priorities and self esteem!

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