Archive for the Weekly Wonderings Category

Saal Digital Photo-book Review

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3 April 2017 by misselisabethuk

“I’m really pleased with my photo-book from Saal Digital.  It showcases my work and acts as the perfect keepsake; documenting my journey from beginner, to student, to experimental photographer perfectly” by MissElisabeth

Saal Digital  has been running a number of different offers where you can try out their printed products (up to a particular value) in return for a review of the product purchased.

So, who is Saal Digital?

Saal Digital Fotoservice GmbH is one of the leading suppliers of photo products in Europe.

“We are a professional photo lab with great enthusiasm for photography. We are striving for further development of our products in order to achieve higher standards and to meet the needs of our customers. As a modern online service provider, we are specialized in high-quality photo products, including photobooks, photo prints, posters, calendars, greeting cards, wall decors (Alu-Dibond, acrylic glass, PVC foamboard, GalleryPrint), as well as photo gifts.”

Before I go headlong into the full review, I want to say that I have found communications with Saal Digital to be professional, personable, polite and helpful, which in itself is a big selling point before you even get on to the quality of the products that they offer.

Over the past number of weeks I have been posting pages from my photo-book on my Instagram, Twitter and personal Facebook feeds ahead of the full review which you can now find here.  So to my review:

I have to confess that the deadline for my free trial was fast approaching so I had to work quickly but this in itself was a good test of the ease of use of Saal digital’s online work flow and ordering system.

The software downloaded from the web site within minutes and I was very quickly up and running ready to select the product I wanted to trial and the photos I wanted to include.  The hardest part of the process for me was selecting the product I wanted to trial; I had not ordered a photo-book in a while, certainly not from a specialist company such as Saal Digital, so there were some choices I was unfamiliar with.

For ease, and a personal record of my work, I took all the selected images from those which I had entered in to my Photography club competitions or had taken with these competitions in mind and which were already saved as a jpeg of a print quality.  The selects were from my best/favourite images at the time of ordering.

Within an hour of going on the website I had downloaded the software, selected the images, decided on the layout and ordered my chosen photo book.  I chose a 21 x 28 A4 portrait glossy photo-book with 26 pages, unpadded cover without a barcode.  This would normally retail at £39.95.  The postage cost for this product was £4.95.

Please note: You should refer to the Saal Digital web page on ICC profiles and monitor calibration which can be found here.

So, what did I like about the software?

It was easy to download and once downloaded it was very easy to select the required overall product, style options and layouts required.

Swapping page layouts and the number of images per page worked well and quickly. Even when I had already selected the photos I wanted on a particular page I was still able to change the layout and keep the original photos in place (i.e. just change the layout).  I noted that if you were changing from portrait to landscape layouts (or vice verse) there was a bit of re-sizing required, as you would expect, but this was easily done with the useful snap guides.

Each image dragged and dropped into the layout is assessed for image print quality and then rated – in my case I had green rated ‘good’ images and green rated ‘very good’ images, so I felt confident that what would come back in my photo-book would be of the correct quality.

The images imported ‘snap’ to the layouts and I found this particularly impressive with the full-page image layout.

You can add whatever text you want on each page in a variety of different fonts, colours and size etc. and pretty much wherever you want on the page.  Due to self-inflicted time restrictions I did not use this function to its full capacity but with more time I would have definitely used this more.  I would recommend that you spend some time planning your photo-book before going to the online drafting stage to make the most of your product purchase.

What did I NOT like about the software?

There is not a lot of criticism I can give if I’m honest.  The only thing that struck me was that there are a number of advanced more complex features within the software which I did not really understand or indeed try to use.  However, if you are producing these photo-books for your business and used to the optionality normally available (rather than being an amateur like me producing a photo-book more as a record of my development than anything else) then the advanced features probably make sense to you.

The ordering process was easy, once I had reviewed the book and approved it the same software went to take my details, although I had to create a log in at this stage it was still straight forward to do. Also I was surprised how quickly the item was dispatched and received within the postage fee.   I received good communications about where my order was in the ordering cycle, no complaints.

But what about the quality of the product?

I was surprised (in a good way) by the quality of the pages, which were gloss and felt substantial.  I loved the wrap around photo on the front and back cover of the book.  This finish on this was lovely.

The gloss finish of the pages inside reminded me a bit of a child’s book in some respects as the pages could be easily wiped clean, which for a coffee table book would be an advantageous attribute as I imagine the book would potentially need to withstand spillages of food and drink and a bit of man-handling from guests thumbing through the pages.

I am pleased with the A4 size as it also allowed for a double page spread of an A3 landscape image, as well as smaller montage images which you can see in the images below of my photo-book.

I would definitely order from Saal Digital again and more probably as part of my Photography degree studies; I can see that their services/products would be advantageous in my arsenal when preparing for formal assessments.

To end here are a number of the images from the book.  These are not full quality images shown in this blog (some can be found on my official website) instead they are just a representation of my book and it’s layout and how I chose to present my photos on this occasion:

If you are a photographer or even someone who likes to keep their memories safe for future generations I would definitely recommend you take a look at Saal Digital’s website and their products and services.

I have provided some links below to some of the images referenced above should you wish to explore my photography further:

Reflex Photographic Club Blog Post – Winning Image  – 24 November 2016
Lois Loren Blog Post – 15 October 2016
Panning at Brands Hatch – 29 May 2016
Pin Up Doll Alice Oxley – July 2016
Dockside Photography – July 2016

I can also now be found on Fine Art America, where some of my images including the Red Racing car shown above can be purchased.

Lois Loren – Photoshoot – 12 November 2016 – The Images

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25 November 2016 by misselisabethuk

Following on from my last blog:

Date: 12 November 2016
Location: Home Studio, Medway – www.misselisabeth.co.uk
Model: Lois Loren Rochester, Kent
Make-Up Artist (‘MUA’): Maria Bradley Rainham, Kent

Lois chose her images and she is now in receipt of all but one so I thought I would share a few of the images with you, as I promised I would…

If you are interested in the work that I am doing then please visit my website www.misselisabeth.co.uk or Twitter or Facebook

Hope you are having a great week – roll on the weekend!

Lois Loren – Photoshoot – 12 November 2016

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , on 13 November 2016 by misselisabethuk

Date: 12 November 2016
Location: Home Studio, Medway – www.misselisabeth.co.uk
Model: Lois Loren Rochester, Kent
Make-Up Artist (‘MUA’): Maria Bradley Rainham, Kent

Another great shoot with these two lovely ladies.  Both Lois and Maria are great to work with, they are both very patient, good company and professional.  I would definitely recommend them if you’re thinking of hiring a model or make-up artist (MUA).

The brief for this shoot was something a little bit wintery (aiming for a mono-chrome look) and then a glitzy party theme (aiming for high colour – blue).

For this shoot I decided to buy a couple of new light modifiers, a 45 degree reflector with grid and a 55cm beauty dish with grid and diffuser from Essential Photo.  I also bought some blinging jewellery from Ever Faith and some twinkly blue LED lights from Excelvan.

The most difficult part of the shoot was balancing the studio lights on the model with the LED lighting in the background, as studio lights can strip the colour out of other normal lights.  I’m not sure I was entirely successful but I should be able to do something in post to make them stand out more.

As before Lois gets a choice of photos so I will post some once that process has been completed.

The other thing this shoot reinforced to me is that although you may have planned and decided what your shoot will be, in my experience this is fluid due to the ‘on-the-day creativity’ phenomena.  If you are doing a shoot for fun and not to a strict brief, an amazing thing happens when minds come together, creativity happens and ideas start to flow and before you know it you are creating something outside of your original idea that’s organic, unpredictable, spontaneous and in some cases magical.  And I think it is this aspect that I am enjoying the most from my last few shoots.  It’s liberating.

I can’t wait to share the results with you, however, in the meantime have a great week.

Lois Loren – Photoshoot – 15 October 2016 – The Images

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13 November 2016 by misselisabethuk

Following on from my last blog:

Date: 15 October 2016
Location: Home Studio, Medway – www.misselisabeth.co.uk
Model: Lois Loren Rochester, Kent
Make-Up Artist (‘MUA’): Maria Bradley Rainham, Kent

Lois chose her images and after some delays, my end I might add, she is now in receipt of these so thought I would share a few images with you, as I promised I would…

Lois, Maria and I worked together again yesterday on another successful shoot and the results of this will be coming out soon, so keep an eye out….

If you are interested in the work that I am doing then please visit my website www.misselisabeth.co.uk or Twitter or Facebook

Hope you are having a great weekend!

It’s all about the light…. and taking great photographs of people!

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 26 October 2016 by misselisabethuk

As some of you may know I have two blogs currently running, one for the first module of my BA Hons in Photography (Expressing Your Vision) and this one, which is more a record of my thoughts and gives you a glimpse in to my life, likes and other shizzles.  Some might say this is the more interesting blog, some might say “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis”, anyhoo….

Today I went on a photography lesson carried out by a Pret-a-Portrait photographer. I always like to sniff out these opportunities whilst on holiday as they invariably impart some small priceless piece of information which becomes invaluable later.  This lesson was no different; a couple of golden nuggets of information was shared and I will share them with you in this blog.

The lesson was primarily focused about studio lighting for portraits, which is one of my current interests so I used the session to maximise my understanding of how lighting works and fortuitously part four of my course is about light so it was very apt and topical.

The first part of the lesson was a standard presentation.  I had been to one of these session before so knew the format but the additional things I learnt, which maybe I should have already known, were:

  • When the shutter button is pressed one door (curtain) opens and when the shutter closes another door (curtain) shuts.  Many times I have seen the ‘second curtain’ referenced and I now know this means the closing shutter.
  • It is OK in studio to use 200-400 ISO so you can increase the aperture.
  • Hard light produces dark shadows and soft light produces lighter shadows.
  • A smaller light source produces harder light than a larger light source.
  • The terms ‘High Key’ and ‘Low Key’ are derived from the main light source, known as the Key Light.
  • The broad side is when the side lit by the Key Light is facing the camera and the narrow (or ‘short’) side is when the side not lit by the Key Light, the shadow side is  facing the camera.

This may have all been obvious but it is good to hear someone tell you, and also see it done in practice.

The next part of the lesson was the practical bit….

All these images were taken as ISO 400, 1/200 sec. and f/22.  I used my Canon 70D and my Sigma 17-50mm lens which was mostly used at the long end (i.e. 50mm).

The first image (top row, left hand side) shows a High Key set up.  This was achieved by having two lights lighting up the background and a large octobox as the Key Light.

The second image (top row, middle) was achieved by turning off the two lights which were lighting up the background.  This is almost Rembrandt lighting; the main light source is at 45 degrees to the subject and a second light source (which is missing here) is about 1 f-stop less bright directly behind the camera (to lighten the shadows). 

The third image (top row, right hand side) was achieved using a black back ground and a beauty dish.

The fourth image, complete with lens flare, (bottom row, left hand side) was achieved by using a standard reflector with a grid on.  A grid stop the light spilling out of the sides of the light modifier and directs the light in one direction.

The fifth image (bottom row, middle) was achieved by placing a white screen on the opposite side of the subject to the light source to reflect the light spilling past the subject.

The sixth image (bottom row, right hand side) was achieved by placing a black screen on the opposite side of the subject to the light source to absorb the light spilling past the subject.

It is important if you are going to be a portrait photographer that you make your subject/s feel relaxed; talk to them to make them feel at ease, tell a joke, make fun of yourself – whatever works!  You will get more natural shots if there is a relaxed atmosphere.

Lastly, a word about ‘posing’ there are a number of different approaches to this:

1 – The completely un-posed picture – choosing a good spot and waiting for the right moment.  Stage manage.

2 – The posed picture – directing the subject to a precise pose and look but taking their mind off being photographed.

3 – The semi-posed picture – arrange and direct to a point then leave an element of chance.  This option may result in more photographs but you will not know which will turn out the best until the shoot is over.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought when trying out your own photography.  I certainly now have a lot more set ups I now want to try (and practice) as a result.

Lois Loren – Photoshoot – 15 October 2016

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 October 2016 by misselisabethuk

Date: 15 October 2016
Location: Home Studio, Medway – www.misselisabeth.co.uk
Model: Lois Loren Rochester, Kent
Make-Up Artist (‘MUA’): Maria Bradley Rainham, Kent

It took quite some time to set this shoot up with Lois as I wanted to use a MUA and generally MUAs are busy at weekends with their ‘day job’.  So, I was really lucky to find Maria Bradley who just by luck had some spare time in her schedule and who was also based near to me.  I initially found Maria on Model Mayhem and then visited her website (link above) for contact details.

Maria was brilliant, experienced and professional, and I hope I can work with her again, schedules permitting.  She also does photography so understood the challenges a newbie photographer, such as myself, can be faced with.

I wanted to keep things simple for this shoot as my aim was to use different lighting techniques to see what effects I could create with my equipment – PIXAPRO lights and triggers from Essential Photo.  I used a lighting reference document I found on the Digital Camera World website as my guide.  I didn’t get through them all but the ones that had lighting that I felt would suit the situation I tried out.

Lois was very patient. The make-up took about 45 minutes /  1 hour and the brief for Maria was to use colours which complimented Lois’s eyes which are a lovely greyish-blue.  Lois wore just a simple plain black round neck long sleeved t-shirt, which worked really well for this type of shoot.

I want to thank Lois for her professional approach to the shoot albeit probably boring at times when I was changing backgrounds and lighting set ups.  All worth it though as we got some really amazing shots, however, as the shoot was collaborative I am in the process of ensuing Lois is happy with the shots before I release them.

So, for now, you will have to wait to see the end results….

What I can share with you are a few of the shots of us getting ready for the shoot….

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Sunday fun…

Posted in Weekly Wonderings with tags , , , , , , , , on 18 September 2016 by misselisabethuk

A quick post really to share a photo I took this morning.

I haven’t been completely happy with my 70-300mm lens but I think that’s mainly because I have been using it in the wrong situations.  Also I like taking photos hand-held and feel restricted mounting a tripod for the longer focal length shots where there is not enough light to crank up the shutter speed.

Sometimes it’s all about acting on an opportunity and this morning was one of those times.  There was a bird perched on an aerial on the house at the back of mine and I thought I could do some silhouette photography.  So I went inside changed my lens to my 70-300mm lens and wondered if I would be able to quickly take the shot hand held before the moment passed.

I steadied myself against a wall and put the lens on stabilisation setting 2 and hoped for the best.  By the time I got myself sorted a few of the bird’s mates turned up so it worked out better than I had anticipated.

There was a bit of manipulation in Lightroom in that I cropped the image a bit and lowered the black point /upped the white point to make sure I got a good contrast silhouette.  And volia….

img_5934

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

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