Thursday, 15 September 2016

Saal Digital Photo Book Review

      I recently had the chance to create my own Photo Book from Saal Digital in exchange for an honest review. I was really excited for this chance, as a photographer I have a huge backlog of photos which may end up on Flickr or Facebook but never usually make it into print! I did recently get some 6x4" prints from Snapfish on an offer but the quality was just not comparable to what I see on screen! 

      I used this as an excuse to make a kind of portfolio for the images I have taken over the past year. I have been taking some online Photography courses which you can read about in previous posts, this has really improved the quality of my recent work and I wanted to see that in print. I decided to go for a wraparound cover in matte padded finish. This image taken of a lake near the hoover dam is one of my favourites with all the colours and clouds and I think it worked well.

       You don't have to have the padded cover, it is an extra, but it gives the book a nice, luxury feel. 

       For the inside I chose matte lustre finish on the paper as I tend to prefer this over gloss. The book also has flat binding so it lies perfectly flat as you turn the pages, this is another nice touch which allows your prints to not get lost in the gutter in the centre.

       The possibilities for layouts are endless in these books! They have all sorts of collage templates with the option to have many photos per page. I kept it simple with each double spread having 2-4 photos, the flat binding meant I could have photos across the centre still perfectly viewable as shown below. 

      The colour representation is really beautiful. I have a retina screen on my mac which can show every flaw in an image, but also gives great definition for sharpness versus my old screen, these prints definitely do the images justice!

       A couple of things to be careful of:

Check image size - The book creator does tell you if your images are big enough, the cover image was "good" rather than "great" in their terms which meant it wasn't pixellated but also wasn't quite as crisp as the others due to it being stretched to cover the front and back! 

Check print proofs - The below images of jewellery are both meant to be on black slate, the right image is somehow a really pale grey which wasn't how the file looked when I saved it! No idea still how that happened but make sure you double check everything before sending to print.

       Overall I would absolutely recommend Saal Digital for Photo Books, I may even try them for art prints too as they have a lot of other services on their website! I have bought photo books before as gifts, and while the printing is generally ok, they don't get even close to this one! The above book in A4 is around £44 with postage for I think a 29 page book. These are great for portfolios, wedding photos, really nice family albums and would make a very special gift for someone. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Photo walk around Lacock Village

      Last week on my day off I decided to get out of Bristol and go for a bit of an explore. My parents house is near Grittleton in Wiltshire, and there are many villages in the area which I used to frequent, whether on my bike or driving over for an explore! Lacock is one of my favourites, it has kept very traditional with its cobbled streets and quaint houses with decorated windows! Lacock is also famous for being featured in TV shows and films including Harry Potter, Cranford, Downton Abbey and Pride & Prejudice. 

      The lighting on this day was very flat and subdued, the skies were overcast and gray meaning a lot of the buildings I photographed needed a bit of a boost in the contrast. I have been using Lightroom more and more recently to experiment with adding my own levels of vintage style filter. I tend to do an initial lighting and colour correction edit before making a virtual copy which I then edit more heavily! 

*Quick tip - Creating virtual copies in Lightroom is great to make different versions of the same photo without losing or overriding your initial edits. Click Command+' (mac) or Control+' (windows) to create another copy of that image before adding your edits! Great for creating a colour version and then one in Black and white or sepia, or for trying a few crop variations. 

      I have been using lens correction tools to create vignetting and also playing around with split toning and camera calibration to add different tones to the images. 

      This raspberry bush really came out with this filter! I loved the subtle colours it creates. 

      The two above images both needed some contrast to bring out the patterns in the bricks and the shadows from the vines.

      Just a few of my favourites from the day! Let me know what you think, what are your favourite photography/drawing locations?!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Life Drawing in Bristol

      I have recently changed jobs which means I have a lot more evenings free and I have used this time to try and make the most of living in Bristol and trying out new things! The last time I did any life drawing was in my second year of university 4 years ago and even normal drawing I am very out of practise. 

      I found that there were circus themed life drawing sessions at The Island in the city centre where they have a circus training space. As someone who takes aerial circus classes already I was really excited to try this and me and my friend Holly decided to go and flex our slightly underused drawing muscles.

      We went to two of the three sessions, each started with fairly short poses using rope, silks or trapeze. I was intrigued to see what types of poses we would do knowing that even posing for photos on circus equipment hurts a lot as there are many narrow pressure points and uncomfortable grips. I liked the way the models wrapped the equipment around them and used it to create interesting wraps and shapes for us to draw. 

      These sessions were untutored, which was nice because I am very out of practise, everyone just got on with their own thing. People were using all different materials, some just with sketchbooks some with large sheets of paper. There was no pressure with people walking around looking at your work it just felt nice to make marks and shapes and not worry about if something worked or not. 

      The people who ran the circus classes also have a regular spot at Cafe Kino on Gloucester road on a Monday evening. This week we decided to check it out.
We had two models, the one at the start was pregnant which was really interesting and beautiful to draw. I tend to prefer drawing women because they have such fabulous curves (sorry men).

      This session was a little different from the circus ones because we were able to draw longer poses, the two below were 20 and 40 minutes which gave a little more time to focus on adding more detail and working on the shapes. I will forever hate drawing hands, feet and faces, but maybe if I go to a few more sessions this will improve over time. 

      If you want to try out the monday life drawing sessions you can follow their facebook page here. It runs 6-8pm and costs £5 for the two hours with some basic materials available if you don't have your own. The circus sessions may be running again soon if you just keep an eye on their facebook page.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Wild Place Project

      I read a blog post a while ago about photography tips to get you inspired. One of those tips was to make the effort to keep going back to the same place a number of times to get yourself more familiar and to challenge yourself to create new images with the same subject. I went to Wild Place in Bristol at the start of April, it is kind of a cross between a zoo (with much larger enclosures than Bristol zoo in the city) a kids play area and wild gardens. 

      I really enjoyed walking round the area as it is very open and quiet, even if it is just off of the motorway! There are lots of wild flowers all around with lots of different colours and they also have their own gardens which are maintained by staff. The walk round takes you to different animal enclosures - the meerkats and lemurs are the most fun I think. There is also a lot for kids to do including lots of mini playgrounds with tyres and dens and also a barefoot walk with lots of textures and materials, including mud, for kids to run through. 

      I signed up for an annual pass after the end of my first trip and now I have been back twice. I have only been in the week but even though there are lots of kids, the area is so spread out it has felt incredibly quiet and nice to just walk around alone and explore in the woods and gardens. 

      Each time I have visited I have taken a different lense with me which I think has helped get different images each time. With my Nikon D5100 I use:

Sigma 17-50mm f2.8
Nikon 35mm Prime f1.8
Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6

      Todays shots were with the zoom lense, which was interesting as it helped me get some super close up of animals faces like the meerkat below:

      The lemurs are in an enclosure you can walk around which means I could get really close to them. There have been a few new babies over the past couple of months which has been good to capture. 

      These brown lemurs (feel free to help me out with the species) are very friendly, I got the photo of this one in the tree just before one poo-ed on my arm... not so fun!

      As well as the larger animals I have found this area great for getting up really close to flowers and smaller bugs. I think I may have to get a macro lense or extension tubes at some point so I can get even closer!