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Creativity, Not Gear!

I’m here to tell you that you can shoot professional, even commercial photography with little or no kit at home on the dinning table.

Creativity, Not Gear

Sure, we’d all love the latest kit, but the reality is that with some thought and resourcefulness…you don’t really need it.

I shot above picture for a one of my food clients to promote an amazingly tasty innovate Fruit Tea which is frozen and contains real fruit. It was needed quickly, so here’s how I used the dining table, some upside down chairs, less that £100 of lighting gear and a flashlight.


Step 1:  Create a backdrop.

I stacked the chairs at the back of the room and draped them with my trustee piece of black velvet.

I have a shower curtain if I shoot white! Both items are a cheap and incredibly versatile.


Step 2: Introduce the lighting:

For this I’m using my Minimalist Super Cheap Strobist kit consisting of two Yonguno speedlights, wireless triggers and 2 x Lollipods as light stands.

The speed lights are positioned above the cups, facing towards each other to create a curtain of light. The table is positioned far back enough that no light spills on the backdrop.

I cannot throw it out of focus, because I’m using F11 to get rid of the day light and give sharpness, but flashes will be so quick that they will freeze the motion.

The camera is positioned low so that the £3 piece of black paper from the local art shop blends into the black velvet draped over the chairs.


Step 3:  Settings and refining:

I’m shooting at ISO 100 for quality,

1/200 th as it’s as fast as I can sync,

F11 to kill the ambient light,

manual focus for constancy,

flashes on manual and 1/3 power to enable three rapid shots before a recharge,

my zoom somewhere between 50-70mm to fill the frame still leave enough room to squeeze behind the camera and not burn my bum on the open fire behind me!

It took a few test shots to position the lights to get the effect I wanted, but that’s just part of the fun.


Step 4: Secret Weapon:

The theory is that I will shoot each cup separately and them blend all four together, you might call it cheating, but I only have two hands!

So three things are critical:
The camera must be in manual focus and not move (self timer is my friend),

The curtain of light is narrow and I need all of the fruit and water to be on the same vertical plan,

The black paper and cups cannot move, so no slipping and only two takes per cup before they are full.

So, my secret weapon:  I placed a small very bright waterproof flashlight in the cup pointing up to provide a visual guide for where the water and fruit must fall. I used a Fenix PD22 which is an awesome pocket light.


Step 5: Trial Error & Photoshop:

After that it was just a matter of trial and error.
I practiced once off camera and managed to pour the water and drop the fruit without any spillage.
I blended four individual shots (one per cup) and the client loved the final result.

What’s in Your Bag?

I love to see things from a different angle and so was delighted to discover a new FREE web site where people can showcase their camera gear and their photography.   It’s designed for everyone with categories for DSLR, Lighting, Film, GoPro and Phone based photography.

In My Bag   InMyBag.net

More importantly for me, their is a minimalist kit section which I hope grows to show you that creativity is way more important than the latest gear!

I’ve already put my iPhone and large Lighting bag on…will pop the Minimalist Lighting Bag soon:



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Lightism in Popular Photography Magazine

America’s biggest photography magazine; Popular Photography; recently approached me having read two of the Lightism DIY lighting articles online and has now included them in this months issue…YAY!!


Below is the online version of the article which has a bunch of great ideas (including 2 of mine 😉



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Create DIY Northern Lights wherever you are...

If you want to create amazing pictures of the Northern Lights, but don’t want to leave home, then this is the article for you.

I’ll show you how to create images like this with a smart phone, an app, a dirty window and an outside light.

DIY Northern Lights iphone



a) Smartphone with a low light app such as LightBoost for iPhone.

b) A window with an interesting after dark view. If the window’s already dirty with streaks left from rain and condensation, then you’re in luck, because we will use these marks to create our Northern Lights…bear with me here.

c) An outside light or torch


Place the phone on directly on the dirty window.


Use your low light app to boost the phones light sensitivity (below is the normal iPhone and then Light Boost)

Create DIY Northern Lights wherever you are

Light boost iphone app


You need an outside light or torch shining on your dirty window and it needs located below and to the side of the window. This light will pick up the streaks of dirt on the window and give you an effect similar to the Northern Lights.


Create DIY Northern Lights wherever you are

(This may work with a DSLR, a dirty filter acting as the window and a torch)


Subtly shift the angle of the phone in relation to the window or even move to a different part of the window. In the picture below you can see what a difference this can make.


Create DIY Northern Lights wherever you are


STEP 5: (Optional)
If you want to increase the drama and make it look like a longer exposure, then the app Alien Sky can add a star field.
It allows you to position it, resize and fade it out to look more natural.


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Simple Guide to Becoming a Strobist...

Lollipod tripod - Become Strobist Expert

If you want to take your DSLR (or compact camera) photography to the next level you should checkout the Strobist movement….sounds painful, but it simply means using flash guns (now called strobes) not sat on top of your camera.

In this article I’ll show you a super cheap flexible kit which I’ve used for professional shoots for years and hopefully demystify this wonderful subject.



Yes, you can spend a fortune, but frankly I won a ‘Sony World Photography Award’ with this kit, so don’t be fooled into thinking you need to spend a fortune + I put black insulation tape over the branding anyway!

Plus, this must be the smallest & cheapest studio in a bag ever!




2 x Strobes – YONGNUO YN460
(£20-£30 each – Ebay) – Total £40

2 x Wireless triggers – YONGNUO RF-602
(1 x sender, 2 x receivers)  Ebay – £25

2 x Lollipod ultra-light weight, compact light stands
(£29.99 each) – Total £60

The Lollipods can be used as light stands & booms, etc. I have two different coloured ones and if I have an assistant refer to them as the Blue light and the Green light to make life simple

(Some people recommend umbrellas, but I purchased them and really never used them much)

That’s it total spend = £125
for two strobes, stands and wireless triggers…mad hay!





Moving the strobes off camera, gives us infinitely more creative control as they can be positioned anywhere in or outside the picture.

You can shoot in any mode providing the shutter speed 1/125th of a second OR LOWER.

The smaller your light source the harsher the quality and the stronger the shadows, therefore bare bulb is harsh and bouncing off a wall is softer.

With strobes, the quality of the light varies and often the most interesting light is on the ended of the spread, so do experiment.


The intensity of each light can be varied independently in three ways:

1) primarily by varying the power setting on the back of each strobe (independently)

2) by varying the distance to the subject

3) Bouncing the light off a wall or other surface

4) by placing a ‘light modifier’ between the strobe and the subject.




A quick word on light modifiers, they can be anything that changes the quality, shape, colour or brightness of the light. If you bounce of a wall, then the wall is a modifier.

They can be expensive to homemade and here is a great source of homemade ones. Plastic Diffuser – from built in to the flash to Stofen to Garry Fong (I use one that came free with my flash)

Softbox – Essentially a box with a white sheet on the front which softens the light, before you spend a penny checkout this homemade selection Grid Spot – Focuses the light into a tight spot light (mine is totally DIY) Ring Light – From homemade to an Orbis (which I use)




A) Checkout the resource section and get some inspiration for your chosen subject, find a picture you like and try to replicate it. An inanimate subject is a good start point until you get more confident. I often shoot at home in the pitch dark, so I can quickly see what the light is doing or the effect of any adjustment.

B) Attach a receivers to each of the strobes and then mount each onto a Lollipods. Turn them on and press the button on the trigger and both strobes should fire, if not make sure they are on the same channel with the dip switches on each piece. Now turn both of the strobes off.

Don’t forget the Lollipod can be used as a Boom with the legs closed, so don’t restrict your thinking about where you position the strobes.

C) I want you to start thinking in layers of light, as that is how we will build our picture. Lets start by utilising any ambient light and don’t worry if your subject is still dark as you now have two lights to play with. In my example below, I’m shooting in the pitch black and the ambient light is the contents of a military glow stick, lighting the closest egg from the inside when exposed for a few seconds:




This simple method works with any subject from people to cars.



Strobist.com is a great site and David Hobby is father of the movement.

Strobist groups onFlickr & Facebook


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Use Your Camera to Remember Anything!

I’ve often used my phone camera to photograph things to remember, but they get lost among my pictures!   Now I’ve recently discovered this brilliant app which visually manages and categorises them…plus it’s FREE!

I use Notograph to remember where I hid the passports, what books my kids took from the library, what films to watch, serial numbers, documents, recipes, nice wine and just about everything else!!

It’s super simple to use – you take a picture of whatever, label it, chose a pertinent section of the picture to be visible and add it to an appropriate list (or not) and your done!!


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How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO...

In this article, I’ll show you simple tricks to shoot a wedding like a pro…on your smart phone.


I’m a professional photographer and often spend my weekends shooting weddings with my big DLSR camera, (link here)  but recently I went to a wedding as a guest.

This was a great chance to try and shoot a wedding on an iPhone 5 for this education blog and share all my juicy tips with you.


Before you go to the wedding you’ll need a full battery, I use a Morphie Juice Jacket to double my battery. You will also need to have check that you have plenty of space on your phone and you’re not about to run out of space.

Also turn your phone to ‘Airplane mode’ to save power and save it ringing, turn it to silent to make sure!

How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO


The biggest difference between professionals and amateur photographers, is that professionals have a signature look.
You can see consistency in colour, style, etc.  Well if you opt for a black and white like app, I used Hueless for iPhone, your pictures will automatically feel consistent and more polished.

Another good reason is that in low light your pictures will be grainy and that looks fine in black and white.


How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO


Smart phones don’t have proper zooms and already have lower megapixels, so you need to get out of your seat and get up close.


If that’s during the ceremony or the speeches, why not swap seats with someone to get a prime time view?


With a phone you can frame your subjects quite discreetly and then watch and listen….your waiting for punch lines or other emotional punctuation.


This works well for speeches, frame up your shot and watch…shoot when each moment happens and choose the best one later.

How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO


USE HDR (High Dynamic Range):
Lots of grand rooms have bright chandeliers and if you use a normal app you’ll not be able to get both the light and the room exposure correctly.

Here I used HDR pro which takes two pictures and blends them to extend the dynamic range. I selected the brightest and darkest parts of the scene and it did the rest.

How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO


A great way to impress people is to do things that can’t and currently animated gifs (a short film made from multiple stills) will do this for you. I totally cheat and automatically backup to Google+



If you take more that 5 shots over a period without moving too much it will automatically string them together and send you the finished animated gif – without you even doing anything!  (Perhaps I should have used the back of a chair as a tripod on this one!)


This is you chance to be a people watcher and spot moments that no one else sees.  Try to capture something that people will wonder what the story is if they only saw that shot.



You need to edit down to a few great shots, no more that one of each scene unless there is a great reason.  Aim to deliver 12 or 24 amazing shots, not 100 which are all very similar.

 How to Shoot a Wedding on a Smart Phone like a PRO

Smart phones are instant and you should have them loaded and more importantly tagged with the people’s names with 24 hours, if not on the night!

The poor professional photographer will have 2-4 days work to process his work and so this gives you time to shine.

Finally, try not to drink quite as much whiskey as I did!

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Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

Every time I download an app, I wonder…what’s the story behind the app and what do I really get for a few pounds…how much blood, sweat and tears does £2 buy me?   Well, let’s find out…



Two of the many reasons I love photography because it grants me access to see into other peoples worlds to understand their story and I get to test pilot new cameras, apps and new versions of photography apps before they are released.

Hueless has been my old faithful black & white app since I switched to iPhone last year and became a finalist in the iPhone Photography Awards:

The Hideout - iPhone Photography Awards 2007

So, having worked with the developers of Hueless, I was curious to find out the inside perspective of whether £2 is enough for one man’s dream?  Over to Christopher:


Dreaming in Black & White

“I’m not even sure that’s possible on the iPhone…”

My development partner and ninja-level coder, Michael, looked at me with a doubtful shrug, but agreed to check into it and see if there were any ways to achieve the kind of image control I was looking for.

While enjoying the photographic freedom I had discovered with the release of the iPhone 4, what I wanted was an iPhone camera that mimics what its like to shoot real black & white film.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

Exposure control, contrast control, color filters. I was aware of several post-processing apps that could give me the photographic result I was looking for, but none that could do it in real time, as I was taking the shot. I wanted taking photographs with my iPhone to feel like “real photography”.

I knew how I wanted to shoot photographs with my iPhone, and that idea became Hueless.


We can’t do that in iOS 4

We got really serious about building Hueless in May 2011. The early days of development were tough going.

It became clear there was no easy way to hook into the iPhone camera and gain control over the image before it made it’s way to the screen… and the photographer’s eyes. iOS 4 simply would not allow us to do the image adjustments we wanted in real-time.

Compromises were discussed, alternatives formulated… and then something fortuitous happened.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

The announcement of iOS 5 on June of 2011 opened whole new areas of image manipulation to us. Suddenly we had direct access to the image from the iPhone sensor. We could take that image and manipulate it in real-time, layering effects and calculating their interactions on the fly.

We could give photographers true black & white photography with a wide range of adjustments that they could preview as they composed their shot. The possibilities were exciting to say the least.


Early results & creating a design language

As soon as the iOS 5 beta was available to developers, we began working on the basic interface language and rudimentary image capture/storage.

Our early working tests were promising, propelling us forward as each test build of the app brought faster and better photographic results. Experimentation with effect layering, sequence and formula yielded photographs that reflected real world film camera abilities and results.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

We mapped out the basic Hueless feature set: Black & white preview, exposure slider, contrast slider, color filters in red, orange, yellow, green and blue with intensity control and 4 aspect ratios covering 4:3, 3:2, 1:1 (square) and 2.39:1 (cinema).

We also made the decision to save photos directly to the built-in iOS Camera Roll. We felt that consolidating all photos into a single repository made sense from a photo management standpoint, a workflow point of friction for every photographer, and with the introduction of iOS 5 and Photo Stream your Hueless photos would be available on all of your devices.


I shoot therefore I am

One of the biggest questions in terms of app features that remained for us to decide was one of shooting vs. post-processing. I had no illusions, if we did not include the ability for Hueless to post-process photos users had already taken with other camera apps there would be blowback from some photographers.

Post-processing iPhone photos had become very popular in the early days of the App Store and Hueless was going to be a different take on the iPhone camera. Staying true to the original vision of Hueless as a shooting app was important to us (me especially), but might turn out to be controversial.



In my next segment/post I will talk about the process of building Hueless from the ground up, squeezing every ounce of speed possible out of the code and preparing Hueless for its debut to the world.





Scraping the Metal

When I left you last week we had started testing concept versions of Hueless and mapping out the 1.0 feature set. After a successful 3 months of testing, which included shooting hundreds of photos to test variations in b&w processing formulae, all with a skeleton of a camera, we dug into the task of creating a polished app to contain and control this new-found photographic freedom. Working from our basic feature set, it was time to put flesh on the skeleton.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

One of the main goals for the interface was to provide easy access to the various camera controls and image adjustments from within the shooting interface. We didn’t want photographers to navigate cumbersome menus or separate panels for access to the critical functions needed during composition and shooting. We had made the commitment to Hueless as a true shooting camera and it was important that translate to the user interface.


A helping of features and a dash of personality

As Michael worked on the Hueless image processing underpinnings, I designed a straightforward camera control scheme consisting of small, semi-transparent on-screen buttons overlaying the live image to act as switches, expand to access options, and reveal image adjustment sliders. The semi-transparent buttons were a good balance of functionality and subtlety, with the added ability to hide them with a tap for a distraction-free live image.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

In order to create something unique that would impart personality onto Hueless and provide useful function for the photographer I created a shutter button control cluster consisting of a mock filmstrip with a shutter button at one end and 4 frames that contain thumbnails of your most recent shots. The filmstrip advanced with each new capture into an SLR style film roll at the other end. It worked well as a simple review mechanism and the animated filmstrip seemed to endear itself to our early testers.

The Hueless interface has evolved as we have added & refined features and supported new device capabilities. I will touch more on updates and the evolution of Hueless in part 3, coming next week.


Putting some color in our black & white

Creating digital filters that mimic real world results was no easy task. Screw a blue filter to an SLR and the effects are instant and dramatic. Replicating that aspect of traditional photography was a painstaking process that involved math that is beyond my comprehension. Thankfully, Michael had the math firmly in hand and I set about the task of testing his various different approaches to implementing the color filters against real-world results.

Using a Studio Neat Glif, Manfrotto tripod and various accessories, I crafted a rig that would allow me to take the same photograph with my iPhone as with my Canon DSLR. I took series after series of test shots with optical glass color filters on the DSLR and our digital color filters in Hueless in order to compare our filter effectiveness and color balance with the optical filter reference shots.

Over a period of 2 months we refined our methods and achieved color filters that produce very similar results as shooting black & white film with optical color filters… with the added ability to adjust the intensity.


Pulling the pieces together

With months of concept testing, design, development, and refinement behind us, we found ourselves in October of 2011. Hueless was really coming into focus. We had successfully integrated the interface I had designed with the amazing real-time filtering that Michael had created. There was a long way to go before Hueless was ready for the App Store, but we had bested the main hurdles in our path.

Although we had been showing our progress to a few select people, it was time to create a pool of interested amateur, semi-pro and pro photographers that could help us take it the last mile and make Hueless great.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?


Testing and tweaking

In November we began a concerted effort to put Hueless in the hands of photographers to test and comment on. It was exciting to see the black & white photographs they were sending back and the feedback we received on the Hueless interface proved to be useful from the very beginning of the beta cycle.

Beta testers are invaluable to creating an app that is bug-free as possible and intuitive to the user. Even app behaviors and interactions that seem trivial were greatly influenced by the feedback we received from our beta testers and it made a world of difference in the overall polish of the app. Many hours were spent tweaking the user interactions so that everything from focusing to adjusting the black & white image feels responsive and seamless to the photographer.

Refining the app based on tester feedback was going well. We had established a dedicated pool of beta testers and as February 2012 came into view we could clearly see our remaining path to Hueless 1.0 and release on the App Store.



I hope you enjoyed part 2, in my final post I’ll bring you a bit of what it was like to ramp up for release of Hueless, how it was received, and the ways we have evolved along the way. Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy shooting!






Ramping up for release

In last week’s post we had Hueless in the hands of photographers to beta test and were nearing the finish line. They had been feeding us a steady stream of feedback and Hueless had grown into a refined app with the image adjustment capabilities, speed and usability that would make Hueless a unique and powerful addition to the toolkit of iPhone photographers.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

In mid-May we submitted the final build of Hueless to the Apple for review and eagerly waited our turn in line. After 5 long days Hueless went into review, was approved and was released on May 21st, 2012, almost a year to the day we had begun development. Huge amounts of mental, physical and creative energy were expended to bring Hueless to life and it was time to see how the word of iPhone photography would receive and use our black & white camera.


A black & white reception

From the start it was clear that Hueless would find it’s place with photographers looking for the type of shooting experience we were offering. Hueless challenged photographers to think about the end product before they shoot the photo, something that in my opinion was sorely missing from the App Store photography offerings at the time. iPhone photography was dominated by post-processing apps with heavy-handed filters that tended to make everyones photos look over-processed and the same.


The flow of photos

As Hueless gained in popularity and the volume of photos being posted to Flickr, Instagram and Twitter grew daily it was apparent that photographers were recognizing the power of real-time black & white photography and using Hueless in creative and amazing ways.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

We saw the need for more features and over time we added `aspect ratios, refined the filter picker and adjustment sliders, added presets so photographers can save and recall their favorite Hueless image formulas and given Photogs the ability to save Hueless photos in TIFF and Maximum Quality JPEG formats, expanding their ability to edit and print high quality output.



It is a humbling experience to create a tool like Hueless and release it to the world. Hueless is enjoyed by thousands of photographers all over the world and the results have been amazing. When I see a Hueless photo posted to social media from a new country I feel a great sense of pride and renewed commitment that Hueless will continue to evolve and grow along with the iPhone photography community.

Is £2 enough for one man’s dream?

I hope you enjoyed this look at the process and passion behind Hueless. Enjoy shooting!



Bio:  Christopher Radliff

Christopher is a designer, photographer and co-founder of Curious Satellite, developers of Hueless & Huemore camera apps for iPhone.

Over the past 20 years he has directed small, focused design & development teams, taught design and authoring techniques to the unsuspecting and given his best for the online lives of companies large & small.

Christopher currently designs things, shoots photographs, and lives life on the northern front range of Colorado, USA.


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Free & Simple way to add Drama & Depth...

I’m always disappointed when I take my sunglasses off because the world looks more dramatic and richer with them on. So obviously I pop them in front of my lens and hey pesto, now I thought everyone did it, but based on the number of people asking me what I’m doing holding my sunglasses over my iPhone…maybe not?

Free & Simple way to add Drama & Depth- Lightism.co.uk/simple

Ok, you got me…the picture above is a cheat, I processed it differently inside the glasses to exaggerate the effect, but the pictures below are the same scene without:

Free & Simple way to add Drama & Depth- Lightism.co.uk/simple


Free & Simple way to add Drama & Depth- Lightism.co.uk/simple

It really is as simple as holding the glasses over the lens and making sure you cannot see the frames…with the right glasses (mine are Oakley) you’ll be amazed at the difference.



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Visual Devices to Enhance Your Photography – Lines:

When you first see a photo, your brain tries to read it by looking for clues as to its saying. As a photographer there is a bunch of tricks you can use to help guide your viewer’s brain…and as brains are often busy, they really appreciate a hand now and then.

In this article we’re looking at the use of lines to lead the eye to the main subject.

Visual Devices to enhance your photography – Lines:

The lines can take many forms, but if used correctly they act like a path for the viewer’s eye.

Once the eye reaches your subject, you can consider providing an exit for it, or trying to trap it within the image.

In the example above the eye is taken in from the bottom left, along the line to the subject, wanders briefly and exits top right.

Corners are a powerful place to start a line and immediately grab your attention.

Visual Devices to enhance your photography – Lines:

In the example above there are two set of lines.
The rope starting bottom right and the stepping stones bottom left.

My eye follows the rope, checks out the bank and exits back over the stones…what does your eye do?

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