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DIY ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour Lighting’ using household objects:

To celebrate the release of the blockbuster movie The Great Gatsby, we take a look at the Vintage Hollywood Glamour genre and show how you can shoot it at home with a few simple household objects including a mirror, gaffer tape and a flashlight.


Inspiration – Glamour of the Gods:
To get a FREE flavor and the back story of Hollywood, here’s a short video review of the recent exhibition “Glamour of the Gods” which toured London, Europe and the US.

It showcased Hollywood portraiture from the industry’s golden age, the period from 1920 to 1960. All the photographs are drawn from the extraordinary archive of the John Kobal Foundation in London.

[embedplusvideo height="283" width="454" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/3uLP35GchlQ?fs=1" vars="ytid=3uLP35GchlQ&width=454&height=283&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=" id="ep1331" /]

If that leaves you wanting more, then the Glamour of the Gods is available for Ipad at the app store for £4.99.  It contains over 230 images and really is an amazing reference for the genre.

DIY ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour Lighting’ using household obj


The Plan:
I’ll show you how to get two very different looks with two lighting setups using just a single light and a few neat tricks.

To make this relevant to as many people as possible, I’ve shot both pictures in the same small domestic room with a sofa and using simple low cost household objects, instead of studio equipment.

After that, we’ll take a look at post processing made easy to push the look further.


  What you’ll need:


1 x 60 watt daylight balance bulb
1 x Desk or a Lead Lamp
1 x Hand Mirror
1 x Role of Black Gaffer Tape
1 x LED Flash Light
1 x Step Ladder (optional)



Look 1 – Soft Vintage Glamour:

DIY Hollywood Vintage Glamour Lighting

This is a pretty, slightly dreamy look with additional light in the eyes to draw your attention and darkened corners to keep your eye from wandering out of the picture.

Top Tip:   I really like the plain background, but a popular trick in Hollywood is to shine a light on the background through a bamboo pot plant, this gives the background a different dimension.

This look is achieved using a single daylight balanced bulb in any sort of desk or lead lamp which throws the light in a single direction.

This is placed to camera right at a similar height to the models head; I used a step ladder to support it.

The step ladder allows you to vary the height in small stages like a lighting stand, but it’s free!

DIY ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour Lighting’ using household obj

The light is pointing mainly at the background, but the very edge (which is where interesting light lives) is skimming her to provide dimension to her body.

The camera is mounted on a tripod, or you could rest it on a chair with a few books under it if you don’t have one. It’s in aperture priority at f5.6 (30th second) at 70 mm and using manual focus.
I’m using the self timer to free up my hands for my next trick…

The light in her eyes is coming from a hand mirror; it’s reflecting back the light from the lamp.
I’m stood holding it to the camera left…clever huh?

Top Tip:   Use black gaffer tape on the mirror you can control the shape of the pool of light, in many original pictures it was a very thin band of light just across the eyes.


Look 2: Dramatic Vintage Glamour

DIY Hollywood Vintage Glamour Lighting

This second look uses same setup with only a minor adjustment of the lamps position, the introduction of a dark background and a flashlight to light her face.

The important thing to do in this shot is to use spot metering to get the correct exposure on her face and under expose the rest of the picture. In my case it was 2 stops darker than the evaluative metering suggested.

Here is a very simple video to teach you this very very simple principle…it will make a HUGE difference to your photography.

[embedplusvideo height="283" width="454" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/V2sSnP2V47I?fs=1" vars="ytid=V2sSnP2V47I&width=454&height=283&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=" id="ep8944" /]

For the background I used a piece of black velvet which I hung over the step ladder and taped to the wall. This background was positioned at an angle to the model; this was to shield the background from most of the lamp light.

The under exposure with the spot metering took care of the rest and made the background pure black.

DIY ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour Lighting’ using household obj

I’m stood in the same location as before, but this time with a fairly bright LED flashlight with a new style CREE led which doesn’t have much color cast.

The shot is setup with the models eyes closed and she opens them wide as the self timer triggers to minimize the time looking at the flashlight.

Top Tip:   If your flashlight is stupidly bright, you can soften it by placing white material or even tissue in front of it.


Post Processing – Adobe Light Room:
I’ve been working on a forthcoming project with a very talented software, app and light room specialist and together we’ve created a simple 5 stage light room preset which will transform your images in just a few simple clicks.

Each stage has a couple of options; this gives you the ability to really control the look whilst it’s still as simple as child’s play.


The Hollywood Vintage Glamour Presets will retail for £9.99,
but for a limited time are available for only £1.99  (link below)


[cleeng_content id="799083722" description="Download our Hollywood Vintage Glamour Light Room presets for only £1.99 for a limited time only" price="1.99" t="article" referral="0.1"]Thank you so much  for supporting Lightism by purchasing our presets.


You will need download, unzip and install the presets into Adobe Light room, this is really simple to do:

1) Download and unzip the files.

2) Start Light Room and click on the develop module in the window drop down.

3) Make sure an image is selected from your catalog

4) Scroll down the left section until the section reads “User Presets”

5) Select ”New Folder”,  Call it ‘Vintage Hollywood Glamour’.

6) Find the new folder, right click on it, and then import, and you get the presets in a nice tidy folder


In the preset menu, these presets have been abbreviated to ‘HVG’ (Hollywood Vintage Glamour)


Here is the zip file:

Enjoy and if you have any issues or problems, please  email me directly at support@Lightism.co.uk

Thanks again  for your support,





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Learn from Leica & get some of the best bits for a few dollars:

If you’ve ever wanted to own an iconic Leica camera, but couldn’t afford to, here’s how to get the some of the best bits for a few dollars. Learn the Leica look, think differently about composition, retro pimp your iPhone and learn how to get the Leica look in your smart phones and cameras photos.

If that wasn’t enough, this article contains 2 x Leica style iPhone preset filters and several FREE Adobe Lightroom presets, as well as a generous helping of the expertise you’ve come to expect from Lightism.


My Affair with Leica:

A couple of years back I was working on a Sony project with a chap who had shunned the usual Canon and Nikon’s hardware and had a Leica.  I thought he was mad, but then I saw his images and my affair with Leica began. Leica cameras produce pictures with a wonderful aesthetic due to the amazing no compromise quality of their lens and the way the rangefinder forces you to rethink composition.

Revealed: Best camera in the world @ www.Lightism.co.uk

I went digital and forked out £6,800 for a used Leica M9 and a single lens!  No zoom, no auto focus…what a culture shock!  Still, first picture I took with it (below) was one of two of my photos which made last year’s Sony World Photography Awards.



Get inspired and learn the look:

Leica manage a wonderful curated gallery containing Leica users best photos called ‘LFI Master Shots Gallery’, its available FREE on the web or Apple devices.  The gallery is a wonderful recourse to get inspired, view great pictures (including a few of mine) and learn to recognize that Leica look.

I think the M8 and M9 galleries are my favorites and I like that strong graphical and street photography look in high contrast black and white.

If you’re looking for other sources of amazing images, I recommend two (non-Leica) ones in a popular article called:

How to train your eye to take better pictures.



Learn to see like a Leica:

If you’ve never used a range finder camera before, let me explain the BIG difference:

what you see in the through the camera is a wider view of the world than the picture you can take.

The actual picture area is marked by lines within that wider view.  This is because, unlike with a traditional camera, you never look through the lens. You focus and compose through a window on the top right, just like on a disposable camera.


Initially this sounds a bit mad and certainly takes a bit of getting used to. However, the wider view gives you the opportunity to see more of the world and makes you think differently about composition.  So, unlike you normal camera you’d also use this type of camera with both eyes open.

That’s were Viewfinder Classic for iPhone comes in ($1.99), it has been designed to capture the decisive moment. The screen of the iPhone turns into that immense, bright viewfinder, that lets photographers focus on the act of capturing light and the essence of a picture.


There is no viewfinder blackout, no distractions, just the full picture, full screen, across the whole viewfinder, except on iPhone 5 where it uses most of the screen in this version.

When you first start it’s almost too simple, but that is the point.

The central square is that point at which the app reads the exposure and focus, the trick is to pop that over the subject and press the pass button to lock it. Then and only the do you re-compose your picture, whilst observing the wider scene that is visible.

The longer white lines around the frame show equivalent to a 50mm lens and if you pinch the screen, the lines move to 35mm which is wide angle.  It does take a bit of getting used to and if you love simplicity, this will really deliver.

I was recently asked to beta test the new version and it takes this great product further into the rangefinder experience. The new version can be used in auto exposure or you can use the side dial to manually control the exposure.


Make your iPhone look like a Leica:

For me Leica’s aren’t just wonderful cameras, but are beautiful to look at. They encompass iconic design, nostalgia and heritage. If you like the classic rangefinder camera look then you can pimp your iPhone with Gizmon. It’s not just a case, but has a shutter button, an optical viewfinder and above all looks cool.



Get the Leica look: Learn to shoot high contrast B+W:

The best time to shoot high contrast is when the sun is out, but not directly overhead.

I prefer to shoot contre-jour (French for against the light) so the camera is pointing directly toward a source of light like below.

Learn from Leica & get some of the best bits for a few dollars:

In these sort of conditions, you’re camera or device won’t be able to cope with the difference between the brightest (the high lights) and the darkest parts (the low lights) of the pictures.

Generally, what will happen is you will lose (blow out) details in one or the other, giving you silhouettes in the dark parts or white areas in the bright parts.

Usually this is a nightmare, but this is exactly what we want to exploit to create high contrast strong images!

The Lone Horseman - how to take creative pictures = www.Lightism


Learn how to become the master of your camera or device:

The trick is to tell the device or camera what is important in the frame so it can set the exposure accordingly; this is called spot metering and is super easy on many camera phone and tablet apps.

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With all of these methods, you’re looking for that sweet spot, the one you’ll find just before the point of way too much!  Experimentation is the key.


The poor man’s Leica:

For Apple devices I love Hueless, its amazing! And the developers tell me it’s dubbed the poor man’s Leica at £1.49.

My favourite feature will help you with the above; it’s a simple exposure slider… it’s wonderfully simple app and has the ability to slide the brightness (exposure) up and down so you can instantly see the results.

Learn from Leica & get some of the best bits for a few dollars:

Again, I was invited to beta test this app and it just got way better by producing images in a higher quality tiff format.


Leica style filters for iPhone:

An amazingly powerful, well thought out iPhone camera app is Camera Boost and for £1.99 it’s a steal.

Shot with Our Exclusive Leica Style Color Preset Filter

What I like about this is the ability to create and share image presets, these act like a traditional camera filter and you can see the effect live before you take your picture.

If you own an iPhone and are a regular here at Lightism, consider it an investment as we will be bringing you more filters for this app in future articles.

Spot metering is a breeze and you simply tap the screen on or around the part of the image which is important to you and again, you can instantly see the results, much like the video above.


So, the developer and I have created three exclusive Leica style filters to help you start taking strong stylish pictures.
There is one color and two black and white preset filters and all the pictures in this section are shot with them to give you a feel. Remember you can see the results live as you take the picture, not like many apps and instagram where effects are applied afterwards.

We are offering all three Leica style preset filters for download and immediate use once you have the Camera Boost app installed for only £0.99 from the link below.  They are a great starting point, but feel free to modify them in Camera Boost to suit your own tastes.



[cleeng_content id="571143521" price="0.99" description="Buy all 3 Leica style preset filters for immediate use with the Camera Boost app for just £0.99" referral="0.1"]

All you need to do is tap on the link from your iPhone with Camera Boost installed and they will appear on the alphabetic preset menu under L.  In the app, you simply tap on the [PR] at the top of the screen, scroll down and tap on the filter to select it. You then flick the menu upwards to make it retract and shoot away!  Don’t forget to tap on the part of the screen that is important to you to set the exposure as demonstrated in the previous video.


Install straight to iPhone:

1) Lightism – Leica Color Preset

2) Ligttism – Leica B+W soft

3) Lightism – Leica B+W






Create your own high contrast lighting:

Another way to intensify the contrast of your photos is create high-contrast lighting. One technique is to shoot your subject in a dark room with a bright light source shining through a window. The sun works a treat, it’s best to start with the curtains closed and slowly open them bit by bit.  The object is to light part of your subject with bright light and let the rest fall into shadow; this dramatic contrast is what you are looking for.

Even just a room light with a single window will provide enough contrast, even on a overcast dull day. The picture above was shot in those conditions using Camera Boost on an iPhone 5 and with our exclusive Leica preset filter.

FREE Leica style Lightroom presets:

offers a range of Lightroom presets available for purchase, but in there Flickr group kindly offered several FREE black & white Leica style preset for you to download and try.
Link here.


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Masterclass: Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cameras

In this article you will learn how to shoot amazing images of moving objects, use perspectives, tell a story, freeze action and create blur regardless of which smart phone, tablet, Gopro or Camera you use. I’ve chosen cycling as a theme, but the same rules can be applied to all moving objects, from a race car to a child playing in the park.

Dealing with a moving subject need not just mean capturing it whoosh by; there’s a lot more about motion which you can capture just making the right connections in your mind, and then apply to any moving subject.



With cycling (and most moving objects), there are two main perspectives. The first is the traditional spectator, the second is a point-of-view ‘participant’s view’.

Do you want your viewer to be a spectator or to feel like an active participant?  What do you want to tell your viewer about; is it a product, a lifestyle, a race or the thrill of riding?

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

Take a moment to stand back and think about it and a whole new world of possibilities exists. Once you’ve decided on the story your shot will tell, only then think of ways to capture that standpoint, and be creative.

These days cameras and camera phones are small and light; I always ask myself where could I put a camera that I haven’t tried before? I’ve even been known to mount my phone to a kite to get a different perspective (though experience teaches that a very good protective case is needed).

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

Vary your angles:

Don’t always shoot from standing;  if you vary your position you will achieve much more professional looking photos. Think about getting very low down to the ground, or using a ladder (or a tree) and shooting down. Use your environment; if the route goes through a city try and find a building or bridge to get up really high.

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

Vary your perspectives:

Continuing with the cycling example, if you were trying to photograph a race or event see if there is any opportunities to
wander around to get close ups of bikes, and riders.

Try to position yourself on the inside of a bend, it’s the classic spot for great cycling pictures, as the cyclist wants to go the shortest route round the bend, so they will come much nearer.

Top Tip:
  Why not see if you can become a marshal or get involved to gain access to positions you wouldn’t normally have access to?

Generally, try to check out a few different perspectives and don’t be afraid to experiment!

The same applies if you’re in control of the situation, for our bike shoot we visited a town, countryside, shot from a low angle, panned passing bikes, visited a cafe, shot abstracts, shot details and a lot of hanging out of the back of a moving car  on a private road.

Using all these different perspectives gives an excellent overview of a situation and helps the  photographer tell an interesting story.

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

Try This:

Think of any good movie where someone drives a car at night.
Every few seconds you’ll get a different perspective: the camera starts inside the car from the rear, cuts to driver in side profile, cuts to rear view mirror, cuts to driver from outside the car, cuts to driver passing by, cuts to car from the rear, etc, etc.

Next time you watch a movie or TV count the perspectives in each scene, and be inspired by them.



Controlling blur means understanding shutter speed. The easiest way to is to imagine your camera is your eye, and your eyelid is closed until you press the shutter…

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam


This article has an additional 60% of valuable expert content which you can purchase for a micro payment to help support Lightism on the link below:

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…It opens, for an instant, and closes again.Watch the road out of the window and open and close your eyes as fast as you can; if your eyelids were shutters these “photos” of the traffic would be frozen in action—the image would be sharp. The second time, open your eyes five times longer and you’ll see the cars moving (unless you live in LA)—this image would be blurred.

The amount of time that the shutter (your eye) was open is called the shutter speed. It’s measured in fractions of a second. If your camera has an ‘S’ or sports  mode, it will select the highest speed it can:  given the amount of light you have available.

The second half of that last sentence is a really fundamentally important point about photography, by the way—all cameras need a certain amount of light to take a picture. The faster the shutter speed, the less light gets into your camera. So, for a camera to be able to use a fast shutter speed and therefore freeze action, you need to take pictures on a bright day, with lighting or with flash.

Some devices or apps let you set the shutter speed and some don’t. For the purposes of this next exercise, it doesn’t matter too much, but it’s always useful to know what’s going on.

For those with devices where you can set the shutter speed, here’s a couple of ground rules: even with a stabilized lens you can only really hold your camera still at speeds above 60th of a second, and to freeze action you’ll need to be roughly higher than 500th of a second depending on the speed of the action.
Cameras often want to  set speeds like 30th sec or perhaps even slower, so keep an eye on the settings.

For me, cycling is about the sensation of movement, freedom, speed, etc. and to convey that I do like some blur.

These next few images are shot on a camera phone with a lomo app to give them a toy camera / Instagram feel. I’m cycling and holding the camera phone at the same time (not very clever I know), but what is interesting is that on an autumn morning in the woods (in low light) you don’t need to travel very fast to get this kind of feeling on motion. The app doesn’t allow you to set the shutter speed, so all I can do cycle faster or slower and experiment.

Take better mountain bike pictures with your camera phone @ Ligh

Try it in bright sunshine and you’ll need to travel much faster for the same effect, so to control the amount of blur with a simple device you simply need to experiment with the brightness of the day verses the speed of the motion.

An exciting option is to mount a smartphone to the bike (a quick internet search will show you how to do that for free), then with a time lapse app such as Time Lapse for IOS or Lapse It for Android you can take high speed images without even touching the device. When the ride’s over you’ll have plenty to pick from.

Scale up the idea of using motion and you can mount the camera to a motorbike, skateboard, car, kite — whatever you use the same rules apply…just use your imagination.

Take better mountain bike pictures with your camera phone @ Ligh


To create blur and give a sense of motion from a static position you have a few options:

Panning is a simple technique where you move your camera or device, effectively tracking the track the passing object in a smooth sweep whilst pressing the shutter. The aim is for the object and the camera to stay in a fixed position with each other and that causes the background to blur out and exaggerate the sense of speed. The horse below was shot with the standard iPhone 5 camera app.

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

My son adores pictures of him on his bike where I exaggerate the speed by panning faster, again it works really well in wood or other low light situations. If you experiment with moving the camera whilst pressing the shutter, you can get some really create and fun shots. For those of you with the ability to control your shutter speed,  1/60th of a second and below is your playground. Below is my sons favorite ”epic” shot, I  moved the phone forward with a slight twist to the left as I pressed the shutter which also helps guide you eye down the path.

Master Shooting Moving Objects with Smart Phones,Tablets and Cam

The second option is to fake blur after the photo (post production) with an app like After Focus for Android or AfterFocus on IOS.  Below you’ll see a static shot I took on my smartphone and how you can use an app to add different types of blur, the second example is more effective and is called a motion blur.

wed-afterfocus-usa GETTING CREATIVE:

As with any subject, there are so many creative ways to capture it, these are only limited by your own imagination.
Here are a few suggestions for you to experiment with:

Reflections are a great way to capture things, be it in puddle below or reflections in glass, here’s an article called 6 Creative ways to exploit reflections for better images on that very subject

6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk

Playing with shadows provides a world of opportunities.
This was shot whilst cycling one handed a little faster than walking pace with the pool of light coming from behind me.

Take better mountain bike pictures with your camera phone @ Ligh

I love pools of light and again they provide great opportunities (see above) and in the shot below. I saw the light while cycling past, went back and just played with lighting sections of the bike, but you could light anything in this way.

Take better mountain bike pictures with your camera phone @ Ligh


Most of all think, experiment take lots of pictures and have fun!



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Lightism is evolving – Learn, Share & Earn with Social Commission:

www.Lightism.co.uk is evolving

I’ve spent four months bringing you fresh ideas & developing Lightism and I love it!  The feedback you’ve all provided has been invaluable and very positive.

So, in what is becoming a tradition of Lightism: being ahead of the curve, I’m trail blazing with micro publishing, which is fast becoming this year’s latest trend to support continuation of this website.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to publish the same amount of free content, but many article’s will have an additional 50-60% of valuable expert content which you can purchase for a micro payment to help support Lightism….Within two years I predict that most quality internet content will be consumed in this way.
We are starting tomorrow!

Great news, if you’re a blogger or heavy social media user, then we offer 20% sales commission on any of our high quality articles that you republish via Cleeng.

www.Lightism.co.uk is evolving - Learn, Share & Earn.

And if you think about it, republishing our articles with a micro payment element to your own readers provides you with a risk free trial of this method of funding. It allows you to gauge your audience’s reaction to micro payments without any risk of alienating your core readership.


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6 Creative ways to exploit reflections for better images

Reflections are all around us and in this article I’ll show you how to creatively exploit them to achieve different goals regardless of what camera, smart phone or tablet you use to take pictures.

6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections can provide an alternative perspective adding interest.

The most straight forward use of reflections is to use puddles to capture a scene from a different perspective. Once you’ve spotted a puddle within or near an interesting location, you’ll need to walk around it to frame the scene. You’ll find that ducking, weaving, getting high or most probably low down will get you the most interesting results.


The Lone Horseman - how to take creative pictures = www.Lightism
Reflections can provide graphic or abstract images.

Puddles also provide an opportunity to create more graphic or abstract images like this one in London’s Trafalgar Square. I shot this on an iPhone 5 using my favourite black and white app Hueless.  The same rules as above apply to finding the best perspective.


6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections in buildings can provide opportunity.

Reflective buildings or other surfaces provide a wide range of opportunities in much the same way as a puddle. Here we have an old building reflected in the glass of a new one which has created a pleasing abstract pattern. Keep a look out for scenes, people or the sky reflected in buildings.


6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections in mirrors add depth.

I love people watching and reflections in car mirrors, trains, buses or car windows on your journey can provide great opportunities to capture people, self portraits and interesting scenes.
The picture above is on a London bus and I love the grey blue tones of the man and the bus which contrast with the green. The green combined with the smart dress of the man makes you assume a smart suburban location.

Mirrors especially old ones have a wonderful effect on people’s reflection and simply be placing your model looking into a mirror you have a plenty of opportunity to get a great shot.


6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections can provide a sense of atmosphere

Shooting people from behind glass can add a sense of place and / or atmosphere.

I love this shot, for me it has a peaceful, quite sense of escapism in what is a very busy and noisy environment. The girl is simply lit by natural daylight, but she pops out of the darker cafe giving her impact.  You can achieve this regardless of camera or device by telling the camera what element of the picture is important to you. It’s called spot metering and it’s really simple, especially on a smart phone or tablet. Click here to learn more.


6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections can provide a sense of environment

In this shot the reflections not only reinforce the sense of cool urban environment, but they hold your eye for longer, add colour to a slightly bleached scene and help define the curves of the car.

Also notice how much impact the car has, it almost punches you in the face. This is achieved by getting low and getting close. Click here to learn more about perspective.


6 creative ways to exploit reflections @ Lightism.co.uk
Reflections can be use to tie two separate things together and develop a narrative.

In this shot called ‘reflected glory’ I was experimenting with tying two brands together to create an aspirational life style. The narrative for the picture is that your chauffeur is waiting outside in your Audi whilst you shop at Dolce & Gabbana. The sub text is that you’re rich, stylish and attractive which is reinforced by the two woman (actually mannequins) are looking at you and trying to attract your attention in the top right corner.


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If God was a photographer – Advanced composition:

There is a mathematical code which some say proves the existence of God, it describes beauty, is repeatedly found nature, art, even DNA, and can be traced back to the beginning of time…all I know is it can help you take better photographs…regardless of what camera, smart phone or tablet you use.

If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ Lightism.co.uk

So, if you’ve read anything about photography you will no doubt have come across the rule of thirds as demonstrated by the picture Cheesy Mouse below and if not, here is a free lesson here on the subject.

For a series of complex reasons, areas of importance in a picture are best placed where the lines intersect and most cameras and apps can provide you with an on screen grid to help your composition. It’s a great starting place to help you take better pictures, but it’s really only a dumbed down version of composition for photographers.


The golden ratio can be seen in artwork as early as 300 b.c, and in the 16th century it was dubbed the divine proportion. It is a mathematical formula called PHI and crops up in an extraordinarily diverse range of nature, artwork and design (from the Mona Lisa to the Great Pyramids) and has fascinated some of the greatest thinkers of our time. If you want to discover more, then The Golden Ratio: The story of PHI, the World’s most Astonishing Number is a fascinating read, or if you’ve only got 3 minutes and are a visual learner, then watch this.

Essentially, scientists have proven that when you read a picture (yes read…more on that in my forthcoming book and advanced lessons) your brain is looking for the presence of the Golden ration as it defines beauty.

For our purposes and to keep it simple, we are going to look at the Golden Spiral, as it is about placement and flow; helping guide the viewer’s eye and deliver satisfaction.

If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ Lightism.co.uk

The Spiral is the natural path your follows as your brain tries to make sense of what it is viewing (like listening to a joke) and by placing the focal point at the end of the spiral you are delivering the punch line.

So, by understanding this, your compositions can deliver more impact and you’ll produce more successful pictures.

If God was a photographer - the Devine Proportion @ Lightism.co.uk  

Look for the spiral when composing:
Anyone who has a smart phone or tablet can download a camera app which has a composition grid showing the spiral. DSLR users can use this to train their eye or in the short term in addition to their cameras.

Although several apps have the ability to use a golden spiral overlay, so far, only the two listed below allow you to change the orientation of the spiral, without which it’s pretty useless really.

IOS – Sense Cam
Android – Camera Sensor


Look for the spiral in your existing work or when cropping new images.
Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom users can select the golden spiral view in the crop tool and can change the orientation of it with [shift] + O.  You will need to click on the images before you can change the orientation.


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LED Flashlight photography: How to make an Ice Light

LED technology is currently developing at a rapid rate and in this article we look at how you can utilize the latest LED technology to light your images until the photographic lighting industry catches up. See how for under £20 you can make a portable, rechargeable light that can produce results like this in a totally dark room:

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

LED’s are light emitting diodes and they are very efficient at converting power into light. Sure, they’ve been around for a while and are now utilized in a range of Photographic lights and torches.
However, manufacturer CREE are currently leading the LED lighting revolution and their distinctive yellow XM-L LED is now widely available in a range of budget flashlights on Amazon and they’re brightness is game changing!

I recently purchased a Ultrafire torch from Amazon with two rechargeable batteries and charger for about £17.
Sure, one of the batteries is poor and it doesn’t pump out the claimed 900 lumen, but this thing is brutally bright and has real potential.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Let’s be clear…from a photography perspective, it’s too bright and harsh to shine directly at anything or anybody. So, you need to use a lighting modifier to defuse it or use it in conjunction with a reflector.

If you’re a regular Lightism subscriber, you’ll recall I recently made a light from plumbers pipe and glowsticks for another article. Well, if you constructed one yourself what you’ve already made is an exact fit for the LED Flashlight, so you need to do, well, nothing!

For new readers:  you’ll need:

1 x Ultrafire flashlight or torch (as we call them in England.)
1 x 32” length of 1.5” white plumbing pipe: £2
1 x white pluming pipe end cap: £1
1 x tie wraps (ideally clear): £1

A saw, a drill, tinfoil, small sheet of sand paper (to smooth any rough edges) and a pair of scissors.

Tip:  Test the pipe with the torch before you buy it as some varieties are rather pink once lit!

Step 1:
Measure 11” from either end of the 32” length of pipe and cut halfway through the pipe with a saw.

Step 2:

Now cut the pipe down its width from the end nearest your cut, effectively removing a slice of pipe.

Step 3:
Pop the flashlight snugly into the new opening. You can either simply hold it in place to use it now or fix it into place with the tie wraps.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Step 4:
The end cap is the same diameter as the pipe, so if you cut four small slices out if cap be forced into the pipe. (see picture below)

Before fitting it to the pipe, screw up a ball of tinfoil and place it in the end far of pipe to act as a reflector (I tried various things including mirrors) and force on end cap.


Step 5:
You can also fit a length of thick black tape to the rear of the pipe to reflect the light forward.

That’s it, now you’ve made  a £20 version of Westcott’s £500 Ice Light!… Either that or some may say a  light saber.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Usage Tips:

Use it close to the subject and experiment with the angles; I like it above the model.

The sweet spot as usual is on the very edge of the light, so small adjustments make all the difference. Here’s the wider shot of the picture above in which you can see the model is holding the light and acting as a voice controlled lighting stand.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk


The second option is to use it in conjunction with a silver or white reflector.  This requires much more experimentation with distances and angles to get anything meaningful. To save you the effort, I will show you a couple of fool proof setups in my forth coming 30 second portraits series, so subscribe below or like Lightism on Facebook to keep up to date.

Click here for opportunities to get involved with Lightism


Foot Note:

Here’s a quick summery of answers to various comments made here and on various blogs where this has kindly been re-posted.

The light really is quite bright. The photo of the girl was shot in total darkness except this light to give you a feel for the actually quality of the light; normally it would be used as a fill with some ambient light. The light is some 10” away from her face (looks much closer in the photo) & its position was a creative choice.

I forgot to mention that I stuck a strip of tinfoil under the black gaffer tape on the rear to help reflect light.  I used plumber’s pipe from UK chain Wickes, some pipes from B&Q had a nasty pink glow.

Many people commented on the color temperature issue and in previous articles where I’ve used LED lights I have recommended downloading a free color temperature app and measuring it. However, the Cree LED is a new generation of LED which doesn’t suffer from the same color issues, so try one because whatever you thought you knew about LED may well have changed!


A HUGE thanks to the 113,621 of you who read this article in the first week!!



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Revealed...the best camera in the world!

This week I’ve been writing for SLR Lounge; a brilliant photographers resource that is well worth checking out:


So, without further a do, here’s an extract:

As a professional photographer I’m frequently asked “what is the best camera in the world?”  Drawing on my extensive experience and research, I’ll reveal the surprising answer…

But first, some myth busting on how many people measure how good a camera is:  Since my photography educational site LIGHTISM’s motto is “Buying a better camera won’t make you a better photographer” let me educate you about a very popular myth: that the more mega pixels a camera has the better the camera.

Think of it this way: megapixels are coffee and your computer’s screen is a coffee mug, there is only so much coffee you can fit into your mug no matter how many gallons of coffee you have!

The reality is that the number of megapixels relates to the size of the image the camera produces not the actual quality of the image….so, the question is how many mega pixels do you need?

Revealed: Best camera in the world @ www.Lightism.co.uk


SLR Lounge require original content, so to read the rest of the article, please click here.



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Finalist in Professional Photographer of The Year.

I’m delighted to share with you that I’ve made it to the finalist stage of this year’s Professional Photographer of The Year.

Simon Ellingworth - Finalist in Profesional Photographer of The

Last year I was runner up in two categories (Landscape and Still Life) and although this year don’t expect to do even that well, it’s nice to know I have diverse skills and I clearly hate to specialize.

The image selected this year is in the Street Photography category and was shot in London, England. I think it has a Banksy quality about it.

Kate Hopewell-Smith; category judge; says “This was a strong category – so I looked for considered compositions and camera technique in this group”

How to photograph Street Photography@ www.Lightism.co.uk

 The winners are announced this Thursday…so, fingers crossed.



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How to realize your images full potential...

As a Professional photographer, taking the picture is only half of the process…to realize an images potential you need to add your own brand of magic. In this article we’ll look at a couple of options, one of which will blow your socks off.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to write an article and share with you some thoughts on post processing, something simple that would be meaningful whether you use a smart phone, tablet, Gopro or a full DLSR camera.

This wasn’t going well, as personally I use several high end image processing solutions which are expensive and in truth rather complex to get to grips with. So, I started on a journey to find you a solution which is simple, but equally amazing.

I also wanted to enter a couple of images into this year’s ‘iPhone Photography Awards’ and the rules state that you cannot edit the image on a desktop computer, so I started with iPad and smartphone apps to see what they could really do.

Love it or hate it, but rapid developments in smart phone (and Gopro) photography are forcing traditional camera manufacturers to innovate and step up their game…this is great news for photographers.

So, with high hopes I took this iPhone image from this:

 Buying a better camera won't make you a better photographer.  Li

To this:

Buying a better camera won't make you a better photographer.  Li

Now, I’m very pleased with the results and did do the entire process with Apps, but it took nearly half a day and would have taken 8 minutes on my PC.

Still, it is amazing that you can do this on a smart phone or tablet with apps, none of which even existed a couple of years ago, but at this stage in their development it took several apps and even more patience.

I decided what I needed was a desktop solution which utilized software that some of my readers may already have or could purchase cheaply and that I could simplify for you or find a bolt on solution which did just that.

If you already have Adode’s Lightroom 4, you’ll know it’s aimed squarely at photographers and if not you can pick it up for as little as £92 ($109) on Amazon and even cheaper on Ebay.

It’s very cheap for such a very powerful tool, but the downside is its not super simple and there is a reasonable learning curve to get it to sing. I spent a day trying to simplify it for you and gave up!

Enter SLR Lounge’s Presets, which costs a mere £66 ($99), it bolts on to utilize Lightroom’s powerful engine, but makes the driving experience super simple. As a Professional Photographer it’s depressingly good and gives everyone the ability to produce amazing images without having to invest in many years of learning.

SLR Lounge’s philosophy was to produce a system where you could take an image from any device or camera and within a few clicks could transform it into something spectacular.

So, let’s start with a smart phone and a GoPro image and see what we can do:


This is shot in Rome with an old HTC Desire HD phone using the standard camera.

One click later it’s a very strong black and white image.

The devil is in the detail and in the background it does a lot more that remove the color, so the result is a much stronger image than if you’d used an app or the standard Lightroom convert to B&W.


I love my GoPro Hero 3 and often use it for stills, but the forums are full of people wanting to take its unique, but rather underexposed images and make something special.  Well, here’s the solution for all of them.

Here’s the original image straight out of the camera:


7 clicks later, this:

Take better pictures with 10 free easy lessons @ Lightism.co.uk


Where the SLR Lounge’s Presets really shines is when the image is shot in RAW format which is mainly found on traditional cameras and basically captures more information than a jpeg file can hold. The extra information gives the software more latitude to make adjustments.

Here is an image I shot recently at a wedding, maybe I should have been concentrating on the bride, but I just love this guy and his direct gaze. This is straight out of the camera:


I want to enter this into the highly coveted ‘Taylor Wessing Prize’ at Britain’s National Portrait Gallery this year where image quality is obviously critical.  Three click’s later, it’s ready:

Photoality.co.uk - Award Winning Wedding Photography

It’s unbelievable.
This system applies a basic set of adjustments on every image imported as a start point. You then start with a base adjustment, choose a tone curve and then add color correction or effect.

There are several presets called ‘mixologys’ already built and I used the ‘Portrait soft color’ as a basis and made several other simple adjustments to the image above using this system.

You can very quickly save your own ‘mixologys’ for your favorite look. This is great with getting constancy when you develop your own signature look.

It comes with a ton of videos tutorials and you should invest the time to watch them all and resist the temptation to go off and play with bits of new found knowledge. Other than the video’s being a touch verbose and installation could be more automated, this system rocks!

What I like is that each adjustment effectively forms a layer (like Photoshop) which can be undone or built upon. This next image is from an article I wrote on Lighting up objects from the inside. I applied a blue adjustment and then amber on top to make the eggs really pop:

How to Light objects from the inside - www.Lightism.co.uk/lighti

I’ve recently stopped using my ‘high end’ expensive solutions and use this to simply whiz though my images, because who doesn’t a simple way to get amazing results?


Facebook like or subscribe below for more interesting articles & do try my 10 FREE simple lessons, experiment and let me know how you get on!


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