All posts by Steve

Ian Houghton

I took this photo of actor Ian Houghton during a short session in his home. There’s lots of light in Ian’s house and plenty of white walls to use as background. It then felt natural to have Ian in a white shirt, which minimises any distractions and focuses on the character of the subject.

For more information about my portraiture services please visit my website at

Photo Restoration

The digital darkroom is a marvellous place. A place where ageing can be reversed, weather transformed and darkness turned to light. A place where colour and light can be worked to polish an image and perfect an exposure.

An array of tools and techniques can be used to improve a picture and these same tools can also be used to bring life back to old or distressed photos, be they antique prints or more recent memories from the days preceding digital photography.

Faded or underexposed prints can be fixed by adjusting the colour curves. This powerful method uses a curves tool to manipulate the different lighting levels in an image, either across the spectrum or for a given colour channel. This way the balance of light and colour can be accurately adjusted to drastically improve the appearance of an image.

Colour saturation can also be adjusted, again either across the spectrum or for a single colour channel.

Tears and blemishes can be removed using simple cloning tools or more complex healing brushes, although the work can be detailed and time-consuming where the damage is extensive.

More complex repairs and restoration can involve dodging and burning to modify the contrast or exposure in selected areas of a picture.

For more information about the products and services I offer please visit

Portable Studio

My portraiture service allows clients to be photographed in their own home or a chosen location, either indoors or outside. The service includes the use of a small portable studio that can be assembled in the client’s home or other indoor location.

The studio features a 3 metre wide white muslin backdrop and two daylight-balanced softboxes powered by low-energy 85W bulbs. The softboxes produce a gentle diffused light that can be used on their own or to compliment natural daylight.

Supplementary pop-up backgrounds and a range of reflectors are also available. These can all be used to provide an ideal lighting situation for photographing individuals or small family groups.

Assembly takes around 30 minutes and there is no extra charge for using the studio.

The Herbal Bed

This photo shows Gavin Palmer as Barnabus Goche in The Company Of Players production of The Herbal Bed by Peter Whelan, performed at The Company’s own Little Theatre.

The production was directed by Jan Palmer Sayer and performed in the round. This is always a challenge for the photographer as seating and other parts of the auditorium can show up in the background.

Gavin Palmer Barnabus Goche

The Seasons: Autumn

I’m not a big fan of Autumn. In fact it’s probably my least favourite season. The nights drawing in, falling temperatures and the premature launch of the festive season, all providing good cause to mark down the latter months of the year.

However, Autumn does have one redeeming feature. It is the most colourful of seasons. The splendid reds and maroons, the vibrant yellows and orange, the vivid greens. On a clear day, these colours contrast beautifully with with grass greens and sky blues.

Early Autumn is the best time to photograph the season, before the wind blows the leaves from the trees and the rain turns them to mulch. This is when the shortening days cause chlorophyl levels to decrease and pigments such as cartenoids and anthocyanins are revealed.

The intensity of colour is related to the weather leading up to and during the Autumn. This can effect the chemical processes that take place as the trees prepare to shed their leaves.

When capturing Autumn colours I like to use a polarising filter. This reduces reflections in the leaves and really brings out the blue skies, especially at steep angles, without oversaturating the image. The effect can be especially pronounced in uncomplicated pictures.

Choosing the right setting for white balance also brings out the colours. The default setting for most digital cameras is to automatically detect the white balance, but this can be overridden by choosing one of a number of presets for such situations as sunlight, cloud, tungsten lighting and fluorescent lighting.

Autumn colours often appear at their best when photographed during the golden hour – the hour before sunset or after sunrise, when the sun is at it’s lowest. This produces a warm glow that brings out the greens especially. Manually overriding auto white balance is a must at this time as the automatic setting will try and compensate for the colour cast generated by the low sun.

Jacob & Emilia

This photo of Jacob and Emilia shows how a fake bokeh can be used to minimise distractions in the background of a picture.

Bokeh refers to the out-of-focus area of a photo, which is the result of using a large aperture and shallow depth of field.

In this case, because Jacob was behind Emilia, it was necessary to use a smaller aperture to get them both of focus. This however meant that the chair and other paraphenalia in the background were also pretty much in focus, creating something of a distraction.

To create the bokeh I used Photoshop to select the background and add gaussian blur to simulate the effect. Whilst this doesn’t remove the distraction completely it does minimise it, focusing the viewer’s attention on the children.


Picasa is an excellent and functional image editing application that is available free from Google.

The photo editor allows you to make basic lighting fixes, crop and straighten photos, adjust colour and add a selection of effects such as soft focus, glow, black & white conversions and graduated tints.

I often find myself firing up Picasa rather than Photoshop to make quick, on-the-fly adjustments.

The program can also catalog all your photos and is very easy to use.

Picasa is a small 14MB download, available from

Aspect Ratio and Prints

It’s quite common for photos to be cropped when printing. This is because the aspect ratio of the picture taken is not the same as the paper that it’s being printed on.

Aspect Ratio

Digital cameras typically take photos with an aspect ratio of either 4:3 or 3:2. These values describe the relationship between the width and height of the photo. Most compact cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3, whilst most dSLR cameras have a ratio of 3:2. Some cameras also offer other optional aspect ratios, although they may simply describe them as “wide” or “panoramic”, which often refers to a ratio of 16:9, common in HD video recording.

As an example, an image with a 4:3 aspect ratio could be measured in pixels as 400 x 300, 800 x 600 or 2000 x 1500. All of these sizes have the same width to height relationship.

Looking similarly at the sizes of images with a 3:2 ratio, you could have 300 x 200 pixels, 720 x 480 pixels or 2000 x 1333 pixels. Again, in each example, the relationship between the width and height are the same.

4:3 aspect ratio 3:2 aspect ratio

In the above illustration you will see that both images have the same height (165 pixels) but the width is different. The 4:3 image is 220 pixels wide whilst the 3:2 image is 248 pixels wide.

A square image would have an aspect ratio of 1:1. The height and width are both the same, therefore the proportions of the two sides are equal.


Photographic prints however are usually stated in physical sizes, such as 6×4″, 7×5″ and 10×8″. Only the 6×4″ print has an aspect ratio that matches that of a camera, specifically the 3:2 of a dSLR. An enlargement printed on 10×8″ actually has an aspect ratio of 5:4. Wherever the aspect ratio of a print is different from that of the camera, some of the image gets lost – it disappears beyond the top or sides of the print.

Using our 4:3 aspect picture as an example, you will see that if we create a 10×8″ print from it, we will lose a little of the picture off the edges of the print. This would be even more pronounced if we were to use the 3:2 aspect photo taken by a dSLR. If we were to print a 7×5″ picture we would lose part of the top and bottom on the image. Regardless of the aspect ratio of the original photo, most standard print sizes will result in cropping.

Some online print labs offer dSLR friendly print sizes such as 7½x5″, 9×6″ and 12×8″. All of these sizes have an aspect ratio of 3:2 so none of the picture is lost. However, it can be difficult to find frames in these sizes.


The best way to deal with this issue is to allow space around your subject when composing your shots. In other words, don’t get too close. This will give you room to crop your photos so that nothing important is lost.

You can crop your photos using photo editing software such as Photoshop or Picasa. These will allow you to select a print size and create a crop window with the correct proportions. Alternatively, online photo labs often provide the ability to control how a picture is cropped.