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Starting with Manual Mode

Why should I use manual Mode?

This is the $1000,000 dollar question, why should I use Manual Mode when all the other modes do exactly what I want and without the hassle of learning what everything does.

We get asked this a lot and our answer is always the same, it gives you control of the images you take.

While using the camera modes seems easier, you may not always get the image you were expecting.

Lets see what we mean. There are only three thing you can change, that is how much light, speed and depth of field.

How bright or dark the image is.
How sharp the image is.
Depth of field:
How much of the image is in focus.

Here is the issue, changing one will effect the others and there is no way around this, the only exception is the ISO setting and we will get to this later.

Auto Mode

We will only use this mode as an example as there are many different modes available depending on the camera you have. In this mode you point the camera at the subject and click the button. The camera will sort out the exposure (how bright the image is) and then adjust the shutter speed and the depth of field (F-stop) and if it cannot get a correct exposure with these then the camera will change the ISO. All of this happens as the button goes click. There you have it an image which your only input was pointing the camera at a subject and pressing the button.

Off Camera Flash

What is off camera flash? and should I be using it?

May you take a photo of me and my horse..

While I was thinking what to write for the next blog and scrolling through the channels on the SKY box (other boxes are available) I found myself watching the Horse & Country channel and the Jumping World Cup. This brought back memories of my wife and daughter, spending endless hours preparing and practicing for shows among other horse related activities.

Not photographing horses was never going to be an option for me as most parents with a child or children that love their horses will know. Especially those that are learning or doing some type of competition with their beloved companion.

Most of my weekends whether it was sunny, raining or snowing were spent in a field watching horses running around, jumping fences or refusing to get back into their trailers after the day was done.

Then on the days that a competition was on, it was usually down to me and most of us have been there, to make sure that I had lots of photos of not just the daughter jumping but sometimes her friends.

Nowadays, our horse is too old to go competing and spends its life like we all will be doing one day; standing in a field, eating grass and waiting to be led in for our dinner.

Although not a horse person myself my wife has always been and my daughter is now a BHS Instructor. So here it is, my blog for you on tips for taking better photos of horse and rider.

Now I know nearly all of us take videos of the event but how long is it before these videos are forgotten or deleted to make space for even more videos?

Wouldn’t it be nice to take an image that is good enough to frame or put on the wall and is not an impulse buy on the day and then relegate to a drawer, or a small low quality image that is taken from a hard working photographers’ website with a watermark running through the centre? (There is a whole other post which could be written on why you should not do this.)

Having done a few of these events I do understand that not everyone can afford the additional expense of paying for a print at the show with all the other expenses that go with having a horse and rider. However, wouldn’t it be nice if you could show them an image you have taken yourself on the back of your camera. Then, take it home, print it, go to the shops, choose a frame and see it every day. As time and events go by you can watch your collection grow, knowing that you took these photos and, every time you gaze upon them you will have the memory of that moment you pressed the button on the camera and not the one that someone else gave you.

For those who own a digital or DSLR camera here are my few tips on taking better images that you would be proud to post and print.


Your camera needs to have a Manual mode setting.
This will give you the greatest control of the end result and the best images.


Nearly every event photographer will say you need a good telephoto lens and that is true but let’s be honest not everyone has the sort of money required to buy one, unless you’re a professional or hobbyist. So, let’s stick to what you may have and that will usually be the lens the camera came with.


I do not mean behind the jumps in the arena, what I mean is, if you are at a jumping competition and you want to take images of horses jumping over fences, then find a position that gets you the closest to a fence. Try not to be viewing the rear of the horse as it jumps. Position yourself so that you get a side or front view as these will show more of the rider and a more dramatic view of the horse. Once you have found the spot that you want to be in, you now need to work out a few other things.

If out-doors when positioning yourself, check where the sun is. Is it straight in front of you when you are going to be photographing? If yes you may need to find a different position.

If in-doors, how good is the light and will it get darker?

We already know that horses move quickly, so you will need a fast shutter speed, to get the horse and rider sharp and in focus. Remember, if the horse and rider are moving towards you then by the time it takes for you to focus and press the button they will have moved not only forward but up or down.


Look at the camera manual if you are unsure what to do.

We will be adjusting three things:
Shutter speed, F-stop and ISO.

Set the shutter speed to 250th sec. – 500th sec. the higher the better.

Set the F-stop to f5.6 – f8.0 and remember if you have a zoom lens that does not have a fixed aperture then the F-stop will change as you zoom in or out. Pick a point and stick with it to stop this from happening.

Set the ISO to 100 or 200 depending on the camera; do not go lower than 100.

Set the focus point to spot, so that where the spot falls on the subject that is what is in focus.

TURN OFF the Pop-up flash if the camera has one.

Take a few shots, are they too dark or too bright?

If too bright then increase the shutter speed.

If too dark there are two things you can do.

1 – Increase the ISO, but remember the higher the number the more grainier (noise) your image will be, so see how high you can go before the image starts looking grainy.
2 – Lower the F-stop but doing this will reduce how much is in focus.


Do this while your subjects are practicing at the yard or when they are having lessons (always ask the instructor first) before the event until you are happy with the above.


There are lots of other things we could do but let’s just stick with this for now. While the course is being set up or the rider is walking the course find yourself a safe spot to set up using the above steps and enjoy. Do not be despondent, if not all of the images are perfect because as always practice makes for a better photo.


We know there are a range of other camera settings you could use, and our blog would be a small novel if we covered them all, so hopefully the above will get you thinking about where and how you take your images and have more fun in doing so.

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Using Gels to Change Background

Do you have an off camera flash?
Can you trigger it using a remote or the pop-up flash on the camera?
Do you only have a single background colour?

If the answer is yes then this may be the post for you.

Did you know you can change the colour of your background without having to invest in expensive back drops or repainting your wall.

By using colour gels in front of your flash you can transform the dull grey, black or white background into a radiant blue or red and if you have multiple flashes you could have multi-coloured backgrounds.

What are Gels?

Gels or filters are transparent coloured sheets that are placed in front of the flash to change the light that is emitted also known as Colour Correction Gels. The main colour correction gels are CTB (colour temperature blue) and CTO (colour temperature orange). A CTB gel converts tungsten light to ‘daylight’ colour. A CTO gel does the opposite.

How do we change the background

First of all you will need a stand to put your flash on, or use the small foot stand that came with the flash and something to stand it on. I will assume you may not have a light meter or a great deal of space.

You will need a way of triggering the flash, so a remote, the pop up flash on your camera or a long trigger cable.

Lets start by putting the flash to manual, and if it has a zoom, setting this to its widest (all flashes are different so please read the manual that came with it). Set the flash to half power and place about 3 – 4 feet away from the background. Depending on the type of image you are doing, if a head shot then place flash height to about the center of the model’s head, if the top half then center of the back as a general rule.

Above Grey background and Grey background with flash firing with red gel.

Now this bit depends on how you shoot your images and assuming that you have more than one flash, one to light the background and another for the subject.

Setting up to light the model

First is to eliminate all the ambient light, ( not shooting with the lights off ). What I mean by this, is to set the shutter speed to the maximum sync speed of the flash and then adjust the aperture, ( F5.6 – F8.0 usually works for me ), so that without the flash the image is black or underexposed and then turn the flash on and then adjust flash output to light the model using a light meter if you have one, or just adjust the flash output manually and take test shots.

Once this is done turn off the flash lighting the model, and turn on the flash that is lighting the background with the Gel. Take a test shot to get the intensity of the colour you want. Turn both flashes on and shoot away. The background will always be the colour you want and the model should be perfectly lit.

The above is one with standard grey background and three coloured Gels.

What if you only have one flash?

If you only have one flash then use natural light, like a window for lighting the model and try and stop too much light hitting your background. Then expose for the model and then adjust the flash lighting to the background accordingly. You may need a higher ISO to keep the camera settings the same and the output on the flash may need to be stronger, so make sure you have some spare batteries.

More than one flash

If you have two or more flashes then try gelling two with different colours and put them out to the side and point them into the center to create multi-colour backgrounds.

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Stop The Selfie

As the holiday dates draw ever closer and I start thinking about the places I am going to visit and imagine the sights, the food and most of all what awaits for me to photograph.

My thoughts then drifted to our previous holidays and the people we saw with their long selfie sticks. Holding them high in the air with the phone balancing, just waiting for the moment when it was high enough to pop out of it’s holder and land face down on the floor with a crash followed by the screams of horror as their only means of communication had just turned into a piece of broken plastic and glass.

Its seems that social media has taken the place of those very boring photo albums we ( or those old enough to remember ) use to force our guests to wade through after the holiday. The only difference really is that we now can do this immediately with the press of a button and an internet connection.

We are capturing the moment, or that’s what we say, but what happens after the moment has passed and your up-loaded image is now so far down the list of other moments that no one actually sees it, unless they happen to follow you, in which case they will automatically press the like button and continue scrolling.

Above is the moment that would have been lost if the image from the phone was all you had.

Tony Lewis Photography.

So what do you have left? Maybe an out of focus image of yourself or a friend somewhere on a beach or in a bar and you too will forget about the moment and the images ends up in the cloud never to be seen again.

I have taken a few of these myself.

Why not try this the next time you are holding your selfie stick or just thinking about taking a random image… STOP…. look around at where you are, think about what you would like to remember about this moment, does it hold a memory you want to keep and frame or just rather see disappear into the cloud.

After all it has got to be better to have a photo you can look back on and share time and time again, rather than an image you are quite happy to forget.

Remember it’s not always about the equipment, composition or mega pixels but just about the thought that went into capturing the moment

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Street photography and getting started.

You would think walking around taking photos of random people in the the streets where you live would be easy.
Well for some photographers it is, but for the majority it can be a bitter sweet experience.

Just the thought of walking around the streets with their camera can be reason enough not do do it.

If you do not do this type of photography at least once, I feel you are missing out on a great experience and a chance to meet new people and collect great photographs in the process.

So what is Street Photography?

Some would say it is about capturing the moment that tells a story on some poor unsuspecting person that had no idea you took their image. Others would say it is about the interaction with people and places and trying to capture a moment in time, again trying to tell that story in your image. Walking around the streets looking at the architecture, shadows, lighting, the unusual, using what is around you to create imagery and not interacting with people at all.

There are lots of theories about what street photography is and I am sure everyone will tell you something different. But for me it is about getting out there and having fun.

For the majority of us it can be stressful and quite a challenge, especially if you are on your own and carrying an expensive camera in unfamiliar places and this results in images that we are never really happy with and an adventure we wish we had not taken.

Making Street Photography Fun

This is how I started to make what was a difficult task easier. I always liked the thought of taking so call street photography images but in the back of my mind there was the thought of being confronted by an angry individual asking why I was taking their picture, was always there.

To get around this I started going to a location where cameras are not an issue, places where everyone is carrying one and happily taking images. Going with a family member or friends and making it apart of my sightseeing day out worked well for me.

I found that street markets in London were great places to take images. The store operators were used to having their image taken, people photographing their food and the people walking around were used to seeing cameras.

Events and Carnivals are also good places to get the human interest story, this is still taking images on the street.
When taking images of people close up, just ask if that is OK nearly all will say yes and once you have taken their image do not just walk away, say thank you and show them what you have taken.

Many street photographers will have you believe that that amazing image was taken on the spur of the moment but they are usually staged with the subject’s permission and the image presented may not be the only image taken.

My take on getting started in Street Photography is, if you are new to it then treat it as part of your day out. If you work in or around a tourist area then take the camera to work and on your way in to work or at lunchtime and even the evening just go out and take image of the life going on around you.


Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if possible, respect people’s privacy and most of all make it fun.

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Professional Headshots

Tony Lewis is a professional, experienced headshot photographer based in Hertfordshire, specialising in all types of headshots. We can supply high-res digital images and prints for social media, personal websites, publications and most other media types. Headshots can be done in our studio, outdoors or on location and can be supplied in colour and black & white.

If you have questions or would like to book a photo shoot, please contact us or send a message using the box below.


Corporate and Social Events are great opportunity for acquiring marketing material for your business, by adding professional images to your portfolio.

If the event is for your client, then being able to offer a memory of the occasion will keep you on their radar.

We can capture the great atmosphere and, by using our eye for detail, can create exceptional imagery.

Event organisers can increase their marketing image library with people and group shots, we can also photograph sporting and outdoor showing events.

Product Photography

Aerial Photography

We understand that no two jobs are the same when it comes to aerial photography, each carry their own challenges and requirement and we will always be there to help and advise. We can shoot high resolution stills or video up to 4k, of your location or venue to a height of 400ft.

A full site survey is always carried out to ensure the utmost safety for you and your clients.

For help and advice please call on 01442 866967 or drop us an email using the form below and we will respond as soon as possible.

We are are fully insured and have permission from the CAA to carry out commercial work.