Basic DSLR Training Flash

Basic DSLR Training Flash

This Blog is about Basic DSLR Training Flash. There are two ways to provide light from a flash.

  1. The pop-up flash found on the domestic DSLR.
  2. By using a flash gun that you buy as a separate unit. You can use this on the domestic and pro DSLR cameras.

POP-UP Flash

To begin with you find the pop-up flash on the domestic DSLR camera. To activate the flash you push its button or it pops up automatically when called for.

Picture of a pop-up flash on a camera Basic DSLR Training Flash








Generally speaking you us a flash to add light into a photo. In this case where the subject has there back to the sun and a little light will lift the shadows. When you are in a dark room and you need light to see the subject.

Disadvantages of the pop-up flash

The big disadvantages with the pop-up flash are:-


In reality the pop-up flash is mounted in a fixed position, above the lens meaning the flash is thrown forward.  As the flash fires so quickly the pupil cannot close, the light passes to the back of the eye and bounces back.  As a result there is a greater chance of having the red eye look, in the eyes. In this case you can get rid of this by using digital photo software.

Flat Photo.

As a result of a fixed flash this means that you can only direct the light straight forward. In contrast this causes a lack of shadow in the image. In addition this gives the appearance of the photo looking flat (harsh) and having no definition.

By all means to reduce the harsh light you could use some equipment accessories available to lessen this.

Flash Guns.

In this case this type of flash fits in the camera hot shoe or can be used off camera. At the same time if you use it on camera the same disadvantages are present as in the pop-up flash. For this reason better diffusion is available and it can be turned or lifted (bounced) to soften the light.

Picture of a flash gun Basic DSLR Training FlashPicture of a flash gun on a camera Basic DSLR Training Flash








Use the flash off camera by using either flash cords or infra-red/radio triggers.

Picture of aradio transmitter Basic DSLR Training Flash












Picture courtesy of Pocketwizard

For this reason the big advantage with this is that by adjusting the light output of the flash you can create shadow across the subject. In addition by using two or more flash guns you can produce stunning photos. It must be remembered that this is not possible at all with a pop up flash.


Pop up Flash.

The basic diffusion equipment is cheap and won’t make that much improvement to your photo.

Picture courtesy of Shopify

Picture of a pop-up flash diffuser Basic DSLR Training Flash












Flash Gun

To take the flash off camera A variety of Infra-Red/Radio triggers, flash cord are available.


Several different types available, most fit onto the flash gun. Flash Cap and Gary Fong fit over the top of the flash. You use soft boxes to soften and diffuse the light. As a result by using these, you will need to put the flash lights on light stands. To support them and consider sand bags to weigh the stands down.

Picture of a soft box on a flash gun Basic DSLR Training FlashPicture of a gary fong diffuser on a camera Basic DSLR Training FlashFor further information on Basic DSLR Training Flash or other posts in this series. Contact Martin

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Cutting out with Studio Magic 1

Cutting out with Studio Magic 1

Cutting out with Studio Magic 1 enables you to cut subjects from a photograph with reasonable ease. Studio Magic 1 is a software plugin for Photoshop available from Layer Cakes Elements

Studio Magic 1 enables you to cut subjects from a photograph with reasonable ease.

Couple on a green background Cutting out with Studio Magic 1









Preparing the image to cut the subjects out.

For the purpose of this tutorial I have prepared a short video. In this case I am using a couple on a green background. In the first place the task is to remove the subjects from the green background. To begin with I am using the magic wand tool set at a tolerance of 30. In like manner, select the green background by clicking all around the green. As a matter of fact, to make this easier you may want to go to the select tab, scroll down to similar and click. On the positive side this picks up any other green that’s not highlighted.

As can be seen you may find that you have selected some of the subject as well. In that case, if you use the lasso tool to circle the stray unwanted area you can remove them.

With this in mind, go to select scroll tab and scroll down to inverse and click. As soon as you do this the subjects will have marching ants around them only.

Studio Magic 1 preparing to cut the subjects out

At this point use the studio magic 1 plug-in.  In this case select the cut-out tab and make sure the promask button is ticked.  As soon as you have done this click the detailed cut-out button.

The select and mask process is similar to this. Use the refine edge brush tool to go around the hair and any areas that the green background is showing through. When you have done this just push the OK button. As a result the subjects will now be on a grey background.

You need to ensure that all the green has been removed, zoom into the image and check.

At the same time to make life easier double click in the layers the grey thumbnail. With the colour palette displayed change the grey to white and click OK. Generally speaking the white makes the image easier to work on.

New background

In the meantime I have already selected a new background of a bar from Layer Cake Elements Virtual Studio Pak. In this case, copy, highlight the white layer in your composited image and paste. You can now see above the white layer a new layer with the bar in.

In addition change the bar layer into a smart object by right clicking on the layer. You can now see that there is a cross on the image.

As a result you can now stretch the image to fit without distorting the pixels. Once stretched you have your image.

Adding a shadow

To make it a little more realistic you may need to add a shadow. Studio Magic 1 can easily help you with that too.

Ensure you are on the top layer and click the layer mask. Open studio magic 1 plugin and click the shadow caster tab, next click the Create New Shadow tab. You can preview the shadows using the preview tab and select which one suits your need.  When you have selected the shadow you will have to adjust the settings to get the height, intensity, slant and softness to your liking.

You now have your image. That has to be easier than judging the settings in Photoshop. Don’t forget to save the image.

Couple infront of a bar with a shadow Cutting out with Studio Magic 1









Cutting out with Studio Magic 1 could not be more simpler.

Like to know more then Contact Martin


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How can one become better at photography?

How can one become better at photography?

To become better at photography you have to be prepared to leave your comfort zone. It’s also about understanding your equipment and how it works.

I would also advocate that when you buy photography equipment that you buy the best you can afford. As the saying goes buy cheap pay twice.

Gaining Knowledge and experience

There are several ways to gain knowledge and experience.

  1. Find an online website that encourages photographers of whatever experience to help each other.
  2. Look for a book that encourages you to undertake exercises to get to understand your camera.         A Year With My Camera, Book 1
  3. Look for a social media site with like-minded photographers                                                                      All things photography on Facebook
  4. Find a local photography club.
  5. Subscribe to a decent magazine.                                                                                                                          Photo Plus Canon or Nikon

All these have the same common goal, to give you knowledge.

Using this knowledge

Generally speaking in the early days of gaining your knowledge there is a lot to take in. The best way to gain knowledge is to use the equipment. That means practice, practice and more practice.

If you purchase a book or magazines try some of the subjects that are shown. Don’t worry about making mistakes. This is how you learn. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes. By joining social media groups or websites you can use the forums to ask others. You will find that every photographer whether a pro or amateur has made mistakes.

Enjoy taking photographs

Now it’s time to make a start. So charge your battery and place it in the camera. To begin with go for a walk and snap away. But before you push that button think about what you want to achieve. Remember what you read, if not take a copy with you and practice. When you get home download your images and have a look at them. Are they what you were trying to achieve?

As a result are you happy with the results or disappointed? In that case if you didn’t succeed, guess what, yes you try again. When yo can’t get it right, talk to others in the forums and they will help.

Looking for further information, contact Martin and have a chat.

Picture of Martin photography page

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Business Headshots Using Photography In Your Business – Why is it so important?

Business Headshots

It must be remembered that using good Business Headshots helps create your first impression. It’s important to get this right as viewers form that impression in less than 1/10th of a second.

As an illustration, have a look at this interesting post from James Potter. He makes some very valid points.

Business Headshots Lady infront of logo









Why are good business headshots so important?

There is a simple answer to this. It‘s fair to say that the growth and power of social media means photographs and video are very powerful tools. The main reason being that people browse by looking at images. When they find something of interest they then might read the text that accompanies.

Baring the above in mind how can you turn images to your advantage?

To ensure that you present yourself as a professional business you need the following:-

  • Clear images – An image that is in focus on the main subject and where the subject stands out.
  • A non-distracting Background – In this case using a plain background or ensure that the background is out of focus.

Moreover potential customers like to see who they are going to do business with.  As a result this makes the business more personal to them. For this reason I am sure that you have heard the expression “know like and trust”. As a result that’s why it’s important to show yourself.

Perfect Profile Photo












Do I have to have a profile pic?

Viewers of your website, social media or literature will browse your images before reading the text.  As a result this is this is where they form that all important first impression. It is equally important to use well taken photographs to enhance your business.

You have a choice of where you can get your photographs from, you can:-
Use your own photographs.
Hire a photographer

Use your own photographs.

Before you use your own images, ask yourself an honest question, do I have the skill to produce quality images?

On the other hand you might choose to use a photo from

  • A night out
  • A wedding
  • Relaxing at a BBQ.

Given these points, how do they look and portray you to the public? Do they look professional i.e. the right lighting, composition of the shot, in focus (clear) and no distracting background. As a result if they do not look professional, consider what message this sends about you and your company.

As a matter of fact here is another article from LinkedIn regarding profile photos. Although this appears to have been written in fun, it must be remembered that it has a serous side.

Professional Photographer

A professional photographer will for this reason produce quality images that are unique to your business.  Remember that they can ensure that they get the best composition and lighting showing you in your best light.

In Conclusion

Ultimately the decision of photography choice is yours; use the solution that is the most suitable for you. Each choice has benefits and disadvantages, the important thing to remember is that it’s your business, what message do you want to convey, I have a professional business or I consider myself a professional business but no one will really notice if I skimp on the photographs?

For further information give Martin a call and discuss your requirements.

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Business Portraits Preparation

Business Portraits Preparation

Business Portraits Preparation as can be seen is about creating that first impression. Consequently that first Impression starts with the images on your website, social media and literature. As a result that impression depends on your images showing you and your business in their best light. For this reason using a professional photographer will give you the images that will achieve this.

Picture of a man with a hat Business Portraits PreparationPicture of a lady with glasses Business Portraits Preparation







As an illustration of good and bad portraits, take a look at LinkedIn. For this reason by not having professional images, people may come to the conclusion that you don’t take your business seriously and you may not be very professional yourself.”

What can you do to improve your images?

1.   Background

In the first place the image background needs to be simple plain colour or out of focus. As a result this ensures that the subject is what the viewer eyes are attracted to.

2.   Well Lit

For this reason its important to realise that the image has to be correctly exposed. Another key point is the correct colour balance and the lighting is not to dark.

3.   Clothing

Another key point is to consider about how you want your businesses viewed. Equally important do you meet the public every day? Do you generally use the phone to make contact? In addition how do you see others that you contact?

The days of a tie and jacket have all but passed. It is right for those businesses such as Solicitors, Accountants, Bankers etc. In like manner if you are a manual worker, Builder, Electrician Plumber etc, you may want to choose smart casual. Whatever you choose please ensure that your choice is plain, that is no stipes, squares or really bright colours. For one thing this helps with post processing of the images.

4.   Hair

Whether you have long or short hair well-groomed looks good on photos. If you are going to have a haircut, do so a couple of days before. As a matter of fact, freshly cut hair does not sit right in photos.

5.   Makeup

The first thing to remember here is don’t overdo it. If you’re not confident with applying makeup then speak with the photographer. Additionally for an extra cost they can bring a makeup artist to help you look amazing.

6.   Glasses

If you normally wear glasses then bring them along. Above all if lighting does reflect into your glasses it’s easy to overcome.

7.   Smile

As a matter of fact it’s the longest word in the dictionary, a mile between the s’s. That’s better, viewers like to see happy people, and as a result psychologically people feel more comfortable.

It must be remembered this is some general advice on Business Portraits Preparation. For further information give Martin a call and discuss your requirements.

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Shades of 1950’s Ball.

Using a green screen backgrounds for events

In reality green screen backgrounds are a great way to enhance a photography event. The Shades of 1950’s ball  was a good use of a green screen backdrop.

Preparation for the event.

All things considered the event called for backgrounds that represented the decade of 1950’s. Cars of the period were the choice for this. The venue would not allow cars in and photographing outside was not an option. In the event cars could not be used and as a result green screen was chosen for the backdrop. With this in mind case images from Layer Cake Elements were used for superimposing in Photoshop.

Green Screen

The backdrop stands out as the bold chromatic colour. The trick is to try and evenly light it with the photography lights so as the light is even all over. Any creases will then disappear in the software process.

The guests are invited forward, and are posed in front of the backdrop.  The positioning has to be far enough away to stop shadows appearing.

Green Screen BackgroundsTwo people infront of Green Screen Backgrounds







 Green screen backgrounds processing.

The next step is to load the image onto the PC into Photoshop. Use the slect and mask tools to remove the green background. In this case the an image from Layer Cake Elements was used for the background.

Two people infront of Green Screen Backgrounds background removedPicture of a Diner Green Screen Background







The next stage is to place the diner picture behind the couples image. Look closely you will spot a slight green tinge on the image in places. You can easily remove this by creating a new layer in Photoshop. Now change the layer to hue and create a clipping path. For this reason you use the brush and eyedropper tool. Sample the colour next to the green hue then paint on the colour to the green tinge. You will see the green disappear.

Two people infront of Green Screen Backgrounds background removed new backgroundTwo people infront of Green Screen Backgrounds complete







Have a look at selection of the photos from the event here.

For a short video on this visit my you tube channel. Like to know more then contact Martin for further information.

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Head shot Background, what choice do you have?

Head shot Background

For a head shot background there are a lot of choices. In view of this only a few of these are regularly used.

White Backgrounds

Head shot BackgroundWhen looking for a background for professional head-shots the stock standard background for most is the white background and looks good for anyone, male or female.

As this is a head-shot all you need is a white background large enough to cover the head and shoulders. If you want to do this yourself you need white card or white foam backed card (gives you a bit more stiffness). As it’s a head-shot the card only needs to be large enough to cover the head and shoulders. You could use a white screen if you have one or a white painted wall.

For best results use your flash off camera, this will eliminate red eye in the photos.


Black Backgrounds

Head shot BackgroundBlack as a background is not common as this is a little more tricky to light or rather not light. As this is a black background we want the backdrop to absorb the light and not make the background show up. In order to do this the subject needs to stand far enough in-front of the background so that the light only falls on the subject.

This again could be black card or foam card or black cloth like Felt.

Natural Backgrounds

Head shot BackgroundFor something different use the great outdoors as your backdrop. With this in mind, you want something that does not stand out, ideally bushes, rocks or water. The trick is not to shoot the subject and have the background stand out. You want a blurred background this allows the subject to stand out and draw the viewers eye towards them.

Collapsible Backgrounds

Today you can by a background that enables you to fold up into a convenient sized bag. They come in a selection of sizes but the 2m x 1.5m should be big enough for single subjects or a small group. They come in a selection of colours, White, black, green, grey you can even get mottled look coloured backgrounds. You can buy separate covers to zip over the original to change the background,. These are not cheap but they will last a long time.

Green Screen

Head shot Background

Lynn edited

Head shot Background

Green Screen original

Green screen as a background offers a lot of possibilities, you do need photo editing software like Photoshop to post process the image.

To photograph the subject, you need the subject to stand about six feet in front of the backdrop and try not to spill light onto the backdrop (creating a hotspot), just the subject. See here  or here for more details.

Transfer the image onto your computer and open the software. The software allows you to change the background and use another suitable image to place behind the subject.

Whatever background you choose remember that the subject needs to stand out and not the background.

Tell me what your favourite head shot background is and why you would like your image shot against it?


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Head-shot Photography Tips.

Professional Head-shot Photography Tips

Head-shot Photography Tips assist you in taking your own photos for your social media profile photo. These tips will not replace the quality of photography that hiring a professional photographer will create for you.

1. Use a zoom lens.

By using a zoom lens of 70-200mm lens you find that the face appears more flattering and less angular. This is because through the optics the longer focal length lens has the appearance of naturally compresses the subject’s features. By using a zoom lens you can fill the frame with the subjects face or back off and include the chest and shoulders.

Picture of a lens Head-shot Photography Tips







Photo courtesy of Canon USA

What you mustn’t do is use a wide angle lens, this will distort the facial features and bring in too much background. This is something that can easily happen with a mobile phone or iPad.

by Martin from MH Photography



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A grey card is an item of equipment that every photographer should carry in there kit bag. This enables the photographer to have the correct white balance for the light that they are shooting their images under.

My choice is the XRITE Colour Checker Passport.

This piece of equipment works well with a RAW photo workflow. It has a grey card and two sets of colour swatches in a robust plastic case.

Picture of XRITE Grey Card Colour Checker Passport

Colour Checker Passport

Picture of XRITE Grey Card Colour Checker Passport

XRITE Colour Checker Colour Swatches

Picture of XRITE Grey Card Colour Checker Passport

XRITE Colour Checker Grey Card















The white balance you set by using the lighting conditions your working under. Take a photo of the grey card under that light by getting as much as you can of the card in the lens space. Going into the cameras menu, set a custom white balance (see your cameras instruction manual).

You photograph the colour swatches next. You imported the image into Photoshop CC and create a DNG colour profile. Your created DNG profile is then used for all the images under the same light conditions you created the custom WB in. This cuts the guesswork out of colour in an image.

You can proceed to take your images under the same lighting conditions.


You use your camera set on the WB setting and import them onto a PC.

Import the images into Lightroom (or Bridge). Using the white balance selector (W) tool click on the grey card which moves the temperature slider to the correct setting. You can then synchronise all the images  to the same temperature.

The colour swatch is exported into Colour Checker Passport program as a DNG file. Using the Passport this will create a colour profile for use in Lightroom or bridge (on restarting the programs).  The profile;e will appear in the camera calibration profile section allowing all images to be synchronized.

Even though you have synchronized the images you will find that you may need to make individual changes to each image.

View this video on how to set custom white balance on a canon 5dmk2

For further information Contact Martin

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Flash and its use in Photography

Flash and its use in Photography

Flash, why use it in photography? Simple answer is to light the subject. This works fine for something that is close. Can you really light up a subject on a sports field when you are in the rafters? Of course the answer is no.

What is it?

Flash is a portable light source that produces a burst of light to illuminate a subject. This can be a fixed item that can be used on or off the camera.


The fixed camera flash is a pop up unit that is located on the top of the camera. Although diffusion covers can be added to this, the light produced is reasonably direct. This does not produce a flattering image. Light from this is not easily controlled.

Portable Unit

This is a very versatile item and when used off camera can produce some superb images. Various accessories can be used to diffuse or bend the light. Light output is better controlled and harsh light is avoided.


Flash is used to light the subject. This can be similar to studio lights with main, fill and hair light. It could be as a fill in light with the subject outside in bright sunlight and there face is in darkness. A little fill in light will bring out the details and you will be able to see them. Flash depending on the output and shutter speed will also change what detail you see in the background.
In my opinion portable flash(s) is the way to go. The flash can be used in an automatic setting where the flash syncs with the camera control. The theory is that for the settings of the camera the flash output will be right.

However if your just starting to use flash, start in manual settings. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Light Meter

Picture of a sekonic light meter L478dr in flash

To set up your flash(s) correctly so you don’t over or under underexpose, you will need a light meter. I use the Sekonic L478DR that works with pocket wizards. It will also work on a time delay for the flash if you don’t have pocket wizards. See Sekonic L478 Blog For further details. You can also visit Sekonic L478

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